May 30, 2014 by Jean
It is done! I have moved out of my Gettysburg townhouse and arrived in Maine for my new life as a retiree. Last Sunday morning, I put out the last of the trash (including the old mattress that I had been sleeping on), packed the rest of my belongings in the car, and got on the road headed north.
This move was grueling; it’s been 26 years since my last long-distance move, and I was a lot younger then! The most difficult part was getting rid of all the stuff that I did not need to take with me into retirement. I gave away about two-thirds of my books, including 31 boxes full that the College library moved from my office. A few days before I left Gettysburg, workers from the local rescue mission came to my house and took away several large pieces of furniture (including the living room sofa and a double dresser from the bedroom). That same day, I packed a number of smaller items into the car and took them to the big sale that the local United Way sponsors at the College at the end of each school year. The following morning, my friend and co-worker Andrea came to my house with her husband’s truck and and helped me deliver a number of items too big to fit in my car to the United Way sale. One day later, I filled the car with still more items for the sale. On my last evening in Gettysburg, I filled up the car one more time and took the last of my donated items to a local Goodwill store.
Many items I no longer need could be recycled. Some of these – boxes, old files, empty glass and plastic containers – could be put out for the biweekly curbside collection. Other items were a little more challenging to recycle. My old 1960s plastic sewing machine went to a local sewing machine repair shop. The local rescue mission (the same organization that picked up my donated furniture) provided recycling for three large plastic trash bags of textiles (including no-longer-wearable clothing, rags, old curtains that were not in good enough shape to donate, and fabric from old sewing projects) and for electronic and electrical items. (They evaluate this material and transfer anything that’s still usable to the thrift shop for sale, then recycle the rest.)
Although I tried to keep them to a minimum, many items that I no longer need were not suitable for either donation or recycling, and these had to go in the trash. My trash collection service allowed one “bulk” item (too large to fit in a trash barrel or bag) per week, and old too-decrepit-to-salvage pieces of furniture were put out throughout the spring, beginning with items that I could most easily live without, and ending with the mattress that I had been sleeping on. Usually, I could wrestle these items out to the curb by myself, but I got help from two colleagues to get my old box spring down from the second floor bedroom. I should have done the same for the old four-drawer file cabinet, which pushed me down the last few steps so that I landed on my back on the floor with a variety of scrapes and bruises to show for my efforts! On the afternoon before I was leaving, my friend Marta, who came by to offer moral support and practical help and who knew about the battle with the file cabinet, suggested that she and I move the mattress down from the second floor to the first and that I sleep in the living room on the last night. I recognized this instantly as a brilliant idea; and as I was struggling to get that mattress out to the curb on Sunday morning, I was very grateful that I was not wrestling it down the stairs!
Finally, I had to move the items that I was taking with me into my new life. These fell into three groups. A few pieces of furniture I am keeping and many boxes were collected by the movers on Friday morning. These items were put into storage and will be delivered to me in Maine later in the summer. Nine boxes of items that I would need more quickly (including a box of plant divisions from my Gettysburg garden) were taken to UPS on Friday evening and shipped to Maine where they arrived on Wednesday morning. The remaining items, including all my houseplants, went in the car with me. I worried that I might have miscalculated how much I could fit in my compact car. In the end, though, I managed to cram everything in, including a tall houseplant that fit on the floor behind the driver’s seat and tickled my ear all the way to Maine.
It felt very freeing to drive away from an empty house and a small mountain of trash by the curb on Sunday morning. As always, I marked my progress north and east by major river crossings. The crossing of the Susquehanna River on I-81 in Harrisburg, about an hour north of Gettysburg, meant that I was truly on my way. A few hours after that, crossing the Delaware River on I-84 meant that I was finally out of Pennsylvania. (Getting through Pennsylvania is more than 1/3 of the trip and always seems to take forever.) About an hour later came the very beautiful crossing of the Hudson River at Newburgh, New York. My next major river crossing, the Connecticut River at Hartford, was notable not for its beauty (you can’t actually see the river from the road), but for relief that I had gotten through the stretch of I-84 from Danbury to Hartford that combines badly designed roads with an exceptionally high proportion of stupidly aggressive drivers. About three hours later, my last major river crossing, of the Piscataqua River that divides New Hampshire from Maine, welcomed me home at last to my new life!