Peter Callaghan: Moving is not a moving experience; stuff is to blame, not me

Staff WriterJune 10, 2014 

If I have one bit of unsolicited advice for everyone, it would be this: Don’t move.

All right, agreed, that probably wouldn’t work. People have to move for jobs or because their life situation changes or they need more space or less space. I guess the economy depends on people moving — from being willing to take new jobs to buying and selling homes.

So ignore that, start over.

If I have one bit of unsolicited advice for everyone, it would be this: Don’t buy stuff. OK, again unworkable. And please don’t tell the publisher or the ad director that I said that. Go ahead and buy stuff.

How about this: If I have one bit of unsolicited advice for everyone who buys stuff and might one day move, it is this: Get rid of stuff long before you move. Save yourself. Save your relationships. Instill this discipline in your children. They will thank you … or perhaps they won’t.

I have recent experience in this matter fueled by my failure to follow the above advice. Not the “don’t move” advice. I took that back, remember? And not the “don’t buy stuff” part. A big never-mind on that one.

The part I didn’t follow is the get rid of stuff as you go along part. And I blame popular culture. You know all those home buying shows on HGTV? The ones where people look at three houses to decide which one would be best for their dog?

First, they’re phony. People’s dogs have already decided and the owners have already put in an offer on the house they want before they are filmed touring the others. Second, the buyers almost always want more storage.

Storage, however, is an attractive nuisance. Having storage means that when you buy new stuff you don’t have to get rid of the old stuff because you are sure you will need it someday or the kids will want it or you are too lazy to deal with it.

Until you have to deal with it.

Certain things get moved and they fall into three general categories: 1) things you’ll need in your new house; 2) things that are so precious and meaningful that you have to take them with you; 3) the cats.

OK, maybe there are two categories.

The rest has to be stored or gotten rid of. Storage is expensive, and I even had to sign a pledge to not live in the unit.

The stuff that has to be gotten rid of can be sold, given away or recycled. I have sold a few things, but I decided against the great American tradition of the garage sale. I did not want to spend the day having strangers offer 50 cents for an original Andy Warhol.

I am, however, a religious recycler. You’re right, best to keep religion out of it. I am an aggressive recycler and have filled my bin every two weeks and made many trips to the recycling center and am on a first-name basis with the people at Goodwill.

But I have also discovered another great American tradition — the leave-stuff-on-the-curb-with-a-sign-that-says-“Free” tradition. At no time has it taken more than 15 minutes for everything I put out to be taken by someone who loves it more than I do — which wouldn’t be hard since I just kicked it to the curb.

Finally, when something isn’t recyclable or reusable or I can’t persuade any of my siblings to take it, I resort to the transfer station. Don’t judge. I just didn’t know what else to do with two slip-and-slides that no longer held air. While I haven’t been there often enough to get on anyone’s Christmas card list, I have come to know their schedules.

In summary, go ahead and move if you have to. And by all means buy stuff that you need and want. Just take time along the way to reduce, reuse and recycle — and when that fails, visit the nice folks at the landfill.

You’ll thank me someday, even if my kids won’t.

Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657 peter.callaghan@ @CallaghanPeter

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