9.23.18: a rebel alliance of quality content
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for want of a nail
moving is always the same: new home, old hat
by michelle von euw

We all have our little vanities, and recently, mine have been my fingernails. I know, I know, it’s rather girly and just a tiny bit obsessive, but I’m rather proud of the way my nails curved upward past my fingertips. Over the past several months, I became quite diligent about polishing them, studying the shelves at CVS and Target for quick-dri and no-chip and other cutesy titled bottles of clear liquid to swab over my freshly colored nails, most often in shade rather alluringly called “Starlet.” My nails were solid, sometimes bending but never breaking, and looked damn fine.

Then I moved.

Nothing like packing -– then unpacking -- nine hundred thousand boxes of everything two grown adults own to ruin a good set of nails. I lost my last nail this morning easing a stack of pasta dishes out of the possessive grasp of a particularly stubborn sheet of bubble wrap, and the jagged little edge of my pinky mocks my former pride. Instead of ten long, dark pink digits, my hands are a dull pale peeling mess, broken beyond any hopes of a nail file, enough to send a shop full of manicurists clucking toward the dreaded fake nail tips.

It’s probably best I have no fingernails to speak of, because I wouldn’t be able to find a single bottle of polish anyway in the mess that is my new apartment. I’m never jealous of stability or the rather obnoxious aspects of homeownership many of my friends are yoked to when I hear complaints about double mortgages or burst septic systems. There are countless reasons why I love being a renter, highlighted by a simple phone call that yields electricians, plumbers, and new dishwashers without involving my credit card. I know responsibilities I’m capable of handling, and right now, fighting with an insurance agent over an act of God that destroyed a roof isn’t one of them.

But the downside of this renter lifestyle is that no apartment can last forever (or in my case, more than two years), and that means moving. It's the single worst thing I can think of doing, and that includes chaining myself to the Yankees Sports Network for an entire baseball season.

First, there is the stressing about packing. This can occupy roughly six to nine months, give or take a week or two. This is the stage where every time I’d pick up a wineglass, my eye would begin to tic as I calculated the odds of it arriving at our next destination in one piece. The stressing is accompanied by a frenzy to get rid of as many of my belongings as possible, digging into the back of my closets and yanking out all the embarrassing, shrunken, or worn clothing and hustling them into giant donation bins.

Packing itself began in earnest approximately one month before the move, and ended two days after, cramming plastic bags and poorly-taped cardboard boxes into any available car space as the seconds on our last lease ticked away. I lost at least half my nails during the packing stage of the move, little round tips cracking and chipping against the mighty power of the tape gun, against the never-ending stacks of pint glasses and books, hardcover and softcover, textbooks and novels and thrillers, more books than any ten people should own but the girl who loves to read and the boy who loves to ask professional athletes for their signature on the front flap of books they have “written” (all hardbacks, no less) have acquired an unfair share.

Somewhere before the writing of the new security deposit check but after packing twelve settings of china I’d used once in two years, I began wondering if the crazy neighbor who screamed obscenities outside our balcony was actually a charming eccentricity and not a major nuisance. So what if the utility doors to our building were left wide open –- what were the odds that our telephone lines would be cut again like they were in May, leaving us without phone service for three weeks? Fortunately, I survived that stretch of doubt, and signed a lease on a better apartment closer to the city, where from our tenth floor corner unit, we are far removed from any nutty neighbors or blasting car stereos.

The next step was actually getting here. After careful investigations and price quotes from several moving companies, I hired a three-man crew to move all our furniture, and maybe even some of the nine hundred thousand or so boxes we’d managed to finish packing before moving day. This was a good plan that swiftly turned nightmarish as the morning of the move came and went without the moving company ever arriving.

So on the last Friday of July, I spent two hours being laughed at by every moving company in the D.C. area as I scrambled to find movers for the busiest moving day of the year. The people on the other end of the line ranged from sympathetic to downright creepy (“I can get you anything…for the right price,” was one particularly squicky answer), but none could actually get me real movers. Just as I was picturing a lifetime in my crappy apartment surrounded by boxes forever, I got a call back from one of the bigger companies, who’d found a three-man team willing to pick up our job at the last moment.

Moving team #2 showed up at five minutes of nine Saturday morning, and within four hours, had moved our entire lives from one apartment to the next, placing furniture where we wanted it and even assembling our beds. This was by far the easiest part of the entire move, the part I had most dreaded, and almost made me forgot about what had to come next: emptying those nine hundred thousand boxes.

Now, I’m buried in the final stage of moving, that of unpacking. Configuring all our stuff in new space, rearranging furniture, rediscovering items too big or awkward for our last apartment (hello again, Kitchen Aid mixer), dismantling empty boxes and storing them for the next move. In this stage, there’s regret (I wonder if Goodwill can give me back my old coffee maker), and the destruction of the two fingernails that survived the actual move itself. But there’s also a lot of pleasure -– the excitement of a new place, a new start, walls and rooms that will become our home, looking forward to hanging our wedding photos and discovering our new neighborhood. I’m pretty sure there’s a manicurist around the corner -– I can hardly wait to terrorize her with my ruined nails.


Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw

more about michelle von euw


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published: 5.10.00


sandra thompson
8.5.05 @ 9:23a

OMG! You've hit all the nails on their cute little heads (pun intended). After vowing never to move again, that I'd "leave this house only feet first on the way to the crematorium," I found myself tasked with the same harrowing experience as Michelle, except it was thirteen years of three accumulated households, one of the deceased members of which was an avid collector of junk, some of rather questionable taste, some exquisitely lovely. I found an auctioneer for the good stuff and gave away or trashed several actual truckloads of "stuff." Books? Over three thousand of them were divided up between (1) keep, (2) give to the children's home and (3) nothing for it but to trash. If there's anything that pains an English major more than trashing books I can't think what it might be. Since the new house was roughly half the size of the old one, the old neighbors were invited in to "take what you want." A few of them actually took some books! Hallelujah! The kitchen became a dark, forbidding, really scarey place. The rule: if it hasn't been used in more than a year, it goes.... somewhere. There should be a whole pharmcopia of really good drugs for sorting, packing, moving. There should be a whole army of counselors and support personnel for people who are moving, armed with tissues and tequilla, at the very least. It would have so much easier just to burn it all down, but how would I explain that to the arson squad? Or the neighbors?

heather millen
8.5.05 @ 11:24a

We moved on July 1 and this weekend we have made plans to unpack the last five boxes (all books) and put them on nicely appointed shelves. There are, of course, still boxes in the jammed hall storage closet but I'm pretending they're being "stored" rather than "ignored."

Another landmark this weekend, THE HOUSEWARMING. So hang in there, Chelle, and just keep your eye on the prize... in as much as a month's time, you can be toasting your new home! In the meantime, unpack the wineglasses and bottle opener first... It'll be your saving grace.


tracey kelley
8.5.05 @ 11:35a

"It's the single worst thing I can think of doing, and that includes chaining myself to the Yankees Sports Network for an entire baseball season."

That's fantastic!

Congrats, honey - you'll make it home in no time.

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