After over 40 years in the same house, we are moving. While it’s only from one end of Hopewell Township to the other, the effort is so immense that we could just as well be relocating to Ouagadougou.
Moving, of course, brings to mind the words of my the inimitable Henry David Thoreau, nineteenth century New England philosopher and eccentric nut-case. In Walden, his treatise on building and moving into a one-room cabin in the woods, Thoreau wrote, “for what we do move ever but to get rid of our furniture.” And what a lot of furniture we have to either discard or move—dressers, beds, tables, desks, chairs, sofas. Why so much stuff?
Speaking of furniture, a clear insight into our lifestyle is that we have a fair number of IKEA pieces. Assembling shelves and dresser with unpronounceable Scandinavian names so many years ago was a satisfying enterprise, all accomplished with a tiny two-headed hex wrench.
Taking those same constructions apart is not so easy. I am not looking forward to blindly re-assembling those pieces since the directions were long ago thrown out.
Thoreau also wrote, “men have become the tools of their tools!” So true, but does that mean I should toss some of my seven hammers, twelve pliers, thirty screwdrivers, four socket sets, five saws and 623 jars of screws and nails?
Most painful to me is Thoreau’s admonition, “I am wont to think that men are not so much the keepers of herds as herds are the keepers of men.” He was speaking of oxen. I don’t have too many oxen, but I do have books, thousands of books.
Four decades ago We recruited friends and moved ourselves. Now we own much too much to do that. besides, I don’t have any friends.
I started acquiring books in earnest while in grad school determined that I’d have so complete a collection that I’d never have to go to a library because every book I’d ever need would be on my shelves.
My books occupy a “wall” (if you’ll excuse the expression) 13 feet high by 20 feet wide. Every great work of literature is at my fingertips, from Homer to Shakespeare to Lenny Bruce. While I love my books, we live in an electronic age where I can get most anything online.
Furthermore, I am not going to read any of these books again. There are just too many other books that I’ve never read.
Besides, I like going to the library.
To some extent, we have been following Thoreau, and various charitable organizations have been benefiting from our attempts to reduce the load that we’ll be transporting to the new house. Gone are coffee urns, extra sets of dishes, a waffle iron, vases, cocktail shakers, food processors—all of which were either rarely or never used over the past 40 years. Surprisingly, many charities seem to be overwhelmed and are quite persnickety about what they’ll take.
A friend recommended consignment stores as a way not only to ditch unwanted stuff but also to turn it into ready cash. However, every one of these places that I contacted seemed uninterested in household goods unless they happened to be something that belonged on the Antiques Roadshow. I am convinced they hoped I was some innocent fool trying to dispose of a piece of Impressionist Art, Civil War memorabilia or the Maltese Falcon, not assorted plastic containers.
Four decades ago when we first moved to Titusville, we rented a truck, recruited a few friends, and moved ourselves. These days we own much too much to do the same thing. And, besides, I don’t have any friends. So now we have to find movers, expensive muscular behemoths, to place furniture and a billion boxes onto a van and take them off again.
The saddest part of the move is abandoning my garden, which represents 40 years of minute attention. I know the contour and hue of every azalea and rhododendron, the location of every daffodil and crocus bulb, the exact composition of the soil in my vegetable plot and the location of every noxious weed. Each tree and shrub has been shaped by my expert pruning. Except for a few specimens, I can’t take it with me.
I haven’t even touched on the burdensome process of selling our home. I was shocked to learn that we had to “stage” the house, a term that I thought only applied to summer stock theater, but which apparently means rendering one’s home so that it looks like a magazine illustration. Consequently, we spend no time in the house for fear of leaving drops of water on the sinks or a speck of anything on the floor.
In our early twenties, my wife and I traveled comfortably around Europe for three months with no more than backpacks. What happened? I should have listened to the best of Thoreau’s lines, “Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!”
Robin Schore lives in Titusville … for now.