ROSE NOLEN: Some lessons are hard to learn

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

Some lessons are hard to learn and I'm still practicing.

I could say that it's a coincidence that I am trying to move out of my house after 40 years of accumulating stuff and to write a book at the same time, but nobody would believe me. My readers are smart people and they would realize that somewhere along the way I agreed to do both. The problem now that I'm living through this experience is having to acknowledge that I was undoubtedly temporarily insane at the time of these agreements.

A friend suggested that before I start packing, I should perhaps watch a few episodes of an Arts & Entertainment television program called "Hoarders." After watching an episode, I immediately figured out that she wasn't as good a friend as I thought she was. Still, I am honest enough to admit that I have been collecting for a long time and, well, things do add up.

One lesson I learned soon into my project was that I couldn't just go around to stores, like I once did, and ask for boxes and expect the clerks to smile and send me somewhere to pick them up. It turned out that if I had to have boxes in order to pack up my stuff I had to go to the U-Haul Store and buy them or depend on my friends to dump out their office supplies and give me the boxes.

The next lesson I learned was that no sane person needs to have 19 shelves of books. I found out, too, that it's a good idea to start having garage sales in the spring if you want to get rid of stuff regardless of whether you are on a book deadline or not. Never wait until fall because you can't depend on the weather to cooperate. And that's not the only cooperation you can't count on if your only son happens to be a football referee.

In the book-writing category, I learned that it's better to take the advice of a younger person who understands electronics. Use your best up-to-date equipment if you are going to have to send and receive attachments. Attempting to do this on my old personal computer nearly caused me to have a nervous breakdown.

So where am I now? Well, the book is at press and I'm still in my house packing.

Fortunately, my home-buyers are friends who are unlikely to throw me in the street. I'm still looking for a place to go.

Actually, this is the fourth house I've owned in my life; you would think that I would have learned by now to limit my possessions to just things that I need and use regularly. But I like certain kinds of stuff and I can't resist buying it if it's inexpensive. And after I've owned it a while I'm ready to sell it or give it away.

Another truth is that even while I complain, I actually like to work. I suppose I qualify to be what some people call a workaholic. I enjoy keeping busy and really have no idea what I would do if I didn't spend most of my time working. A few months ago I had an attack of vertigo and spent a few days on the sofa and I actually found out how bad television is. As a major source of news, it stinks.

I have always enjoyed work. When I began my work life, I would often take jobs just to learn a new skill. As a consequence, when I couldn't find jobs, I was able to create my own. Once I opened a shop where I designed and made clothes. I'm a soap maker and I make handmade lined lampshades. I have found that working to acquire new skills has been as important in my life as working to earn money.

But that's also the reason why moving house for me is a bit more complicated. In addition to household goods, I have all this equipment which is necessary for my many hobbies and skills. Most of these things, I'm not willing to get rid of, because I never know when a friend or family member will be faced with unemployment and I can teach them another way to make a living. I like to think that these are the kind of people who if they find themselves out of a job they will spend their time shifting gears instead of sitting around trying to identify someone to blame.

So, now while I'm waiting for the publication of the book and getting myself moved into new lodgings I'll be on the lookout for something else to keep me busy. Oh yeah, I suffered a personal loss recently and I promised to write a book on dealing with grief. I need to get on with that right away.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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