Tag Archives: moving house

Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Clear Out Your Inbox

Every week I offer tips for adulthood.

As many of you know, I recently moved house. And in the process of tossing out assorted long-dormant items like my son’s erstwhile Playmobil castle and the fish poacher that was serving as a spice rack, I realized that I shouldn’t limit my decluttering to actual stuff. It was also time to do a virtual declutter.

As I’ve said before, I’m not one of those die-hard Inbox Zero types. I’ve come to accept that there will always be a certain base level of flotsam cluttering up my inbox. Otherwise, I’d do nothing but eliminate emails all day long.

But there comes a time – and everyone has a different threshold – when you just can’t bear to look at your inbox splitting at the seams anymore. For me, it was when my inbox went over 1000 messages. (I won’t tell you how much over or you might gasp.) And I knew that it was time to get our my virtual hacksaw and start chopping.

If you’re like me, you probably dread the idea of sitting down and going through your inbox. Maybe there’s stuff in there that you’re trying to avoid. Or you fear that by managing your inbox, you will necessarily *not* be doing something else with your time. Or maybe the whole task is just too daunting.

But today’s post is meant to help you see that by setting aside time to clear out your inbox, you’ll actually feel calmer *and* more productive. Here’s why:

1. You get ideas. I’ve posted before about how I come up with ideas, whether it’s taking a “thinking shower” or going outside for a walk. When I get those ideas, I usually write them down in a little notebook I carry around that’s precisely for that purpose. But sometimes – and especially if it’s an idea that I plan to save for a later date – I write myself an email about the idea with the thought of subsequently storing it in a file on my computer. Except that sometimes I never actually complete that second step. And so the idea – which has subsequently gone completely out of my mind – is essentially lost, drowning in the sea that is my inbox until I find the time (which could be weeks, even months) to rescue it. Clearing out your inbox reminds you of those little gems that are hiding in the recesses of your brain.

2. You take action. And once you’ve been reminded of that cure for cancer you came up with while jogging one Thursday afternoon back in March, you might actually be inspired to do something about it. In my case, my virtual decluttering prompted me to send off an essay I’d written (gulp) 18 months ago to a major media outlet and also to get in touch with an agent I’d flagged but never actually contacted. Those were both things I’d been meaning to do for ages. But until I happened upon those items in my inbox, I completely forgot that they were even on my to-do list.

3. You reconnect with people. Just as the decluttering entailed in moving house reminds you of important people from your past, so too does scrubbing out your inbox remind you of friends and relationships that matter. I just found an email that was several months old from a friend of mine who moved to Colorado last year. In it, she not only brought me up to speed on what she’s been up to, but sent me an article about her new employer that reminded me – in turn – of an idea I’d been meaning to write about (Twofer! See #1). Another email from an old friend reminded me that his father had passed away. While I’d already sent my friend a condolence letter, I now remembered that I’d wanted to send his mother one as well.

4. You feel accomplished. If you’re like me, half of your inbox is filled with things like “Buy bananas!” “Get birthday present for X!,” “Write post on Z!” So half of your inbox is filled with things you’ve already done. (And we all know the joy of retro-actively crossing things off our to do lists!) With the rest of the items, you’re hopefully either executing them (see point #2) or storing them in a virtual home. Either way, you’ll feel like you’re getting stuff done.

5. You relax. And this is perhaps the greatest benefit of all. There’s nothing quite like a good, old-fashioned declutter, whether real or virtual. It takes years off your life…removes pounds from your body…lifts scales from your skin. (O.K., I”m mixing metaphors a bit but you get my drift.) Short of doing yoga, there’s really nothing quite so soothing.

Image: Inbox Zero by eweibust via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Songs To Listen To While You Move

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Today’s list is inspired by – what else? – my imminent move.

I remember when I was leaving graduate school and needed to pack up my apartment. I called an old friend and asked him for advice on how most efficiently to do this. His advice? “Get really drunk and stay up all night shoving things into boxes.”

That may have been good advice for that particular phase of life (even then, it remains doubtful), but it certainly isn’t how we’ve been approaching this move. Instead, to distract us from the minutiae as well as to motivate us to clear the final hurdle, we’ve been listening to a lot of music in our house of late.

And I’m finding that when you’re moving, listening to music that’s about actually about moving can be particularly inspirational. In that vein, here are five songs to get you psyched up for a move:

1. Cleaning Out My Closet. O.K. Definitely not one to listen to with the kids around, what with all those references to killing one’s mother and the like. But there’s something really cathartic about the rage and determination that Eminem brings to this song that will have you decluttering in no time.

2. Movin’ Out. Yes, I’m a die-hard Billy Joel fan. I’ll fess up right here (along with admitting to a certain fondness for Barry Manilow.) The great thing about this song is that it’s all about New Jersey (“Who needs a house out in Hackensack? Is that all you get for your money?“) And New Jersey is the great state where I grew up – and, significantly, left at the age of 18. So for me, this song is a poignant reminder of why there are times in your life when you just need to move on.

3. Movin’ On Up. Oh, come on. Surely you remember this one. It’s the theme song from that 70s sitcom about the upwardly mobile African-American family, The Jeffersons. (Still don’t remember? Sure you do. Listen to this to jog your memory.) What an awesome song (and show.) I’ve been humming it for weeks now, as we contemplate a move into a bigger space with a nicer view. It’s not the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I’ll grant you. But next to where we’ve been living (see yesterday’s post), it’s not too shabby.

4. Leavin’ On A Jet Plane. The Peter, Paul and Mary version, puh-leeze. My husband hates folk music of any sort – or as he puts it, music that “inspires you to sway.” Me? Can’t get enough on it. Especially when it’s loaded with nostalgia, like this song is. So if you want to inject some melancholy into your departure – to really savor nostalgia for a place – pop this bad boy into the CD player and start swaying.

5. Hit The Road Jack – And then, once you’re done feeling sombre, it’s time to kick it with the incomparable Ray Charles. Here he is performing his classic Hit The Road, Jack. Say no more.

What have I forgotten?

Image: Packing Sucks by John and Katurah via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Saying Goodbye to My Mews House: A Poem

I’ve long been of the mind that right before you give something up – a car…a neighborhood…definitely a relationship – you allow yourself to be annoyed by that thing.

It’s not that the thing itself has changed in any fundamental way. It’s just that whereas you once focused on the upsides (he’s cute…he’s funny…my mother likes him), you now allow the negatives to creep in (I hate that shirt…please stop chewing like that…kissing you is so boring.) It’s just normal. It’s how we begin to separate before we say goodbye.

In that vein, as I pack up the last bits and bobs around our current house before leaving it permanently on Thursday, I find myself doing precisely that:  allowing myself to hate all the things about this house that I’ve managed to put up with over the past four years.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to like about this house, which I’ve often described as an exceedingly well-located closet. I wrote a novel here. I started my blog here. And – most important of all – it’s the place that we first moved into when we decided to throw caution to the wind and move our family overseas four years ago. For that reason alone, it will always be special.

And yet, as we stagger towards the finish line, I’m allowing all the negative things I’ve suppressed about the house to come to the fore.

I’m not much of a poet. I usually leave that to the fabulous Communicatrix and her Poetry Thursday series. But as I take my last walk around this house and pick up the errant sock or felt tip (magic marker) cap or MatchAttax card that mysteriously appears – years later – in the obscure corners of our storage space, I find myself moved to wax poetic.

So here it is – my Ode to a Mews House – inspired by that childhood classic, Good Night, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I’m calling it Goodnight, Mews:

Goodnight Mews

In the tiny, cobble-stoned street

without a sign

there was a house

and for four years, it was mine.

And though I’ll be sad to see it gone

Here are some things for which I won’t long:


Goodnight kitchen tiles, that never quite fit

and were meant for the wall – not the floor – but tough sh*#.

Good night shower curtain, which hangs by a thread

And the sweaters I was forced to keep under my bed.

Good night builders, who knew nothing of plumbing

and Good night, next-door neighbors who hated my son.

Good night, storage closet that eventually hits earth

and was home to the rats who made our house their berth.

Good night, Toilet Seat from which I would fall

And the miniature fridge that stands two feet tall.

Good night shower that always floods when it rains

And goodnight darling landlord, you were really a pain.

Goodnight stars, Goodnight air

Good night Mewses everywhere.

*****

For those who are interested, head on over to PoliticsDaily.com to see why I think Gordon Brown will lose this election on Thursday.

Image: Pink Mews by tubb via Flickr under a Creative Commons License


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Crisis Management: Lessons From France

Hello, again.

I’m back. Well, sort of.

When last we met, I was on my way out the door for a glorious family vacation in the Loire Valley. While away, I had thoughts of coming home and posting on the lovely chateaus that we saw, the cool troglodyte dwellings that we visited, with a few gestures to French cuisine, bien sûr.

Oh, that is soooooooo 10 days ago.

Because shortly after touching down in my lovely adopted home, my country of residence became engulfed in a crisis of volcanic ash. It has paralyzed air travel for the past five days and has wrecked havoc on the economy, the schools, heck – even the flower stalls. You can read all about the volcano’s wider consequences for Britain on my post over on PoliticsDaily.com today.

But since we’re here now – and this is a place I sometimes come to vent, I thought that you might permit me a few moments of wingeing (to borrow a phrase from my adopted country.)

I think I first knew that I was in trouble when my husband and I went on our first “date night” (no, not quite of the Steve Carell/Tina Fey variety) last Thursday when this whole volcanic ash thing first erupted (no pun intended). We had miraculously won a free room in an upscale hotel in London for a night, and carefully arranged to book our room on a night when my mother would be visiting so as not to incur undnecessary babysitting fees. So far, so good.

But by the time we got down to the hotel that evening to check in, we were told that because of the volcanic ash, the hotel had only double bed still available, and it was on the smoking floor. The other rooms were all singles. Note: this is the *third* night that my husband and I have spent together without our kids in nine and a half years. Not exactly what we had in mind. (As it happened, the room itself was OK but the hallway required the use of a gas mask.)

And things went downhill from there. You see, everybody I know is stranded somewhere right now. I’ve been getting Facebook updates all day from friends who are in Rome, Dubai, San Diego, The Algarve or never even managed to leave London because of this thing. In our case, it’s my mother who’s stranded. She was scheduled to leave London this past Saturday. They are currently telling her she might get out *next* Saturday.

Which would be fine, of course, except that we’re about to move. So in addition to all the boxes and check lists and endless organizational trivia that accompanies a move (I finally got the official change of address form from the Post Office today!), we also have a house guest. Thank goodness she likes to read a lot.

So, all in all, I’m feeling pretty stressed (unlike this lady in the New York Times who seems to have taken her inadvertent London vacation in stride.)

Which brings me back to France (as all things eventually must.)

When we got off of the Eurostar in Paris, we were greeted by the news that there was a rail strike in the country that would affect most major rail journeys for the duration of our trip. And – true to form – we not only missed our train to the Loire Valley, but had to wait three hours for the next train, where we literally sat in the aisles all the way down to Tours.

As Americans, we aren’t really used to powerful labor unions. It’s just not part of the political fabric of our country in any meaningful way. So we were perplexed, outraged and vocally fuming about this massive and unforeseen change to our trip.

In France, in contrast, strikes are a part of life. They happen all the time. And while they may annoy and inconvenience the French, they don’t fundamentally get to them. “Ce n’est pas gràve” is a phrase one hears quite often.

And it was true. Instead of moaning and complaining throughout the course of this incredibly cramped two-hour journey, people were smiling, chatting, and drinking wine. They just weren’t treating it as “gràve.” And the more I watched them, the more I realized that they had the perfect attitude towards this whole mess. Why feel lousy over something you can’t control? There’s no point.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the French since the volcanic ash crisis took over my life a few days back. And every time I feel myself wanting to rage against the machine, I try to remind myself “Ce n’est pas gràve.” And it helps.

Plus, I just feel more French when I do it.

Stay tuned.

Image: Early Morning Spectacle by Storm Crypt via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Make A Move Easier

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I mentioned yesterday that we will soon be moving.

Did I mention how much I absolutely *hate* moving? If I had my fictitious wife, I think I’d put “orchestrate all moves” at the top of her list of duties.

Not everyone feels this way about moving. I think it’s a great example of something where there are just two kinds of people. One friend of mine, for instance, loves to move because it enables her to throw away all the things in her house that annoy her. My husband doesn’t actually mind it either. It gives him an excuse to re-allocate our many gadgets within an entirely new space. (Aha! So the Dustbuster really *can* fit on top of the television! Whaddya know?)

But for me, moving is the very embodiment of hell. So if, like me, you dread moving house, here are five tips to make the process easier:

1. Get boxes beforehand. Lots of them. This sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many boxes you need to carry out even a small move. Fortunately, after all of my work on the PTA soliciting donations from various local businesses, most of the merchants in my neighborhood on a speed-dial relationship with me already. So I don’t foresee a problem obtaining boxes when I need them. But if that weren’t the case, I’d begin collecting now. Buying them from Mailboxes Etc. really adds up. Trust me!

2. Make a Change of Address List. Right now – while you’re thinking about it – sit down and make a list of every possible place that needs to know that you’re moving. Not just obvious places like your kids’ schools and your doctor’s office, but all of your frequent flyer programs, any utility companies who send you a paper bill, your grocery store if you have food delivered, and especially your local voting authority. There are way more than you think.

3. Declutter Now. I’m not a natural de-clutterer. I tend to favor putting things into neatly stacked piles, only to ignore them until said pile topples over under the weight of freshly sorted material. And particularly with this move we’re about to embark on, it looks like we’ll be moving into a considerably larger space. So it’s really tempting to just hang on to that PlayMobil Castle and all its attendant turrets, even though my son hasn’t played with it for years. But that would be a huge mistake. Because there are so many things – clothes, toys, kitchen aids – that we simply don’t use and must go buh-bye. (Unsure of what to toss? Here are 8 specific tips from the decluttering guru, Gretchen Rubin.)

4. Have someone else pack for you. Sadly, we can’t afford to pay someone to pack up for us this time round. But I have done that twice in my life and my husband often comments that those may well have been the two happiest days of my life. (Too bad all I owned at the time was a suitcase, a guitar and a futon, which did take a bit of zing out of the pleasure, it must be said.) But there is *nothing* like having a couple of people whisk into your house and pack up your belongings while you sit there sipping a cup of tea with your feet up.

5. Buy some Xanax. Really, just do it now. You’ll thank me later.

*****

Speaking of moving, Aiden Donnelly Rowley had an interesting post over the weekend on Ivy League Insecurities about what it’s like to sell a house and that bitter-sweet feeling that accompanies the open house. Have a look…

Image: Packed Boxes Upstairs by Arthaye via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch Changes: Sometimes You Just Need to Make the Bold Move

No. I don’t have a jammed keyboard. That title is a reference to the famous David Bowie tune.

I’ve been thinking about change all weekend – and how we come to make the big changes in our lives.

It started when I had coffee with a friend whom I rarely see anymore. She showed up with her husband and before we even ordered, she glanced over at  him and asked: “Do you want to tell her or should I?”

I glanced furtively at her belly, wondering if she might have some”news” to impart. (My own personal rule: never ask someone if they’re pregnant unless you literally see the child’s head crowning with your own eyes.) But she didn’t look pregnant. She did, however, look extremely happy so I ruled out life-threatening illness or death of loved one.

“Go ahead,” her husband said.

“We’re moving to the coast,” she announced. She was positively beaming.

“The coast” in this case is Cornwall – a beautiful section of rural England that runs along the Southwest coastline. This couple has owned a second home there for years, in a small village right by the sea. The town is about as different from London as you can get:  there’s one main street with a few restaurants, a one-room library and a school.

In other words, this wasn’t just a “let’s pick up and go to the burbs” kind of move. We’re talking Green Acres. You know – chickens, foxes – that sort of thing. They’d already sold the house in London (the very one they just spent nine months re-furbing) and were set to complete (close) by July 31.

What was amazing to me was how quickly they’d arrived at this life-altering decision. They were driving around Cornwall one afternoon in April, saw a “for sale” sign and thought it would be fun to take a look. A few hours later, they made a bid.

“But didn’t you agonize?” I asked. Much as I myself am a big believer in change, I’d have to do a lot of thinking before making that dramatic a shift in lifestyle.

“Not really,” she answered. “We drove to a café and sat down and thought about what we wanted out of life. And we realized – why wait until we’re 60 to have the kind of life we want when we could have it right now?”

Why indeed?

What they came to realize was that, as lovely as their life in London was “on paper” – big house in a nice neighborhood, three children happily ensconced in excellent local school, weekend getaway – the financial pressure to maintain that lifestyle meant that they didn’t spend nearly as much time together as a family as they wanted. In particular, their hectic schedules meant that rather than spending time outdoors  – something that was particularly important to my friend’s husband – they spent almost no time at all enjoying nature.

So they decided to cash it all in. Literally. The sale of the London house will more than pay for the entirety of the new home in Cornwall. And because both primary and secondary state (public) schools are excellent there, they won’t have to pay private school fees until university. Best of all, both of them will now telecommute 3-4 days a week, freeing up an awful lot of time to just…hang out.

I was truly impressed. As we get older, I think many of us live with a sort of “deferred gratification” model of adulthood: someday we’ll lead the life that we want. But in the meantime, it’s so much easier to just stay right where we are (same house, same job, same neighborhood) that we don’t pause to think about what a change might look like.

Of course, sometimes change isn’t called for because we like where we are. And sometimes it’s just not feasible for all sorts of reasons. But sometimes, you just need to be willing to make a bold move when an opportunity presents itself, like – literally – seeing a “for sale” sign on the road. And you just dive in and see what happens…

Image: For Sale Broker by Neubie via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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