Moving house is a traumatic experience.
Almost two in three (61 per cent) placed the ordeal at the top of their stress list in a poll of 2,000 adults who have moved home in the past three years.
Relationship breakdown, divorce and starting a new job were all joint second
From our RAF background we have had some considerable experience of moving house. We have packed the boxes, carefully stuffing paper into all of the glassware. We have methodically written descriptions of the contents on the outside of the boxes, including which room it should be taken to when arriving at the new house – you see we are experienced! We have then watched the RAF Housing Officer wander in, eyeing all of the walls for cracks and dodgy repairs and then slowly, painfully (for us) check the house for cleanliness with their white gloves.
He didn’t spot the hole in the lounge wall which had been plugged with toothpaste however.
For those who don’t know this is surprisingly good – careful not to use the variety of toothpaste with the red and blue stripes though. Well, agreed, it is good until you try to drive a nail into that hole again.
I recall one colleague in the military who in the week prior to march-out, as it is known, had done some ironing on the front room floor. The iron had fallen and, upon rescuing it, it revealed the stereotypical ‘Tom and Jerry’ iron mark in the carpet. With no time to rectify the matter i.e. with the purchase of a new carpet, on the day he managed to stand on the exact spot and spin around until the ‘march out’ officer was satisfied that all was well.
We’ve learnt to stand outside the house and let them do the check – it’s less painful for us.
We are now preparing to move to the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham.
This means that the furniture we have used over the last 29 years has now had to be whittled down to a short-list of items – those that fit into a flat and those that may last 2 years in a garage. Furniture once lovingly chosen has now been selected for releasing: some to church restore facilities, if the item has the requisite fire safety label, some to charity shops, and some to the recylcing centre. Sadly many of our items are that old, albeit still very much functional, not to have the labels needed today. The single beds are off to another house. A pair of chairs which our children had sat on, laid on, possibly even bounced on, are also earmarked to leave us. One of my recent students remarked:
I love this chair, it sort of wraps its arms around you and hugs you when you sit in it.
It’s quite challenging to look through all the materials we have collected and stored over the years. Often we ask ourselves now ‘why do we still have this?’ or ‘where did we get this from?’.
It has been quite liberating to remove the clutter from the cupboards, unpack bags and suitcases which have remained packed from the days of Noah, it would seem. As I leave one vocation to join another, I have had the opportunity to reduce the number of books on various topics within mathematics. That’s been quite difficult as I wonder what if I would need them later?
I wonder if we do keep items for that possible ‘rainy day’ moment. If we do, are we limiting our opportunties to move forward in our life as we hanker after the old?
It’s a bit like a walk out in the countryside. We may take a thick coat, a scarf and some decent walking boots. Then we note we have change from a mere amble in the hills to a purposeful walk as we now have a task to complete. Then we have to strip off the layers, such as that heavy coat and even the scarf, to enable us to move forward at some meaningful speed.
Are we prepared to lose those objects we have been carrying all those years so that we can be released from those shackles? They may not be physical items but ’emotional baggage’ – that’s quite an emotive term: I mean those traumas that we store up because we may not be able to face them currently, but they still hinder us, stalk us at times.
Can we be free to be the person we really are and move forward with purpose?