Moving: A riot of riddance

By Ann Fontaine

We are in the process of selling our Wyoming house and moving to Oregon. In the last few weeks we have been clearing out the cupboards, having a garage sale, donating to the local thrift shops, taking books to the used bookstore, and going to the dump, in preparation for whenever we sell this house. Who knew how much stuff we had until we started contemplating moving to a house that is less than half the size of our home here in Wyoming!! A house with lots of storage that has been lived in for over 30 years is a blessing and a curse. Thankfully our daughter, who is Attlilla the Hun when it comes to ruthless riddance, was here for a couple of weeks to help us stop dithering.

Moving and downsizing is a good thing overall but hard to get in gear to do. The process has many blocks for me. Most, like inertia and always finding more interesting things to do are easy to overcome. The biggest block is memory. The things I cling to are not of great value – valuable things are easy for me to sell or leave behind. The things that our kids made in pre-school, items that were familiar from my grandmother’s house, and things that were held in the hands of my loved ones, who are now dead, are the most difficult for me to toss. Once our children have taken the bits they want and we have sent them those boxes we have been storing for them since they left home after college, no one will want the items that hold the most meaning for me. At the garage sale, they sit unwanted even in the free pile. This is the time for a kind friend or compassionate daughter to step in to help with the separation. I close my eyes and don’t want to know what is in the dumpster or on its way to the landfill.

There is also a cathartic aspect to getting rid of years of accumulations. Thirty-three years of paperwork (3700 pounds!) from my husband’s medical office and all our personal financial records except those required by the IRS are off to be shredded. Paper of all sorts is headed to the recycler. Church conventions and meetings, Sunday School ideas, clippings saved for who knows why: all those things we kept saying we should look through – gone. Joy is finding a note from one’s first teaching job – that says that I did good work with those little 4th graders, even though all these years later I wonder what ever possessed me to think I knew so much about raising kids when I was 21 and had none of my own. Sadness is finding a photo of a family who were perhaps once close but now, who knows. We packed it all up – affirmations of life and bits of shame – all being turned into some new paper for some other purpose.

The process of moving has a death and resurrection sense about it but it is also like waiting for a birth. We are in the “soon but not yet” phase of leaving our life in Wyoming. We have no offers on the house (we are not desperate enough to bury St. Joseph upside down in the yard) and in this economy who knows when an offer might come along. We have stripped ourselves of many possessions but still have more to go. We have stopped volunteering to participate in things we will not be around to be affected by.

Perhaps it is most like Advent, a time of waiting. The old things that made our life are ending – the new has only made its presence felt with a few light kicks.

I hope this process is good for the soul. The baggage of years can block the Spirit. Cleaning house and ridding oneself of unneeded material goods can make way for space to welcome new life. This is what I have been told by others who have preceded me in this activity. It remains to be lived into.

A riot of riddance

closing my eyes

I toss it all into

the shredder

moments of glory

moments of shame

all the same

now – fine bits of confetti

perhaps for a party

I wait, not stagnant, just grieving and waiting.

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, Diocese of Wyoming, keeps what the tide brings in. She is the author of Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible.

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