The Moving 2: Escape From "Escape From #1203"

Monday May 15, 2006
If you've visited us, you know this: until recently, Ying and I lived in what can only be described as "squalor". (Ying disagrees: "a pile of garbage" might also be an accurate description.) Thanks to all of our visitors - you are all devastatingly polite, having mustered the willpower to fail to exclaim this to our faces as you walked through the door. However, we[1] did have the opportunity to remodel our apartment's kitchen recently, which provided us with both a moving-out and a moving-in to re-organize some of our stuff, as well as the opportunity to purchase and the room to construct some furniture. We both had piles of boxes that we hadn't had unpacked in literally years - she has stuff from when she was in a college dorm room and there was no space to store it, and I have stuff from when I was in Jersey and then Texas where the only furniture I had was a mattress and a desk.

This is a picture of our apartment, the perennial disaster area, within about 45 minutes of finishing moving in:


Speaking of moving in, I would be remiss if I did not send out some shout outs to my homiez who helped me drag all the stuff back into this place: thanks a lot to JP, Chris, and Itamar, and especially thanks to Alyssia for helping out even at risk of severe bodily harm and even though we didn't help her move, and thanks to Dave for crossing 4 states to get here and spending his whole weekend moving our heavy furniture.

The place is a bit small, so it's hard to get a good picture, but if you've been here, even that small patch of empty floor speaks volumes.

I used to think that we must be pathologically lazy or too depressed to do anything about the problem of all of our junk. While those things may be true to varying degrees, there is a surprisingly simple lesson that I think many of the bachelor-hackers who read this blog may benefit from:

You cannot put things away if you do not have a place to put them.

In the months before moving, TiVo introduced us to the wonders of a simple show called Small Space Big Style. Allow me to save you twenty hours of sedative television, because it has only one message: use vertical space. If you are low on space, and you have a wall that there is room to stand against, and there is no shelving or cabinet or desk or rack against it, then you are wasting space. Ying took this to heart, and we now we have room to not only store all of our crap (we did, after all, have enough room to stack up an entire 6x8 grid of packing boxes against one wall) but access it, and thereby accelerate the process of deciding what's actually garbage and what's useful. In fact, a lot of the stuff we have that was previously an undifferentiated mass of garbage is actually pretty neat, and it is nice being able to get to it and use it on occasion.

After just a little over a week, the improvement that this has made in my daily life is tangible. Although Divmod/Cambridge will likely be getting an office soon, I currently live and work in the same space and having room to move around is really, really nice. Especially, being able to sit on the couch and play a video game with our fancy wireless PS2 controllers is a good symbolic end to the day.

So, at long last, rather than a large undifferentiated mass of "misc. storage / seating area", We now have 3 rooms: sleep area (bed, clothing storage, small TV for bedtime movies or saturday-morning cartoons), living area (desks, entertainment center, game consoles, bookshelf, couch), and a chore area (washer, dryer, household goods storage, network operations center). I'm particularly proud of the "NOC", which you can visit on the web at There is an aerobed and a variety of nice new guest linens (properly stored) - so if you've been looking for an excuse to come visit, now's a good time! Our calendar isn't completely clear but drop me a line and let me know when you'd like to come up.

For those of you who feel "trapped by stuff", in a situation similar to the one we were in before: you probably need some shelves. IKEA sells pretty darn cheap shelves. The little work-top and drawers for the "server room" has already saved me a few hours of fishing for wires and cramped slouching over a monitor on the floor: the whole thing cost less than $30.

By the way - if I weren't such a slacker, I would have taken more pictures and laid this out in a Tabblo. Unfortunately I am a loser so you will have to settle for just a few stills in a blog post. You aren't a slacker though, are you? Check it out.

[1]I really have to give Ying the credit for most of this. I was tired, I wasn't interested in interior design, and I don't like assembling or moving furniture. Too many schleps up and down the stairs with 200lb desks and beds when I was a kid... at any rate, I ended up helping out quite a bit, but she probably would have built everything herself if she hadn't gotten injured on the first day!