alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
[personal profile] alatefeline
“ ‘ Keep it simple, Jake. ’ ”


Brought to you on the behalf of a friend of mine planning to move: an extended quote from Spider Robinson on packing for a move *without* losing one’s mind. (Contents may provoke stress in folks, like me, who loathe large organizational projects.)

Please note that this doesn’t in any way solve the problems of moving large heavy objects, *or* of unpacking once you arrive. Nor will the specific details of the plan help everyone. But applying this general philosophy of ‘put it in a damn box, label by location, move on’ has enabled me to get my anxious, overwhelmed, stubbron, distractable, frequently-hyperfocused autistic brain actually *packing* for a couple of moves as well as for a *lot* of other projects involving packing, cleaning, or organized. Thank you, wise teacher.

In the following quote, protagonist Jake and partner Zoey are planning to move their business / life project - a bar that functions as the hub of a close-knit community - AND their home. They are moving across the country. They will be accompanied by an entire caravan of friends planning to live nearby, and quite a few of those people are helping with logistics, so there are numerous parties to he conversation.

It’s a complex quote of rather excessive length. The gist, however, should be clear. I’ve cut things, represented by an ellipsis, for brevity or clarity in some parts, but left in a fair amount of flavour.


A planner, he meant. Like John Dortmunder in Donald Westlake’s books: the guy that plans the caper. “Right.”

He shrugged and knocked back half his coffee. “Then you want Tanya Latimer.”

He was right. Tanya is an ex-cop, smart, tough and decisive; she could get a riot marching in step. The reason she’s an ex-cop as young as forty is she was blinded in the line of duty, and late-life blindness improved her already impressive organizational skills a great deal. Also her husband Isham, though only twice the size of a normal human being, carries enough muscle for three of them— and I was already dimly sensing that muscle was going to be required here. Finally, for reasons known only to her and to God, Tanya played the tuba: she and Ish had to move at least once a year themselves.

So I gave Tanya a call, and explained the situation. There was nothing reserved about her reaction; her “Y-Y-Y-Y-YES!” could have been clearly heard out in the parking lot… and I did not have her on speakerphone at the time. Soon I did, though, at her command; Tanya’s not a person to waste time. “All right, you beautiful loonies, let’s get this damn show on the road! …

“Boxes. You’re in charge of boxes. Hundreds of boxes, all shapes and sizes, but get as many as possible in the size they ship hardcover books to bookstores in: they have the most useful dimensions.” / “No sweat.” / … “Good. Get them flat rather than assembled if you can; more in one trip that way and they take two seconds to put together. Get some of those tape-guns they use.” / “Check.”

“What about me?” I asked.

“You put everything you and Zoey own in the boxes.”

“Oh my God.” I was sorry I’d asked.

My worst nightmare. Decision-making. Millions of little decisions. What to keep. What to dump. How to package it. Hundreds of 3-D jigsaw puzzles, made of precious breakables. Trying to figure out how to intelligently label hundreds of jigsaw puzzles…

Tanya heard the tremor in my voice. Her rapid-fire delivery didn’t slow any, but her voice softened.

“Keep it simple, Jake. Don’t try to do any sorting: you’ll only confuse the shit out of yourself. You already know where everything is right now… so when Long-Drink brings you the first assembled boxes, you start right there …

Start with the north wall, to the left of the door as you come in. The first thing you see you want to take, you put in the box. You keep doing that until the box is full. You label it ‘Bar N-1.’ The next box is ‘Bar N-2.’ And so on for east, south and west walls. When the walls are bare, do the middle of the room; this time you label the boxes ‘Bar-1,’ ‘Bar-2,’ with no letters. When the bar’s empty, you go on into the back, and start a stack of boxes with ‘Bed N-1,’ ‘Kitchen N-1,’ and ‘Bath N-1.’ A robot could do it.

Then when you get to Key West and you’re surrounded by boxes and you want to know where the hell something is, you just have to remember where it used to be.”

That sounded sensible. Even better, it sounded doable.

But— “Tanya, we’re going to need a lot of muscle. More than just your old man, I mean.” “Don’t worry,” she said. “Jim Omar’s back.”

… I counted noses. “Hey— what about me?”

“I told you,” she said. “You put everything you own into the boxes.” I began to hyperventilate. “I hear you breathin’,” she said. “Knock that off. Look, there’s two ways to do this. One, you can examine every item, right down to the last piece of forgotten paper, and make the decision do I take this or pitch it or do some third thing? about a million times— and worry each time that you made the wrong decision, and sometimes make the wrong decision.” I was sweating.

“Or… you can just shovel things into boxes, without looking at them any closer than you have to to make ’em fit. If you do that, the load will be maybe 20% bigger and heavier, each person will end up lifting and carrying maybe two extra boxes— but you’ll have it ready in half the time, and you won’t be an emotional wreck.”

I felt obliged to make at least a token protest. “Heavier load means more gas.” It came out kind of feeble. … “He’s right, Jake,” Long-Drink said. “Efficiency is much overrated.”

I looked at Zoey. She shrugged. “We can sort the stuff as we unpack it, if we want.”

I blinked and looked around me. “So then… the only thing we really have to do now is survive endless long days of unceasing brutal yet tedious backbreaking donkey labor?” “Looks like,” she said, and Tanya on the speakerphone chimed in, “Now you got it.”

I like to sleep late in the morning. …

Robinson, Spider (2016-03-01). Callahan's Key (Kindle Locations [redacted]). Spectrum Literary Agency, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Date: 17 Jun 2017 02:47 (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai

Date: 17 Jun 2017 02:51 (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai

:-D thanks lots :)

Date: 17 Jun 2017 03:47 (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
OMG I wish we'd've had this shit earlier. The mother is all about downsizing *before* the move notafter.'s bad enough trying to move, then you have to figure out what to get rid of on top of that? *instant stress-through-the-roof, especially when what you want to get rid of doesn't match with what *she* thinks you should get ficking rid of. (Or Fecking, take your pick.)


Date: 17 Jun 2017 05:46 (UTC)
thnidu: S P INFINITY N L E SECTION-SIGN; by me (spoonless)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
God yes I wish I had known this and had the balls to actually do it instead of trying to plan and overthink everything and then forgetting at all.

This icon, which I made, is free to anybody to use when they need it.

Date: 17 Jun 2017 07:52 (UTC)
finch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] finch
This is such good advice, though. It's really all prioritizing, isn't it? If you need to declutter and you can, yes, it saves some work later. But if you can't, better to do what you can and get the packing done.

Date: 17 Jun 2017 09:52 (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
I've used that method. It works. For a value of work that includes not losing what little sanity I had left.

You end up with a HuUGE pile of boxes at the other end and occasionally wonder why the hell did I even have this?! But other than that... otoh, unpacking and discovering lost treasures, and/or curiosities is kinda fun.

Although, word of advice, when packing, always finish with the kitchen and bathroom, you'll need to use those during the pack...and reverse order when unpacking, for the same reason. [you'll be hot, sweaty and hungry.] next room after that is the bedroom, and start with the bed and bedding. Get those three unpacked in the first day, and the rest can take care of itself later. [and if you have sleeping bags, the bedroom can be postponed to M-day+1]
Edited Date: 17 Jun 2017 09:58 (UTC)

Date: 17 Jun 2017 10:29 (UTC)
spiralsheep: Einstein writing Time / Space OTP on a blackboard (fridgepunk Time / Space OTP)
From: [personal profile] spiralsheep
That's great advice. Thank you!

(Although luckily for me, my brain can't deal with having many things around, especially if they're not used regularly, so I'm good at having minimal possessions as a side-effect of that, heh.)

Date: 17 Jun 2017 15:46 (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
The time to declutter is _before_ you know you need to move. Once there's a move on the horizon, it's too late to declutter with any sort of functionality.

Also Spider Robinson is the BEST.

Date: 17 Jun 2017 17:43 (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri

also decluttering is best done in an iterative manner, not all at once, it needs many passes, & that takes time

Date: 17 Jun 2017 17:15 (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
We actually did most of our downsizing before the move; we had to, because we knew that we were going to be moving into a much smaller space and wouldn't have had room to store the full contents of the house boxed up, let along unpack it. Possibly a special case.

Date: 25 Jun 2017 02:46 (UTC)
lb_lee: A happy little brain with a bandage on it, surrounded by a circle and the words LB Lee. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lb_lee
Haha, I recognized the quote pretty quickly! :D I have yet to use that method, since I handle moving pretty okay, but I keep it in my back pocket.

(I also try and do regular weeding and downsizing of my possessions, with maybe a clean-out before the packing, but I try and do it well in advance.)



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