How do you pack for three months of temporary housing?
I know how to pack a single change of clothes for an overnight trip. I know what to take for a weekend horse show. I did a pretty good job of packing for four weeks in Italy, even though I needed hiking clothes and things appropriate for touring Italian businesses.
Bring too much to a temporary apartment means you might not have room for it, and you will certainly get to move it again. Bring too little and you’ll be dependent on doing laundry.
If you are going to suggest that I could just go shopping, you have mistakenly started reading this blog and should stop now and go read some other blog about a different person, who likes shopping.
I think I am allergic to shopping. I understand that a certain amount of shopping is necessary for feeding oneself, and not going around naked. When I go shopping, it’s because I am missing something, and it’s a specific something and I can tell you exactly what I am looking to buy. The kind of shopping where I go to a store (or even several stores) to look at what they have and see if anything is interesting to me feels like going to a bunch of medical specialists so they can describe the painful procedures they might be able to do to improve me. My mother loved shopping, and while I love her very much, I have never shared her zeal for “finds,” or for bargains.
I often catch myself settling for things that are not what I really wanted, like a floral sundress when I wanted black capris, and rushing out of the store with a purchase like it represented a triumph when it really represented a failure. My very specific ideas about exactly what I want are always subverted by my inability to anticipate wardrobe needs, my being oblivious to current fashion trends, and my impatience with not finding exactly what I want in the very first place I looked for it. Even when a shopping trip “goes well,” and my efforts to find “something to wear out to dinner with my husband’s new boss and his wife” yield an appropriate floral sundress (for which I even have a perfectly matching pair of ironic high-heeled shoes and a fancy-buttoned cardigan), I feel like I have betrayed my true nature (and a record of perfect failure). Something must be wrong with the whole outfit. Maybe shoes are no longer ironic when they match. I fret over the expense of a single garment, amortizing the cost over the expected life or anticipated number of uses. If I could arrange to be haunted by my mother, I could put her in charge of my shopping. I might need to tell her to only buy me black clothes because the other clothes hang unworn (or once-worn) in my closets until such time as I bag them up and give them away.
So, how do you pack for three months when you do not know what you will be doing every day? Should I assume I’ll do more than walk the dogs on any given day? Will I want to be hip and charming wherever I go so no one knows I’m not really a New Yorker?
For the dogs and cat I packed their medical records and most of their possessions: toys, t-shirts, jackets, collars, leashes, beds. For the maintenance of household affairs, I brought a batch of the recent bills, school records, immunization records. I brought a few books I thought I might want to read soon. I packed a suitcase of my riding clothes and stuck them in the tack room of the horse trailer. I brought the unexpired contents of my medicine cabinet. (My husband carefully collected and brought the expired contents of the medicine cabinet.)
You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that New York in July would be hotter than Seattle in July. August may be hotter still. But there is a trick to this, because hot-summer places like New York have something that milder-summer places like Seattle don’t have: ubiquitous, ice-cold air-conditioning. So, as it turns out, you do need some of the Seattle-summer wardrobe (sweaters and jeans) to carry over your arm to the frozen subterranean
depths of New York restaurants, where the diners are chilled alongside the shrimp cocktails. And you don’t have to worry about forgetting your sweater or leaving it behind, because you sweat so much from the humidity that the sweater will self-adhere to the forearm upon which it has been draped.
Coming from many years in Seattle and hating shopping as much as I do, my summer clothes (pre-move clean-out apocalypse) could be sorted into three categories: 1) tee-shirts and other slob-wear of an unknown age; 2) unflattering and unfashionable clothes that no longer fit; 3) clothes I bought 14 years ago to wear in Hawaii.
For people who live in a climate that has summer weather, the advent of warm weather would necessitate shopping for new summer clothes. For people like me who live in Seattle and are bad at shopping, this means wearing the slob-wear of an unknown age.
So while a thoughtful and careful person packed for the pets and the household, that same person transformed into the impatient, impulsive I-hate-to-shop person. And then, she packed eight suitcases.
Eight suitcases were made available to her, and she filled them. One contained shoes. Another contained toiletries. Two were filled exclusively with clothes on hangers, like skirts and dresses and shirts with buttons. One was fancifully packed with jeans, slob-wear t-shirts, socks and underwear in anticipation of a driving journey of exactly five days. As it was, we took six days, and I only needed one clean pair of jeans, after the first day, when I got cat diarrhea on my pants. Better than the full, mid-sized wheelie bag would have been a single empty plastic bag and another with a couple of clean shirts and too many socks and underwear.
When we arrived at the temporary housing, a two-bedroom apartment within walking distance of my husband’s new job, I discovered that he and I had two closets to share, and he had already filled both halfway. His reasonable assumption was that we would share them both. Unfortunately, an unreasonable person had packed eight suitcases, and half of two closets would not suffice. I audibly derided his choice until he moved out of one closet, which I
promptly stuffed with clothes from front to back.
Now I have no room to buy anything new for New York, which is great, because that means I should not go shopping.