Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Free Time Isn't Free

Posted by: PG Forte

Don’t you just love fortune cookies? It's like they KNOW. I got this one yesterday, when my husband and I took a break from packing to go out to lunch. It’s impossible to cook at our house, anymore, since every surface is covered with objects that have to either be boxed up, or carted away…or sometimes both.
In case you’ve missed it, I’m currently in the process of moving. I know, I’ve probably already mentioned that a time or two, huh? I mean, I've been prepping for this move for at least a year. And now that the time has actually come, it’s…everything I feared it would be. 
It's a horrible, exhausting, enervating process that’s sucking the life out of both of us. Which, I know, seems like a bit of an exaggeration, but, ohhhh, that's how it feels.
It's kind of crazy, when you think about it. It’s certainly not like I’ve never moved before; in fact, over the course of my adult life, I’ve moved on an average of every two years. So why am I suddenly acting like such a moving wimp? I guess it’s just that this move feels so much more momentous than most.
In part, I suppose that’s because this is the longest we’ve ever stayed anywhere. In part it’s because so much has happened in that time. Our parents all died while we lived here—not to mention that two of them were actually living here with us during their final illnesses. Our son got married. Our grandson was born. Our daughter left home to travel the world, and then came back to settle in another state. In large part it’s because I’ve somehow accumulated SO MUCH STUFF while I’ve lived here. Check it out:
We have our own furniture—and we’d finally reached the point where we could afford to buy a few nice pieces, so it’s actually nice furniture. Furniture that we really like. We have a good deal of my parents’ furniture, as well, along with a few pieces that belonged to their parents, and literally BOXES of their belongings (paintings, photo albums, dishes, bedding, clothes, even kitchen utensils, FFS) all of which should probably be shared with my siblings, seeing as I’m not an only child. And yet…
It's funny how things work out sometimes, isn't it?
We also have furniture and belongings that were left behind by both of our children after they’d ventured out into the world to establish their own households. In short, we have become the KEEPERS OF MEMORIES. That's everybody’s memories, by the way. Ours, our parents, our siblings and cousins, our children…even some of our children’s friends.
It’s a little overwhelming trying to sort through all of that. It's bad enough throwing out your own belongings. Tossing other people's memories? Can we say GUILT? 
It's especially nerve wracking because we’re moving into a smaller place, and I already feel like I've been living in a furniture warehouse. I absolutely HAVE to unload some of these things. 
But taken all in all, this summer has been…not a lot of fun. My packrat-soul is most unhappy. I find myself secretly hoping that an earthquake or wildfire will target my neighborhood and save me from having to make the tough decisions of What To Get Rid Of.  
Which, unfortunately, has now become a daily thing. Get out of bed, brush teeth, make coffee, toss a box of journals in the wastepaper bin. Joy.
What makes it even worse…or, I dunno, maybe it makes it a little bit better, I’m not quite sure, yet…is the fact that I’m losing weight. That’s intentional, btw, nothing to be concerned about, but we’re talking TWO SIZES SMALLER! SINCE MAY! Still, the good news, bad news of it all is: that’s most of my wardrobe rendered useless.
Which brings me to the subject of letting things go.
I hate the idea of putting useful objects in the trash. Always have. It’s wasteful. And, from an environmental standpoint, a good case could be made that it’s borderline suicidal. I also hate parting with anything that sparks memories, no matter how slight. 
That rock my son picked up while on vacation in Lake Tahoe twenty-something years ago? Can’t get rid of that. The T shirt I was wearing the day my grandson was born, the one that’s (let me say it again, because it's really exciting to be able to do so) TWO SIZES too big? Nope. That stays.  How about the oil-stained wooden salad bowl that my parents retired in the seventies when plexi-glass came into vogue, but which had previously graced our dinner table for my entire childhood? C’mon, there was nothing wrong with it then, and it's still good now. Or the costume my daughter wore for her one-and-only dance recital when she was twelve? She hated absolutely everything about that dress. The colors did nothing for her complexion (obviously, we didn’t choose them). The cut was as unflattering to her figure as it could possibly be. She basically gave up dance after that performance—she was that scarred by the experience. But, but, but…
Yeah. Of course i'm keeping it. Don’t be ridiculous.
Look, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I really have parted with A LOT of things over the past few months. Really. Enough stuff to completely fill a two-car garage—all gone now. I think I'm doing a wonderful job. And if dealing with the stress from this wonderful job I'm doing means that I now qualify as actually needing two Emotional Support Animals to get me through the day...well, that's not entirely a bad thing either. 
I’m generally okay with letting things go. I just need to be able to keep imagining that I'm sending all these wonderful objects—furniture, appliances, clothes, etc—out into the world where they will bring joy to unknown people. Unfortunately, the people in question don’t always make it easy to imagine this outcome.
Apparently, things have changed since the last time I’ve gone through this process. Very few places will accept donations of furniture nowadays; and none of them will accept donations of baby items. Which is ridiculous when you consider how quickly babies grow out of everything! Even the companies that used to pick up old cars and appliances and refurbish them are gone.
And so I’ve had to resort to Craigslist, where—apparently—you can find people willing to take just about anything you want to get rid of. Sort of. And that, of course, brings us to the title of this blog.
You see, it’s recently occurred to me how very much people undervalue time—especially other people’s time. Especially MY time. Because, unless I'm charging them for something, there are some people who seem to figure I should be okay with throwing in unlimited amounts of my time for free as well.
Thanks to my dick-of-an-neighbor (which, yes, is how I refer to him all the time now) who called the city on me when I’d left some furniture outside my house last month for Habitats for Humanity to pick up…which they didn’t…long story…I can’t leave anything in the driveway unattended anymore, out of fear of being cited and fined. Sounds like fun, huh? It also means I’ve wasted HOURS in the past week hanging out in my garage, waiting for people to come and pick up FREE furniture.
Really nice furniture, too, in some case. Antiques. Vintage pieces. Some of which we only purchased a few years ago…which, okay, I wasn’t going to get into it but REALLY HABITATS FOR HUMANITY??? You won’t pick up furniture that’s older than seven years? Do you not understand that antiques that were produced less than seven years ago are NOT A THING?
But I digress.
I’ve heard ALL THE EXCUSES this past week for why people can’t show up to claim the furniture they begged me to save for them. They fell asleep. They ran out of gas. They got lost…
 In the days of everyone-has-a-cellphone-with-Google-maps? Yeah, I’m not buying it.
They forgot. They got into an argument with their SO and now they don’t need it. Their car’s too small--they thought it was bigger, but it's not. They had an emergency. Their dog ate my address…okay, I made that last one up. But, I still have furniture to move, so you never know. Someone could still use it.
I’ve even had people ask me if I couldn’t deliver the furniture to them, to save them the trouble of having to come and get it themselves. This is free furniture we're talking about. Free. The mind boggles.
It finally got to the point where I actually typed this response to one such request: “The furniture’s free, my time isn’t.” I had wanted to just type: “Hahahaha” but figured he might not get it.   
All the same, it’s been a learning experience, you know? I mean, maybe all these people did me a favor. Maybe they alerted me to the fact that I haven’t been very respectful of my own time, either. Especially lately. Especially the time I should be spending writing. And, yes, a lot of that is because I don’t have a lot of free time in general, and I do have responsibilities to the other people in my life, and this house is not going to pack itself.
But, the bottom line is, yeah, free time isn’t really free at all.
All in all, however, it’s okay. Unless something truly cataclysmic occurs in the interim, by this time next month I’ll be in my new, smaller, sleeker, more streamlined, and (hopefully) emptier digs. With a brand-new wardrobe. So, yeah, that's a lot to be happy about right there. I’ll also be just an hour away from my grandson (for ease in babysitting), a few miles from my sister, and a ten-minute drive to the beach. I can’t wait.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there are boxes to be packed…

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