Extraction Reaction

Unpacking your boxes after moving is sort of like opening birthday presents or wedding shower gifts in a world of reruns. You get lots of mystery boxes, unwrap them, and deal with the joy or disappointment of what’s inside. Then you move onto the next item. Granted you already owned the item, but having been away from my stuff for about a month, each wrapped item was full of surprise. Because professional movers wrapped it and labeled each box very broadly (“Living Room Stuff”), I never knew what to expect – especially as I continue to hunt for particular items I need. Most important moving tip: Make sure boxes are labeled better.

If you go on a long vacation, when you get home your stuff isn’t particularly surprising – it’s just your stuff. But with every single item you own passing through your hands as you unpack, you are forced to reevaluate your property and reflect on your life’s possessions an commercial choices. I have found a few common reactions as I unwrapped items and opened boxes:

  1. What is that? – Isolated from all context, separated from other pieces, many items are temporary mysteries. (ex. Various kitchen tools)
  2. Is that mine? – Things long buried in boxes and closets come before you and are totally unfamiliar. (ex. Old throw pillows)
  3. Awesome! – Items long forgotten from the recesses of your house or simply things you’ve missed over the days and weeks of “stuff separation” (ex. Hard drive full of movies)
  4. Ick! – Sad to say, you own that. And it looks like crap. Old. Dirty. But it’s yours and you aren’t getting a new one anytime soon. (ex. My heavily used Iced Tea Maker)
  5. Ugh! – Yes, you still own that. Now you have to find a place for it in the house even though you don’t really like it, want it, need it, or feel attached to it. (ex. All those baking pans I haven’t used in years)
  6. Where is…? – Finding that one thing you need/want/miss is a challenge. “Missing” items come to mind and eventually you find them or discover you didn’t actually own them. But I am still missing some stuff and hope after the last box it’ll turn up (ex. Keys to the box of watches – it was a stupid idea to lock them)
  7. I need a teenager to solve this – Almost every electronic cord got separated from it’s proper component. New most important moving tip: Put small labels on every cord identifying what it connects to (ex. Most electronic plugs and cords)
  8. Stupid Movers – Whether they packed the parts of an item in three separate boxes or something is now broken, even the best moving company will screw up  (ex. Aquaman Snow Globe Rest in Peace – and yet, I own an Aquaman Snow Globe  – we’ll deal with the awesomeness of the King of Atlantis in another post)


There’s no thank yous to write following the opening of your “presents”. There’s just lots and lots of and lots of wrapping to recycle. And like the tricycle or 1000 piece Lego Millennium Falcon received as a gift, there’s a lot of putting things together ahead. Yes, some of it is complicated and frustrating, but you decided it was worth keeping so suck it up.

And a note on “#5 – Ugh!” Yes, you pare down your stuff before you move. But be not proud. New most important moving tip: Be willing to get rid of stuff upon arrival. Frankly, it can be easier that figuring out where it should go or how to make it work.

9 comments on “Extraction Reaction

  1. Reminds me of where we were a year ago. Such an odd experience to greet one’s own possessions.

  2. Irene says:

    Glad your stuff got here!
    If you’ve items you don’t need, there’s a Goodwill collection trailer open 7 days a week, 9:00-5:00, at the corner of Magnolia and Talbert.

  3. Toby Berkow says:

    you have baking stuff?!?!?!?!?

  4. Holli says:

    Stuff is an ongoing challenge – treasures vs. clutter. When in doubt do without. I have a yummy recipe (if you like bananas) for baking pans that will be worth keeping them. Hope you can get to your watches!!!!

  5. Bobi says:

    Maybe you can do that spinning pie pan trick like on the old Ed Sullivan show

  6. mjpbooks44 says:

    As I contemplate my move I know I have lots of stuff (34 years worth) to deal with. Dump has become my mantra.

  7. tylercorsello says:

    the dumpsters at temple miss getting your stuff!

  8. Judy Cohen says:

    Your article on “Stuff” was so timely. There was a lead article in yesterday’s NYT about stuff that was purchased for pennies. Maybe you could sell some of your stuff at a fair. Judy

  9. Jill Berman says:

    Thanks, Mark, for your take on dealing with moving with one’s “stuff.”

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