I recently moved to the other end of the East Coast and thus had the pleasure of exploring a new chapter in my life—the green move.

Green moving is an apex achievement in living the green life. Unless your parents start you off all green and sustainably perfect, the process of becoming green at a point in your life causes side effects to general living. These habits come to a head eventually:

  • The first is you don’t get rid of things for fear of creating more trash. The result is more clutter. Some might call you a hoarder, but of course they jest. I think.
  • The second is you start to stockpile packaging and non-biodegradable plastics that of course, could be repurposed. “By someone, that’s who,” I’d say to the man of my house upon questioning. I then right away call a green bestie so she can cheer me on this sound logic.

courtesy Katie Giddings

Once I realized I was for sure moving, I had nary two months to go through a well-loved, well-lived-in 2-bedroom apartment plus office of four glorious years. There was also nine years worth of “previous life stuff” (crap) that divorcés like me are known to tote around for a post-dissolution decade or so. In addition, I’ve worked from home for 8 years, so there’s all that, too. Finally, I should admit, I had 22 chairs in my possession.

This was not going to be easy. In fact, the green moving mission took every free minute until the moment I drove away from my nearly empty apartment.

The mental stock

For two weeks or more after the decision, I walked around my apartment and assessed (obsessed over) each object—it’s utility and value. Where it could go and how I would deal with it if it was not coming with me or going into storage.

After two weeks of this mental cataloging, I developed a vision (delusion) of moving on trash day, as it was to happen, with just our customary one bag of landfill waste and maybe a touch of extra recycling.

I would even see if I could drop our old and uncomfortable mattress for recycling just a stone’s throw from the Mass Pike en route to our new destination (it turns out the company only does commercial/institutional mattress recycling).


Get storage space

The single best decision was to find storage space close by and book a date two weeks in advance of our move. We are storing things that we certainly want when we return—grandma’s dresser and mirror, my awesome dining room table and chairs, kitchen stuff, etc… I found Cranny Self Storage in Danvers, Mass. It was down the road from our apartment, the company donates $1,000 monthly to deserving charities, and the warehouse is clean with friendly staff.

Also, the building is sized nicely, which is important in dealing with my phobia of large warehouses.

My boyfriend has a brother with a van—the two were a dream team.

Yard sale, Craigslist, consignment, and friends

My thinking was a yard sale, Craigslist, and selling items on consignment would cover the cost of the gas to drive to our new, temporary apartment in Miami, Florida, the cost of the rental trailer and new hitch we needed to install on our trusty Jeep Wrangler “Sylvia,” and six months of storage. Along with the funds accrued from a handful of pick-up waitressing shifts at a cocktail lounge my friend manages, the efforts covered nearly $2,000 of moving expenses.

Note, Craigslist sales are both time-consuming and annoying because you have to find someone to hang out with you when strangers come to look at your couch or buy your brother’s old Star Trek 45. But, the extra cash and knowing that your white leather sofa bed, bookshelf, and parent’s first dining room table is making someone’s house a better home helps.

I took an ad out for a yard sale and hoped it would not rain. It did, and people showed up before we were set up, more than an hour before the start time while we were trying to rig tarps over our wares (my crap). Another ad ran the following week and I held a second yard sale. Even though I made $225 total, I did not get rid of as much as I had hoped.

Would, coulda and moments of brilliance

Had I known we were going to move more than two months before the date,

  • I would have gone to Spring electronics recycling. I tried bringing some things to the electronics bin in Salem, but they weren’t taking these particular items.
  • I would have brought items to the swap/donation area at Clean Salem Green Salem in May.
  • I could have done a better job banding together with others for hazardous waste day. I didn’t have enough. Thankfully my landlord/friend thinks it’s good to hang onto my shoebox of stuff until a full carload is built up, making it worth the $20 fee to attend and drop off.
  • I would have moved all moving tasks up one week.

My brilliant green moves:

  • I dropped all leftover yard sale items at Beverly Bootstraps.
  • I carefully thought out items to give to friends hoping not to inundate them and giving them things they wanted or would use.
  • I left some furniture and small items behind for a friend moving back to town. He hasn’t moved back yet, but thankfully my former landlord is a good friend who doesn’t mind having this stuff stashed in his basement.
  • I had a party. I cooked everything I could and encouraged raiding the liquor shelf. I went to another party and gave away open bottles of amaretto and whiskey.
  • I packed in used cardboard boxes.
  • I recycled about 180 pounds of paper with personal information at the free Shredder Shark service by Northshore Recycled Fibers on Canal St. in Salem.
  • A green bestie took my stash of old socks and other cloth to a textiles recycling event happening a couple weeks after my departure date.
  • I held “shopping spree days” for friends living near me—they took more than 90% of what would be left from my pantry and refrigerator/freezer.

The Moment of Truth

When the final day came, I realized I have no real sense of how much stuff will actually fit into a 5’ x 8’ rental trailer. In addition to some stuff in the basement, I was going to leave a small, but significant trash pile behind—the kind that screams “moved out.”

In the end, it was a good friend—a queen of getting rid of things—that saved us. I think my boyfriend gave her the tribute she deserved by singing a few bars of Beyoncé’s “Halo.” She did what I could not. She came over like an angel in sneakers, climbed under my kitchen sink, and went through my closets and cupboards like a vortex. If she hadn’t, I might still be in my old apartment trying to figure out a way to recycle or repurpose old cookie sheets and a partially-broken clothes drying rack.

Lessons learned

At the beginning, when I started to go through my second bedroom, two closets, office, and storage area in the basement, I experienced intense anguish and guilt. The kind that brought me to tears and had me looking at my reflection in the mirror lamenting my awful human nature. “How could I have so much stuff? What is wrong with me—I am a hoarder!” I brow-beat myself.

Two months after the move, I know I took the right things with me on this 18-month journey and I’ve learned to live more simply. I even went through one of those divorce boxes labeled “pain” and found some pictures that made my cousin’s day. I did right with removing many unneeded objects from my life—on to people who want or need them, into the proper recycle/reuse/repurpose stream, and also dealt with spent objects and trash as sustainably as is possible at this juncture on my green journey. I feel lighter. I’m down to nine chairs.