4 min

Pack up & ship out

Weathering the 11th-hour meltdown

For years I held the editorial position of managing editor at several magazines. I could schedule with the best of them, make sure everything was on track, knew where all the moving parts were and was a kind yet firm taskmaster who made sure it all went to the printer on time, within budget and without injury. But for some reason, no matter how hard I try, I am unable to master that same skill in my own life.

Labour Day weekend was the first step in the big move. We hosted a garage sale cocktail party (a huge success if I do say so myself) and the following day had an old-school garage sale, on the street with the weird drive-by people who don’t even deem your belongings worthy enough to exit their vehicles. We got rid of a ton of things. Close to a hundred books, furniture, linens, clothes, dishes… you name it, we sold it. We had decided that nothing was precious and we would get rid of what we could to make moving easier.

At the end of the weekend it felt like moving would be a breeze. That the amount of stuff we sold and gave to Value Village would make packing a no-brainer and the move easy to do with one hand tied behind my back. Having had several horrible moves (one that involved me still moving my belongings out two weeks after the new people had taken possession of the apartment — and no, I didn’t know them) I was convinced that this one would be the most painless of them all.

The only problem? Me.

From the beginning of September until about a month ago I did nothing. I talked a lot about it. Made some lists and daydreamed. But really, did nothing. When I was ready to get a move on, the first task I undertook was the freak-out. I hadn’t packed anything and was realizing that moving day was coming in less than a month. I had moved a lot of things from one room to the other, but wasn’t feeling like that was the most productive use of my time.

My wife, as she does, came to rescue. She asked what she could do to ease the stress and I said that perhaps a schedule would be helpful. When she was finished she called me at work and read it to me. As the words came through the phone lines I could hear my heartbeat slow and could see the light at the end of the tunnel. What happened next is not uncommon in our lives, but does cause some tension. I promptly forgot to stick to the plan.

So it’s two weeks before the move and waking in the middle of the night is becoming more like can’t sleep at all. The solution, since I have already ignored the wife’s plan? We hire a friend of a friend who needs some cash to help us pack for two days. Without any clarity to the scope of the project I am convinced that this will be enough time for her to pack us and that this person, who I don’t really know, will have some great insight into what we want to keep, where we have placed all of our random CDs that we would love to have packed together and will understand that a box has a top and bottom and to please use them correctly since I am far more particular than I had realized. I am sure you can guess what happens next.

There is something in our house we call “The 11th-hour Meltdown,” when something is so close you can almost taste it and yet you are nowhere near ready for it to be that close. Me and the 11th hour are quite good friends.

Wednesday night, before day two of the packer, I break down. My wife has retreated and is simply ignoring the mess and chaos around her ’cause it’s mess and chaos and seems so unmanageable it’s killing her slowly. I of course believe that somehow she is being unsupportive even though we could have done it the rational organized way that would have allowed her to participate rather than having her brain shut down at the mere thought to wading into the bomb site that was every room in our house. So there we are. I am feeling defensive and she’s feeling invisible. It’s good times.

And then. In a split second of clarity we decide not get into a huge blowout I-hate-you-fight. Instead my wife’s rational brain kicks in and she suggests (more like insists) we deal with our storage space where we will be taking all of our belongings in a couple of days. It needs to be organized and room made for the 45 or so boxes we will be keeping in there for the year. Even after the tension, the realization that I am screwed and the near-miss World War III, my first reaction is “can’t it wait until tomorrow morning?” Thankfully it’s a silent conversation I have with myself and we head out the door.

What we think will take two hours takes just over an hour and I feel like everything is on track. I know where things will be moving to and somehow it makes tackling what is left to do at the house easier. Once again, wife to the rescue.

We’re moving on Saturday (my birthday) and it looks like we will have survived. The house is packed, minus one box (and I’m not downplaying) and the friends are lined up for the afternoon. We will provide snacks in exchange for the muscle and then it will be done. Over. Complete. And official.

That evening we will celebrate the completion of the task, as well as my birthday (did I mention that already?) and at the end of the night, arm in arm with Megan, I will stumble home. Where that is though, I’m not so sure.