The joys of packing to move

I’m having a great time (NOT!) as we start to pack our belongings for the trek south to Texas.  Most of what we use from day to day will remain unboxed until a week or so before we leave;  but when we came up to Tennessee from Louisiana in 2010, I brought a large quantity of what my wife derisively (and justifiably) calls “Stuff!”.  It’s been sitting in boxes ever since then, because we didn’t have room to unpack it.  Rather than cart it all to another state yet again, I’m sorting through it all with her help, discarding everything we don’t need and setting aside what will be useful in our new home.

It’s been quite the eye-opener for me.  For example, how, precisely, did I end up with no less than four complete sets of screwdrivers, plus a few spares here and there?  I honestly didn’t recall having them all.  I guess I must have bought sets on sale here and there, thinking that the price was good, without stopping to think whether or not I needed them.  Oh, well . . .  The best two sets have been retained, one in a big tool chest that’ll live at a workbench in the garage, the other in a more portable toolbox that’ll travel around the house as needed.  The rest have been donated to friends, apart from a few that were too ratty to bother with.  They’ve joined the rest of the garbage.

Books, of course, proved an emotional trial.  I’d built up a good library over the years, but all in paper books that weighed a lot and took up a great deal of space.  I’ve donated or tossed something like three-quarters of them, which was a very painful process, because I’m a bookworm and probably too attached to the printed word.  I must admit, though, now that it’s been done, it’s pretty liberating.  I’m down to five bookcases full of books, and I daresay if I really tried I could reduce that even further.  On the other hand, my Kindle library is now up to several hundred books as I replace older dead-tree editions with modern e-book versions.  I guess I’ll have to start cataloging that now, and figure out ways to keep track of it, otherwise I’ll end up buying multiple copies again (just as I did with print books . . . I had a number of duplicates there, and no less than four copies of one book!  I can only plead the excuse that it’s a good one.)

What’s surprised me most is the stuff I thought was worth keeping, but in the light of five years of not using it, has proved to be entirely unnecessary.  There’s been a surprising amount of it.  One of my rules of thumb about the process has been that if I haven’t used or needed something in six months to a year, it can usually be tossed.  There’s been a lot of it.  Some of it doesn’t fall into that category:  for example, emergency preparations and their supplies are there for a reason, and don’t need to be used to have a real value to us.  Nevertheless, even there, economies can be made.  Machetes are great in a survival situation . . . but why do I need six of them?  (I know, I know – some readers are already saying, “Trade goods!”  I agree, but my wife simply snorts, “Stuff!”  She has a point, you know.)

I’m also surprised at the way boxes of ammunition, and the occasional loose round or speedloader full of ammo, have crept into all sorts of non-shooting-related boxes.  My old office papers have yielded several hundred rounds so far . . . not exactly stationery, but good for punching holes in documentation, I guess!  I’ve found cartridges for which I no longer own a firearm, so some of my friends are going to be in for a windfall.  Anyone need sixty-two rounds of non-corrosive, modern production 7.92x57mm. Mauser ball?

The upshot of all the sorting and tossing is that we’ve been able to move our remaining “stuff!” to a much smaller storage unit, less than a quarter the size of the one we had before.  Everything in the new unit will be packed into the moving truck “as is”, and unpacked at the other end.  It’ll be much simpler and easier that way.

I do recommend the sorting and discarding process as a very worthwhile exercise, even if you aren’t planning to move.  You might be amazed at how much you don’t need!



  1. In 2000 I went to work for the State Department and was moved to my first overseas post. The moving company packed out 63 boxes to move us. Five years later we were moved back to the states. It took 181 boxes(some of which still haven't been unpacked) to move our stuff back.

  2. My wife was a military brat, and loved that part of moving – the chance to weed through stuff you didn't need. When we went FT on the road and de-stuffed, it was excruciating.

  3. Interesting subject, "stuff". My take-

    If it is a tool, it usually gets kept- never know when it may come in handy. When it does, it may save an immense amount of hassle. Assuming it can be found… That means tool chests.
    Disclaimer- I earn my living with tools, so for me, it is a survival thing.

    These days, the books I buy to keep are almost always reference works of one sort or another- fiction can come and go. However, and I don't know if this was true in Africa, up north every guides cabin was crammed with books to help get through the long winters. I saw the largest collection of National Geographics I have ever seen in a cabin in Arctic Village or Barter Island or somewhere up there.

    The thing that amazes me is to go to some "thrift" stores, and see the sea of useless chinese plastic ,glass and clay trinkets that apparently someone, sometime, thought was a good idea to stuff their home with. Like William Morris said, "keep nothing that is not either useful or beautiful in your home," or words to that effect.

  4. I feel your pain. We're getting ready to move back to the US from Africa. We moved here in 22 action packers, and one pallet of surface freight (my tool box for the airplanes). I shudder to look at the pile of -stuff- we need to sort through to move back. Gonna be more than 22 action packers I'm much afraid.

  5. I feel your pain. The Raptor Clan went through the same thing this past June. Our mover said we were something like 800lbs short of the limit for our trailer, and they'd sent out their largest size.

    Part of the problem was that both Mama and Papa Raptor are firstborns, which meant they inherited all the old junk from their parents, aunts, and uncles. Coming up on six months later and our attic and basement are still full of unpacked and half-unpacked boxes.

  6. Calibre is a good organizer for ebooks, and really any scanned document if you set your library up right. It will back up the Kindle locally, and automate "side-loading" books or documents you get through other channels. You just need to check over the metadata for books you add to the library to be sure the author's name and title are correct and in their proper places.

  7. Uggh. I don't envy you. My father was career US Navy, so we moved every 2-3 years with a weight allowance (and large payments for overages). That kept things pared down. But I'm a bookworm, and I just do enjoy paper. I think we've kept it down to 5.5-7 bookcases, but it's rough. I do regret getting rid of Enc. Britannica, if only because there've been a few times I wanted to look something up, but the power was down… If you've a large enough bathroom (and well enough ventilated to prevent humidity damage), and are a sufficiently bookish person, pulling a volume at random and reading is fun, at least until your legs go numb from sitting on the pot. Yeah, I'm a bit weird, but so's my wife and a couple other people I know.

    I guess I need to get a solar charger to use on my Kindle, huh? But Kindles are only really good for fiction. For informative technical, engineering, or history, nothing beats a high-quality print edition that can't be pulled back by the publisher, and is available at any time, no matter what. Even if kerosene lantern is the only lighting source.

  8. While I managed several overseas moves, all about five years apart, with only one shipped box (books) and what I could take on a commercial airplane without paying extra…the same could not be said of my family home.
    After six generations who never moved out (but in boxes themselves) and the accumulated boxes from family members returning things to the family… I don't think we could move. We could leave, but that is a rather different thing.
    In any event, I hope it all goes smoothly!

  9. While I wouldn't mind more 8 mm Mauser, I'm sure it would be more effective to give it to somebody local and save shipping.
    I agree with the above comment on tools; make sure you have at least a basic tool set in each car. It will be a big help when you break down; I've changed belts and alternators along the road, tightened up a number of things, provided tools for other people with car problems, and ran out to my car to get a tool to fix a problem when visiting at a friends house.
    For the tools you are going to get rid of, you could look for a local charity or tech school to give them to. either for regifting to the needy or for internal use (maintenance, renovation, Habitat type home building, etc).
    I'm trying to decide what to do with several boxes of outdated computer equipment – I can't get trash pickup where I live and the local dump is close but a royal pain to deal with.

  10. In Michigan we had a house with a room in the basement that came to be used exclusively for 'stuff.' Don't know how I let that happen, but when we moved to California it was time to pay the piper. A whole room full, and I was the one crying "Stuff!" I mostly prevailed and gave or threw away maybe half a ton of stuff. The rest, alas, went west and was never used.

  11. Ahhh, yes, e-books. Like when my phone went tits up, and shifting data to the new phone somehow didn't include the paid-for kindles. (Sigh) they're gone, can't find em to replace, and can't afford to now, anyhoo. Ain't modern life grand?

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