Olympic marathoner Kenny Moore relates the tale of his job in college where he was assigned to toss lumber at a mill in Oregon. The men at the mill took a look at him and scoffed. But when matched with a work partner who could life far more than Moore, he ultimately outworked the man based on endurance, not power, and earned the respect of his lumber mill peers.
That’s how I felt this week emptying the house where I’ve lived for 20 years. It was a short haul job in terms of distance, and we’d already moved my fiancee’s belongings out of the house after a 10-day stopover until the home we’ve purchased together was ready for occupation.
And we’d already moved her belongings over from the rental place where she’d lived for 20 years. So we’d done a lot of moving before I even started to box up my belongings as well as some keepsakes and stuff hosted at my home for the kids.
For the last four days, I worked relentlessly in between some work assignments and helping organize the new place. But my home was stuffed to the gills with things about which I’d not thought or considered for many years.
And I ultimately did not make it clearing out the house for the closing date deadline. I tried mightily, and it came down to the basement after I’d cleared the upstairs of the 2700 square foot ranch and hired the cleaning woman to make it shine.
Even that took layers of digging. It’s hard to describe, but perhaps you’ll understand. But it comes down to this: All of us have too much stuff. And when life is interrupted by a death in the family as mine was three years ago, there are additional layers of difficulty and decisions to make as you ponder thick or loose piles of stuff and try to determine what is important and what is not.
I had help but much of the real work had to be done by me. By the end my objectivity had been turned up to nine on a scale of 10, and I absolutely pitched the pile of my own CDs just to save time. The pressure is intense with a Permission Agreement deadline hanging over your head.
And then it started to rain on the most important move day of all. And it rained. And rained. But I kept moving like I was on a 30-mile training run and barely stopped to eat. Just moved stuff out to the four Bagsters I’d rented when I should have just gotten a dumpster. See, I’d done all this at my dad’s house earlier this year. We filled two full 15=yard dumpsters right to the brim. I did not imagine our house held that much stuff to throw away.
I got exhausted and still kept on. I’ll share tomorrow how it was possible to remove and vanish things that would not fit in the Bagsters, because that was a story unto itself. I made friends in the world that I never imagined possible. Strangers and more came to the rescue in so many ways.
There were times when I felt powerful, and other times empowered with a mission that could not be explained or even shared with many others. With the tight deadlines and the many decisions to make about what is important and whatnot, it was vital that it was me, and at some points, me alone making the hauls of junk and valuables up the stairs.
It made me laugh to think about the Stairmasters at the gym. They had nothing on me in terms of trips. Carrying up to fifty pounds at times, I climbed the stairs that I’d climbed thousands of times over the last 20 years.
And finally the basement was largely clear, and I brought in Molly Maid gals to sweep and mop the floors. The hard part about all this was the sudden revelations of things falling out of things. Photos I had not seen, or potential mementos stealthily hiding amongst layers of things that should not, nor need not, be kept. My late wife harbored all our kid’s schoolwork it seemed, because she was proud of them. But when it comes down to what’s important in life, no one cares what you did in third grade to impress your teachers. Or in sixth grade, or even high school.
And family history is the worst of all when it comes to stuff that amounts to junk. Right down to rattling boxes of pins and badges.
The one thing that popped up as a surprise was a big old Cub Power button from 1969. How prescient it seemed to find this latent reminder of my late wife’s fandom and appreciation of the mustached Bill Buckner. Tonight that Cubs button will be riding the chest of a certain Anne de Traglia, an ardent Cubs fan if there ever was one, as she attends the World Series game in Chicago. You could say “that’s the spirit” and be right on all counts.