We are back in the remote village of Hoonah, Alaska for 8 months. We did live in Juneau, across the water by 35 miles, for about 20 years before trying our luck in the “Outside.” Hands down, we are delighted to be back in a place where life moves slower and everyone knows you. (In fact, it moves so slow here the speed limit is 20mph and everyone waves when you pass them on the road.)
The Outside, as the lower 48 is known, was not all it was cracked up to be for either of us. Too hot, too loud, too many people, too much traffic. Just too much. When the call came with job offers to return to Alaska, we gave an enthusiastic, “on our way.”
Of course, when you’re going to live somewhere for 8 months out of the year, you have to figure out what to do with your stuff. Luckily, 6 years prior we had downsized when we moved out of Alaska, passing on quite a bit of our stuff. Now we had a smaller collection of stuff, but it’s still stuff to sort through. For two months our life consisted of various piles around the house:
Occasionally I would throw something out….literally into the rubbish bin or put it into a donate pile only to discover it back in the cabinets/closet a few days later. I began announcing, “I’m throwing these socks out. They have holes. DO NOT remove them from the garbage.” It was time to put down the rule with my husband, “If you see something in the trash or donation pile, do not remove them. They’re there for a reason.”
For example, I tried to donate 3 little rectangular trays you’d use for breading items. You know the kind, one for wet, one for flour, one for crumbs. We never used it and I figured Goodwill could find it a new home. Three days later, it’s back in the cabinet. I had a little cooking pot I bought from IKEA that we never used. That also was in the donation pile yet somehow ended back up in the cabinet….
With moving, we had to think strategically and look towards the future.
Since we were giving up our home on the east coast completely, we had to think, after 8 months where are we going to spend the remaining 4 months of the year before returning to Alaska? We decided on Arizona. Now we have to plan for two destinations.
So the packing began.
All photos with exception of a very small handful go into storage.
Pots and pans, they’re 20 years old. Donate.
Living room furniture. Sell or trash.
Christmas and halloween decorations. Storage. (Try not to buy more in the meanwhile.)
Books. Donate. Keep. Take.
Garden supplies. Donate.
Cat toys. Take.
Second car. Sell.
Soda Stream cartridges. Take.
Favorite hot sauce. Take.
Cat snacks. Take.
Brush lettering supplies. Take. Store.
King size bed. Leave as freebie at the community recycling center where everyone leaves their odd household items.
I know what you’re thinking….moving the king size mattress had to be a nightmare. Not really. We threw it off our balcony. (Yes, we checked there were no people or turkeys in the vicinity. Mostly worried about turkeys.) We were only on the 3rd floor, 4th if you count the basement, of our apartment building. The mattress itself didn’t fly, it dropped like a cinder block, but boy those two box springs got some distance. They floated down like leaves on an autumn breeze. It was like watching a flying carpet.
Luckily, we didn’t keep a bunch of furniture, however our storage unit is quite full. I have no idea what is actually in the storage unit. It’s just stuff. Keeping guard is my favorite halloween decoration, Stan the skeleton, sitting in the office chair. Don’t worry, Stan is backed up by his posse of badass homies….a metal goat and two cows…and a giant paper mache turkey vulture.
After awhile the boxes we mailed to Alaska began to show up and it was like Christmas. One box weighed in at a cool 69 pounds…..1 pound less than the USPS limit. When the boxes arrived, my husband was in Juneau, of course. Since our Post Office is small, I couldn’t leave them there. Trying to lift and carry boxes weighing between 50 – 69 pounds into a 15-passenger van, was like watching the Three Stooges, only I was two stooges short. I swear one of the boxes was as big as a washing machine. How am I going to get my arms around that?
First of all, there is no trunk space in a 15-passenger van. Luckily the van I had was missing the last row of seats. I was like a contortionist trying to heft those boxes from the post office loading dock into the back of the van. Not to mention the way things were positioned, it was impossible to slide them into the van, I had to lift them up into the vehicle. My arms were like silly putty.
Our house is up a hill. Although its March, we still have mountains of plowed snow on either side of the drive. Knowing there was no way I’d be able to carry these boxes the length of the van into the house, I set about doing a 42-point turn in the driveway. I’m sure the neighbors were delighted, the back up beeper kept going off for a good 20 minutes.
“Just back the hell up lady!”
Yeah, well I was working on it.
Obviously, I am not a professional weight lifter. If I was, I could have thrown these boxes on my shoulder and walked them into the house. No chance. Go to Plan B.
Back the van up as close as possible to the house.
Open the van’s back door.
Gently drop boxes to the ground.
Roll said boxes to the house like square tires.
What. The. Hell. Did. We. Send?
Cat beds, blender, food processor, cat toys, clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils, hand soap, shampoo, craft supplies, rice, coffee, hot sauce, coffee mugs, books, pillows, quinoa, chia seeds, yoga mat, blankets, cat snacks, Costco boxes for the cats. The list went on and on.
Now granted, where we live, there isn’t the ability to run to Target and pick up your hair gel, face cream, socks or favorite pasta sauce. We have one grocery, with 4 aisles and a hardware store. The motto goes, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Which explains why I sent 3 bottles of body wash, 4 bottles of hair gel ,12 packs of cat treats and 3 Costco size boxes of snack bars among many other things.
If we don’t need it in Alaska, like the high speed blender, food processor or pasta maker, then we might need to take it to Arizona….which explains the warmer weather clothing, lighter shoes and more cat toys.
The funny thing about our spot in Alaska, is it’s only temporary for the season. We move all of our stuff into the little house only to pack it up and move it out again at the end of 8 months. As I was unpacking things, I started a new box for donations at the end of our stay….multiple water bottles and a tiny purse for starters. I’m not sure why I thought I needed to bring a crossbody purse. I currently travel with a daily bag that is big enough to not only carry my purse, but my reading material, notebook and all the other little odd ball items I don’t want to be without.
It’s not like I’m going to spend the day shopping or need a small purse to go to a concert or spend the night on the town. There’s none of that here.
Speaking of books, I sent two boxes. Downsizing from a big bookcase to a one-ish shelf is a feat. I’d have better luck putting my leg behind my ear like the cat does – than limit my books. Fiction, non-fiction, art and cookbooks. Have you ever experienced the anxiety and panic that sets in when you don’t have something lined up to read? My point exactly. For me, the feeling is about equal to when a cop car shows up behind you on the highway.
There’s only so many times you can read the back of packages. Some of the books will come with me to Arizona. About 12 boxes went into storage. One box, with my cookbooks is currently on tour with the USPS and I’m hopeful it will turn up. That box also has a smaller version of Rex, the dinosaur from Toy Story. Everyone can identify with a Toy Story character and he is mine. “Rooooooaaar. Were you scared? Tell me honestly.”
(Update since writing the blog. My box on tour did finally show up today. Not in it’s original box, with half of the items missing….including my talking Rex. The rest of the items are dirty and damaged. The good news is the Disney Store had a Rex….and he is currently on his way to me.)
However, no matter how much I planned and sorted….I still found things I regret not packing which we used on a regular basis. Our favorite salad dressing. Taco sauce. Cinnamon. Mixed nuts. While those were definite forehead slapping revelations, I also didn’t pack the hanging octopus drying rack! What was I thinking? Where was I planning on drying my delicates… over a tree branch? Amazon had a lovely blue octopus. I love it.
That’s the thing about moving. It’s all about the stuff. You sort through your life’s collection of stuff and wonder, is it worth keeping? Do I need this? Do I even like this? If I take it, will I use it? What was I thinking when I bought this? Didn’t even know I had this. I’ve been looking for this! Would someone want this? What in the world is this?
After you settle into your new location, regardless if you’re moving a household, office or dorm room, there’s three activities everyone gets to experience:
- Murphy’s Law shows up and reminds you, yes, you should have sent the octopus.
- Hide and Seek is a new game where you regularly ask yourself, “Where the hell did I put that?”
- Tetris skills are required to figure out where/how to store all of your stuff.
Moving is just like coming home from grocery shopping…the goal is to carry it all in at once.