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The Ten Commandments of Moving

July 22, 2007, 12:52 pm

I woke up this morning ready to launch into the second half of the summer, until it was pointed out to me that there are only three working weeks of summer left. School starts the last week in August, and there is Vacation By The Lake for ten days before that.

Sigh. Now is the time for triage: figuring out what can and cannot be done, re-negotiating deadlines if necessary, planning a very busy fall, realizing that I have only made a dent in the reading I meant to do, since this is what happens when a person writes too much. So maybe I can just finish reading the journals….

And yet there are two things I am not doing. One is packing — the other is moving. But you are: all you post-docs and one-year visitors on the move, packing while you try to finish your dissertations at the same time; people moving to Real Jobs in Real, and sometimes not so Real, places, maybe just beginning your careers or maybe beginning them all over again elsewhere. Then there are all you newly Distinguished Chairs, flying down Just for the Closing, and flying back to close on the house here before you head off for a glorious three weeks in Bellagio. You are all either packing or beginning to pack. You are renting U-Hauls or getting bids from movers, movers who will drive around the country in circles and figure eights with your belongings while you sit in your empty apartment or house in New City and weep, camping out with the pillow, coffee cup and towel you had the wit to bring with you in the car.

N. and I once figured out that in our time together, which now spans over twenty years, we have moved about a dozen times, and this does not count the end of summer flurry that a commuting relationship produces (otherwise known as the Mini-Move), an odd phenomenon in which you calm your anxiety about commuting by filling tote bags with the things you know you are going to need in September because there is no point in putting them away again at the end of July. Due to the peculiar circumstances of my life I have, in over two decades of constant motion only recently come to a halt, developed the Radical’s Ten Commandments of Moving, which you can either read here, or you can go to a field in upstate New York and receive them on Golden Tablets, which will authorize you to begin a polygamous evangelical religious sect that will move constantly for several decades until you get somewhere and say: “This is the place.”

It’s your choice. So without further ado:

1. Let no trash day goeth unremarked. Every night before the trash trucks come, fill bags, barrels and bins with everything you can think of that can be recycled or tossed. The trash on the last day before you pack the car will still be overwhelming, of course, but you will know that you tried.

2. Setteth thou a deadline of two weeks before the move as the last day anyone in your house is allowed to put something on Craig’s List. The amount of energy that goes into selling your old computer is simply not justified by the $50 you will get for it as people make and break appointments with you.

3. Giveth the clothes you are saving for when you are thin enough to wear them again to the Goodwill. You will never be thin enough to wear them again. It is a brutal truth, but someone had to tell you.

4. Arrangeth for all pets to go to the kennel, or stay with a friend, for the last two or three days before you really move. The last thing you need while getting ready to go to a new job is to wonder where, exactly, in the U-Haul, Kitty is, and whether she will dehydrate completely as you cross Death Valley. And your dog — oy. Dogs suffer from moving more than you can possibly know.

5. Stoppeth taking books out of the library now and return any you have. In the last couple days of packing, you will be so insane that it will seem easier to pack library volumes along with all the other books and then mail them back when you get there. And you know, it really isn’t. And those library books will haunt you the rest of your days. When you are pulled over for a speeding violation ten years from now, you will find yourself chanting, “Please don’t let them check the computer and find out about the overdue books.”

6. Shouldst thou haveth movers –if you can possibly afford it, pay them to pack too. None of us can resist packing randomly in advance, but that last day or two is hell. Packing things like dishes, lamps and pictures is something professionals do particularly well. They are also really good at packing Mystery Items: imagine the fun when you get to your destination and realize you paid $3.50 for a cardboard box and packing paper, and when you open it you realize that the movers have carefully packed your catbox, with sand and cat droppings, and a jug of Drano, lovingly wrapped.

7. If there art two of you, only one person is allowed to be upset at a time. I suggest you reverse roles once in a while.

8. If you haveth children, and you are getting rid of all kinds of toys and kid things that they will never play with or use again, do not put them on the street for the trash man. A relative of mine once found his children howling inconsolably at the window as their discarded, forgotten belongings such as games, broken car seats, befouled crib mattresses — transformed before their eyes into Precious Things — were being scooped up into a dump truck on the special pick up scheduled prior to moving day. Such things must be spirited off in the dead of night after the children are in bed or when they have been sent off on a sleepaway. Or there is freecycle.

9. Do not taketh any furniture you bought at IKEA. If you have already moved furniture from IKEA once, do not do so again. Longtime readers of this blog know that the Radical is a huge fan of IKEA, but furniture made of pressboard and wooden pins is not designed for being banged around in vans, regardless of how well padded and packed the items are. They will come out at the other end looking — distressed. There is a reason they send this stuff from Sweden disassembled and wedged into place with blocks of styrofoam.

10. Seeth your friends. Everyone will want to see you before you leave. There is a reason for this, even though no one will say it: about half of the people you now know in the place you are leaving you will speak to again a few times, and that will be it, except for conferences, birth announcements, political email lists and such. Five years from now, that list will be whittled down to two or three that you really keep up with. So have a party. Honor your friendships. Swear undying affection, and make a mental note to put the whole dissertation group in your acknowledgements.

Then click your ruby slippers and go. Good luck with your new life.

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