Cycling is the Cure to the Unpacking Boxes Blues

I’m sitting at our kitchen table for the first time in over four years. It’s cluttered with the bric-a brac that  comes from unpacking.

There are  receipts for carpet cleaning, quotes for painting and tile work, earbuds for listening to psych-up-to-unpack-ANOTHER-box-of dishes music  (Do I really need 17 mismatched wine glasses and 12 commemorative coffee mugs from places like Novotel or TWA which doesn’t even fly anymore?),  folders of children’s memorabilia with programs for 6th grade band recitals (Did our son really play bass clarinet? He certainly never brought it home from school.), my “Incase” armband for my iPhone just in case I take a break from unpacking and actually go for a run (not likely), and my laptop, which until this moment has been used for researching contractors, email and Facebook where I read with yearning about all the fun and adventures our cycling friends have been having.

The clutter makes me tired and unsettled.

Until 2010,  I was a typical suburban wife, mom, homemaker, teacher, exerciser, volunteer, buyer, seller, collector, spring cleaner, winter hibernator, reader, wanna be musician, tennis player, skier, and occasional cyclist. Then Eric asked me to join him overseas.

I never thought we’d be gone no more than about nine months. In fact, many of the things I’ve been unpacking: half-full containers of flour and sugar , half empty bottles of oil, spices from 1994 (OK that’s just embarrassing because they were outdated before we left), very short running shorts, low-rider hipster jeans, and clothes that were nearly new, all of these indicate that I thought I was only taking a short sabbatical.

Little did we know that we’d be gone over four years. Everything would be covered with a thick layer of Tri-Cities dirt that has the consistency of flour. Moving even the smallest of boxes from the storage shed to the garage results in cough inducing brown haze reminiscent of cycling during heavy road construction in Vietnam.

And if the dirt and dust isn’t stressful enough, the decisions are: what to keep, what to toss, why to keep, where to store?

To keep my generally optimistic disposition, I’ve been reflecting on our 11 months of cycle touring. Everything we owned and needed was in our four panniers. Life was  simple. Shopping was based upon need and weight. Spring cleaning happened  monthly when we changed countries, climates or both. Getting our of the house occurred naturally as we traveled from one place to the next. We had time and energy for cycling, conversation, socialization, reading, writing, and bike maintenance. We didn’t have to bother with anything extraneous.

As a result of my reflection, I made a conscious effort to again put cycling first. Today, I left the house BEFORE I got wrapped up in boxes, piles, to-do lists, and phone calls. I stuffed a pump and patches in preparation for the unseasonably numerous goat heads into one jersey pocket and shoved a PB& J in the other. I gulped down a cup of coffee and headed out the door.

After cycling rather slowly until I was reacquainted  with my road bike’s shifting and brakes (I haven’t been on this particular bike in over a  year) I ramped up the speed until the wind was blowing my hair and the golden autumn sun was warming my cheeks.

As the pedals turned and I soaked in the beauty of the fall colors reflected on the Columbia River, I gained strength and energy to return to the exhausting tasks of sorting, condensing, tossing, reflecting, and remembering that come with over 30 years  of marriage, children, work and play.

You might be wondering what this jumbled up mess of words has to do with cycling for retirement?  Probably not much EXCEPT that cycling is MUCH easier, MUCH more fun, and MUCH more rewarding than living in a house filled with “stuff.”  In the meantime, while I”m sorting through the “stuff” I need to remember to ride.



3 thoughts on “Cycling is the Cure to the Unpacking Boxes Blues

  1. Loved your post about ‘stuff’ Penny! It will be interesting to see how you feel in a few months when life returns to ‘normal’. Your travel blog has been so interesting and vibrant, and we really felt we were alongside you on your journey. We so enjoyed having you and Eric to stay with us in Dunedin – what a long way you have travelled since then. We wish you both well in your real retirement and hope that you will keep up with your blogging and your cycling – we have yet to even get out on the bikes we bought earlier this year, due to me having firstly a sprained ankle and latterly shoulder and back problems – and some extreme weather through our winter months. About to go to Melbourne for 3 weeks and hopefully on our return we will be ready to start our training towards some cycling adventures.

  2. Hi Penny – love your blog! I’ve been in your situation before and I can highly recommend reading “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. The one suggestion of holding the item in your hands and asking yourself “does this item give me joy?” has really helped me to part with many objects that I was holding onto just “because someone thought I should have it, someone dear gave it to me, got a great deal on it, yadda yadda yadda”.

    Good luck on your journey!

    1. Dear Debbie,

      Thanks so much for writing. I can’t believe your timing. Last night I attended my old book group and they were talking about this book and the question, “Does this time give me joy?” I even typed those exact words on the notes of my cell phone. Then, I cam home to your email! Coincidence? Definitely…but, it’s also a sign to add the book to my Kindle and the words to my unpacking chore.

      Again, thank you for sharing!

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