Unpacking reveals bad habits

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 3, 2003

I highly recommend that every person, at least once in her life, move.

At no other time will you realize just how much junk one family can accumulate

– and how easy it is to get rid of most of it.

I consider moving the great coffee strainer of life, filtering out the unnecessary grounds and leaving only the best of the brew.

Unless, of course, someone else does your packing for you.

Living 350 miles away and knowing that my brothers-in-law were helping my husband pack was somewhat nerve-wracking. Would they realize that the tiny, misshapen glob of plaster decorated with a red ribbon was Buzz's first hand-made Christmas ornament? Or would it join the mountain of rubbish in the ditch? Would they know to keep my hardback copies of the Anne McCaffrey novels, but not the calculus textbook? What would they think when they found my secret stash of plastic farm animals – some more than 35 years old – hidden under the couch?

Actually, my fellas did a pretty good job. Maybe too good. I was more surprised by what they did pack up and send along than by what they didn't.

Why was there a box full of plastic lids that have known no container since 1987? Who thought to put in the world's ugliest end table, but left out my oh-so-comfy office chair? And please, please tell me why both brothers-in-law – who served in the Army during Vietnam, did NOT recognize an army uniform that had to be theirs, since Terry was not able to serve?

Of course, that leads to other questions – why did I save the plastic lids and why did we have a uniform that wasn't ours? The second one is easy to answer, it was a costume for a play. The first one… I call it Amos Syndrome, after my much-loved father-in-law. You can't throw anything away if there is the slightest possibility that you might need it again someday.

This explains the three antique tractors, the old VW Thing, and stacks and stacks of empty beehives on Amos' property. I have to give him credit, though – he really does use the tractors and the beehives, and we have secret plans for the Thing and Scott's 16th birthday…

Terry has his fair share of this Amos Syndrome. I won't tell you how long the old Nova with the cracked head sat in our driveway – on the off chance that we might use it someday. It's simply too embarrassing. A carpenter and a builder, he has assembled over the years a collection of mismatched finials, drawer pulls and doorknobs – just in case we might need it someday.

(We won't mention the one-pony sulky in the backyard – my fault that time.)

So while I haven't really noticed anything really important that my movers missed (Except my chair!) – I have to laugh at what they brought – including the world's ugliest end table – because we might need it. And, tasting a little crow, we are using it in the family room.

We have sworn to limit useless acquisition in our new home, but the problem is, the things aren't useless when we get them. It's only after we've lost the Tupperware bowl that we hang on to the lid – in case the bowl ever shows up

– we might need it someday.