Leaving

The movers were late. My housemate and I had been up until 1am the night before, cleaning and packing, and had got up just after 6am to make sure had everything ready for the movers to take when they arrived at 7.30 or 8. We each had to leave the house at midday to catch a bus or plane to leave the city. We knew it would be a frantic morning.

By 8.30, there was still no sign of them, so my housemate made a phone call. They’d call back. We kept cleaning around the piles of our stuff. By 9.30, still no sign and no return phone call, so she made a second phone call. An hour, we were told. We kept cleaning around the piles of our stuff. Sweeping, dusting, washing. And quietly fretting.

At 10.30, finally, I heard the truck outside.

“The truck! It’s here!” I called out. The house exhaled.

I cleaned the tiled front porch as the movers carried out our boxes. I watched them walk past again and again, and scrubbed the tiles with a broom, on auto-pilot, not knowing anymore whether my cleaning was really effective.

When the landlord arrived with the bond form at 11.15, the movers were just about finished, but the floors were still dirty. We told him we’d clean them before we left in an hour. An hour seemed at that point like both an impossibly limited amount of time, and the longest stretch. We talked about furniture being left behind (an arrangement we’d come to days earlier) and the landlord’s recent dental problems. I worried about whether the movers had picked up all the pieces of my piano.

The landlord signed the bond form and left, wishing us good luck, and taking with him our keys to the house. We returned to cleaning with an increasing sense of urgency, still having to clean around everything.

At 11.40, the house was empty of our things, and we said goodbye to the movers. We’d booked a taxi for 12.15. We had thirty-five minutes to clean the floors and make ourselves presentable enough for the outdoors. Or at least clean enough.

We were sweeping, vacuuming, washing. And throwing everything that was left into the bin because we couldn’t possibly fit it in our bags. At 12.10 we moved all our bags into the front room and I mopped us out of the rest of the house.

“What time is it?” I asked as I emptied the mop bucket.

“We have two minutes.”

We grinned at one another. Two minutes. We’d done it with two whole minutes to spare. Now all we needed to do was leave.

I put my hand on my heart. It was beating as fast as if I’d just run around the block.

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Packing

I’ve moved house quite a few times now. About ten, I think, in my adult life. And every single time packing completely undoes me. I always reach a point where I am so exhausted that I can’t possibly stand up, can’t possibly put another thing in another box.

I’ve taken more care of myself this time round than I normally do — I’ve allowed more time, I’ve allowed myself plenty of strategic breaks. But I’ve still reached that point. My bed is covered in stuff so I’ve been lying on the floor, curled up in a little ball. At this point it feels like I’ll never finish packing, and I wonder how on earth I can have so much stuff. Where does it all come from? Why does a person accumulate all this crap? Why haven’t I got rid of it before now? Why don’t I just get rid of it now? But it needs sorting through, and some of it I really should keep (important documents, anyone?). Don’t get me wrong — I’m throwing out a lot of stuff. I’ve been pretty ruthless, even with books.

I’m longing now for the time when I’ll walk into my room and it’ll be empty, and there’ll be a pile of neatly labelled boxes in the front room, and my housemate and I will begin cleaning. And, as much as it feels nearly impossible now, I know that time will come. I will, eventually, be packed.

Moving. It’s a process. And it never gets any easier.

Moving House (again)

I’ve been packing this week to move house on the weekend. I’ve discovered things I forgot I owned, which I suppose is normal, but it does make me think I can probably get rid of a whole lot of stuff…

This move out of the house is happening a whole lot more quickly than the move into the house did, and so it’s been quite different psychologically (so far). I went back to read what I wrote last time I moved. This stood out.

This house had become home, these housemates like family.

So I guess we began the process of sorting, packing and moving with… well, heavy hearts. Sometime towards the middle of January, I found myself thinking about how I’d only walk this route to a yoga class (or get off the train at this station, or stare out my bedroom windows, or go for a walk in this park, or see this or that neighbour on the street) a finite number of times. And every now and then the four of us would be standing together in the kitchen talking and/or cooking, and one of us would sigh. Sentimentality became a big part of our last weeks in the house.

I’m prone to sentimentality, to brooding over things. The first sentence in the section above is true of the house I’m in now too. But this time around the rest of my housemates are staying put, and I only really found out when exactly I was going to be moving at the beginning of this week. The combination of those two things, I think, means I haven’t yet had time to brood too much. I’m sure that will come once the move has occurred. Of course, this time around I’ll be able to come back and visit my old house and housemates when and if that brooding makes me nostalgic.

At the moment, the whole thing feels a little surreal. I’m teaching all my regular classes, and trying to get other work done, and in between packing my material life into boxes. It’s odd that we feel so attached to all the stuff we accumulate. Some of my things I’ve had since I was a teenager. Some things I’ve only collected more recently, but much of that used to belong to my grandparents, and so is also imbued with sentimental value.

Every time I move, I find myself wanting to just chuck a whole lot of stuff out, but I never manage to get rid of much. It’s just stuff, but it also holds all those memories for me—I’m not sure I’d cope if I had to carry the memories around all on my own. Sentimentality gets me every time.

I’ve written here before about how intrigued I am by what constitutes ‘home’. The relationship between a person and the house, suburb and town or city they live in is such a nuanced one. It will be interesting to see how this shift in homes affects me, how my stuff in a new place changes things.

But for now, back to the packing of boxes.

Moving House

This last fortnight I’ve been moving house. And it’s been harder than any other move I’ve made. Harder even than moving out of home, or moving from Melbourne to Sydney. It’s strange, because I’ve only moved from one end of Newtown to the other. Both the aforementioned moves involved a great deal more distance, and probably more obvious emotional upheaval. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why this move has been as difficult as it has — and wondering whether I’ve just turned into a big wimp.

It’s been different to any other move I’ve made though. For starters, it was a reluctant move. My housemates and I got a phone call halfway through December telling us the owner of our house was returning from the UK and would like her house back. Two of my housemates were already planning on leaving (they’re travelling around Australia this year in a pop-top van — you can read about their adventures here), but Housemate Three and I were planning on staying in the house. When we realised we’d all be leaving the house at the same time, the phrase “end of an era” found its way into conversation more than a few times.

This house had become home, these housemates like family.

So I guess we began the process of sorting, packing and moving with… well, heavy hearts. Sometime towards the middle of January, I found myself thinking about how I’d only walk this route to a yoga class (or get off the train at this station, or stare out my bedroom windows, or go for a walk in this park, or see this or that neighbour on the street) a finite number of times. And every now and then the four of us would be standing together in the kitchen talking and/or cooking, and one of us would sigh. Sentimentality became a big part of our last weeks in the house.

Then I suppose there was the move itself, which was a bit of a shit fight, if I’m honest. We were really settled in that place. Which is really just a nice way of saying we had a lot of crap, spread out all over the place. Packing, sorting and cleaning was not fun.

For the fortnight it took us all to pack up and move out, I felt like I didn’t really have a home. My new housemates and I had picked up the keys to our new house, so a lot of my stuff was in the new place, but so much of me remained in the old place. For the last week I was sleeping at the new house, and getting up each morning to go to the old house to work more on moving out. That week felt more like ten weeks.

That last week the five of us (four housemates plus Housemate Three’s girlfriend) went out for dinner and drinks — a kind of farewell. I had such a great time with my little sharehouse family.

And I drank a little too much wine. Getting up the next day was difficult.

When we finally handed the keys back last Friday, and went out together for a final housemate breakfast, I think we were all ready to leave. We were glad the move was over (we were also very hungry — we’d all been up since 6 or 7am and we were eating at midday). So in a way, I guess the sadness that had made the process so difficult in the first place was kind of worked through by the horror of the move itself. Or at least pushed to the background for now. I’ll miss that house, and I’ll miss my housemates, but for now I’m ready to focus on what’s going on in my life right now.

I’m excited to be working again. I’ve got writing projects slowly starting to make their way from my head onto paper; next week I’m going to Adelaide for Format Festival’s Academy of Words; and I’m preparing for some new yoga classes I’ll start teaching in the next month.

This move though, and the process of moving in general, is still flitting about inside my head. I’m writing about moving for this month’s Monday Project theme, and I’m thinking again about some of the other writing I’ve done on travel, moving and connection to place.

As difficult as it’s been, moving house has certainly got the cogs turning again. Change, as they say, is as good as a holiday. Except that I feel like I need a holiday to recover from this particular change.