The move to Vermont is behind us, if not the unpacking. It’s a slow process. Every day I tackle approximately one box, then collapse, exhausted, on a giant pile of mismatched socks. Among the things we haven’t yet been able to locate: a box of One Direction posters my 11-year-old carefully untaped from her old bedroom walls; a painstakingly disassembled Playmobil village (though we found all the little plastic people who live there); the screws necessary to reassemble my son’s bed; scissors; the printer cord; the hydro-cortisone ointment (essential in Vermont, where there are apparently 17 varieties of mosquito); or any of our five pairs of binoculars, which is especially unfortunate because this is the view from my new office window:
Just as aggravating, we have found a number of items in the unpacking that I wish we hadn’t. They include: the giant pile of mismatched socks; a box of Tupperware without lids; 14 water bottles, half missing tops and half melted by the dishwasher; a nearly empty box of stale Wheat Thins; children’s Motrin that expired in 2007; a cracked Lucite organizer; dozens of old reporter’s notebooks filled with shopping lists; and boxes and boxes (and crates! and bins! and binders!) of old newspaper clippings, magazines, literary journals, phone directories, half-filled notepads, old appliance manuals, and business cards for people long out of business.
These last items, you might have guessed, belong to Mr. 70 Percent, that husband of mine who–despite his penchant for leaving 30 percent of any given household task incomplete–somehow manages to score in the top percentile for hoarding outdated things. As it turns out, my nagging suspicion that we weren’t actually downsizing but merely shifting all our useless crap from one New England state to another was more than conjecture. Ever since January, when Mr. 70 Percent started his new job and began commuting weekly between his Vermont office and our Massachusetts home so the rest of us could finish the school year, he’d been surreptitiously shlepping thousands of pounds of printed material across state lines. This was the scene that greeted me when I walked into our new home for the first time:
“Why??” I asked him, pointing to a box marked Harvard Business Review, 1998-2002. “Why on earth would you possibly need those?” “As a matter of fact,” he said proudly, “I was just reading something that referenced an HBR article from 2002, and–boom!–I opened the box and there it was!”
I snickered. This was a bit rich coming from an early adopter who spends most of his waking hours hunched over a MacBook Pro. “Ever hear of digitization?” I asked. “You work for an institution with one of the world’s best online libraries! How about looking it up there?”
He shrugged, and started leafing through an issue of Architectural Digest. “Want to see Tom and Gisele’s mansion?” he asked. I did, but couldn’t concede the point now. Besides, I had unpacking to do. So I began gathering all his folders, files, clips, notebooks, binders, magazines, and crooked stacks of paper into three separate areas, which I promptly dubbed “the crazy person piles.” And I started working around them until they simply became part of the landscape.
It helped that I could focus instead on the happy fact that we were all, finally, in the same place at the same time. On their first night together since the start of summer, the three kids pulled mattresses into one room for a slumber party. The next evening, my husband arrived home from work before 6 pm, following a grueling five minute commute. We finished the dinner dishes by 7:30, and then the kids and I played rousing rounds of Rummikub and Blockus. Mr. 70 Percent wanted to play, but I told him he had to deal with the crazy person piles first. He didn’t seem to mind. When I looked over a few minutes later, he was deeply absorbed in a New York Times Holiday Books review. From 2010.