So it’s sort of crazy but I actually sold the house. The crazier part of it is that when I signed a purchase and sale with these buyers months ago [the first people to make a serious offer on the place] they were interested in moving in as soon as possible and we set the closing date right then, July 13th, and that’s actually when the house closed. Apparently this rarely happens. The actual event was pretty much pro forma. Sign a bunch of stuff, say hi to the buyer [and his wife and adorable little kids] who I was meeting for the first time, receive a big check and then go driving around taking photographs of Vermont towns hoping even more than usual to not get into a major accident.
The whole thing wound up really well, in exchange for me chipping in some of the closing costs (not part of the original deal) the buyer basically took the place as-is meaning waiving the usual back and forth that happens when they get the place inspected and say things like “Well there is a kestrel in the chimney, will you take $500 off the price for kestrel removal services…?” which I was happy for. This meant a little less angsting over what “really clean” means in barn terms. I gave away a household’s worth of furniture to the RE-Store in Barre (wonderful people). I gave away ladders and drill presses and card catalogs to friends. I threw a lot of things away, even stuff that was maybe recyclable. It felt weird. I put some stuff in a friend’s shed until I can figure out what to do with it. I have even more stuff in my place here than before.
Not being a homeowner [of my OWN home, yes I technically own some part of my dad’s place but I certainly do not feel that it’s mine] is about as good as I thought it would be. Not having 40 acres of land does not cause me psychic distress. Or if it does, it’s significantly less distressing than owning a house that is too far away and too high maintenance and not enough fun. As my sister, who sold her own house a year and a bit ago, presciently said “You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it years ago” and she’s totally correct.
As an odd and only-sort-of-related coda, I am heading out to get my stuff that was originally in a friend’s basement in Seattle since I moved out of there for good in … 2003? Yes, 2003 (thanks Scott!). Another friend drove it partway across the country last year and now there is a storage unit full of … things I haven’t seen in almost a decade that I am going to retrieve. Renting a van, the whole deal. I think it’s mostly books. Some clothes. A few odd bits of furniture. This is the sort of thing that I call a vacation.
Sometimes I think I have a tapeworm, eating like I do. This weekend I helped cook a 5 lb. hunk of lamb, went out for BBQ at Blue Ribbon BBQ and wrapped it all up with a carne asada burrito. It was a delicious meaty weekend which is just what I tend to be looking for at about this time in February. The flip side to this is that I spent the rest of the weekend running up and down stairs carrying heavy objects.
My sister is moving in a few short weeks. I’m that friend who will always help you move. I’m not so great at being the second person hefting the hide-a-bed, but I’m really great at taking whatever shamehole you have been putting off dealing with and turning it into a few labeled boxfulls and a bag of trash. I’m often modest about most of my abilities but I think I excel at this. This weekend I helped deal with Mount Laundry, the Poison Closet, the dreadful Neglected Closet and a few other miscellaneous spaces. Each time I managed to empty something out — I put aside the ticking timer when Kate had a rather strong reaction to the ticking sound, I find its urgency a little motivating — I put a sticker on it as shown above. Apparently the stickers are a little tough to remove, sorry about that.
I drove home to Vermont today with a car full of stuff. One of the magical qualities of my car is that things placed into the back of it simply … disappear. This is good for people who need to get rid of clothes or old computers. This time my sisters’ disappearing stuff is actually mostly winding up in my house. I took home a few bags of clothes (seriously doubling the bulk of my everyday wardrobe), a fold up spare bed, a few things to eBay, a fruity teacup with my birth month on it, a typing table with a little lamp on it, some placemats, some bubblegum and a great big bookshelf. People keep talking about the recession and I know it’s true objectively, but it’s been a bountiful few months for me.
I’m not sure why this phrase isn’t all over the Internet but my folks always say that three moves equals one house fire. This is especially true if a move is accompanied by a data disaster. But let me back up and let me tell you about my backups.
This is the first time I’ve moved in to my own apartment. I’ve lived alone before in various ways (caretaker of an Odd Fellows Hall, caretaker for Ola’s place, first or last roommate in an apartment share, bought a house) but not me and my stuff moving into an empty place. It’s sort of neat. The space is nice and I’ve put some photos up. Moving day was amazing. Ten people and six cars and most stuff was moved in about 45 minutes. There was a short list of post move-in problems including the landlady’s smoke detector beeping non-stop for the first few days, a little bit of leaking during the downpour (renter’s insurance on the way!) and a collapse of the shelves in the closet which were holding my stereo equipment (yes I am old enough to have stereo equipment) also since repaired. Fortunately, the closet is also one of the guestrooms, so there was a mattress on the floor and my stereo is fine. I’m not sure if I mentioned, but the camera I dropped in the toilet last week is also fine.
I was not so lucky with my hard drive. I was using my laptop, just plugged into the wall, in an old house while a roofer used power equipment outside. Past experience has shown me that this is a bad idea. However, a lesson you learn once every ten years tends to not sink in well. At some point my laptop’s hard drive stopped working and did not start working again. I have spare laptops. I even have backups. However, my backups are a few months old meaning I’m missing a chunk of photos, chat transcripts, work documents, calendar junk and stuff I probably don’t even remember. I thought I could tough it through this, but I’m rethinking that position. This is a problem money can solve and I may want to use some of my money to solve it. If anyone has suggestions for decent data recovery places, please feel free to let me know.
Otherwise unpacking and readjusting is going well. I slept in my new apartment finally. It’s hella quiet and dark here which pleases me. I’m still trying to figure out how to create counterspace in my kitchen and maximize the very few grounded outlets here. I think I’ve learned which corner of the house my cell phone actually works in and the wifi I share with my landlady seems to work well as long as she’s not on the phone, which may be good enough. I’m getting okay with being only approximately contactable. I mentioned this on Twitter a while ago (re: Neal Stephenson) and wound up getting namechecked on 43 Folders. Woo. Maybe it will catch on. If not, postcards always reach me, albeit slowly.
I decided to get a post office box again even though I don’t need one because I do enough workish-stuff through the mail that having a non-home place to get mail seems like a good idea. In the post-9/11 world, you need to prove what your home address is to get a PO box. Since I got the PO box before I moved, and I can’t get mail delivered to my house in Bethel, I had to get a note from Ola saying that I live here. Ola thought this was amusing and scrawled me a note in pencil. The post office found this amusing but what could they do, say “go back and have her type this”?
My new mailing address has a nice sort of number pattern to it. Box 345, Randolph VT 05060. The box has a combination (letters instead of numbers) so I don’t need to carry a key around with me. Today is moving day.
I saw this as I was out lunching near Harvard Square yesterday. A quick Google showed me that there’s a pretty interesting story behind this pretty interesting photo of what it turns out are the Danilov Monastery bells being repatriated to Russia.
And yeah obligatory talk about moving and recitation of where I’m going and where I’ve been. I’m in Somerville at Kate’s place. I came down to do some helper-monkey work cleaning out some rooms full of stuff here, see my Mom, see my fella and give Ola some alone-time at home to do whatever she feels like doing there. It’s hot here. Kate and I put an air conditioner in the guest room. It’s the first time I’ve ever put in a window-mounted air conditioner in my life. It was scary. Scary but successful. Now I’m hanging out until my librarian Skype conference call — I’m on the usability committee for an open source library catalog project going on in Vermont, good works — and then I’ve got a good book for the bus back.
I’m thinking about my things. Since I happily spend maybe a fifth of my life lately away from “home” (and one third of my life asleep no matter where I am) the idea of what things I need to be functional and happy has shifted dramatically. That said, I’m sentimental and like having boxes of old letters and keepsakes around me. So, thinking about moving in to a new place, where I can arrange all the stuff and where I have to carry all my things up a long flight of stairs (or get someone to do it for me) has been a reflective time. I enjoyed this book review at Kevin Kelly’s site of the book It’s All Too Much which takes a step beyond just helping you declutter and organize and actually talks about quality of life issues and maintaining them with fewer things. Kevin quotes the intro by Merlin Mann, humorist pundit to techie people roughly my age, which has the little points that I’m taking away.
The biggest change in attitude this book made in my life was to teach me not to generate false relevance by “organizing” stuff I don’t want or will never need. Organization is what you do to stuff that you need, want, or love – it’s not what you do to get useless stuff out of sight or to manufacture makebelieve meaning. For me, this is about the opposite of organizing; it means disinterring every sarcophagus of crap in my house and, item by item, evaluating whether it’s making my family’s life better today. And if some heirloom really is precious to me, can I find a better home for it than a shelf in the back of my garage?
The guideline I always heard for whether to keep or toss old clothes was whether you loved it, wore it or it looked awesome on you. If any of those things were true, keep it. I generally don’t have a lot of trouble with “make believe meaning” wrapped up in my things but I may have a bit of a fetish problem with books and possibly t-shirts. And there’s my coin collection which I enjoy but rarely play with. It’s heavy.
I enjoyed cleaning up Kate’s crazy full-of-junk room upstairs. It was two hours of my life that saved her multiple hours of worrying/thinking/stressing about not doing it. Time well spent. If I was considering a career change I’d dredge out people’s shamehole rooms for a living. You can wear whatever you want, listen to your favorite music and people are always incredibly grateful for something that doesn’t seem at all like work to me. Coming home to a place that doesn’t itself seem like a decluttering project in process (soon, soon) is my goal for the next three-ish weeks.
In between the last post and today’s post my soon-to-be new landlady let me know that the rent on the new place was going to go up because the high price of fuel (in a heat-included apartment) was skyrocketing. So I bit my nails for a few days until she gave me the new dollar amount which was still affordable. Also Ola came back and brought a new puppy with her — Shamus led a long happy life but had to be put down in May, I’m sorry if I didn’t get to tell you before this — so the house is even more chaotic than usual. Also I was in Los Angeles for a few days. Oh and there was a big terrible incident here that rocked the community and made everyone alternately trepidacious, outraged and very very sad. Plus there was a library angle and a social software angle which had me concerned professionally as well as personally.
But a terrible weekend in Vermont is better than a good weekend in Los Angeles and I’m happy to be back. The next few weeks are seeing me on a vacation to Portland Oregon, a quick trip to DC on important goverment business (sort of joking) and moving my scant possessions up the street. It will probably be the first time I’ve moved completely out of anyplace in many years — I have that hippie-ish problem of leaving boxes in basements all over the country, like Mark Twain and his bank accounts — and the first time I’ve lived in an apartment on my own. Exciting.
There is a website I sometimes visit that is for chatting and nonsense and every so often there is a status update thread where people tell you about what or how they are doing in bulleted list format. If you know anything at all about me, you’ll know that I love the lists. I also find that somewhat arbitrary constraints are sometimes good to get you motivated when you’re staring at a blank piece of paper [or text entry box]. And, as always, by “you” I mean “me” You can tell more about people by what they choose to include or not include usually than by whatever the actual facts are on their list. That said, here is mine because it’s about time and because I have news.
- Ola is coming back in the first week of July. Like for real. Her youngest son is getting married in the end of July and there will be a lot of people tromping in and out of here during that month, I suspect. I am looking forward to seeing her, it’s been a while. I mentioned to her that I had only killed a few of her houseplants, so I am optimistic about the whole transition.
- That said, I’m in love with living alone so I’m moving to Randolph (one town over) where I’ve found this great mother-in-law apartment. I have a handshake agreement to move in August first. More details on that as they emerge. I can always use help moving, but truth be told, I don’t have much stuff. What I could use is someone to help me build a platform bed of some sort.
- I’d like to say that I’ll be closer to work but the big news is that RTCC decided to stop funding the drop-in time [and library outreach] that I was doing so I’m not working in Randolph anymore except for the occasional lifeguarding and library fill-in stuff. More details on that over at librarian.net. I feel pretty bad about it. Not personally because I’ll be fine and I have enough work and I was feeling a little underappreciated and underpaid there. No, I feel bad about it because I felt like I was doing great things and making a difference and I’m annoyed that for whatever reason — and I know, money issues are real, especially in this neck of the woods — the program wasn’t sutainable. Drat. I have more than enough work and other activities to keep me interested and involved, but I’ll be looking for more things to plug me in to the community. Chances are high I’ll pick up more regular librarian work but nothing is certain yet.
So, those are the plates that I’m spinning in the air at this juncture. Mostly good.