Tag Archives: odious jobs

Step 70: Final Detritus Expands to Fill Space and Time

Despite your best attempts, despite all well-laid plans, despite everything, the last few items in your house on moving day will suddenly expand into piles and mounds of inexplicable flotsam and jetsam, which you must dispose of before you can leave.

I was tired. I was exhausted. My brain was mush. I chose the least elegant solution possible – leave it on the curb!

To all my neighbours, I am deeply sorry. (I hope there was something in there you could use?) To my garbage collectors, likewise, sorry sorry. To my friends to whom I left the last trip to Goodwill and the last bags of excess garbage… I grovel before you in abject sorryness.

(In my admittedly lame defense the reason for the desperate ditching act will be elaborated in the next post…)

(re. photo above: fabulous, no? Art installation by Moreno di Trapani, photo by Gianpietro Malosio)

Step 64: Load the Truck

Inflict another annoyance on soon-to-be-ex-neighbours, as monster truck pulls up. Grovel about asking people to move their cars. Panic over last minute packing. And then panic some more. Marvel as movers manoeuvres the piano. Then get back to panicking. Hyperventilate and dash about. Repeat.

And I KNEW I didn’t need a truck that big! My stuff only took up about 1/4 of the space in that thing. Even so… I came by train to Toronto 24 years ago with all my belongings in a trunk. The accumulation of detritus is sobering. I am a tiny snowball rolling down a hill, transforming effortlessly into a colossal town-crusher of an ice bomb.

But, I hasten to emphasize, I didn’t FILL the truck. I didn’t. I hope my neighbours don’t think I filled the truck. How many of them saw the truck anyway? My belongings only took up the front part of it. I really don’t have that much stuff. I am not a candidate for that hoarders show! (Am I?)

(Hmm. Why am I so embarrassed by my possessions? I rather like my possessions – that’s why I possess them.)

Ah well, back to work. Bubble wrap the artwork, seal up the boxes, stay out of the way of the movers, make the keep-it-or-toss-it decision about a million times in rapid succession… The boss grew weary of the whole procedure pretty quickly, and defected to a friend’s place for the afternoon. I soldiered on, until…

… bye bye stuff! See ya on the other side!


Step 63: Accept Chaos as Inevitable

Moving Day. It came, it went, and here’s the nugget of wisdom I have gleaned from that experience:

Unless you are some kind of minimalist freak with no possessions, Moving Day will Always be a Train Wreck.

It doesn’t matter if you start packing and organizing six months in advance. It doesn’t matter if you are pathologically methodical about it. It doesn’t even matter if you have a killer packing list app. No matter what your state of preparedness, the last day will be a crazy mess. And you will be a crazy mess too, flinging things into boxes willy nilly and dashing about on the brink of total mental and physical collapse.

Despite all your hard work and cleverness, Moving Day will be a disaster. Accept this, take a deep breath and move on…

Step 47 to 57: A Flurry of Activity…

I’ve been an efficiency ninja for the last week and a half…

Step 47: eye appointment, order new glasses (bifocals! aieeee!)

Step 48: medical checkups for both of us

Step 49: booked movers

Step 50: fill prescriptions

Step 51: arrange for cancellation of utilities

Step 52: Hazardous Waste dropoff (leftover paint, etc. from garage)

Step 53: farewell visit to old daycare

Step 54: OS upgrade and resulting mayhem

Step 55: notify school of transfer

Step 56: new email address – notify everyone

Step 57: arrange mail forwarding with post office

Aaaand, in a classic case of over-extending myself, also finished up a work contract, had girlfriends over for cocktails, helped out as class chaperone for the dance recital, judged a student short story contest, and participated in a Career Day for the grade 7’s.

This frenzied behaviour led, naturally, to my downfall… (see next post)

Step 43: Pack a Box. Repeat.

I started with the boxes months ago, feeling all uber-organized and efficient. Slowly I prowled the house looking for detritus – the not-to-be-purged tchotchkes and doodads I could whisk away into perfectly labeled, stackable cubes.

And now, at box #90, the place is starting to look a little sparse. Starting!


And it’s so soothing to pack a box. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the to-do list spiralling out of control, I just sit down and pack a box. (contented sigh)

The secret to Happy Packing lies in your supplies. These days the Most Valuable Player in my household is this:

O tape gun! I love you!

Step 35: House Staging

For those of you who have never staged a home to be sold, this involves slowly, carefully and meticulously stripping your home of every last molecule of personality.

You’ve also got to remove furniture and possessions until every room seems ridiculously spacious.

A stack of stuff to wave my wand over and make disappear.

The illusion we want to create is that the inhabitants of this house just have so much room they don’t have a clue what to do with it all! They’re probably moving to a smaller place, to escape the sheer oppressive Vastness of this House.

We’ve got so much space we keep all our furniture two feet away from the wall.

Our home is now so spare that it echoes, and there is nothing useful at hand. We’ve gone from 4 couches to just 2, so there is a lot less lounging going on. We do have quite a number of hard benches to perch on though, birdlike…

Perching porch

And the place has become a basket-fetishist’s dream…

How to Annihilate Useful Storage Space: Teeny Baskets!

Stylistically, our house’s fashion makeover was like going from –

Eddie (right)…

… to Twiggy

Now be honest. Who would you rather party with??

Eddie and Patsy

or Twiggy?

Step 19: Get Boxes. Repeat.

I thought this was a no-brainer: the best boxes bar none for packing books are liquor boxes. Strong, durable, and not too big. (I’ve had movers thank me specifically for not putting books in big, too-heavy boxes.) The larger liquor stores have stacks of them by the front wall and I always thought I was doing them a favour by taking a few off their hands.

Until I was scolded by a fretful store manager, who limited me to three boxes from the wall-full he was straightening.

Is this commonplace? Is this a Toronto thing? Whenever I asked if I could take boxes before, the cashier gave me a “of course, what are you even asking for?” look.

New box strategy: visit liquor stores on weekends, when manager isn’t working.

Step 18: Survive the Yard Sale

It was two days ago and I’m still recuperating. A bitterly cold day, with rain just ending at 7 a.m., whereupon I lurched into action hauling stuff outside.  People began showing up right at 8 and I was scrambling for the next 4 hours. Sometimes it’s hard to do things like this as a one-man band.

A whirlwind of activity. Two hours later I was still remembering stuff I forgot to bring out. Wanted to shut it down at 11:00, as planned, but people just kept straggling in. Finally staggered inside at about 12:30, frozen and sore all over.

End result – made a couple hundred dollars, cleared a fair amount of space in garage. Generally should have charged more for things, but of course I didn’t have time to pre-price anything, and I’m kind of a soft touch when it comes to pricing on the fly. And I’m an absolute and total failure when it comes to haggling.

Oh well, the most important thing was to get rid of stuff. And hopefully make a few happy matches of item to buyer. Example: the three girls, roommates outfitting a new apartment, who excitedly picked up my retro coffee table and side table. Or the little girl clutching the princess jigsaw puzzle. Or the couple from a few doors down, first-time pregnant, who picked out Goodnight Moon and a wee pair of hockey skates.

Or the older fellow who wanted to see my drafting table because he makes birdhouses and his wife is getting annoyed at him using her kitchen table for his workspace. (He didn’t end up buying it, because it wasn’t made of wood, but he did pick up an armful of file folders.)

I ain't payin' more than a nickel!

The people who made the day a drag, on the other hand, were those ones who arrived scowling, frowned at everything they saw, and gasped in disbelief and dismay when I told them the price. The worst was the old guy who actually laughed in my face when I asked for $2 for a hanging garage-style worklight. So unpleasant! So rude! So disappointing!

There were, thankfully, lots of people who chatted and smiled and joked with me as they looked over everything, and didn’t approach the whole exercise as some kind of cut-throat showdown.

Anyhow, it’s over.

P.S.  The surprises: Not even broke college girls will so much as look at a massive old tv. (it ended up on the curb for free and still didn’t disappear!)  Plus: Nobody needs martini glasses?? Are they passé or something?

Step 17: Prep for Yard Sale

my signs are nicer than this

This includes making posters, putting up posters, and getting yelled at.

This includes walking around two days later to find that many of your signs have been pulled down. (Not by yelling lady – the sign on her block was still up.)

This includes refining your postering strategy, scanning the streets for “friendly poles”. Not smiling Polish people, but streetlamp poles that are already bristling with weather-faded handbills.

This includes sending emails about the sale to everyone you know. (aka annoying your friends)

This includes gently prying toys, books, movies and knick-knacks away from child. (And a conversation just the other morning about what “tchotchke” means.) (Which reminds me I must BE FAIR. If I am allowed silly sentimental tchotchkes surely she is too.)

This includes being realistic about what you will ACTUALLY put to use in the future. (ie. hair cutting kit: will I actually ever learn to cut hair?)

This includes overcoming the impulse to just put everything out on the curb with a big FREE sign on it and hide in the house.

Step 16: Make Your Possessions Disappear

Because to sell a house you must first stage it, which means making it look warm and inviting, and yet totally uninhabited. And like it has never, ever been inhabited. At least not by real people who watch tv and need lots of storage and have tchotchkes and put nails into walls and scuff the paint and eat and go to the bathroom.

So, to make your possessions disappear, you must… (proceed to step 17)