Moving Memories; Moving Baggage

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 22nd Apr 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Money Saving Tips

Moving can be both stressful and expensive. But the more that can be planned out in advance, the saner the move will feel. Anything you don't have to move is a bonus your back and legs will thank you for. But sometimes the purging causes stresses of other kinds.

Needing Space

There are only three people -- and no pets -- living in my house. We should be able to get by in an apartment. But we prefer houses because we have big families. If they ever came to stay with us, we'd want them to be comfortable. It doesn't matter that the last time I had more than one family member staying overnight, I had a baby gate around my Christmas tree to save it from my 9 month old. Or that the 9 month old just turned 11. People get used to having space. To wanting space. To needing space.


Last year when my grandma died, we wondered how she could stand to live alone in the huge (relatively speaking) farmhouse. We emptied the house after she died. I think we filled five trailers (but there might have been more) and covered the garage floor with bags of items to be hauled off as trash -- easily two flatbed loads. Several lifetimes and several people were stored in that house. Memories of people who'd discarded pieces of themselves at my grandmother's door. Parts of me were there, too. I reclaimed many of them, and more besides. I brought them home.

Discarded and Reclaimed

My husband foolishly asked what I was going to do with all the stuff I'd brought home. Like that mattered. I had the space for it. It was mine -- I wanted it. Besides, he has no room to talk. He has two banker boxes of china that we have moved four times across most of the US -- from Arizona to Kentucky and back to Arkansas. We are never going to use it. It might be quite valuable. We'll never know. The value is sentimental. It was his grandmother's. Or maybe his great-grandmother's. He also has three boxes of slides and slide carousels. One day, he says, he will take them and have them digitized. I think if I ditched one carousel a year it would take him a decade to catch on and by then, they would be gone. I could piece out the china the same way. But then payback is a harsh mistress. If I'm thinking these things, he is, too. I'm not sure which of us has more to lose.

Losing It

We both know what's important. If we had a fire, we'd save our son, phones, and car keys. I've sat outside a house on fire once. I grabbed my coat and I think my shoes. My parents fought the fire with a garden hose once we kids were out. In turn, we called 911 from the bag phone in the car. Emergency services weren't sure what to make of us -- kept telling us to get out of the house we were no longer in. When my sister convinced them that we WERE out of the house, only our parents were still inside, the operator told us to tell them to get out and wait for emergency crews. Clearly she did not understand the tenacity of my parents. Of my mother, setting photo albums outside on the brick steps. Of my father, who more or less had the fire out by the time the fire truck arrived. We lost ornaments that melted on the Christmas tree and several appliances in the kitchen were lost to electrical damage. The half-done glow in the dark puzzle on the kitchen table looked like a neon sign for days afterward. But the rest of the house, although smoky, was saved.

(We had an electrical fire and the tree was a casualty. The following is a fire safety video where the fire starts beneath the tree. Both are scary. This is NOT the actual video of my house being on fire.)

Good Intentions

This is not the article I was going to submit for Wikinut tonight. I have a cute -- short, sweet, and to the point -- five part series on moving to share. I have been reading books and the "to review" pile is piling up. My son just had a birthday and I've got three different angles covering his birthday party -- along with some phenomenal (I say humbly) photos.

But despite this good fodder and even better intentions, I write meanderingly about the meaning behind our baggage. Maybe it's an American thing. Maybe it's a learned trait from surviving different things -- both my parents' mothers were pack rats and they passed it down. The Depression Era taught them "waste not, want not," and I've tried to live up to that. But when I die, who's going to care about what I leave behind? My son, maybe -- but I don't want him dealing with all my stuff alone. My son and my husband -- same deal. If I'm gone I want to be gone. I don't want the ghosts of my things to crowd them out of the house I left behind. I want someone to take for their own use what is useful and someone to help me determine what needs to end up in the rubbish bin. A million dollars and fairies who do my laundry would also be nice, while I'm dreaming. I can do something about the first, though.

Planning the Move

Anything you can sell, donate, recycle, or throw away is one less thing you have to move. Think about that. No -- I mean REALLY think about that, because I didn't. I only thought I had.

Letting Go

Since we have moved, I have given away many items. Furniture, electronics, books (yes, books), and housewares that weren't being used. It was pretty simple. Before my move, I posted what I had to give on Craigslist and Facebook and people came and took them away. But some things were spoken for without ever being retrieved. And once we were settled into the new house, I could see that some furniture and things I had needed in the old house were not needed here. So I held a yard sale. But unlike Oprah, my son and I barely made $100 between us, and after buying the permit and yard signs and price tags and other necessary items, I can tell you that the $100 was not worth the time and trouble of the sale. And I still had items left. The next week, I met with other homeschooling moms. To them, I gave books, clothing, costumes -- things I could not give a reseller I could give to these moms for their children to use. And then I got a postcard in the mail. The presence of the postcard made me purge even more -- here's why:

Donations Wanted

Big Brothers Big Sisters has prepared routes and a schedule to pick up donations for their donation and resale centers. Now, a lot of places say they will pick up for free, but only if you have a certain amount of donations or bulky items like furniture. While I am attached to my stuff, I realize that others may not find it good enough, and I would not want to inconvenience a charity with scheduling a pick up. That is the beauty of what BBBS did. By announcing via postcard that they were already coming to my neighborhood on a certain date, and by listing items they were accepting and could use, they countered two of my biggest obstacles. Of course, I thought, I've just given away a lot of stuff AND had a garage sale. I only have a few things left. But the postcard gave me purpose to purge more and again.

Results of Purge

After my latest purge, I have 2 large and 7 small packing boxes of materials for BBBS. I also have a box of clothing to consign and a bag of hand-me-downs to pass to an out-of town friend. I'm debating now whether to consign the clothes or donate them with everything else. The consignor they would go to has been in her shop less than a year and I want her to stick around -- it's a plus-size only shop. I found two more boxes of children's books that I will let my son's friends peruse before I donate them. I created four banker's boxes worth of recyclable material -- four banker's boxes of old magazines, notes from school, homework assignments, coupons, circulars, envelopes from bills I pay online but still get the statements in the mail. I file the statements. Or I will get back to doing that now that my filing cabinet is out of storage. I should scan and shred. Maybe this summer.

Despite all this, there are STILL more boxes I ought to go through. However, I'm mentally exhausted. And nine boxes is more than justification for BBBS to stop by my place on an already scheduled route. A full recycling bin is reason to celebrate. And while part of me is kicking myself for waiting this long -- and STILL not being done -- every piece I let go of I will never have to hold or let go of again. There is both freedom and fear in that statement. There is power and pain in letting go of so much, so fast.

Anyone Else Here on the Verge of Pack-Rat-ism?

Enough about me. Tell me about your packing, purging, or prolonging the inevitable. Give me advice for cutting the ties and breaking free. Or tell me how you gave away your loved one's junk and how it turned out to be something of extraordinary value. Or tell me you're having a great day -- or a crummy one. Choose to be part of a conversation. You got this far -- why not?

Related Articles & Credits

Mom, I want to MOVE
Paint to Sell
Tale of Two Houses
Funny Thing... Grandma's Funeral

Photo Credits: Except for the picture of Oprah credited in that section, and the picture in this section, from, images used are either courtesy of MorgueFile or my own creation. The video in "Losing It" is courtesy of its YouTube Creator. And if these credits brought to your mind Smokey the Bear, well, I hope thinking of him makes you smile.


Boxes, Memories, Moving, Packing, Relocating, Travel

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
22nd Apr 2014 (#)

Steve, thanks so much for moderating and the note you included. It does my heart proud for sure!

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
22nd Apr 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Phyl. I knew the article would be great, and it is. I'll just reinforce from your article, "There is power and pain in letting go of so much, so fast." I felt the same way and wondered at why I had held on to so many things before my move. Good job, Phyl. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
22nd Apr 2014 (#)

Awww. Thanks, Marilyn. Much appreciated.

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author avatar Jacque Hodge-Goff
22nd Apr 2014 (#)

Having a fire makes you realize what's important. I am sorry you had to go through that as a kid. It was no fun as an adult & we are still dealing with insurance after 1.5 years. I'm a packrat too with clothes & shoes because I didn't have money for a lot of nice stuff as a kid. Now I have to stop myself from buying the same shirt in 3 colors because it's simply a good deal. I try to purge every season. It gives me sanity & I know it really helps the community or I hope it does.

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author avatar C.D. Moore
22nd Apr 2014 (#)

It feels so good to let go of unnecessary stuff! I bet you feel much lighter , Beautifully written!

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
23rd Apr 2014 (#)

Jacque -- we were kids in name only. Older sis and I were in college by that point. But I remember your fire -- I am glad you are recovering. I remember we had pretty similar childhoods -- and that probably motivates much of what we do!! I'm so glad you weighed in here! We need to plan another outing with or without Richard and my boys. FB is good, but not enough!! ;)

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
23rd Apr 2014 (#)

Thanks so much C.D.!! I thought it was a bit sappier than I wanted, and I meandered more than I intended. But I'm glad what I wrote hit home for people. It feels good to be understood. Super-appreciate your comment.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
23rd Apr 2014 (#)

Interesting Phyl. The fire video is poignant.

When I moved from one country to another years ago my wife and I were too sentimental to let go even some used clothes. We realized later we spent much more in transporting them than buying new!

Some had left behind rare books and we took care to stock them but we had to discard them when we left in a hurry. When I visited later to retrieve few they were covered in dust and discarded by the new tenant! The value of items depends on the individuals - what is priceless to us proves worthless to others. In life everything is recycled including us in totality! siva

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
23rd Apr 2014 (#)

Absolutely, Siva! Thanks for weighing in.

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Apr 2014 (#)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Both my wife and I are pack rats and we know that we have things that will be meaningless to others. we are both in our seventies now but we do manage to get rid of a few things once in a while.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
25th Apr 2014 (#)

I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It has meant a lot more to people than I could have possibly realized. Thanks.

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author avatar Lady Aiyanna
20th May 2014 (#)

Bags to heaven and up the went,
Memories of life all well spent.
With every record written in blood,
Showing the explosion in tide and flood.

Got your message and here I am,
I am who I am the Pearl in Clam.
Seen in the Book as Record Keeper of Life,
I am who I am the Creators' Wife.

Why did you summon me that is all I ask,
You ask for my presence now Behind the Mask.
I am not your keep but you stole my place,
In the hope and joy to wear my lace.

Now you talk and challenge my heart,
Hoping against hope to play your part.
This is your Bell you can out there camp,
Courtesy of the Lady to the Tramp.

I know the secret and shackle your pain,
As you live out there within Memory Lane.
Now you feel it all within that grace,
As the the Voice of Heaven now quickens pace.

I held up your challenge now prove it expressly,
For in my presence the lot of you flee.
Please don't do this and yet you curse,
Hoping against hope to call the hearse.

That is who you are trying your scythe,
But here is my Angel who who knows the wait.
Watching and laughing as you your box move,
I am who I am I have nothing to prove.

You know me and I know SIN out there,
Causing trouble by trolling around bare.
Hurting those poor kids running around with spoon,
In a hope to make me move an swoon.

I am not interested never was or will be,
I am happy with my own love and family.
Who they are is my business now yours,
For SIN and you can sit and iron flaws.

I just walk on and take all with my pride,
What have you got demons and shell inside.
Hoping to be the pain you've to all been,
Now go back home and ravage Web of SIN.

Be gone from ME for you have no place,
I know your voice and you are a disgrace.
Abusive, judgmental and pained within,
And on pole Campbell do with Bona Cera Lean.

I see you are the Soup bowl with whose child,
Calling just all your hurt and reviled.
I want n explanation just move your place,
You were to your neighbourhood a big disgrace.

By Anisha Achankunju (C) Lady Aiyanna 20th May 2014

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
31st Jul 2014 (#)

I am a Campbell,
So Oom, Oom, Good!
I rarely pick fights,
Though I'm misunderstood.

I stand my ground
Having no place to mind
You can putter about
Seek, ye, and find

A friend to the friendless
And foe to the haughty
Lady A, you're outmatched
And oh, so terribly naughty!

By Phyl Campbell (C) Phyl Campbell July 2014

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