Packing

I’m an incredibly fast packer. I usually wait until the night before a move and pack my entire house in like five hours. This time around, packing is more complicated because I have a baby and she needs a lot of stuff, and also we’re moving in two phases because I am leaving most of the furniture here for staging, and a few other things.

Still, I packed the front half of the house yesterday and the back half today — at least all the stuff I can pack now that we won’t be using up until we move — and it only took a few hours.

If you find yourself burdened by packing and/or by your stuff in general, here are a few tips:

First, don’t have that much stuff in the first place. I cannot stand having a bunch of little bits and pieces of crap in my house, and I avoid collecting them in two different ways: every time I get a delivery or enter my house with an armload of stuff, I throw away absolutely everything except the main thing itself. For example, you will never need an instruction manual; it is all on the internet. Put them into the recycling the second you get them. Also little extra bits of hardware, like ways to mount something onto the wall when you don’t plan to ever do that, should just be thrown away immediately. So should extra screws, buttons, etc. — if you ever actually need them, you won’t remember which thing they go to. All mail goes immediately into the recycling bin. Free samples go directly into the trash (they will never be used). Do not collect things like extra plastic takeout silverware or sauce packets. Throw them all out the second they come through the front door.

Periodically do a sweep of each area of your house and just toss anything that you haven’t used in awhile, can’t remember what it is, or are not really sure what to do with. If you feel like something is too special to dispose of, but you don’t really want it and/or aren’t ever going to use it, take a photo of it and get rid of it.

Be ruthless with getting stuff out of your house. Stuff collects into snowdrifts on tables, in drawers, on closet shelves; you must constantly be shoveling it into the garbage and out the door, or it will fucking bury you. If weird odds and ends that collect in these places technically belong to people you live with, don’t set it aside and wait to ask them about it. They will go into decision paralysis and try to convince themselves they need it, whereas if you just throw it out without asking them, they’ll never notice it’s gone.

Don’t try to donate broken pieces of shit nobody wants. You aren’t helping anyone else; you are simply moving the burden of disposing of your garbage onto an underpaid person who works for a nonprofit. Donate nice things that people can actually use, by all means! But throw your beat up smelly old sneakers and that cheap plastic weird swag you got for free at a trade show into the trash.

Don’t ever take stuff that you do not actually need or want just because it is free.

I do not have objects that are not functional. Knick-knacks and display items everywhere make me want to die, and this saves time in a move because those are the things that have to be carefully wrapped in bubble wrap. Ask yourself “what will I do with this thing?” If the answer is “look at it,” don’t buy it, or if you have already bought it, get rid of it asap. (Exception is art on the walls.)

Stuffed drawers and an overflowing closet upset me, so I’m also very ruthless about donating any clothing that doesn’t fit me or that I don’t actually wear. Something that trips people up with this is that you’ll often buy a bunch of things and not return them in time and there they are, the tags still on, and you just can’t admit to yourself that you wasted all that money. But you did! You did, it’s never coming back. You are never ever going to lose 30 lbs, and/or adopt a lifestyle that requires formal wear. You made a very stupid and expensive decision. Just donate that shit and move on. You’re also never going to shorten the straps on that sundress or replace the button on that coat. You’re never going to!

Similarly, if you’re a different sort of person than me, maybe you once spent hundreds of dollars on a some instrument you never learned how to play. Not only are you never going to play it, but you’re also never going to photograph it and sell it on eBay. Go ahead and berate yourself as you donate it. Maybe you will learn for next time, and maybe you won’t, but the sooner you remove the evidence, the sooner you can forget how delusional you were about yourself.

Don’t let your family use your home as a storage unit. If nobody wants to keep Great Aunt Marie’s armoire in their house, they don’t actually want it. Great Aunt Marie is dead! She’s never coming back! She doesn’t live in that armoire, her spirit does not haunt it! She lived a good life, and she didn’t take her ugly old crap with her; wherever she is now, she’s not thinking about her armoire. Get rid of it!

Another tip is just don’t care that much about the stuff you do have. I don’t pack super carefully. Surprisingly, very few things actually break in a move, but if they do, I don’t give a shit. This makes packing much simpler — you can just toss things in boxes, and pad it with other stuff.

I guess that’s it, really. To me, there’s no greater luxury than a clean surface, or a blank white space. Emptiness makes me feel relaxed and happy, and clutter and visual noise make me feel anxious and smothered. So keeping my house relentlessly shoveled out comes naturally to me. And then moving is very easy also.

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