Chapel Hill: Opinion

Moving doesn’t get easier with experience – Art Menius

At a certain age, we delude ourselves into thinking accumulated experience helps us avoid repeating mistakes. Then we decide to move and prove that wrong. The very act of voluntary moving is a misstep.

I don’t mean our new house and neighborhood aren’t what we sought. I don’t mean the five months of remodeling didn’t produce the results we imagined. I mean the very act of moving compounds physical exhaustion, unpleasant tasks, emotional loss, stress, sadness, regret, expense, voicemail, countless changes of address, and dealing with all sorts of service providers.

At least we had moral support. People at Rotary agreed that moving was “the worst” or stronger language. Most of our friends told Becky or me something similar. Nonetheless, we were a pair of 60-year-olds doing hard work in high temperatures.

Confronting our accumulated stuff – even though it was our fourth move in a dozen years – provided the first challenge. Thirty cubic feet of materials from my three decades in folk music followed their predecessors to the Southern Folklife Collection. We donated or ditched at least two tons of papers, clothes, heavy old color laser printers, broken chairs, and other belongings. Becky had to jump up and down on top of the pile in the rented Dumpster to beat it down to where the recycling service would retrieve it.

In full disclosure, we had five months to prepare and fulfill our pledge to go through all “those” boxes. We did, but I left 80 percent of it to the last three weeks.

Seeing letters, books, photos and CDs from sometimes deceased friends engendered a deep sense of loss among the many memories. Meanwhile, finding old published articles, especially for this paper and a local weekly, that I had forgotten made me doubt my capacity for recall.

Still, I parted with some treasures. No longer am I prepared for IRS to audit my tax filings from 1977 to 1997. Now I cannot produce the registration forms, pairing sheets, and results for the chess tournaments I ran from 1974 to 1979.

I discovered that I possessed a fair amount of the papers of my father, a physicist, and relocating his prized, wicked heavy, nuclear reactor door. That accounted, however, for little more than a tiny mote among what we kept. Be honest now. Would you throw out furniture your dad made, paintings by your mother, or your own manuscripts?

In the end, the move required 15 solid days of effort, two loaded pods, a professional moving van stuffed full with our furniture, one rented 10-foot truck, and repeated 40-mile round trips with her truck and my sedan filled. Just a fortnight plus one, yet the days seemed to stretch without end, filled with tasks and deadlines. Sorting, throwing out, saving, boxing, sealing, lifting, loading, driving, unloading, and just aching, while trying to find time to work for my clients. Emceeing at the Festival for the Eno felt like a week in the Virgin Islands.

The other great challenge came not from what we had to do, but from the stress of what others needed to do. Movers seemed to be more interested in texting than loading the truck. The new modem from our 10 times faster Internet service came two weeks early and went into hiding. The electrician abruptly retired with little of his work completed. Delivery people got lost.

Becky and I found our way through all of it. We still have a lot of unopened boxes and unfound necessities from the can opener to staples, but we are home and happy to be there. Best of all, I found all the drafts and research for my never published biography of John Hamilton. Hamilton’s hot these days. No one will notice the different first name, right?

You can reach Art Menius at