Contemplating Packing

The last time we moved, in April 1983, we rented a U-Haul, enlisted about a half-dozen friends, and carried  all of our belongings from our apartment to our new house in the course of the morning on the day after we closed on the house.  That  afternoon, the couple moving into our apartment used the same U-Haul (and a few of the same friends, I think) to move their stuff.  We split the $70 rental fee. 

We had a lot less stuff then.  One kitchen table and four chairs.  A couch, a coffee table and one stuffed chair.  A wooden rocking chair, a dresser, a hope chest, a very small folding dining room table and four folding chairs.  We owned a double mattress and box spring, but no bed.  We had two end tables from an unfinished furniture store, and a trunk.  Oh, and we had bookshelves, books, and records.

I had carefully labeled each box with its contents and the room to which it was to be delivered.  My friend Kate  climbed the steps to the front door, carton in hand, and turned at the top to announce, dramatically and with feeling, that there were twenty-three steps. She added that the box, labeled “attic,” was going no farther than the living room.  Everyone else  followed Kate’s lead and at the end of  the day we  faced a wall of boxes deposited right inside the front door.

Today, we no longer sleep on the floor, having adopted the bourgeois habit of sleeping on a bed.  We’ve also acquired a houseful of sofas, tables, chairs, bureaus, desks, rugs and other furnishings along with a lot of art in frames.  Not to mention that the books and records multiplied.  Finally,  we own a bunch of things that just didn’t exist last time around: CDs, DVDs, computers and gourmet cookware.

Movers will carry the stuff, but there’s still the problem of packing the boxes so that we can locate what we need. Even with the careful labelling the first time around, we found it impossible to find what we wanted when we wanted it.  Several items went missing for years before they appeared.  This time, I announced to Mr. NYer, we would have a system.  The system I had in mind would employ a simple  numbering scheme, perhaps based on the date the box was packed, with a second number indicating its position in the series that day.    Thus, 1/1/10-12 would be the 12th box packed on New Year’s Day.  As we packed, I added, we would fill in a spreadsheet on a laptop, indicating the destination room, the kinds of articles, and whatever other data we thought useful.  “Sounds like a good idea,” Mr. NYer agreed.

Did I mention that one of the things I love about new projects is the opportunity to buy supplies?  I loved the beginning of school because it meant a trip to the stationery store, and I love home improvement projects because of the trip to the hardware store.  There is nothing quite as satisfying as the promise contained in the color-coordinated office supplies I assemble  at the beginning off a new task.  I was immensely pleased, then, when I went online and discovered  a vast array of sites offering exactly what I needed to accomplish an orderly move: bubble wrap, frame boxes, clean newsprint, tape dispensers, plastic shrink wrap, and something called “professional mover’s boxes.”  Should I buy the “moving kit” for only $350? 

Before I had a chance to order supplies, or start packing, or even think about how I should structure the spreadsheet, I went down to the basement looking for recycling bags.  I spotted the box, only to find that it contained not bags, but objects wrapped in newspaper.  Inky, dirty newspaper.  Heavy objects in a flimsy little box whose  cardboard was a bit thinner than the cardboard used for a cereal box.  The marker-less box held no clue to the contents.  I asked Mr. NYer.  “Oh,” he  said, “I wrapped up the glass candleholders from the living room.” 

“But how will you know what’s in the box?”  I asked.  

“I’ll remember,” he replied.


 I’ll  make a note to mark this box later.  It will be the first item on the spreadsheet.  Me, I have no faith in memory at all, neither his nor mine.  Yesterday Mr. NYer asked me where I put the cookbooks I’d taken down from the kitchen counter. 

I had no idea.


One Response

  1. “O! O! O! O!” (Lear, Act ? Scene? — another important thing forgotten):

    Spreadsheet is a good idea, minimum detail: do a page for each box, print it and tape it to the box (as long as you are doing your own packing, do it so it works!)… Mark on each box in large colorful marker pen the room that it CAME from (the contents will, of course, never all be from the same room since what fits in the box is more important as the process wears on … and on… and on. And, you will get very very tired of going from entering goods into big boxes to entering data into little ones. Put the key markers on at least two sides, better more of each box (when they pile up in your sorting room upon arrival, count on the content label on the box of kitchen stuff you have to have right now being out of sight on the floor or against the wall on the other side of the room behind all the other boxes. Use a large red box for a set of basic tools which will be needed immediately. Ditto (another color) kitchen gear. I could go on. Call when you get desperate. You will NEVER remember where that one piece you are looking for got packed. Nor will Mr. NYer. Oh, yes. Never scrimp on bubble wrap on your fragile stuff. Find the original boxes for your electronics. Always wrap the valuables in something non-descript and use a code to label them: moving men are not the most honest folks in the world…they love to swipe tools!

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