On Moving, Part 1

Much like a gypsy, I decided to pick up and move in a hurry. I had some overlap between the end of my lease on the old apartment and the beginning of my lease on the new one, so instead of taking advantage of this time—using it to pack, undo my carefully wrought alterations, have myself a few good cries—I called some movers and asked if they could come the next day.

Unlike a gypsy, I have a lot of stuff that I’m no good at parting with. Too much stuff. Well, too much stuff to essentially disassemble and pack everything in the space of about 36 hours. Yes, I do need all those books. Yes, I do need all those sweaters. Yes, I do need both full sets of my cheap, thrift store vintage dishes, thank you very much. Hold on, I have to go get more boxes from the liquor store.

I haven’t the foggiest idea what the fuck I was thinking.

It took me forever to move. My master plan of just getting it the hell over with by having movers take care of the thing in one fell swoop while I sat back and sipped mimosas backfired horribly, ultimately extending the process into a several-day, absurdly poorly planned event. All this packing and disassembling and undoing and moving was, of course, happening with a trip to Vegas and another trip to Chicago thrown into the mix, for good measure. This made for some pretty fun days that turned into some truly exciting nights.

I really didn’t take many pictures during this period. Partially, it was inconvenient and I forgot, but mostly I just didn’t want to. At the risk of sounding every bit as dramatic as I truly am, that’s really not how I want to remember my apartment, all torn apart and ugly and sad. I don’t need pictures of my things in complete disarray, my bathroom walls repainted stark white or the creepy security gate reunited with the window I had removed it from. I don’t need to revisit the anxiety of anything breaking through photographic record. Instead, I took a few little Instagrams, and I’m more than okay with that being all the evidence I have of this time.

It was on the first of two Zipcar trips from the Upper East Side to Boerum Hill to remove my remaining things that I ran into my former neighbor in the hallway, an elderly gentleman who I’d often seen in passing, usually as he slowly made his way up to the fourth floor we shared. He seemed friendly enough but hardly prone to such things as hospitality or conversation. This was the sort of neighbor who smiled politely at me when I moved in last May, but didn’t make the extra effort of introducing himself or offering the hypothetical future emergency cup of sugar. Here I was, this young 20 year old student, bounding up the stairs in stupid ignorance. Maybe if I stayed five years, or ten, one of us would have eventually broken the ice, but as far as he was concerned I was really just passing through until I proved otherwise. What’s the point?, he probably thought. He’ll be gone in a year anyway.

I once saw inside this man’s apartment when he propped the door open with a trashcan to let the heat escape from his kitchen while cooking. What lay behind his door was something like a trip back in time, the ghost of my own apartment’s past reflected in his mirror-image floor plan. My huge 90s laminate cabinets were supplanted with charming wood shelves supporting a collection of small boxes and bottles, mounted above a substantial, elegant 1940s stove. The floor was paved in small terra-cotta colored tiles and the walls slightly discolored from what I imagine to be roughly 50 years of grease. As he stood there, clad only in boxer shorts and tube socks, tending a smoking frying pan on the stovetop, I wondered what kept him there. Didn’t he get tired, as I had, of living in the same place after a while? Why not move, I wondered, to a place with newer, easier to operate fixtures? Or, at least, somewhere closer to the ground? Throw in a range hood and he might really have a shot at true happiness.

He was walking out his door last week as I manhandled two end tables through my own and into the hallway, one of many trips up and down the four flights and out onto the street to load up a rented minivan to its full capacity.

“Still moving?” he asked with a knowing chuckle.
“Still moving,” I confirmed wearily, mustering an exhausted smile in a last-ditch effort to keep up our normal rapport. Or, well, lack thereof.
“It’s a bitch, ain’t it?” he said, grabbing the smaller of the two end tables from my arm and descending the stairs out to the car with me.

Suddenly, it all came together. This is why, I thought, as a bead of salty forehead sweat dripped into my eye. This is why you fucking stay. This is why you climb four flights of stairs everyday until you croak. This is why you cook in a kitchen that belongs in a museum, throwing your door open to dispel the smoke and heat, exposing your sagging naked flesh to the public space of the hallway. This is why you don’t worry about knowing your transient neighbors. Because moving is a bitch. A raging one.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 6.23.11
    Jo in NZ said:

    Beautifully written – and I feel your moving pain, by the way.

  2. 6.23.11
    Tenzin said:

    OWW! Keep at it Daniel. Moving is really a bitch. But maybe it is not too strange to enjoy those mimosas in your new BIG living room space. :D

  3. 6.23.11
    kay* said:

    you are such a brilliant story-teller!

  4. 6.23.11
    Monica said:

    I am hoping that one day you will write a novel. Until then, and after, I will follow you here.

    • 6.23.11
      Annette said:

      Yup! Me too!

  5. 6.23.11
    Martha said:

    My mom hates moving so much. I came home from the hospital to the house that they still live in today, and I fully expect them to live there until they can’t go up the stairs anymore. Me, I’ve moved every year for the past six years and I hate it. I hate moving so much! I read lots of design blogs and dream about fixing a place up someday but I don’t want to invest that time and energy until it is a place that I will be in for at least five years.

  6. 6.23.11

    Yep, it does suck, but what lies on the other side makes it all worth it. I love putting a new place together, the fresh perspective you get. It’s kinda like childbirth – the drugs kick in once it’s over so you forget what a bitch it really is, and are ready to do it all again.

  7. 6.23.11

    I worked for a property management company in a university town for three years, it dumbfounds me why the ”˜kids”˜ always move at the end of their one year lease. I’ve been in my place now for 11 years (and pay $200 less for the largest apt in the building- for being long term and because the owners seem to have forgotten I’m there- big benefit to staying put!) Having helped the students in and out of their places and doing the clean up after them, I wish I could come give you some help and make you tea and sandwiches… Moving sucks.

  8. 6.23.11
    d r e w said:

    yes, moving is a bitch. that’s why i have stayed in my third floor walk-up for 7 years.

    however, i am leaving ohio and moving to los angeles in the spring, so i have time to get rid of stuff so the move isn’t that bad… or so i think.

  9. 6.23.11
    Kelly said:

    On top of having impeccable taste, savage DIY skills, and a great sense of humour, you sir, are one hell of a writer.

    Thanks for the entertainment.

  10. 6.23.11
    Pammmage said:

    Moving only really sucks when you actually care about your stuff, and how it’s packed and unpacked. That said, DON’T BE HASTY! 9 months ago I moved, and as I got tired of actually making sure boxes were empty before putting them on the curb, I am SURE some lucky SOB is out there wearing my grandmothers’ jewelry (yes, multiple heilooms from multiple matrons).

  11. 6.23.11
    Jill said:

    Never have truer words been written. When Zach and I moved into the limestone over Thanksgiving last year, I assigned him the task of hiring movers. After months of procrastinating, he informed me that U-Haul was to be our moving company of choice and oh, by the way, he hadn’t reserved a truck with them, either.

    Fast-forward past three INSANE trips in a 24′ truck through city traffic, we found ourselves at a Wendy’s eating the best french fries of our lives, despite his hallucinations from pain. He broke a bone in his hand on that last trip, lost one of his contact lenses, and drove us the last 5 miles without any depth perception. We unloaded the U-Haul and headed to the hospital. Rather than waiting 12 hours in the pit of hell (AKA SUNY Downstate) to see an emergency room doctor, we high-tailed it back home and medicated with liquor instead.

    Moving is a battlefield, y’all. I feel your pain.

  12. 6.23.11
    Andrew said:

    The only thing worse than moving your own things is helping someone else move theirs! Particularly, if that other person doesn’t share your view of how things should be boxed, how things should be moved, how things should be packed into moving vehicles, etc.

    So when friends ask if I will help them move, I tell them that I will do ANYTHING else, but that…. You need a ride to the airport? I’ll do it! You need a pet-sitter? Count me in! You need someone to lance a boil on your back side? Heck yeah.
    You need help moving? Ah, yeah… no, sorry.

  13. 6.23.11

    just had my first “big” move a couple weeks ago and found out how big of a bitch moving is. gigantic bitch. well written!

  14. 6.23.11
    Tamara said:

    I always had a stereotype about Americans that they move a lot and by those comments I would say its true ;) (in case you are all American, thats was only my assumption).
    Here I think I couldn’t even get a one year lease – that might be somewhat of a cultural difference :)

  15. 6.23.11
    Mary-Ellen said:

    I am sure your neighbor doesn’t move because he has lived in the apartment, from what you describe, for a very long time and probably has fixed rent. More than likely, he couldn’t afford rent or the lack of security newer apartments offer. People also tend to enjoy neighborhood feelings that Queens and Brooklyn offer and I am sure you will be experiencing.

    Not to downplay the suckiness of moving, because, agreed, it truly does suck.

  16. 6.23.11
    Eliza said:

    i like your story.

  17. 6.23.11
    Joy said:

    Another fantastic ride. Thanks for all the great story-telling. I’ve moved a great deal over the last 10 years. Being 2 years into my current place, whenever I get the whimsical idea to move I immediately overcome any romantic notions by reminding myself: “Moving SUCKS!”

    Good luck settling in now that you’re home.

  18. 6.23.11
    dina said:

    your writing is SO MUCH FUN TO READ.

    best of luck!

  19. 6.24.11
    paige said:

    Ah, the “Daniel” fix! Even sharing the pain of moving, you have a gift with words. Am so looking forward to the decorating and words to come!

  20. 6.24.11
    Monica said:

    You are such a talented writer with such a unique voice – keep doing what you’re doing.

  21. 6.24.11
    Mom said:

    He definitely has a book within in him, he just needs time, confidence, and the courage to bring it out. Thanks for all the positive encouragement.

    • 6.25.11

      Agreed! It’s rare to find blogs with writing of this quality. This post especially bears evidence of something well-considered.

  22. 6.24.11
    JHunt said:

    I have moved 13 times in the past 5 years due to undergrad + grad school (dorms, apartments, study abroad, family/home moved). I feel your pain all too well. Now back at home with the fam, think I might live here a while, just because I. Hate. Moving. So. Damn. Much!

  23. 6.26.11
    Ella said:

    A lovely story! It moved me.

    The bare thought of moving makes me shudder. Even though I’m not going anywhere right now, I’m cleaning out my stuff so I’ll be ready for That Day. After my last nightmarish move I thought I wouldn’t have any friends left. That can’t happen!

  24. 6.28.11

    Open, Open, Open!!!
    I can’t take the waiting…so excited to see what you are up to!