When I finally decided to close out the house that I’d lived in for more than twenty-five years and move to a distant state, I had to determine what to do with my accumulated earthly belongings. The task was daunting. It boiled down to a challenging list of choices: move the object, store it, sell it, give it away, or throw it out.
Items to be stored ultimately would go into a 10’ by 15’ storage unit; a clean dry vault composed of a concrete floor, steel walls, and a roll-up door. To make best use of this limited space, I packed many smaller objects into boxes purchased at Home Depot. Dutifully I wrote on the box tops the generic nature of their contents: winter clothes, family photos, pots and pans, etc. Ultimately it became a stacking task, like a game of Tetris, fitting boxes of several shapes into tightly fitting walls of artifacts. A narrow isle gave limited access and offered a vague promise to return and retrieve.
As I taped box after box shut the finality of my move began to hit home. Storing the boxes temporarily freed me from the burden of possessions. I was trending back to the foot loose days of my youth, where everything I owned fit into the trunk of a ’62 Chevy, with room for a couple of dogs and a hitchhiker in the back seat. But depressingly, I began to feel that I was losing these objects, as if the cardboard cartons somehow had the power to swallow them whole and render the contents sterile. I was losing my visual and tactile connection to them, that up to now I had always taken for granted. I could no longer slip-on my well-worn baseball glove, chop veggies with a favorite shape knife, or hold the smooth grey rock collected from a favorite secret shore. It was disorienting and disconcerting.
Articles of some monetary value I sold at a moving sale, held two weekends before my departure. I announced to each arriving visitor, “This is a moving sale, and I’d appreciate if you’d help me by moving some of these things down the driveway and into your vehicle.” I was generous with the pricing and offered a story, when requested, for each item. The event had a festive tone. The shoppers were generous with their stories in return as they picked though the relics of my times. Many customers came back a second day, tempted to buy more (I mean who could resist a half bag of cement or a remote controlled gorilla head?) and perhaps pick up on previous conversations.
It felt good knowing that these objects would have a second life, bringing pleasure and utility as they were repurposed. They too were being separated from me, gone but not sterilized, gone to bear new meaning.