Out of Sorts

 Let me just say up front, if I’d had a blue collar job, ideally, it would have been the unpacking end of corporate re-locations. So in short, I was in very good sorts last week helping my daughter and her husband move into their new home in Raleigh, NC after four years overseas in Frankfurt, Germany and Shanghai, China. It took the wonderful moving company two days to unload over 350 boxed and custom-containerized items. My job was to check off each item on a “bingo” sheet as it came off the truck. It wasn’t until the second day that I could finally yell “bingo” because I’d checked off all the items in an entire column. At the end, we could account for all but two boxes supposedly containing toys and ornaments. Eventually they’ll probably resurface in the garage, but likely won’t be missed if they don’t.

Karen’s job was to direct the movers where to put every item – garage, office, living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, bonus room. Ah, the bonus room…if there wasn’t an obvious destination for an item, it was assigned to the bonus room. At different times on Saturday, both my son-in-law Kevin and I opened the bonus room door. Each with the same response. We stood speechless before a pathless room filled wall to wall with furniture and boxes then simply closed the door and walked away. It was too much to deal with.

On Monday a small pathway meandered between some of the boxes as Kevin and I waded deeper and deeper into the sea of stuff needing to be sorted. By the end of the afternoon, every box had been opened and sorted through. Many items had been reassigned to attic space under the eaves, seasonal clothes to bedroom closets, or, best of all, the thrift store. Yet mounds of stuff were still stacked everywhere. Physically, we were tired after five days of hard work. Emotionally, we talked of  feeling a little out of sorts; feeling a combination of delight and despair, like the discovery excitement of Christmas mixed with the sinking feeling one gets watching TLC’s reality show “Hoarding: Buried Alive”. So much stuff, so many decisions.

Almost forty years ago I made three similar international moves with my family when we lived overseas for five years in Spain and England. With each move there was time, after all the boxes were empty and the house put in order, that I felt out of sorts. My husband had his work that occupied his day, the children had school and their growing circles of friends, but I was left at home to forge a new life in a strange new world. While I learned to negotiate life in each new community, ultimately, unpacking a new life had to do with making new friends. Last week, my grandson Nate measured the success of his school day, not by what he’s learned, but by the latest addition of a new friend. I could relate.  

I could unpack innumerable boxes, organize the mounds of stuff we’d shipped, settle into our latest new house, and successfully navigate around a new area, but a new place didn’t become home until I’d also unpacked a few new friends.  They were my “bingo” for being out of sorts.

What major moves have you made in your life? What was your delight/despair experience in unpacking? Did you feel out of sorts? What was that about? What was your “bingo” ? Metaphorically, are you making a move in your life now that is not geographical? How is it similar/dissimilar to a geographic re-location? What new “bingo” awaits you?

Looking forward to your comments.

PS – My favorite part of unpacking was throwing empty boxes and packing paper over the upstairs balcony railing to the entryway floor below. I would have loved sharing this experience with my grandsons, but my daughter, rightly, would never have forgiven me.

8 comments to Out of Sorts

  • Kris Mouton

    Hi Lynne,
    I so enjoy reading your blogs. You are so gifted!
    I really relate to this morning’s subject, “moving”.
    I am making a geographical move this coming September. Charlie and I will be married and living in Maryland, driving across country on 9/11.
    We have been fixing up the house making room for us both!
    I love seeing the transformation and getting it ready for my arrival. But I’m scared too. It’s a huge change in my life. I will be leaving my job of 32 years. I will also have to re-create myself on the “right” coast job & otherwise. I will miss my family but my son most of all. He is living with his girlfriend, working and just busy creating his path.
    I have anxiety and I use prayer to ease it – it helps!
    Sometimes, I feel that this train has traveled much too far for me to turn around! Financially, it is much easier to live in Maryland compared to Los Angeles. I have more opportunities regarding work in Maryland and a new sense of freedom that I think comes from being without my family – there are “good things” about not living too close to family, even though I love them very much!
    I know it will all be just fine. I have a wonderful group of friends already and much love to share! My life already seems more color-filled in MD … and fading in LA.
    Much love to you all,

  • Having moved at least 16 times as a child, the idea of moving is my version of purgatory. Boxes are not my friends. Yet, moving is a wonderful allegory of life, we all must keep moving or we die, and even then we are put in a box. “It all goes back in the box” as John Ortberg says. The challenge is to so live and love like Jesus that when our final box is one day emptied by the Prince of Life, we will shine with His glory, the brightness of a thousand perigee suns.

  • Deanna J Bowling

    Making order out of disorder – VERY familiar territory. Do I like making order out of disorder, yeah, maybe, sometimes. Is it what I am best a doing, yeah, maybe, sometimes. Does it serve me well to be able to make order out of disorder, definitely.

    Example, I am just back from my therapy session this morning. I had my third or fourth appointment this morning with my MFT. Upon entering the therapists office this morning, I received the news that my therapist is not being reimbursed by my insurance company, the people who gave me approval to see her in the first place. AGH!! I am covered by a Medicare as well as a Medicare COB plan provided by Health Net. Neither my therapist nor I realized that she also had to be a provider for Medicare in order for Health Net to reimburse her for my care. So, we talked about the situation, and decided that what makes the best sense for the two of us is for me to pay her sliding scale fee out of pocket.

    After we settled that matter, I went on to tell her how God has been making order out of disorder in order to care for me all of these years.

    Maybe there is a greater purpose in all of this, you think?

  • Jeannie Cavender

    I have not experienced a move in almost 34 years and have always commented that the contents of the attic, a huge garden shed and the 3rd garage would be the free bonus items for anyone who would purchase my house – seems the best way to just leave it all behind and move on. I am not about or ready to move so those particular areas remain treasure troves for exploration.

    I have, however, in just the past month been in the process of moving my 98 year old mother to an assisted living apartment and emptying the 2 bedroom, 2 bath condominium she has lived in for the past 33 years – 18 of which included my father. How so much could be packed in that space!!! I must add that they had one of those pull down ladders to access the attic space – it was a great place/space for old tax records, suitcases, seasonal ornaments, and the patio umbrellas during the winter, but it was also a great repository of any number of other items which, amusingly, earned the space the title “Sin Bin”. It took my brother and son the good part of a Sunday morning and afternoon to unload the contents and about an equal amount of time for my son and I to sort those contents and determine their next “home.” It has taken seeminly untold hours of time with thanks again to my son and brother, and on one afternoon with my mother, to make our way through the rooms. We had several nights of not eating dinner until 9:00 in determination to finish one last closet, dresser, or cupboard or one more box to stay, storage, ship, scrap, save!

    The time and the contents in and of themselves are not what has become most notable or noticeable – it is the memories, the stories, the “lives” that meandered among all of the items and boxes that were being packed. I learned that the copper, well dented, toddy pot is now about 150 years old – a wedding present to my parents in 1937 from friends of my grandparents, the silve filagree casserole holder was my grandmother’s identical twin sisters wedding gift to her in 1911, and a small coral colored book “Nellie’s Stories, a gift to my grandmother in 1887 (she was 12) from her Sunday School teacher for good attendance. College diplomas, journals of travel, a notebook of needlepoint stiches with directions, a letter I wrote to “Santa Clause” as a child and even report cards were all there. My unsentimental brother was actually quite touched as we found his own birth annoncement and then that of his eldest daughter Lynne. A very patient and loving member of our church sat listening and sorting through multi yeared collection of my mother’s love of sewing, stichery and knitting. Then there was the button box that my daughter had verbally laid claim to years ago.

    I learned stories I had never heard before. I listened once again to memories often repeated, grateful that my mother could still remember them and share. I took real and mental notes of conversations not only with her but with my brother and son as we sorted and replayed the significant and significance of a life – indeed lives – abundant in appreciation and gratitude all of the opportunities that had unfolded over the years.

    Moving is a huge, tremendous and exhausting – not a job – but an adventure into the past changing poignantly how we move into the future.

  • Karinski

    You’re right, you would not have been forgiven if you had taught the boys about pitching the boxes 🙂
    But I am eternally grateful for the time you spent here nurturing all of my “boys” when I couldn’t….it’s no wonder they love you more then me! 😉

  • Kit Ripley

    I can SOOOO identify with this blog!

  • cynthia thomas

    i moved twice last fall. first in october from my 3 bedroom condo with garage to a one bedroom & a small storage closet on the very small patio. i was pampered because my sister, the queen of organization, unpacked & stored the contents of every box in 6 hours. i felt trapped in this first apt. it was small, dark, & a long walk to everywhere i would want to go. 3 weeks later, i had the opportunity to move to a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apt on the fourth floor. again, my treasured sister unpacked & stored everything. my new apt. is wonderful–lots of light, warmer, & an easy walk to the places i need to go. i’ve been out of sorts with this transition. i’ve had to develop a new living “routine”. i’ve had to learn about 150 new names & faces. i’ve been a grouch with god about needing to move here at such an early age (i’m 59 & most of the other residents are 80, & older). a couple weeks ago, i sat down with pen & paper & wrote a list of positive things about living here. i’ll share the top 5 things on my list” i don’t have to cook, buy groceries or clean up after meals, (i eat breakfast in my apt, lunch & dinner in the common dining room), i don’t do laundry or house cleaning. i don’t drive in the crazy traffic anymore. i sold my car last month because my driving had become poor. i have the most beautiful sewing/craft studio i’ve ever had AND i have more time to utilize it because i have so few chores to do. reframing my situation on paper has helped me tremendously. now i can ewnjoy was i have instead of lamenting my losses. & i have new friends! i’m enjoying them also. cynthia

  • Melinda

    Well, now I really feel out of sync with everyone..I have moved 4 times in the last 5 years, and must admit that I not only do not mind moving very much, I actually think it gives me yet another opportunity to re-invent my life. Long ago, my mother admitted to me that her mother (my grandma) moved nearly every year or so throughout my Mom’s childhood, and that all her children regarded it as an adventure. Throughout my own life, I have never stayed in one house for more than 5 years, and often less than that. I love the “blank slate” that is a new home, and I enjoy making each place uniquely mine. I am sure that this is evidence of great instability in my make-up, but I find it cleansing and exciting to find a new home and “imprint it” with my own style. I have a routine for both packing up and unpacking, and work tirelessly to accomplish both. I have never had anyone to pack up my things, so it becomes an exercise in deciding what is truly important to me, and what I can get rid of. Twice I have sold houses completely furnished, and kept only my art pieces and a few special pieces of furniture, plus my family pictures. I observe people who surround themselves with stuff that they find special, and wonder why they do not want to part with so much of it….maybe it is because I do not feel attached to furniture etc , and in fact, love freeing myself from alot of possessions. In the last 18 months, I have moved from a 2800 sq ft Victorian house in Northern Calif to a studio apartment, and most recently to a small cottage with only 900 sq feet in Ventura. I grieved for a while about down-sizing, but now find that my present little house is sweet and easy to take care of, and it is becoming a cozy refuge. I guess “home” for me is where I find myself; as long as I have my family and friends, and my work…as I age, I give more away than I accumulate, and that feels good to me. I find moving very energizing, and look forward to several more before my “final” move!Thanks for giving me a chance to articulate what others probably think of as eccentric! I love all your posts; they are very thought provoking.

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