I have been a little MIA here. I am going to blame that on a little thing we like to call Mount Karaffa. I know you cannot hear me, but I am laughing a bit like a crazy person over here at my use of the word “little”. There was nothing little about this mountain we had to conquer. It was a journey in more ways than one.
First, let me show you our mountain. THIS is Mount Karaffa (and yes that is me climbing it…we needed something). It was first formed from the collision of two smaller mountains (or, depending on who you ask, one already huge mountain and one hill) in January of last year. This mountain was a beast. We had scaled it a few times, but conquering it was a whole different experience to be had.
See, when two families blend together, so does their stuff. I know this part will come as a surprise to you, but nine people have a LOT of stuff! It is also important to know that containing a mountain is expensive. While we were bouncing from place to place, Mount Karaffa had to exist in a storage unit, a big storage unit. We hated thinking about how much money we could be saving if we didn’t have the mountain. It is also important to know that mountains don’t just go away on their own. It existed, and it was ours.
Once we had the house (and once the hurricane passed) we knew we had to make plans to move it. It took 2 men, 4 teenagers, and me on the receiving end a whole day to accomplish the task. Mount Karaffa had a new home and the daunting expedition before us was frightening.
There were many reasons for beginning our expedition: 1) We had a new mortgage to think about and saving that cost would definitely help, 2) We wanted our garage back for storage, and workspace, and the ability to access our second fridge and freezer, 3) Looking at the amount of material stuff that followed us around for years made us sick, 4) So much past existed there, 5) All of our Christmas decorations were buried in it somewhere, 6) See picture to the right. We hate this futon. For me it represents a hard period of my life in which I needed a piece of furniture that could be both seating and a bed for me; a period of my life that is gone (thank the Lord!!). For David, well it is just so uncomfortable! You know, like a futon. For months, we kept saving up to buy real living room furniture and then needing to use it for life. At least four times we saved it and used it and saved it and used it. I looked at that mountain in the garage and mentally shapeshifted it into living room furniture. This served as a little mental motivation. We were going to go through all of those things that made up our mountain and turn them into our living room furniture.
After having lived for a couple of months in our new home, we were already growing accustomed to the space and the order. We had only what we had brought from the much smaller house so everything had a place and nothing was cluttered. I had even been attempting a cleaning schedule to stay on top of things and keep the new house looking new! On a day in October, we put on our gear and headed to the garage feeling motivated and positive that this wasn’t going to be so bad. After about 5 hours of work, the mountain looked much the same and yet our house looked like this:
Those pictures are still shots from a video I took just walking through the house. Piles, boxes and bins were everywhere, yet the garage looked as though it had barely been touched. They say it gets worse before it gets better right? Thus began the 5 or 6 week routine that consisted of working in the garage on the weekend and going through what was brought inside through the week. Again I say, nine people have a lot of stuff.
While just the amount of stuff to get through is enough to be able to compare all of this to the journey of conquering a mountain trek, this was all a journey in another way too. David and I have an interesting set of circumstances: we are newlyweds, with 7 kids between us (which complicates being a newly married couple), who have lived as adults independently (which complicates being a newly married couple), who have spent a few years parenting solo (which complicates being a newly married couple with kids), and who have scars from prior hurts (which complicates being a newly married couple). Now add in the stuff. Here is what we have learned from this experience:
- We have very different tastes. After having a house built together, we thought our tastes were pretty similar. We agreed easily on a lot of things when we designed the house. But while going through Mount Karaffa, things kept appearing that one of us would be so excited to see again while the other would be hoping that was for nostalgia sake and not to use inside. There were a few instances in which we needed to slow down and try to communicate differently to avoid hurting feelings, seeking our own way, getting overwhelmed, or shutting down. We will call this lessons on communication. Crash courses really.
- We are stubborn. I sold most of the things I owned years ago when I had to leave my first home. I was downsizing to a much smaller space, I needed the extra money, and I didn’t want to bring so many memories with me anyway. David had to move in a hurry so he and his girls (who were interesting packers at the ages of 11 and 7) put everything they owned into the back of a moving truck and drove it straight to a storage unit in Florida where it would live for two years. As we went through everything, I struggled with a fear of this house looking like the one he left when we were done, and he struggled with my (not well communicated) resistance to all of his stuff. We had to learn to set the stubbornness aside, see the situation from each others’ point of view, and explain what we were feeling.
- The past will always be there. As we went through boxes, we would come across glimpses of the past. A picture here, an old wedding gift there, boxes of things to be returned to those people that were a part of our pasts, even boxes of things that had to be kept because the people who are our past are still a part of our kids’ futures. We learned that this is ok. We learned that we are ok. We were reminded over and over how thankful we are for the present.
- We have a lot of doubles. And triples. Heck, we had FIVE strollers! The strollers were easy decisions because we don’t need them right now, but other things were more difficult. We each had a set of dishes that we were fond of, but it doesn’t make sense to keep two full sets of dishes that do not match. We each had a blender, a can opener, a crockpot, a griddle…that we swore was “a really good one”. This led to the next thing learned:
- Compromise is key. And not the kind of compromising where you let one thing go to earn nonexistent points so you can use them to fight for something else. I am talking about compromise rooted in selflessness. We learned that it doesn’t matter what our drinking glasses look like, if all our towels coordinate, if the pictures on our walls reflect us both. Sometimes stubbornness clouds what is really important. We have enough. We have each other. We have this big family and all of this stuff and a home to put it in.
Sure, it may have just been a mountain of things. But for us, it was also an experience that further strengthened us as a couple. Within the pile was hidden lessons in communication, compromise, selflessness, understanding and compassion. I would love to be able to end this saying that we were done, but we are actually not quite there yet. There still remains some decisions to make, places found for things to go, organizing to do, and a garage sale to be had. That probably means there are still some lessons to be learned, but I am pretty sure that is all of marriage. A constant journey of learning to trust your travel buddy. I find the journey is even more successful if you stay in touch with the Creator of mountains, the One who moves mountains, the One who uses mountains. We have our packs on our backs and we are ready to trek on together, following our Trail Leader. Speaking of hiking packs, we have one out in the garage for sale if anyone needs one!