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In the past, whenever there has been an opportunity to help friends move, I have put on my cloak of invisibility and hoped that the subject quickly changed before my unwillingness to sacrifice a little of my time became too obvious.

However, this weekend, some close friends were moving and in my heart of hearts, I couldn’t ignore what I’m sure was divine inspiration to volunteer. They had a big household to move so they were certainly going to need as much help as they could get to pack and schlep boxes. Besides, I spend lots of time in the gym working on my endurance and strength; rather than just doing it all for vanity, why not put my muscles to use in a very practical way?

So yesterday, I showed up ready to do whatever was asked of me. While I don’t think I would want to spend all my Saturdays as a free-lance mover, as volunteer jobs go, it just wasn’t that bad. In fact, I enjoyed it. Part of that is because I enjoy manual labor. Give me a pile of mulch that needs to be moved from Point A to Point B and I’m ready to take on the challenge. Maybe I’m just not a very intellectual person because I actually enjoy mindless tasks. My kids are still whining about all the summers in our old house that they spent moving mulch with me. Unfortunately, they have yet to discover the gratification that I feel when I look at my work and see what was once a mountain of mulch is now a molehill. It’s the same with a big pile of moving boxes. Keep at it, and before you know it, the boxes are out of there and you’re sweeping out an empty room.

Moving is also a very different experience when you’re not the one moving. Just being a helper, all I had to do is show up and see where I could be useful for a few hours and then leave at the end of the day and go home to my orderly house. When you’re the one moving, the satisfaction over completing clearing out your living space is short-lived knowing that there is the chaos of unpacking it all waiting at the other end.

I found that moving someone else’s stuff isn’t really that different from moving mulch because in both cases, there isn’t any emotional connection with what you’re doing and that makes the work easy. When it’s your own pictures, books, linen closet, kitchen drawer, every item that you pack has an emotional component. “I always regretted buying that;” or “That never worked right and it made me angry every time I tried to use it;” or “That reminds me of when the kids were little and we used to have such a good time cutting out the cookie dough.” It becomes so emotionally draining.

Being slightly OCD, when I’m moving my own belongings, it’s easy for me to agonize over finding the perfect way to organize and pack. “I know this will fit!” And then I spend the next 30 minutes trying to pack a box like a Tetris game. But hey, when it’s not my stuff, the goal is just to get it done. As Steve pointed out, it’s more a “Kill them all; let God sort them out” approach to packing. A clock radio in the same box as the beach towels? They’ll figure it out on the other end.

When it comes to helping our friends with the unpacking…I’m ready.

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