Countdown: 10 days left

Today was my first day at home.  With the Project done and the holidays over, I can now focus on getting ready to move.  I made a list of things to do that included making some doctors appointments, scheduling the cat for the vets, tying up 2009 paperwork, buying return airline tickets for Mr. NYer to fly back from Montgomery, and arranging for estimates from three movers.

The appointments made, I Googled long-distance movers and realized I hadn’t a clue how to pick one, let alone three.  So I Googled long-distance mover reviews and read about a dozen horror stories, the upshot of which is: don’t move or, if you must, don’t expect to ever see your belongings again.

Finally I found a site (movingscam.com) which not only gave advice on choosing a mover, but also provided a state-by-state and city-by-city forum for people to discuss and rate their movers.  Decided to pass on those that had been awarded little icons with a high voltage warning, and saw several with a thumbs up.  Then I read a few articles, like How to Choose a Mover (lots more due diligence than I feel up to), Ten Things Your Moving Company Won’t Tell You (Item 2: “We’re popular, especially with the FBI”), and, finally “Who Will You Trust to Drive Off with Everything You Own?”

Apparently, the long-distance interstate moving industry is almost completely unregulated.  Did you know that the Interstate Commerce Commission, one of the very first regulatory agencies established by the federal government, was abolished in 1995?   It’s been replaced by the Surface Transportation Board,  a name which does not inspire my confidence.  

Terrified, I decided instead to calculate the number of boxes we would need and decide whether it was better to have the movers pack (because, after all, they’re professionals) or to do it myself (because they don’t care two licks about my stuff).  Many Web sites, whose purpose is to sell boxes (“Sure you can use grocery boxes.  If you don’t mind the risk of infestation”), offer a convenient calculator that answers the question, How Many Boxes Do I Need?

It turns out I need approximately 927 boxes of various shapes, sizes and specialties.  Betcha didn’t know that a) moving companies require that everything be boxed except your furniture and b) some moving companies have a business relationship with box companies.   There are special boxes for, among other things, your golf clubs, your mattress, your floor lamps and your framed pictures. 

Each kind of box comes in a dizzying array of sizes.  We have a lot of framed pictures, so I thought I’d order a few frame boxes.  But should I get them 4, 5 or 6 inches deep?  Two feet wide, three  feet wide, or more?  Adjustable or fixed?   And don’t forget that you still have to bubble wrap the pictures.  Should I get 175 feet of 24″ wide wrap, or 250 feet of 12″ wide wrap?  Probably both, so I have some for the wider stuff.  Next, 3/16″ bubbles or 5/16″?  Perforated for easier tearing?

The fact is you can’t order the boxes, the bubble wrap, the extra strong packing tape (“Don’t trust your precious belongings to regular tape!”) until you conduct an exhaustive inventory of everything you own, measuring and weighing each item.  A team of engineers would be handy.  And you can’t even take that inventory until you really weed, which I haven’t finished yet.  It occurs to me that planning a move, especially if you are trying to do some of the packing yourself, is more complex than planning for the invasion of Normandy.  Eisenhower had a staff. 

Deciding that some boxes are better than none, I ordered a bunch, to be delivered tomorrow.  Mr. NYer and I had picked up eight boxes over the weekend, as a kind of packing appetizer, but what good was eight boxes?  I could fill them up in no time, and then what would I do with my momentum?  Plus, I have realized that boxes will take a lot of room, and we need to empty the basement first. 

So, I decided not to pack until the large order of boxes arrives.  Instead I spent about two or three hours rolling the coins I put into a big jar a couple of weeks ago.  Got about $150 worth.  Meanwhile, Mr. NYer is cutting down the record collection by digitizing albums, which has to be done in real time.  Yup, we’re on top of things.  At this rate, we’ll be ready to move by March.  In 2012.

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Lists, Records and Spare Change

Christmas preparations are no longer an excuse.  Neither, as of Wednesday, will work on The Project.  Even Mr. NYer agrees that it’s time to figure  out the moving thing.

Yesterday, with notebook in hand, we walked room to room, making a list of things that needed to be done, most of which included the word “weed.”  Two columns on the page helped Mr. NYer see the urgency:  the first was labeled “before Jan. 14,” which is when Lifelongnewyorker heads south.  The second was “after January 14,” when Mr. NYer is on his own. 

That date in black and white helped.   In each room we decided what to take with us.  This was surprisingly easy when it came to furniture.  Yes, let’s leave that.  And that.  And that.  What to do with these items is yet to be determined.  Soon-to-be-Abandoned hopes to get an apartment — rather  than just renting a room in an apartment gotten by others — and may take a sofa, kitchen table, bed, dresser, desk, etc.  

“How about your toy chest?” I ask.  But Soon-to-be-Abandoned suspects he’s barely going to have room for the things that will  be useful, and doesn’t quite see a role for the toy chest in his as yet imaginary hip Brooklyn digs.  Even with our plan for furnishing Soon-to-be-Abandoned’s place, we will have plenty of furniture left.  Turns out the Salvation Army will send a truck.  Good. 

Another milestone.  Mr. NYer has agreed to part with some LPs.  We sat together on the dining room floor and made the first pass using a simple rule:  get rid of any records that we have either digitized or have in CD format.  That eliminated a cool 25%, and there are now several 16-inch high stacks of records awaiting their fate.  Some have been scooped up by Soon-to-be-Abandoned, who admits he’s not sure what he’ll do with them.  The rest will be offered to several twenty-something phonophiles who have recently discovered records, or to the folks on Craigslist who buy in bulk. 

The records are weight.  Not in any spiritual or psychological sense.  They’re just plain heavy.   The mere memory of hauling milk crates of LPs around when I was younger gives me a backache.  

Another source of weight came in the form of my bank collection.  I love banks, and have since childhood.  My mother always had a bank or two in the house, and I think I learned to count by helping her roll pennies.  She showed me how to stack them in groups and count by five, then slip the wrapper over my thumb, slide the stacks into the roll and finish by neatly folding down the ends.   We had a big Anchor Hocking amber glass piggy bank.  No rubber stopper for that one.  You had to turn it upside down and shake the coins out, or — as my mother demonstrated — slide a knife into the coin slot and ease them out in a stream. 

When my mother began to work in “the city” (Manhattan), she banked at the Seaman’s Bank for Savings, for which she was rewarded with banks.  The first, which I still have, was a cardboard cannister printed with a clipper ship and topped by a removable slotted metal lid.  Better yet, though, were the sailor banks they began dispensing sometime in the mid-60s.  The sailor, clad in creamy whites, strides along in his ample bell bottoms, with jaunty nautical hat and bag slung over his shoulder.  The coin slot sits atop the bundle, and the sailor reminded me of Gene Kelly in On the Town.  Who wouldn’t want to save?

My bank collecting began in earnest around the time my oldest niece  was born.  In the A&S department store, I  found a musical Raggedy Ann and Andy bank and bought it for her  first Christmas.  What I didn’t know was that my mother bought an identical one for me and thus started me as a collector.  On every vacation, I hunted the souvenir shops for banks, and snagged a mini Tower of London, an old Maine fisherman, an upright piano in New Orleans, a cable car in San Francisco.

Banks are practical collections.  Nice to look at, they justify the space they occupy by virtue of the fact that they promote  saving and delayed gratification.  The summer I worked as a carhop at  A&W Root Beer I began the nightly habit of depositing the day’s change in a bank.  Soon I stopped looking for exact change when I purchased something, but deliberately broke a dollar to increase the coins in my purse, and the savings in my banks.  Every few weeks, I pulled out the coin rollers and sat at the kitchen table rolling pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters.  

More than a few years ago, I noticed that it was harder and harder to snag a bank during vacations.  The souvenir shops switched to mugs, shot glasses, key chains and  T-shirts.  Banks,  like thrift itself, disappeared.

So I turned to eBay, where I joined those who favored still banks as opposed to mechanical ones.  I began looking first for the banks that banks gave out, but grew over time to like pigs.  So elemental. But I’m not exclusive.  I’ve got banks that look like buildings, an entire set of Anchor Hocking piggies in various colors, the Liberty Bell, Mr. Peanut, a couple of bears, a pink elephant, a NYC taxi and a London phone booth.  I’ve also got a tiny milk bottle that says “W.I.N.!” for Whip Inflation Now — that was from the 70s.   They are scattered throughout the house, and I fill them regularly, trying to use them equally. For some reason, I especially like to throw Mr. NYer’s loose change into them. 

I’m not usually in need of the spare twenty or thirty dollars these days, nor do I go into brick and mortar banks often and pick up coin wrappers, so I rarely roll those coins. (Do banks still give out coin wrappers?)  But the collection needs to move, and it makes no sense to travel full.  Too heavy, and too likely to break.  By the armful, I carried banks to the dining room table.  Together, Mr. NYer, Soon-to-be-Abandoned and I pried off the stoppers and shook, knifed and otherwise emptied the contents into a plastic jug. 

I’m told there’s a bank where you can just bring in the coins, pour them into a machine, and get your cash.  But that sounds too easy.  I think I’ll spend a few evenings stacking the change and putting it into rolls.

Craigslist Sure-Fires

A close friend let Lifelong NYer know that her recent posts are kind of sad.  

Well, not this one.  This one goes into sales mode.  As loyal readers know, LifelongNYer and Mr. NYer have been cleaning out.  We’re not thrilled with the process, but one of us, at least, doesn’t feel at all bad about letting go of stuff. 

Except for the guilt.  The trash beckons for many items, but other stuff is still good.  Someone might yet get good use out of it.  That’s why folks invented eBay, Craigslist and yard sales.  Moving the merchandise means marketing, so here are some stabs at positioning my goods to move.

Ancestral Monkey-Wrenches — pick-up only!

Motivated seller must give up set of family heirloom monkey wrenches.  You may not know the ancestors to whom these belonged, but ownership means you can claim them as your own family legacy!  Make a rustic arrangement on a wall (must be load-bearing), or use as ballast or to replace sash weights.  Goes great with primitive wood plane (available at additional cost).

Vinyl LP’s — too many uses to name!

Nothing beats the warmth of analog recordings, and nothing beats the true-to-life sound of recordings that were stacked on the turntable and played thousands of times even though the needle should have been changed.  Not man enough for sound that real?  Then consider how a short application of heat can turn these records into unique works of art!  The only limit is your imagination.  

Home Security System

Is your fancy schmancy home security system vulnerable to power outages?  Does your alarm go off so often that your neighbors ignore it?  Free yourself from the tyranny of the technologically “superior” security system by adopting the tried and true do-it-yourself home defender:  the baseball bat.  Dozens of bats available (Mr. NYer coached Little League), so you can have one for every room plus a bonus for your car!

Old U.S. History Books for Kids — No Revisionism Here!

With these stirring stories of Davy Crockett, young Abe Lincoln, the Rough Riders and others, your kids will learn that American history was made by white men — clean-shaven, nicely attired, hard-working, church-going white men — who stood on their own two feet.  Plus, they didn’t smoke, spit or swear.

The Weight

Ticking items off my to-do list I paused at “paperwork for New Job.”   The large FedEx box that arrived on Thursday was a lot heavier than the envelope I had expected.  Half the bulk was taken up by items explaining life in Montgomery, including the Alabama Driver’s Manual and a real estate magazine so thick that I wondered if everyone in the city was trying to leave.  Was I being counter-cultural AGAIN?

The actual paperwork, although a thinner stack, demanded time to absorb.  This afternoon, as the painters finished up the living room — in a shade that, despite the assurance I got from the gurus at the paint store that Benjamin Moore colors are never discontinued, is NOT the same Oriental Silk I’ve had on the wall that works magically with every item in the room.  The lemony shade that is now on the walls will undoubtedly make it harder to sell the house.  But I digress–I settled in my bed to read through the forms, policies and benefits. 

Which is when I realized that there was a cap on the moving allowance.  In one corner of my mind, I’d figured I would do my best to jettison the obvious jetsam, and haul the rest to Alabama where I could go through it at my leisure.  One of my future colleagues had cheerfully advised me that I shouldn’t worry about weeding out my belongings.  “Big houses are cheap here,” she said, “just bring it all with you!”    

But there, in cold black & white type on the Relocation Policy, I saw ample economic reason to weed, and weed ruthlessly. 

I enjoy weeding.  It’s my favority gardening activity and, twice a year, at the change of seasons, I re-curate my closet.  All my unwise purchases are banished:  out go the shoes whose color I love but which  pinch my toes; into the Salvation Army bag goes the suit with the unfortunate peplum coat; they are followed by sundry articles that no longer fit, recall the 90s too vividly, or have just had it. 

It turns out, though, that my aggressive de-cluttering is limited to my wardrobe.   We have overfull bookshelves in five of our eight rooms.  Despite having adopted the latest audio technology, from cassettes to CDs and MP3, we still possess about 900 vinyl albums.  Mr. NYer hates to throw anything out, and grows visibly despondent when enlisted in spring or fall cleaning.  Our son, the Soon-to-be Abandoned Child, moved out in a minimal fashion, leaving behind all the physical artifacts of his childhood plus three guitars and two amps.  Our basement has the wondrous power to multiply objects while simultaneously making them grimy and damp.  In a mutual bond of  avoidance, we keep it dimly lit and use a machete to maintain a path to the washer.  Lastly, we have a large storage area that runs across the entire width of the house at the back of the attic.  We call it the dark, dark room.  We have no idea what’s in there.   

You can talk about filling a contractor’s bag a day, or spend an evening in front of the TV cleaning out a desk drawer, but none of that is going to do squat to address  the issue of sorting through and getting rid of the  accumulated stuff, which I’ll refer to as the Albatross.  And then there’s the how to get rid of it all.  It’s the wrong time of year for a yard sale, and we don’t have a front yard.  I don’t have time to write clever listings for eBay, Craigslist or Freecycle, or to make the individual arrangements to have Flowerpot Guy pick up all the garden tools.  There’s no market for old books or LPs.  And cleaning out the basement?  A new  definition for eternity spent in hell. Not to mention that every effort to clean out has induced allergies. 

So how do I lose this Albatross?  Is there a diet?