An Ode To Moving…And Moving On

Can you all stand a post that has absolutely no redeeming social content or value? I hope so, because I need to memorialize the moment–and not so incidentally, vent.

As regular readers know, my husband and I recently moved.  Being elderly folks, we downsized. Considerably. That process required that we get rid of a LOT of “stuff.” Divesting ourselves of that “stuff” was liberating–although deciding what would stay and what would go was difficult.

It’s easy to get caught up in the various traumas that always seem to accompany moving, and to defer recognition of larger changes and their meanings.

Among the aggravations: we employed a national moving company to pack us, move us (all of 8 blocks, from Indianapolis’ Old Northside historic district to an apartment in the very center of our downtown) and unpack us. Let me just say that what sounded like a great way to ease the process was less than fully satisfactory.

A fair number of things didn’t get packed, necessitating several trips back to the house to retrieve them. (One wonders how this works for people who were moving to another city or state…) Of those items that did get packed and moved, a few were damaged–and it’s always the things that have sentimental value and can’t be replaced…

Because we were moving a significant portion of an art collection amassed over forty-plus years, the movers had a third-party company crate several pieces. Sounded like a good idea. Unfortunately, once we were moved into our new digs, we were informed that the “craters” were on vacation, and it would be a couple of weeks before they returned and deigned to uncrate us…so until yesterday, large wooden crates made any use of our new living room impossible.

There have been other hiccups.

My car informed me that it requires maintenance–in the middle of the move. (I hate it that my car is smarter than I am…)

I took our bedspread to be cleaned just before the move; and when I retrieved it, found it had shrunk during the cleaning and no longer fit. (I didn’t even know spreads could shrink!)

We had great plans to fit out our closet with IKEA units–called PAX–but parts of the closet units remain unavailable thanks–no kidding– to the problems freight has experienced transiting the Suez Canal, so a significant portion of our clothing is sitting on the top of the dressers.

Our handyman–upon whom we are embarrassingly dependent–got sick, retarding a number of projects that would turn our new environment into a functioning home.

Our pathetic inability to understand technology meant that two of our sons (one of whom is a techie who lives in Amsterdam and another — a lawyer who has the misfortune to live vey close to his parental units) had to confer via smartphone and configure modems and routers and otherwise set up our office, a process that did not require but did enable an inordinate amount of eye-rolling and smart-ass commenting that I personally found excessive (albeit probably appropriate).

All in all, these and similar issues are what my youngest son calls “First World Problems.” He’s absolutely right, of course. When I am being rational (a relatively rare occurrence during the past several weeks), I realize how very fortunate we are, and how very minor these problems are in the scheme of things.

As we “settle in,” there will be time to consider just where we are in life’s journey–time to determine how we can most productively employ whatever talents we still possess in the time remaining to employ them. These are the sorts of turning points common to all humans who are fortunate enough to enjoy extended lifespans.

I probably should be embarrassed to admit that I find my “first world problems” sufficiently annoying to divert my attention from the politics and events that have long been the primary focus of this blog. I promise that–having vented– that focus will return tomorrow.

Thanks for indulging me!! I think I feel better….


  1. Moving is the absolute worst experience known to man woman and child. Try doing this overseas multiple times in the past decade. I totally get the need to express yourself because healing begins as soon as the closets are full. Rest up!

  2. Thanks for sharing. I have been wondering about your move. It reminds me that I have two houses that need to be cleaned out. One here and another in WI. I expect my heirs will be pissed if/when they have to do that stuff.

  3. Reminds me of an old joke, “How do you make God laugh?”

    “Tell him your plans.”

    While the Universe laughs, my expectations quickly turn from annoyance to meltdown. 😉

    Enjoy the new digs.

  4. No worries, Professor.
    We’ve all been there.
    It makes us appreciate our military people even more, knowing they go through this evey two years or more.
    And how would we survive without the tech knowledge of our kiddos?
    Ours smile and answer what seems like the dumbest questions with such kindness it astounds even me.
    Enjoy your new digs!

  5. While your experiences sound frustrating and unfortunate, and I am truly sympathetic for your painful experience, I appreciate the sense of humor that I detect in your essay. When we can learn to not take ourselves so seriously, and find a chuckle or two in the midst of difficulties, that is a healthy way to cope.
    And, just because our problems are of the “first-world” type, does not mean that they are not still problems.
    Good luck in your new digs! It will all work itself out and then will be fine!

  6. Thank you. I appreciate your humanity…whatever world you inhabit. It adds punch to your usual!

  7. I still have the long list of “To Do’s” that I wrote out on paper prior to and after our last move to our lake home 15 years ago. It ran four pages, single-spaced. As we had listed our prior home for sale after we closed on the new home we thought we had plenty of time to take the transition slowly. But no. It sold at asking price in 3 days and we only had 30 more to empty it out.

    That was enough to bring on a episode of intense anxiety and later deep depression, despite having been treated with medication and periodic counseling for years. Somehow I got through the move, and managed to maintain employment, but it was a zombie-like robotic experience. And, yes, I remember a conversation with someone who told me that a lot of people would die to trade places with me. Somehow, some way, it all got done and I climbed out of my hole to some semblance of emotional stability.

    I still have that four-page list and I get it out occasionally when I feel a sense of dread coming on. And I look at it with satisfaction, and some disbelief, when I note that every item on that list has a check mark next to it indicating its completion (or elimination as unnecessary for a few). It is really remarkable to me how adaptive and resilient we are to changes and challenges, and the experience helped me grow at an age when I didn’t think growth was possible.

    We wish you and your husband the best in conquering your “list” and hope you enjoy the freedom and simplicity your new crib brings to your lives. ?

  8. I’ve moved over twenty times in my lifetime. Except for three of those moves I did the packing and driving of the U-Haul myself with three kids and assorted pets in tow. It was always an adventure. Now into my “twilight years” when I cannot find anything I always say, “Probably lost in a move somewhere”.

  9. I feel your pain – moving is rated as emotionally traumatic as a divorce. And yesterday we made a positive step toward relieving our combined children of “where do X and Y want to be buried”. Purchasing a niche in a columbarium provides us with some comfort that the kids will be able to deal with the “party” that will ensue afterwards! Enjoy your new space and just put away one thing a day.

  10. Been there. Done that. You described it well. Still haven’t found some things five years later. Stolen? Perhaps. Who knows. Movers, in my experience, leave a lot to be desired.

  11. Too late for Sheila, but I highly recommend The Joy of Less (author Francine Jay). It was exactly what I needed prior to downsizing. A book worth its weight in gold for down-sizers.

    As for Sheila, best of luck with the rest of your moving in — having lost count of the number of moves I’ve made, I’ve had only two good experiences in all those years. Pretty pitiful — but at least I didn’t have to endure “probably appropriate” “smart-ass comments” from a son. 🙂
    Love your sense of humor!

  12. Isn’t it nice to know that, since you’re retired, you have all day, every day for the rest of your life to get everything squared away?

  13. Feel better…imagine you were in Gaza and your home was bombed out….

  14. Moves are like weddings, but without the joy: A Lot of stuff Always goes wrong, and it’s impossible to anticipate and head it off. Come to think of it, it’s also a bit like teaching – no matter how many years you teach, every new class Someone throws some new crazy wrinkle at you that you’ve never seen before and you have to figure out how to deal with!

  15. Sheila, a very humorous account of your move. At least it will be for you eventually, I’m sure. I chuckled because I can identify. First world maybe, but still important at the time. I hope you settle in well and the eye-rolling ceases.

  16. This January we moved from a St. Louis suburb to an Indianapolis suburb. My comment: when one is 3/4 iced over (75), moving in the middle of a pandemic might not be the best idea.

  17. Stuff, a useless legacy!

    Nothing screams mortality like stuff! Somehow we feel the more junk we’ve accumulated over the decades, make us be remembered? Make us somehow immortal?

    Your kids vision is definitely nothing remotely close to what yours was. And I’m not trying to anyone in particular, just everyone in general. So what you deemed important, is just something for the estate sale after you’re gone. The old cars? The antiques? The acquisitions from trips and in general ramblings on paper or across this country and the globe? Awards? Certificates of education? Anything a person was can be erased by a spark, legacies are like chasing the wind.

    I think is best we make a difference while we are here, where we can. When the chips are down, when we see injustice, during time of crisis, use what wisdom we’ve acquired over a lifetime to strengthen the downtrodden and pointing out and navigating the injustices that become more prevalent every day. In the end, it might help a few, but definitely will make no difference on the whole. As evidenced by the most recent events, there are more on this planet willing to injure then there are willing to heal!

    What does a person gain from all his hard work At which he toils under the sun? A generation is going, and a generation is coming,But the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun sets;Then it hurries back* to the place where it rises again. The wind goes south and circles around to the north; Round and round it continuously circles; the wind keeps making its rounds. All the streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full.To the place from which the streams flow, there they return so as to flow again. All things are wearisome; No one can even speak of it.The eye is not satisfied at seeing; Nor is the ear filled from hearing. What has been is what will be, And what has been done will be done again; There is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one may say, “Look at this—it is new”? It already existed from long ago; It already existed before our time. No one remembers people of former times; Nor will anyone remember those who come later; Nor will they be remembered by those who come still later. (Written down by the son of King David, Solomon as the book of Ecclesiastes)

    So that’s that! Or is it?

    Then also those who have fallen asleep in death in union with Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are to be pitied more than anyone. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. For since death came through a man, resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive. (The apostle Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians)

    The Scriptures tell us: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” Moulton and Milligan suggest the rendering: “Faith is the title deed of things hoped for.” (Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, 1963, p. 660)

    So, is our accumulated stuff worth fretting over? Does it produce a better existence for anyone? Or, are the good deeds we do, the proper use of what wisdom we’ve accumulated to help those of lesser experience navigate their lives and their faith and their hope, in the end useless?

    They say you can’t take your stuff with you when you die, but they also say those who die with the most toys wins! Talk about an oxymoron! If there is nothing more than this, we are as the apostle Paul says, to be pitied!

  18. Having moved often during the Depression because we could not afford $8 a month rent (which led my father to note that we moved so often that every time he went out in the back yard the chickens would fall over and cross their legs), I have since had the dubious pleasure of moving from Alaska to Michigan. That and many other moves from childhood through adulthood give me a feel for Professor Kennedy’s trials and travails in moving, whether intercontinental or intra-neighborhood.

    Like my father, her sense of humor helps with the inevitable foul-ups with movers, the division of (moving) labor, what goes to Good Will etc. etc. etc. There is no art to moving; goofs are inevitable, but in time all will be well. Great vent, Professor!

  19. George Carlin’s stand up on stuff is incredibly funny. It’s on You tube and might help you laugh in the midst of all the chaos. Laughter increases our white blood cell count so it is truly good medicine.

    I will be downsizing to a retirement community when I leave this house as I have no children to watch out for me. I must do it before dementia begins to affect my decision making skills.

    I found out that when I let go of things that don’t have sentimental value ie family heirlooms that I don’t miss them much at all, if at all. The Buddhist teachings about impermanence have helped me let go as well. I’ve decided that life is more about letting go than hanging on to people, places and things.

    I wonder what would happen in Washington if we all decided to start consuming less so that we had more of an economic say. Hmm. Yeah, I’m dreaming. Even so, our Mother Earth does need us to consume less. My car is now 20 years old and still plugging along. I hope to get a newer car by the end of this year. It will probably be another Prius.

  20. Moving when one is young – think early to mid 20s – is no big deal. But as you get older, you begin to accumulate stuff the total of which increases every year. This is even more true when you stay a long time in one place and never go through the process of sorting through stuff during the frequent moves that one does when they are younger.. Then late in life when you go to downsize, you are faced with an enormous amount of personal stuff you need to go through. Having movers is great, but it doesn’t change that process.

    Also, you might have the lawyer pack rat gene. I have found that every lawyer I know has trouble throwing stuff away and ends up with boxes and boxes of stuff, mostly papers. Ingrained in our mindset is that we need to save those papers, possibly to “prove” things later on. The trouble is we accumulate so much stuff we can’t find that older document on the rare occasion we actually need it.

    I’m a few years younger than you, but your column reminds me of the need to go through my boxes of papers and start throwing stuff away, downsizing my personal stuff. Every year, that’s my New Year’s resolution and every year I fail to make progress on it.

    . I will have an appearance I filed in a case 15 years ago,

  21. My last move, the new wall to wall carpet was in a van. One of the workers went to the gas station and the van jumped out of gear..he said…and hit a gas pump. Police were called and the worker went to jail because he had a warrant…..The van carrying my carpet went to lockup/impound so the day of my move, they were laying carpet while they were bringing my furniture in….the installers of the floor in the laundry discovered that there was rotting floor underneath….my sister in law said “you know when we were looking at the house, I thought the floor seemed……mushy. House inspector didn’t catch it…nor did I. In the dining room behind the door, a cat had clawed the grasscloth so that had to be removed…not a problem but wish I’d known. That night, clients came over and brought me chinese food. One of their friends was so drunk that as he ate the chow mein the food was dropping out of his mouth on to my new off white carpet….chinese food/soy sauce stains. My sister in law said “Did you notice that guy was slobbering food all over the new carpet”? Yes I did. You gotta laugh.

  22. Husband, Bill, and I are approaching this same scenario. I started cleaning a few closets and returning possessions to the children who left them here. And donating/tossing things no one wanted. At this rate, we’ll be 158years old by the time weare “downsized.” I need another plan. Thanks for sharing yours.

  23. There are many Palestinian families downsizing as we write without any of that chaos and pain that we all experienced.

    Some of them even live through the process.

    Third world problems.

  24. Moving is stressful enough without the extra stresses of Suez Canal, handyman sickness, etc. Sounds maddening. We’ll understand if you need to take a blog break and just go away for a few days.

  25. Suez Canal: “…everything is hitched to everything else.”John Muir.
    When we prepared for our last please) move, I started cleaning things out 6 months prior. Having moved, and downsized big time twice, in the prior 7 years, I sort of knew what to expect. But, that did not prevent some of our stuff from never arriving in Florida. If I recall it correctly, the moving company reimbursed us to the tune of $1,800.
    Stuff: Like a very close friend once said, “Don’t love anything that can not love you back.”
    Hoping that everything will pan out well, in the near future. Venting is good for all that ails you.
    Don’t forget to enjoy!

  26. Moving is always a nightmare. Did it multiple times during my career with DOD. While the move was paid for, we were always at the mercy of the movers, packers, storage folks, unloaders, etc. Our last move here back to IN was during the rain, only the single driver (who had to find day help to unload), couldn’t get semi-moving truck up driveway (which I informed them of in advance) and had to rent another smaller truck, then unload from big to small first to get to the house. Ended up working in the dark, in the rain. Wouldn’t put small spinet piano upstairs, even though a baby grand had been there. Of course, there was breakage and furniture damage. Did no unpacking, left boxes everywhere (many still unpacked in garage after many years). Didn’t pay attention to directions, and went the opposite way out our road and got moving truck stuck and had to get a special big truck tow. Need to downsize too. Am dreading the process.

  27. As a tech impaired senior, feel your pain. hope this turns out to be just the right move for you. Waiting to hear your take on the mess in Israel.

  28. In the process of dealing with the passing of my spouse of 57 years, I am facing the daunting task of downsizing and clearing out 53 years of “stuff”. I have thought about just setting the place on fire and starting over from scratch but the mere thought of the new computer/phone/ TV needed to do that was enough to eliminate that option very quickly. Living the rest of my life incarcerated might sound easier than downsizing and moving after more than a half century (!) in the same house right now. This too shall pass.

  29. Stuff is the excrement of desire…Buddha, maybe.

    The story goes like this: A monk was living on the road, with just his robe and a bowl for rice. One day, while drinking from a stream with cupped hands, he realized he didn’t need the bowl…

    Navy brat, 8 moves; live-aboard salmon fisherman; motorcycle touring for months. I’m not attached to much except tools.
    Now I’m eight decades in, winding down. With internet, I need no books, records, or manuals. I have a paid contract with a local teaching hospital, UCSF, that collects my body and does ALL the paperwork. Bingo!

  30. I feel your pain – although I have only moved eight or nine times (and some partials), I am now downsizing in preparation for what I hope is my penultimate move. Some were easy (within building moves to larger condos) and some were harder (across the country).

    Now, being a non-lawyer pack-rat, I am downsizing – three careers, not to mention politics, and leftovers that my stepson left before heading to U Wash from Wabash. The hardest for me is the recycling of books that nobody wants – a lot of technical books that are outdated, but some that aren’t.

    I am certain that I will throw away the equivalent of a Mickey Mantle baseball card — and keep utter garbage, but Todd’s old joke reminds me of the Yiddish saying:
    Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht
    Man plans and god laughs

    I’m glad your ordeal is mostly over.

  31. We downsized last year, mostly because we feared Trump could be re-elected and we wanted to be light on our feet and ready to move to Ireland. We sold and gave away a lifetime’s accumulation of things. It felt liberating.

    We moved into an apartment in downtown Charleston, eagerly anticipating urban vs. suburban ambiance. In short order, we came to regret our decision. Horse-drawn carriages full of tourists clomping down the street every 10 minutes. Endless leaf-blowers and mowers from dawn to dusk as darker-skinned people did yard work for lighter-skinned ones. The sounds of renovation: saws, drills, hammers, roofing, flooring, re-siding, power-washing of houses being improved. Blocked sidewalks with dumpsters filling up with debris from rich people’s renovations. Jackhammers and blocked off streets while the city tries to upgrade 150-year-old sewers. Ultimately, untenable.

    So we jumped back into the bizarre and overheated real estate market to purchase a house back in the ‘burbs. Now we find ourselves upsizing: a strange phenomenon. We over-reacted before. Has this happened to anyone else?

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