It bugs me when people say, “Oh, you’re moving … it’s a chance to get rid of stuff!” There’s only one reason I get rid of stuff: because I don’t want or need it anymore.
Up until now, every move has been to a bigger place. As my neighbors and I prepared for a mass exodus from our building on East 50th Street some six years ago, most of them obeyed the mantra. All kinds of stuff began appearing on the “give-away table” outside the laundry room: books, a blender, a lamp, ceramic bowls. Me? I was grabbing a lot of it … secure in the knowledge that my square footage was about to increase by 50 percent. Never mind the expense of having everything I owned packed and put into storage for a month in between apartments; this time, I was about to upgrade to a truly adult-sized abode, where I could entertain 12 people at a time without praying that nothing got knocked over. (Okay, so some things would be shoved into the bedroom, off-limits to guests.)
Uptown, my capacious apartment with the 20-foot-long sunken living room began absorbing even more stuff: new furniture; cooking and decorating magazines; kitchen equipment and plants from a friend (who was downsizing for a move to a retirement community); glass, china, and family mementos from my mom’s house (and a good portion of her wardrobe); boxes of stuff I had accumulated in my office. Over the years, I found new places to tuck things, new ways of maximizing space. Okay, I’d never be a minimalist. So what?
But my new apartment at Penn South was going to be SMALLER.
You could say that the “one new thing” would have been to bite the bullet and downsize. And I tried; I really did. But under great pressure, I tend to get “clutchy” … it’s the worst possible time to de-accession, as I can’t make decisions and nearly everything seems a valuable part of either history or possibility.
A two-day tag sale trimmed less stuff than I’d hoped. Lots more went off to the Temple’s rummage sale (including a crewel coverlet that I spotted in a magazine a week afterward and turned out to be an antique worth $1,500 … THAT hurt!). My Nancercized biceps carried numerous stacks of magazines downstairs for recycling. But when a second-hand bookseller combed through my shelves and offered a few dollars each for beautiful, illustrated volumes, I balked.
My plan was to transfer everything in the closets first, giving myself a head start with my closets organized downtown before the boxes and furniture arrived. I’d pack breakables and art myself for hand-transfer by car (and subway, each time I headed downtown), saving money on professional packing (and not needing to cushion everything as if it would be drop-kicked off a truck). The “big” movers would do the furniture, books and magazines, CDs and LPs, and file cabinet contents, and I’d pack as much beforehand as possible (with the help of a couple friends).
Sounds like a plan … right?
Have you ever seen that circus act where the Volkswagen drives into the ring, the doors open, and then clown after clown after clown gets out … until you think there can’t possibly be any more clowns, but there are?
That’s what my closets were like. In fact, that’s what my whole apartment was like.
It was endless.
Friends with cars offered me trips downtown when they could; one dear soul even rented a Zipcar to help out. The bemused doormen uptown lost count of how many times I waited in the lobby before scuttling out and though the curbside snowbank schlepping my big blue Ikea bags.
On the day of the “big move,” the guys from Oz were heroic, especially with a January snowstorm complicating the proceedings. We were running late, and I called Penn South to alert them. Still, there wasn’t a single security guard around to man the door for 25 minutes after we arrived. I ran back and forth between my apartment and the service entrance, alternately holding the door for the movers and racing upstairs to guide them into my apartment.
After bending over backwards to obey the rules—not propping the door open in the absence of the promised guard; keeping hallways clear; and only using the padded elevator (despite the fact that people kept piling into it while ignoring the perfectly good one beside it)—I was rewarded by Penn South with the door shut in my face ten minutes before the 5:30 deadline we’d been given.
The furniture was in, but most of my boxes were still on the truck. In the ensuing half-hour spent haggling with security over whether we’d be allowed to finish (that night or the next morning … getting “no” to both requests, though I had been teased with “maybes” several times by staff who then walked off and disappeared), we could have actually finished. I was looking at three nights of overnight charges (not to mention that my plan for unpacking that weekend before the rest of my things came downtown the next week was dashed). Oz Moving was gracious enough to compromise on the overnight charges, displaying flexibility and intelligence in the face of unforeseen circumstances. Penn South, not so much. Tell me again, WHY did I think this move would be a good idea? I hated the place already.
As my apartment emptied out uptown and poor Billy ran out of hiding places, he got creative. After a frantic search, I opened a base cabinet in the kitchen, bent down … and found him hunkered at the back of the shelf, gold-green eyes staring at me.
Still more trauma awaited: the beautiful, high-quality, expensive, queen-size futon couch I had carefully selected for my previous apartment—figuring I’d have it forever—had to be disassembled and dragged onto the snowy sidewalk after several potential takers had deemed it too big … and I had run out of time.
Did I mention rising at 5 AM my first morning downtown, to head back uptown and clean out the fridge before the tenants arrived? Did I mention having no phone or internet for weeks while I waited to be cabled for FIOS after the SNAFUed move? Did I mention waiting for my stove to be hooked up … the intercom directory to be programmed … my sanity to return? No? Come to think of it, this move made my previous one … the one for which I was homeless in between apartments for a month … feel like a giant pajama party.
Despite the odds, there finally came a day when everything I owned had been transferred downtown, and “all” I had left to do was … unpack.