My Life in Boxes – by Nava

Moving is never fun; especially when you tend to “collect” things. I wouldn´t classify myself as a packrat, but I do have a tendency to amass many items: shoes, clothes, purses, books…oh, and fragrances. Not to mention dishes, glasses, mugs, rubber duckies… I have a collection of rubber duckies living on the counter in my bathroom. OK, maybe I am packrat.

For the next few weeks, I will be gathering my things and moving from the house I´ve lived in for 11 years. I´ve experienced a bit of upheaval in my life over the past year, and, what I was hoping would not happen, is happening. In a crappy real estate market, and during what I consider to be the worst economic climate of my adult life, I am essentially leaping before looking and embarking on a fresh start. Did I mention that I will be making this fresh start in Canada, not far from my wacky but eminently lovable family? Not only am I moving to new digs – I´m moving to a different country. Why couldn´t it be England or Italy? Maybe one day. For now, it is important for me to have family close by, in addition to a brand-spankin´ new Shoppers Drug Mart, a famous gourmet supermarket, and an apartment where I will never have to worry about snow removal or finding a parking spot. Sounds perfect, doesn´t it? Then why am I scared out of my freakin´ mind?

Part of my fear stems from having to part with material possessions that for years, I never gave a second thought to. I am never one to walk out of a bookstore empty-handed, and when I schlepped six large boxes and three shopping bags full of books into the local Goodwill earlier this week, I was greeted with some strange looks. I wasn´t quite sure if those looks were ones of utter shock from the sheer numbers; or because no one could possibly read that much without physically injuring themselves. I almost felt the need to exclaim, “Yes, I´ve read every one of these books!” I´ve still got one completely stuffed bookcase to contend with; those are books I haven´t yet read. And I can say with utter certainty that I will never own one of those Amazon Kindle things. For a booklover, downloading books is tantamount to treason; I don´t care how much space it saves.

I´ve almost reached that Zen point where I´m considering selling my CDs, and contenting myself with the over 3,000 songs on my iPod, but I don´t know if I can. I grew up with record albums, and the physical presence of music still means something to me. I have memories of lying on the floor of my bedroom, and my friends´ bedrooms, poring over album covers and liner notes; an activity as obsolete as having to get up to change channels on the television or dialing a rotary phone. Downloading music on the computer still feels unnatural because I have those memories; I can´t help but think the younger generations have missed out on an integral part of life. Stuffing tiny headphones into your ears while holding an electronic device in the palm of your hand that contains more music than could be packed into an average size house is indeed a technological miracle, but it cannot replace the physical act of holding a record album and feeling the throb of stereo speakers vibrate throughout your body. Man, I miss that.

I´m not going to cover every category of possession, but I´ve saved the most difficult for last: my fragrance collection. I´ll confess to accumulating way more bottles over the years than I´m willing to admit; not on the scale of someone like Donatella Versace (wasn´t it her collection photographed in Allure or Vogue that showed hundreds of bottles displayed in her palatial bathroom?), or someone else who might have the square footage to accommodate an obnoxiously large collection. For me, fragrance exists on the periphery of life; particularly because I´ve always stored my bottles in drawers and closets to keep them as fresh and pristine as possible. It wasn´t until I pulled them all out and attempted to gather them in one spot that I realized, “Damn, I didn´t think I had that many!” Yeah, I have that many.

So, what´s to become of me and all my fragrances? I don´t know. Right now, I´ve divided my collection into two categories: keeping and chucking. Sadly, I´m not one who has the patience to list my unwanted wares on ebay; keep track of auctions, deal with potentially dishonest buyers, and haul my cookies to the post office everyday. All that is not something I have time for right now. I´m procrastinating at levels I never reached, even as a student; I keep reminding myself that life isn´t just about possessions. But, every time I look at those bottles, I think: these are an expression of who I am. Why do I have to get rid of them? Then, I spy scents that I haven´t worn in years and realize there is no point in taking them with me. If I haven´t worn them in a very long time, why keep them? Sentimentality is weighing heavily one me, and I´ve been thinking a lot about my mom and my grandmother and the stacks of Irish linens sitting up in my attic – the one room I have yet to conquer.

Here is my plan as it stands: Into the car go the contents of my Serge drawer, the scents I have in heavy rotation, and the plastic totes I´ve designated as the vessels the remainder of my collection will travel in. There´s no way I will allow my bottles to bounce around in a rented moving truck. I´ve yet to decide what will hold pride of place in the passenger seat: my dear, sweet, loving cat Lily, who will be tranquilized for the trip, and no doubt traumatized when we get there, or my Serge collection; tough decision. Much as I love Serge, I´m sure my bottles will be fine on the back seat.

 This will be my last essay here at the Posse, probably until the end of October or the beginning of November. I look forward to sharing with all of you the experiences of my move and what storage I have devised for what will eventually be a significantly smaller collection of scents. Thanks again to March and Patty for graciously allowing me to post. Hope you´re all having a grand time at Chi-cocoa Scentsation this weekend. See you soon!

  • Meggie says:

    Hello My Darling, just getting around to reading this now and I wish you much, much luck in your transition. If you’re ever over my way, my door is always open and the wine is waiting to be poured.

  • Tara says:

    Shana tova, and may you have a wonderful new year in Canada! I used to live in Toronto and loved it. I just bought a condo in Montreal last year and will be moving there in a few years (using it as a vacation residence until then). Fortunately we are also keeping our house in San Diego so I won’t have to do a huge paring down, which would be difficult to say the least. I was worried about my cats too, but they drove with us from San Diego this summer and were perfectly fine upon arrival – they loved Montreal. Very best wishes to you and Lilly!

  • Joy says:

    Good luck on your move. I did something similar and learned that getting rid of excess possessions can be a good thing.

    Ditto on the greatness of Shoppers.

  • Olfacta says:

    Good luck with your move Nava! Fifteen years ago (my God, can it really be fifteen years?!) we moved cross-country, paid by the pound. I had to be ruthless. Sold my beloved 2000+ records, and gave away everything that wasn’t essential — which was just about everything. Kept furniture, wedding presents and the cat. And the stuff I gave away — I’ve never missed it.

    Stuff’s accumulating again. Is it time to move?

    I didn’t have a lot of perfume then, just a few bottles, but I think that even now perfume would fall into the “essential” category. Maybe I’m just not jaded enough yet…

  • dissed says:

    After divorcing and selling my house, I downsized three times within two years. Each time, my belongings were approximately halved. I haven’t really missed anything and still have too much stuff. If you keep what you need and love, the remainder really is just Stuff. Change is good. May this be a wonderful change for you.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Good luck with your move! I enjoy reading your posts even if I don’t post much, and I look forward to reading them again when you settle in.:)

  • bella says:

    good luck on your move. you sound like you are traumatized. i feel your pain, as now that i am older and more stable, (read–Boring) i really hate meaning. I too, have so many books that my father built a library down in our basement to store all the books. I shudder to think if there ever was a fire.
    Canada seems like a really nice place to live. I am sure you will do great. i look forward to reading all about it.

  • tmp00 says:

    Moving is never fun, but think how great it will be when you get there!

    And you never know about the cat- I moved from New England to the Midwest and the cats that we thought would be utter pains loved it- as long as they were on the front seat and had a lap to be near.

    • Nava says:

      Lily is generally pretty easy-going. She’s getting up there (she’s 11) and I worry. I’m sure she’ll be fine. 🙂

  • Millicent says:

    Oh, Nava, I feel for you! My husband and I are moving from San Francisco to Malaysia in two weeks. With our cat. We are coming back in a few years and not (yet) renting the house, so we are able to leave a lot here. I’m not a pack rat generally, but when it comes to books, kitchen stuff and perfume…

    Anyway, I agree with the other posters who have said this is a great opportunity to clear things out, both literally and metaphorically. I wish you all the best with your move and look forward to reading another essay from you later in the fall.

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Millicent. And best of luck to you and your husband with your move. You’re certainly going a lot farther both geographically and culturally, than I am. See you soon!

    • Jayne says:

      Hi Nava, well done – ditch the fear and the detritus. The whole point of moving is to offload some of the material and psychic stuff that has been pressing you into the ground. Your gut is right, trust it.

      Millicent, best of luck with Malaysia – it is a wonderful, confusing, frustrating, fascinating place. Remember – if you have to point at something, do it with your thumb not your finger. Do try the street food – roti canai and nasi lemak are the best breakfasts in the world. Malaysians don’t eat to live, they live to eat, so when you greet someone don’t enquire after their health but simply ask ‘sudah makan?’ (‘have you eaten yet?’). And be very, very tolerant about bad time-keeping – forget everything you’ve been told about time being money.

      • Millicent says:

        Hi Jayne,

        Thanks for the tips. A big part of why we chose Malaysia is the food, particularly the roti canai and my other favorite, laksa. And since Malaysia is sort of off the radar here, it’s great to hear from people who have had good experiences living there. Now I’m just hoping for more posts from March about what perfumes to wear in the tropics…

  • Elle says:

    Best of luck w/ the move! I empathize w/ you about the difficulties involved in packing everything up. Have moved many times and each time I *swear* it will be the last because I’m definitely not a light move (DH is, blessedly, my opposite and balances this out some). Almost every spare wall in our house has bookshelves – just can’t let them go I swear I *do* revisit or find need to look into them over the years. Along w/ perfume, reading is my drug of choice, but I don’t just love the words – I love the look of books, their feel, their smell. I am w/ you on the Kindle. Don’t see myself ever owning one. I also collect rocks – in my next life I want to be a builder of dry stack walls. On a recent move we had some men from Mexico help us. One of them said that he didn’t know which was harder physically – moving all my books and rocks or spending 4 days walking through the desert to cross the border. 🙂 Still, I get rid of *tons* of stuff each move and that sort of purging/stripping down really is a wonderful feeling – makes you so clearly aware of what you value most and need versus just want. I hope you don’t give up the rubber duckies. 🙂 They sound fab!
    Look forward to hearing how it all went and how you are enjoying your new place – I’m sure it will be joyful once you’re there. It almost always is.

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Elle. Rest assured – the rubber duckies will not be left behind. 🙂

      Why is it that anything worth collecting always weighs a ton? There is a carthartic quality to the purging, but I wonder how many times in the future I will scold myself for getting rid of things I still wish I had? We’ll see…

  • barbara says:

    Here’s to the sweetness and discovery in your new home-and the thrill of the trip there.Cats adjust quickly-an ald snuggie placed in a spot you think she may like may make her feel at home.Add to that, the layers of your insight and wisdom from the past 11 years, and I cannot wait to hear your thoughts.Best wishes in your new home

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Barbara. I’m sure Lily will be fine, but I worry because this is the only home she’s ever known, so I am expecting she will, just as I will, have some issues adjusting to her new surroundings. I only hope she doesn’t forget how to use the litterbox!

  • kathleen says:

    Do I remember correctly, did Lee say he was having a birthday this weekend? If so, Happy Birthday Lee. If not, oops.

  • kathleen says:

    Oh, Nava, don’t be scared, moving is exciting, it’s an adventure. A chance to start over, be reborn, if you will. My first international move was terrifying, I was 25 and lived in NY my whole life. We moved to Brussels. Talk about culture shock. It got better from there, though. Once you shed some belongings you begin to feel a bit lighter. When you get to your new home, you may find that you don’t even unpack everything. You mentally adjust to the new place and disconnect from the old. Do be excited and have fun.

    I know what you mean about the speakers. Nothing like feeling that bass reverberating through you.

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Kathleen. You know the saying, “Be careful what you wish for?” I’ve wanted this sort of move for most of my life and now that I finally got my wish…you know the rest. Somewhere in my head I know what I’m doing is right, but getting there is going to be tough. Thank goodness a storage locker is also one of the amenities I have to look forward to. :”>

  • Kristy says:

    Good luck with your move!! As someone who works in the electronic publishing industry (and also someone who loves books) I think the Kindle is an interested and important development. As an updatable device it will be extremely useful for scientific and technological info which becomes outdated very quickly, and I personally wish I could get copies of all of my textbooks on one so I wouldn’t have such a huge heavy bag to carry around to classes. That being said, before I moved and did a similar clearing out, my library was so heavy that I had to have metal support rods added into the architecture of my last house because it was causing it to cave in.
    I don’t think books will never lose their meaning or value 🙂

    • Nava says:

      OK, I never got to the point that I needed architectural support, but my house is only one level. If it wasn’t… :d

      Here’s an idea: why not issue freshman university students Kindles at say, 1/2 price, and substantially reduced rates for downloadable textbooks? In light of skyrocketing tuition, that would certainly make the financial burden somewhat easier to bear. I’ve forgotten how unweildy (not to mention bloody expensive) those Norton Literature anthologies are.

      Thanks for the good wishes, and I hope you’re right about books. Sometimes, I’m not so sure.

      • GGS says:

        My son, who is a college freshman, did buy the “electronic version” of one of his textbooks (psychology I think) and reads it on his laptop. It cost $45. instead of $80. for the hardback version. I think he’s just licensing the use of it during the semester, rather than getting a pdf file he can keep permanently, but I’ll have to ask him to be sure. I know he can’t sell a copy of it or transfer the rights. This seems like a good idea to me for textbooks, but I don’t think I’d want to read a novel on a computer screen. I have the same book-collecting hobby as you!

        Best wishes for your move. I moved almost every two years growing up, and every 4-5 years for the last several decades as an adult. I know how challenging it is to pack up and have to deal with all the memories “attached” to your things as you do….
        Look forward to your posting again when you are ready!

  • Francesca says:

    Best of luck with the move, Nava. I hope it all goes smoothly. I’ll miss your posts.

  • chayaruchama says:

    Oh, Navaleh-
    In case we don’t see one another here, in time-
    May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a sweet and healthy New Year, besherteleh .:x

    Moving is full of growth and disruption, I’m afraid.
    You unearth all sorts of effluvia that makes you ponder it all…

    Good luck !
    Be well !

    I don’t even WANT to think about moving and perfume…it terrifies me.

    Love to you-@};-

    • Nava says:

      chaya dear, I have every intention of returning soon…

      Your statement is truer than you know; the effluvia certainly has me pondering…

      May we all have a sweet and wonderful year – and lots of honey cake and carrot tzimmes! I will surely see you again before long. 😡

  • MattS says:

    As I mentioned the other day, I’m house hunting, so I feel your pain. It’s amazing how stuff accumulates, isn’t it. Books I understand completely, but what I’ve learned from a friend is to pass them on. When I finish a book, unless it’s an absolute masterpiece that I want to keep forever, I pass it on to a friend who might enjoy it. There’s less clutter and books get to be enjoyed. Plus sometimes they return the favor now and there’s less books to buy! It’s a shame I can’t apply this concept to perfume. I’m still stuck in the greedy, stingy, acquisitive whore stage. :d

    Lotsa luck with your move; I know it’s such a chore, but it’ll be great when it’s over. %%-

    • Nava says:

      Matt darling,

      I was involved in a somewhat regular book exchange with one of my fellow grad students, but we’ve kinda lost touch over the past year. She was also a stickler about returning them, so what went out, always seemed to come back. I agree about perfume; any interest in crossing the 49th parallel with me? If not, consider me a semi-rehabbed “acquisitive whore”!


  • nubelia says:

    Welcome neighbour , I am presuming your destination is somewherein the GTA ? If so I am only down the road as we say. I hope the move is smooth and that you enjoy living here, it does have its up and downs ( yeah Shoppers Drug Mart , the best drugstore evarrrrr!).

    Happy trails until late Oct/early Nov…

    • Nava says:

      Yup, you assumed correctly. Do you think I’ll get a fabulous prize if I’m first in line for Shoppers’ grand opening? That would be sweet!

  • cheryl says:

    It’s a tough transition. But, no matter how much you edit your things, I’m sure you’ll find there’ll be some boxes that you’ll not unpack for years and years…in any case welcome to Canada! Any new perfume love you find here will be associated with your new home and the beauty of this season….

    • Nava says:

      Thank you Cheryl. I’ve never really experienced a full Canadian autumn/winter cycle, and I am looking forward to it. For the past decade, I’ve either only experienced the height of sizzling summer or the frigid low of winter. Some moderation is just what I need right now. 🙂