Getting boxed in…

One of the most challenging aspects of keeping this blog is always trying to sit down and say something even on those nights when I have nothing to say. In this case, maybe it’s more of a case of not having anything to say for public consumption. There’s plenty going on here at the cardboard box factory, but none of it is even mildly interesting – and certainly not interesting enough to stretch into an opinion piece. I have the distinct feeling that these next couple of days are going to be more about grinding the job out than having anything entertaining to say about it. There are only so many ways to say moving is a pain in the ass and I feel like I’ve delivered that message effectively already.

Through foreign vacations, career changes, the occasional personal issue, and the regular ups and downs of a life lived I don’t think I’ve ever declared an outright operational pause for this blog. I don’t think I’m going to do that now either because no sooner will I say I’m taking a week off then something stupid will happen and I’ll be right back here writing about it. Maybe I should just say that unlike every other normal week, posts for the next few days may not keep to any particular schedule. Then again maybe they will, but I don’t want to box myself into a case of over promising and under delivering.

For now, jamming the rest of my life’s accumulated possessions into cardboard boxes feels like it should take precedence. In a day or so it’ll be down to me, a few critters, and the network I wouldn’t be able to convince myself to take offline until the last second. The last few days of this process really are nearly intolerable.

The realm of the possible…

Since I’m in between moving estimate appointments it feels like a good time to jam a blog post into the day. It’s been a big one here at the Rental Casa de Jeff. After the requisite dose of coffee I spent the better part of three hours extracting boxes from their long term storage spot in the crawl space. At least half of them were still full – and taped shut – from the move back to Maryland from Memphis. I’ll be curious to see what it was I paid to haul a 3rd of the way across the country yet haven’t touched for almost five years. Personally I’m rooting for pirate treasure, but I have a terrible feeling it’s going to be a dozen boxes of plain junk. At least the crawl space is empty and the basement is 2/3 the way along towards being packed out.

In the last two weeks I’ve been making an effort to cut down in all the extraneous spaces – the office, basement, guest bedroom. If I pushed I could have all three finished in an afternoon. That leaves the living spaces we occupy as the next items on the hit list. My bedroom is a spartan affair. No more than an hour or two of work there. The living room is the same story. Two or three medium boxes and all the rest is furniture. That leaves the kitchen as the last redoubt. It’ll go into boxes as late in the process as possible. By the end of the week, I should even have several estimated costs of having someone show up and haul it all a few miles down the road. On the packing front at least I feel like I’m running ahead of the curve.

The documentation is even coming together. My mortgage approval came through this afternoon. The appraisal came in better than expected and more importantly with no lender-required repairs. I’m throwing electronic reams of paper back and forth with the closing attorney. I’m just trying to stay on top of Mount Paperwork in hopes that we can get to settlement at the end of the month as smoothly as possible. It’s one of those rare times that being a natural born worrier seems to be paying off. No one has asked for anything I can’t dredge out of Ye Olde Electronic Files. Being an electronic pack rat does have an occasional upside.

There are still 1,276,384 details to be worked out between now and the closing table, but on the whole it’s feeling less intimidating today. It’s entered the realm of the possible.

I should have hired a Sherpa…

I’m good at a lot of things, but as I’ve mentioned previously, packing judiciously is not one of them. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to see much difference in how I prepare for a 4-day trip to a location less than 100 miles from home as compared to let’s say a 2-month expedition to the source of the Amazon. I’ve spent a very large percentage of my years acquiring items that bring me comfort, make life easier, or that I otherwise just enjoy having around. In setting up shop in a home away from home, I’m basically of the opinion that as many of those items as possible should make the trip with me. My packing calculus recognizes no actual difference between being gone overnight or wandering off for a year.

The good news is that whenever I get where I’m going, I almost always have what I need – sometimes (often) to the point of being duplicative. The down side, of course, is that since I don’t have a Sherpa, I’m the one who ends up toting and hauling this mess from Point A to Point B and back again to Point A with whatever additional provisions I’ve laid on during my stay. It’s particularly bad when I’m driving from place to place with basically unlimited capacity to tote more “essentials” with me. The $50 a bag fee on most flights helps keep my over packing in check when I fly, but certainly doesn’t eliminate it.

I’d like to say I’ll try to change – that I’ll try to mold myself into that kind of traveler who can set off at a moment’s notice with just a carryon bag and a passport, but I know that’s not me. That’s never going to be the way I travel. Traveling with me is always going to be more akin to supplying the Normandy landings than it is to backpacking across the Continent with a Eurail pass. Sherpa or not, I’m totally alright with that.

Out of practice…

Once upon a time, I could pack a bag and be out the door in half an hour. That probably has as much to do with spending three out of every four weeks on the road as it did with having any actual skills worth mentioning. When you pack, unpack, repack, keep the bag under 30 pounds, narrow enough to fit in the overhead, wash, rinse, and repeat six times a month, you get proficient if only through the force of habit. It’s apparently one of those skills that atrophy when it’s not in regular use.

The reason I know this is because I had to swap out the bag that use to work for a week on the road for what use to be the “two week” bag. Then I added a backpack for good measure. And then I thought, “Eh, I’ll just throw in a cooler in case I need it at some point.” I’m pretty sure the planner in me died a little bit with that decision. It strikes me that a normal person would be able to know up front if they were going to need a cooler, but apparently now, I just stock one for “just in case” moments. One of the great drawbacks of traveling by truck instead of airliner is that it doesn’t actually force you to make decisions. You’ve got a nearly limitless maw of emptiness just waiting to take on all the junk you might, but probably won’t, use at some point in your journey.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go rent a pallet jack to get my luggage outside.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

There’s a list of petty aggravations that I could try to puff up to make blog-worthy, but with this Thursday night being the kick off to a long weekend, coupled with a chance to visit with two of my favorite people in the world who I haven’t seen in over a year, I have to admit that the only thing that is really annoying Jeff this week is that fact that there’s still packing, a doctor’s appointment, and the need to drop off Maggie and Winston, and a two hour drive to Northern Virginia standing between me and really getting the weekend started properly. All things considered, it’s a pity there aren’t more weeks that are this kind of annoying.

Mission to Mars…

Every time I start packing I’m reminded why I so often go out of my way to avoid trips that involve staying somewhere overnight. I’m easy enough to manage; a chance of clothes, a toothbrush, and a bag full of electronics and power cables. I can be packed and out the door in somewhere under 20 minutes. Throw the dogs into the equation and the logistical engineering required for even a one night trip is something that would make the planners of the manned mission to Mars feel inadequate. Food, crates, toys, water, dog-proofing the back seat, the dropcloth to catch massive amounts of travel-induced shedding and stray loss of cookies will get things started. Then it’s a matter of avoiding tripping over them while I get my own stuff backed and loaded since neither will get out of the line of sight once they’ve seen a suitcase come out. It’s even worse once I actually start putting things in the truck. Then there’s unpacking on the other end just to do it all in reverse order a day or two later. Lord knows I begrudge these dogs absolutely nothing, but sometimes they are a real pain in the ass. Still, for all the hassle I wouldn’t really dream of going away without the fuzzy little buggers. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to come up with an easier way of getting their 300 pounds of gear from Point A to Point B without dragging it up out of the basement and getting it into the truck. So yeah, if anyone needs me for the next couple of hours before it gets dark I’ll be spending more time getting the dog’s stuff ready to go than it will actually take to make the trip. Oy vey. The things we do for our kids.

A little less moldy…

It’s a little less moldy here at Casa de Jeff tonight. The mold remediation company was here today. They appear to have done all the right things so far. The offending drywall was cut out, fungicide was sprayed, and things are airing out as we speak. A cursory (and completely uneducated) look around doesn’t appear to show any mold intrusion into the wood. This is a good thing and makes me at least a little optimistic that soon the drywall will be back up and I’ll be able to finish shoving stuff around the basement and make it into something approaching usable space… or at least let it be halfway organized storage.

With starting back to work this week, I have to confess that I haven’t made any real progress on sprucing things up here or even putting much more away. That seems like something that’s going to be reduced to a box-at-a-time pace for the foreseeable future. I’d at least like to have everything upstairs finished. The basement can be out of site and out of mind almost indefinitely, but the real living space still needs some work. I should probably knock off the blogging and get back after it.

Size matters…

When I was 20, I moved into and out of the dorms with all my worldly possessions in a 1991 Chevy Cavilier. At 23, I needed my first u-haul; the one that looked like a S-10 pickup truck with a panel van body. At 25, and heading from Southern Maryland to Petersburg, VA I needed the 17 foot model. at 28 and leaving Maryland for Memphis, they brought the 26 foot truck. A few days shy of 33, I’m looking at the pile of boxes that now fill every room and really think that unless they bring a full semi trailer or a 40 foot shipping container, these guys are going to be in for some serious trouble tomorrow. I’m even starting to second guess the pile of boxes earmarked for the Tunda. I’m not going into a philosophical discussion about wants versus needs or conspicuous consumption, because my brain just isn’t working on that level at the moment. Actually, it’s just barely one step above the “grunt and point” level this evening, though the fact that I’m able to communicate at all after the whirlwind weekend should be testament to human resilience.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to obsessively check every drawer and cabinet a few more times before collapsing into my nice comfy bed for what will probably be the last time for a few weeks.

Brass tacks…

For those of you following along at home, the great packing saga of 2011 is coming down to brass tacks. By this time tomorrow, the only thing not boxed will be the cable modem and sundry electronic gear… and by this time Monday, everything should be on a truck and headed in a north easterly direction. I’m sticking in town for a couple of extra days to wrap up the loose ends, but have every intention of being on the way myself by Wednesday. There’s still a metric crapload of things that need to get done between then and now, but for the first time, I’m starting to feel like I’ll have it all done by the time I collapse tomorrow night.

I’m going to do my best to keep posting throughout this ordeal, but if things go dark around here for a couple of days, you’ll know that I misplaced some charging cables or accidentally sent my modem with the movers. Stay tuned, this story is about to get interesting.

What you do when you catch it…

Between stressing out over getting a job (and getting away from the one I have now), packing, getting a property manager/tenant, actually moving, finding someplace new to live, and not sliding into bankruptcy in the process, I’m going to need a vacation before I even think about being productive somewhere new and different. Then again, being officially productive will be such a different experience than I’ve had lately that it might be a tonic all by itself.

The one thing that I didn’t expect about finally getting what I’ve been after for the better part of a year was that I’d be absolutely exhausted when it happened. I’m not complaining, mind you – Just observing that at some point, I’m going to sit down and sleep for three days straight. Hopefully not in the middle of a 900 mile drive… but it won’t be long after that.

This isn’t the weekend for rest. By Sunday night, everything not in a box will be in a Hefty bag at the curb. It’s time to get gone.