Packing up to move leads to trips down memory lanes
I treated moving as an exercise that could bring many smiles to my face. In the months leading up to it, I cleaned a closet each weekend in preparation. Packing created the space to relive moments from our lives that were tucked away.
I dread moving. The process is laborious and overwhelming.
My family recently relocated within the city, still on the South Side. In the months leading up to the inevitable move, I cleaned a closet each weekend in preparation. Then when boxes arrived, I carefully decided which room to pack up first. Pacing myself was key.
We spent almost seven years in our Hyde Park apartment, watching tweens become high school graduates, babies enter kindergarten. Junk drawers had accumulated and scuffed white shoes got tossed. Broken bed frames and board games with missing pieces awaited trash pickup.
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This approach made moving feel less daunting. It also allowed me to linger — er, procrastinate — especially as I stacked hundreds of books in boxes.
I sat on the floor and picked up the Kelly green copy of the groundbreaking collection “All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies,” and thought back to when I bought it in Portland, Oregon 25 years ago. My favorite Terry McMillan novel is “Mama,” which I bought at Evergreen Plaza in seventh grade. I reread the first two chapters before gently laying it in cardboard. Then I skimmed through the anthology of columns that comprised “Sex and the City” before it landed as an iconic HBO series, and laughed at the absurdity. “The Piano Lesson” play reminded me of a monologue recitation in high school. My books are like artwork or a toilet. Beautiful reflections of my taste and a constant I rely on. Can’t live without them.
Stripping our place to the bare walls and emptying drawers removed the unwanted. But packing also created the space to relive moments from our lives that were tucked away. The diaries that captured a good day, the photo albums with pictures printed from Walgreens, slips of paper with loving messages. I rarely have the time to immerse myself in these treasures. And while my husband thought I was a wee bit too aggressive in downsizing, I did not go full Marie Kondo. A dining room table in need of more than a Pledge-sprayed rag is less sentimental than the box on the top shelf of the linen closet. There, I found a picture from my freshman year of college with Chicago friends at a restaurant. Back then, clipped photos went in our wallets. We dubbed the photo “ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none.”
One of my favorite finds was from emptying a nightstand in our daughters’ room. At the time, maybe five years ago, my youngest step-daughter wrote what she wanted from the grocery store: Moose Tracks Ice Cream. It was so simple and sweet. That little girl will be off to college this fall.
I treated moving as an exercise that could bring many smiles to my face. I decluttered and took mini trips down memory lanes, like when I found the picture of me and journalist Gwen Ifill at my grad school graduation. I also thought about what I or our family needed with much more intentionality than with the annual spring cleaning people tend to do this time of year.
So I picked up the book “The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less” by Christine Platt — who has a terrific Instagram account — to think about what to keep and how to pare down.
“Over the past decade, the word ‘minimalism’ has become so trendy, it can often appear to be yet another form of consumerism,” she writes. “Becoming a minimalist is not about conforming to a particular design style of simplifying your wardrobe. ... At its core, the practice of minimalism asks us to ensure our belongings reflect our truest selves.”
My truest self is not letting the mementos languish too long without perusal. And putting the “ain’t no fun” 1995 photo on the refrigerator — no matter where we live.
Natalie Moore is a reporter with WBEZ.
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