To pack fast, be sure to keep husband away

Sunday, May 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:33 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

We’re moving out of our lake house next weekend and though I only have one and a half boxes packed, I’m not worried. I was an Army brat in my youth and had to learn the art of packing if I wanted to see my personal stuff in one piece on the other end.

Packing begins with selecting the right box. The perfect size should be no larger than 3 feet by 3 feet. I refuse to pay for boxes that will only be used to transport items from one place to another, so I go to grocery stores and beg for any box they haven’t already pitched. I think it would be a terrific service if the local grocery stores placed bins in a covered area where I can drive up and get what I need without having to go into the store, bother a clerk who has to go to the back room and search, and then once he hands me the two or three he’s found I have to walk through the store bumping into displays while people stare at me and shake their heads in pity, secretly thanking God that it’s not them moving. The warehouse store east of town has the right idea, but they cut off the lids and moving with boxes without lids is worthless.

I also have on hand a huge stack of old newspapers, a permanent black marker and strapping tape. I’m ready to begin. Heavy items are wrapped and placed first in the box. As it fills up, I lift it to make sure none of the movers (my sons and sons-in law) will end up with a hernia or slipped disc.

I try to get most of the packing done when my husband is not around. I can whip through a cabinet of glass and dinnerware in 10 minutes, but if my “helper” is near, he likes to stop and reminisce. “Remember where we got this cup?” he would ask.

I didn’t have a clue, plus I never really liked the shape of the mug and had been meaning to give it away.

“Yes, dear,” I lie. “But we don’t have time to talk about it right now.”

He looks a little disappointed that I don’t want to trip down memory lane with him.

Drawers also hold a fascination for my dear hubby. I started packing a drawer with him hovering close by. I know I should have diverted his attention by asking him to mow the lawn, but I didn’t think quickly enough. Next thing I know he pulled up a chair and is rifling through the drawer. I won’t let him put anything into the box until he can tell me what it is and more important what is its purpose.

“What are these?” I ask holding four tiny metal cylinders.

He’s too honest to lie. “I forget the exact name,” he replies.

“What do you do with them?”

“I can’t remember, but if we pitch them I’ll probably need them.”

I smile as I throw them in the trash.

Like his jeans, there are things that my husband has formed a personal attachment. Things he has never used or seen in years. An example would be cords. We have drawers filled with them: black, curly cords, cords still tied from the manufacturer, silver cords and clear plastic cords. They all have one thing in common. None of them plug into anything in this house. But lord help me if I try to throw them away.

“What are you doing!” my husband, who rarely raises his voice, is shouting at me. “Do you have any idea how much it would cost to replace those cords?”

“Do you have any idea what they attach to?” I say smugly.

“I certainly do,” he says rather heatedly. “But it’s too technical for you and I don’t have time to explain.” With that said he grabs the bundle of cords, stuffs them into a plastic zip-lock bag and plops it into the box.

The most important part of packing is properly labeling each box before it is sealed with strapping tape. Just writing “kitchen” or “bathroom” on the box doesn’t do it for me. I want to be as precise as possible.

If a box is labeled “green and yellow dishes,” then I can direct the mover to the proper cabinet in the kitchen where I will unpack it, thus avoiding having to move the box again. If a box is labeled “Hubby’s personal stuff,” it goes to the garage — cords and all.

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