Ten years and $20,000 later…
About 10 years ago I lived just outside Atlanta, and when I came back to South Florida, I left a lot of things in a storage unit up there. I hadn’t planned on being away for 10 years – but that’s how things go.
Recently, I’d finally started making plans to go and empty out the unit with a friend and our plan was to go at the end of January. Then about a week ago, she was offered a new job – a great opportunity – but they needed her to start 3 weeks later, right on the day we were planning to leave. I told her I’d figure something out and not to worry. Then I went home and said to God, to the Universe, whoever was listening, that I really didn’t know what to do. So I “released” it and said that I had trust that something would work out, that an answer would come, probably something I’d never imagine. Little did I know.
My challenge was that I had a few pieces of furniture in there that I knew I couldn’t move by myself, and some of it, I no longer wanted to keep. I thought that perhaps I could arrange to have an organization that collects furniture (such as Goodwill/ Salvation Army) meet me up there, on a specific day (because I was going to have to travel there, pack up, and turn right around to come back to Florida) and that maybe they’d be willing to load the big pieces that I did want to keep, into a U-Haul type truck for me to drive back home and then keep the rest them self. I didn’t know if they’d be willing to do it, or how much it would cost me to hire a couple people to help. Being so far away, it was difficult to even know who to call and ask. And then I really didn’t want to drive a big truck like that by myself on the highway such a long distance anyway. I was in an accident on an interstate highway a couple years ago and my vehicle was totaled. I was fortunate to walk away from it but it’s made me nervous about highways ever since.
So 2 hours after I threw my hands up and said I didn’t know what to do and asked the Universe to figure it out for me… I received a phone call. It was from my storage facility. They said they’d received extensive water damage from the Polar Vortex. Pipes had burst and the water was over a foot high in the facility. (It is an indoor facility.) They needed everyone to come and empty out their units because in 2 weeks, they were going to have to clear it out themselves to clean up water damage, carpeting to prevent mold, etc. - – This was 3 weeks before I had been planning to go anyway. What are the odds – after 10 years?
I started making phone calls to furniture donation centers but had no luck. Either trucks couldn’t be scheduled to come out on such short notice, or they didn’t take “big” pieces of furniture. Part of the problem also was that now I didn’t know how extensive the damage would be and what, if anything, would be worth it for them to even pick up. I figured that I was going to have to work that out when I got there. So on Thursday last week I bought a ticket to fly to Atlanta on Saturday.
My flight was scheduled to take off at 8:45 in the morning. There were severe thunderstorms with tornado warnings throughout Georgia and Carolina that morning so there were no flights in or out of Atlanta. After 2 hours sitting on board the plane, the pilot brought us back to the terminal where we hung out for a while before boarding again. The plane ended up taking off 3 hours late. I arrived in Atlanta about 1:45 and it took my navigationally challenged self 1 ½ hours to get from the airport into my rental vehicle.
I had carried on my 1 piece of luggage so I didn’t need to go to baggage claim – and I finally found the “sky train” to get to the rental car area. OMG! Have any of you ever been on the sky train in the Atlanta airport? – I stepped onto the train, which is like a subway car, put my suitcase on the ground, and then a recording told everyone to “hold on”. That’s it, simply hold on. They should have said “Hold on for dear life because we’re going to hit 50 mph in 5 seconds!” The train took off, my suitcase slid back towards someone standing behind me, my body lunged forward towards a soldier dressed in his navy uniform (that part I didn’t mind) but I did manage to catch myself on the edge of the door. I reached for a pole with the other hand and stood there, arms stretched out, legs in position to try to balance myself, looking like an idiot. Of course everyone else on the train was standing around like la-de-da, no big deal. – Well okay, I’m not from here. We don’t have subway cars in Ft. Lauderdale. - The way I was getting tossed about with every stop and start, I’m probably as good now as any professional pole dancer out there.
When I exited the train, I set off to find the rental car area. After walking a little while, I discovered that I’d have to get on yet another one of those trains. Oh boy. The signs weren’t real clear to me and I actually wasn’t sure I was getting on the right train, but, what the heck, I figured I’d see where it took me. This time the train however, didn’t just move through a tunnel of sorts like the first one – NO – this train left the building. Next thing I knew I was again holding on for dear life. I could see a highway beneath us and the 2 little rails the train was riding on as we curved this way and that way. It was like an “E” ticket ride at Disney World. People pay for this kind of ride. I thought I was going to throw up.
There were only 3 other people on this train and it did finally make a stop at a rental car building. The building was as deserted as this last train. It was a big, long, glass building and I only saw a handful of people the whole time. If it had been night time, I would’ve been afraid. I got on yet another escalator (it was about the 4th one since I’d gotten off the plane and I don’t like them) and found my particular rental agency and got in my rented Chrysler mini-van. Since I was going to be driving back by myself, I wanted something smaller than a U-Haul – and I didn’t know how much of my “stuff” would be salvageable. It had now been 1 ½ hours since I’d landed.
It took me about 30 minutes to drive to the storage facility (I was only lost for about 5-10 minutes) so it was now about 3:45 and they were scheduled to close at 5:30. Had my plane not been 3 hours late, I would’ve been able to spend a few hours there to sort through my things and pack up the van with whatever I was going to bring home. I knew I’d never get it done by myself in less than 2 hours now and if I had to come back and finish the next morning – and they didn’t open until 9:30 – I wouldn’t even get on the road until noon if I was lucky. That would’ve made for a very long and tiring day because I only had enough money for one night in a hotel. (I hadn’t planned on making the trip this particular weekend.)
It turned out that the district manager of the storage facility had brought in a number of men from a local organization that helps people who are “down and out”. So they gave these men jobs for a couple weeks – and I had help moving all my things. Everything worked out. The very nice young man who was assigned to me and my storage unit had just moved into an apartment with his girlfriend and didn’t have much furniture. Now they do. I left most of my things for them. I didn’t need most of it anymore anyway and didn’t have room in the van to take most of it back with me. We even found a small heater in my storage unit which he was very happy about because they didn’t have heat. He was living in Atlanta and I was living in South Florida -so I left the heater for him.
We went through everything as quickly as we could. The unit was 10’ x 10’ and was packed full, side to side, front to back and all the way to the top. There were water stains about a foot high on everything that was on the floor including a box of photo albums. When we opened it though, we saw that I’d packed the albums in a plastic bag inside the box, so they were in good shape. I’d had a couple boxes full of photos and they were what I wanted most to be able to bring back. Whatever wasn’t wet in the unit, was damp. The water from the pipes had run down the walls from upstairs and then the water rose up from the floor.
So after opening many, many boxes and sorting through what I could, we packed up the van. I did have to leave a lot of stuff behind, including many books, about 8 boxes full, but there was just no room. I think it was the universes way of saying “Enough already, it’s just stuff. What are you saving it for?” After all, I’d lived without it for 10 years.
I was so grateful I had someone to help me – and he was so grateful to be given so many things for his apartment, furniture, dishes – and that heater! And we did it in less than 2 hours. Anything I left behind that was too damaged, the facility was going to get rid of for me. Perfect.
Although I had peanuts and pretzels on the plane, it was now about 6pm and I stopped to eat my first meal of the day, then I started driving south (after getting lost for about a half hour). Since I wasn’t tired, I wanted to drive at least a couple hours so I’d have less time on the road the next day because I knew that was going to be a long trip. About 8:30, I pulled into a Days Inn. It was windy and the “feels like” temperature was in the 30’s. The hotel pool was closed and completely covered up – not something I see in South Florida.
I was on the road again at 7:30 the next morning, made a number of pit stops along the way and finally arrived home about 8:30 at night.
I brought Pauldi Bear and Bug Boo a new rug that I’d had in storage. It doesn’t take much to make them happy. (I think they missed me.)
I believe that everything happens for a reason. I’ve moved 26 times in my life. The past 10 years in the same house in South Florida is the longest I’ve been in any one place since I was a child – and actually, it’s the same house I grew up in. There are many things I own which I’ve moved with me over the years here and there, some without ever even being unpacked. All because I’ve always thought that one day I’ll have a home that I’ll keep – and then I’ll have all my “stuff”.
In the past couple years, I’ve been getting rid of things bit by bit in an attempt to live an uncluttered, simpler life, one in which more focus could be put on things that were more important to me. I don’t mean material things, but things I want to spend my time doing.
I found that much of what I had stored I really didn’t even want. Some things just weren’t “me” anymore. I’ve changed, my taste has changed. I spent just short of $20,000 on that unit over a 10 year period. Having that extra bit of money each month would’ve certainly made my life a little easier in recent years, but I realized that I wasn’t too upset about the whole thing. The feeling that was the strongest was one of relief. The feeling that it’s done; I can put it behind me now and move on. My lesson…
Don’t hang on too tightly to yesterday.
Don’t spend too much time thinking about tomorrow.
Unpack it all – and live for today.