A Year in a Room is all about transitions, and we have a new one to report: Our move from the third floor of Beacon Hill Friends House to the second.
For a variety of reasons, Carol’s doc suggested she figure out a way to sleep in less sweltering temperatures. The BHFH electrical system does not accommodate regular air conditioners — no big deal unless you’ve experienced Boston’s summer heat and humidity. A little Internet research turned up some low-powered A/C possibilities. But the BHFH residency manager, Ben, had a better idea: Move to the second floor, where the ceilings are higher and the temperatures lower. And a room was available.
Easier said than done, of course. Halfway down the stairs with a big bookcase, one of the movers we hired had a question for us: “Did you have this thing built in the room? Because there’s no way it’s coming down these stairs.”
Once we assured him that the bookcase had indeed gone up those stairs, he found a way to get it down and into our new room. As he placed it in a corner, though, he asked if we’d be open to some advice. As someone whose willingness to take advice on the golf course got me labeled a “promiscuous learner,” I could hardly refuse.
“Get rid of that thing!” said the mover. “You’ve got a lot of books, but you need some space to live, too.”
He was right. We got rid of the thing.
The exchange spotlights one of the best things about this move: Our next encounter with downsizing. The move from four bedrooms and a garage full of stuff in Florida to one room, toilet down the hall at BHFH was more drastic, of course. But even a move from one floor to another required us to gather our stuff in ways that showed just how hard old habits die. Even in one room, I’d managed to accumulate stacks of unread newspapers and magazines, file folders stuffed with expense reports and notes as well as all sorts of other stuff I meant to file but didn’t.
Writing in Gawker, Leah Finnegan was blunter than the mover: “The best thing you can do for yourself is throw shit out!”
Even after taking the mover’s advice and trashing our bookcase, we found we didn’t have room for our second four-drawer file cabinet. That prompted some questions:
- Do we need the records documenting the sale of our first house in 1977?
- Do I need the notes for that travel piece I never wrote about our train trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg?
- Do I need copies of what my boss thought of me (and me of her) from several years ago?
It turns out I didn’t need that shit! I threw it out!
We did keep a lot of stuff — my dad’s poetry and music, cards and letters from our kids (their school papers, alas, went the way of my performance evaluations).
I’m still new at this, but I have a few bulletins from the front:
- Getting rid of stuff from your past opens up RAM for your present.
- A bare surface calms me in a way that a stack of unread magazines does not.
- Stewardship of less is easier than stewardship of more.
- I can’t keep track of half the stuff I still have, but I believe Carol will be putting up with fewer frantic searches for shit lost (but not yet thrown out) by her roommate.
One other thing: These high ceilings make living with less feel like we’re living larger than ever.