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Moving:  My Definition of Hell


Paul Hord


Recently, I bumped into a local pastor friend in town.  It had been a few months since we had seen each other.  He asked how I was doing, how my family was doing, what I had been up to, etc.  I told him that my family and I had recently moved into a new home.  My friend, Brad, said, “Hey, I got this great sermon that I give periodically on the definition of Hell.  And the best definition that I give to people is that Hell is similar to moving.  You get all settled into your new home, have the boxes unpacked, everything is in place, and then the devil walks in and hands you a note that says you have to move to another house the next day.”  He laughed as he told me this.  I returned a slight grin and a, “Ha-ha,” still feeling the physical and emotional effects of our move.  But the more I thought about it, the more I thought his definition was a perfect analogy.  Moving just sucks.  No way around it.

Sharing this story of my move will, perhaps, serve as a catharsis for the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that I am still suffering.  My wife and I had lived in our previous home for eleven years.   Over time, we slowly accumulated...stuff.  It just happened slowly.  More stuff came along with two children.  Before we knew it, we ran out of space to store our stuff.  We could have made it work for a few more years with the space that we had; however, our kids would be teenagers in a few more years, and by that time, they would not only want space, but enough space to keep plenty of distance and privacy from their parents.


We had been looking at houses on the market for nearly two years, pretending that we were really serious about finding a new home, but we would always find an excuse about something we didn't like about each prospective home.  Along the way, my wife found a realtor that she really liked.  Friendship ensued, and so there were many times that my wife would make an appointment with Allison, our realtor, to look at a house.  Our two kids and I would be dragged along to look at these new homes and listen to Allison and Roxane, my wife, talk about square footage, resale value, interest rates, escrow accounts, the weather, vacations, schools, etc.  Roxane loved these dates with Allison; the kids and I, not quite so much.  I guess the great part about this was that we had someone helping us who we felt really had our best interests in mind.  I'm just glad that she didn't charge by the hour.

In the summer of 2012 with dirt cheap mortgage interest rates in place due to the slumping economy, we felt we should at least put a bid on a house.  Roxane and I are both in education, so we have some time off in the summers.  We embarked on what seemed like an endless tour of homes in College Station.  Roxane and Allison talked a lot about everything on these trips, and my job was to keep our kids from killing each other.  Finally, the right one came along.  It did have most of what we were looking for in a new house: plenty of space for the kids, an extra bathroom, more space in the kitchen and garage.  The master bathroom even had one of those garden tubs with jets, my favorite feature.   And the timing was right because interest rates were at the absolute lowest they had been in forever.  It just seemed to make good financial sense, and we weren't in the position of having to sell our current home.  We had planned to make it a rental, and living in College Station, it's super easy to find renters which would mean extra income.  Yes, good financial sense, but at the expense of moving out of one house and into another.


We went through the bid process and got that squared away,  and then there were all of the other things that happen in between that involve inspections and shuffling and signing of paperwork and titles and attorneys.  I’m not an expert in these matters, and that's why it's good to have a realtor.  And not only did we have a realtor, but one that had turned into a family friend!  Allison took care of all the behind the scenes stuff. 

In the meantime while waiting for all of this behind the scenes stuff to take place, we should have been packing.  But of course, we didn't.  We knew we were buying a new home and would be moving, but for some reason we were slow to do the things that we knew we had to do.  We were all happy and telling friends and thinking about living in our new house and neighborhood, etc.  We told ourselves we would be moving in a few weeks but didn't quite realize or want to realize all that would be involved.  We told ourselves that it would only take a couple of days and that we really didn't have that much stuff.

Toward the end of August, we hit the date when we were required to sit down at an executive table with lots of glasses and pitchers of water and other persons and sign and initial a gazillion different papers.  While signing, I wasn't even looking at what I was signing because my signature was required so many times.  At one point, Roxane looked at me and said, “Aren't you going to read what you’re signing?”  Are you kidding me!  “Of course not. That is why we have a realtor.”  After this two hour event, we were handed a book of papers about the same size of the Encyclopedia Britannica

By this point, we had developed a moving plan.  We would take our time to make this move.  School was starting for both Roxanne and me along with our kids, and we needed to get that part of our lives off the ground first before making this transition from one home to another.  Also we were now going to be landlords.  We needed to learn the ropes of being property barons, how to draw up a rental contract, and making sure that we found the right person to rent.  I was totally opposed to renting to college students.  I have nothing against college students; I was once one myself.  However, because I was once a college student who rented a house with several other guys, I can easily recall how we treated our rental...not well.


We hadn't posted anything about renting our house.  We had told some of our friends that we were planning to rent our home.  No kidding, we were walking out of the title office with our ten pound home title, and Roxane got a phone call from someone that she works with.  This person knew of our plans to rent our home.  She told Roxane that her sister, who lives in the Valley (as in Rio Grande), just found out that she had been offered an administrative job with Bryan ISD.  She was going to be in town tomorrow and needed to find a place to live rather quickly.  Her sister also needed to enroll her two girls in school the same day, and in order to do so, she would need to show proof of residence.  This was the type of renter we were looking for, a family---less odds of keg parties, carpet stains, and holes in sheetrock.  That evening, we had to get our house ready to “show.”  We spent hours cleaning, straightening up, etc.  

The next morning, before I left for work, our potential renter stopped by to look at the house.  She liked the house and said that she was planning to look at another place and would let us know before the end of the day.  Midday, Roxane called me and said that our ideal renter had decided to rent our house.  We basically drew up a renter's contract that said, “I agree to rent this place, pay the full rental fee at the beginning of each month, and not to mess this place up.”  Now, here's the part that made me begin to understand how someone feels who has been diagnosed with anxiety:  she would need to move into the house the following week.  Alrighty!

We had a total of six days to get moved out while also getting our rental house ready for our renter.  The house needed to be fully cleaned, needed a neutral color of paint on most walls, and needed most of the bedroom doors replaced due to wear and tear from the kids. 

The next day was a Saturday, so we had a garage sale to try and get rid of some things.  People were driving up to our house as we were dragging things out of the house.  All I can tell you is that a lot of people left our house that morning with plenty of bargains.  “How much for the chair?”  “$50.”  “No thanks.”  “Okay, you can have it for $40.”  “No thanks.”  “How about $25.”  “I'll give you $10 for the chair.”  “Sold!”  The buyers were in control that morning.


It's amazing how people react when thrown into situations where they have to make quick decisions about how to proceed with a task.  There was a feeling of, “Where in the Hell do I start?”  There were moments of standing around and looking a little confused when I knew that I didn't have time to be confused.  I tend to be sort of an organized person.  I'm used to following a set of procedural guidelines that make sense to get a task completed by a deadline.  I'm not OCD, but any tendencies of that disorder that I might have were totally exposed by this event.  And if this story seems to ramble in a stream of consciousness sort of way, that's because it reflects exactly how this event went down.

Next, I had to replace all of the doors.  So, I made a trip to Lowes to get a bunch of doors.  I figured this was going to be simple: buy the doors, take the old ones off, and put the new ones on the hinges, take the door handles off of the old doors and put them on the new doors.  I thought I could get this done in a couple of hours.  And then it turns out that the doors that one can walk in and purchase at a hardware store are not pre-cut.  I found out that Home Depot and Lowes can order pre-cut doors with the measurements you need, but it usually takes a few weeks before they’re delivered.  This was not an option.  I found a very helpful guy at Lowes who showed me the equipment I would need to cut the holes for the door knobs and how to measure and install the hinges. 

Cutting the holes for the door knobs was fairly easy.  Installing the hinges was a thorough pain.  In order to install the hinges, I had to use a chisel to make an indention on the end of the door for the hinge to fit.  It was like being a carpenter back in the 1800's.  I spent a lot of time sitting in my driveway with a door on two saw horses, hitting a chisel with a hammer to chip an indention the depth of 1/8 of an inch.  Surely, surely, there was a better tool for this!  The guy at Lowes said there was not.  He said that door manufacturers have a lot of really specialized equipment to perform this kind of job.  What I thought would take two hours took two full days and lots of readjustment in between.  My neighbor saw me chipping away with my chisel, and he decided to come over and chat.  When I explained to him what I was doing and how we were getting the house ready for a renter and about our move, he said to me, “Man, I would hire people to do all of this, the improvements, the boxing, the moving, every bit of it.  It's not worth the headache.”  If not for the frugality of my lovely wife, bless her heart, we probably would have been doing some of that.


While I worked on the doors, Roxane painted the rooms of the house.  Her brother, Shelby, came over and helped each evening after work.  The television became our kids' new parents.  We've never neglected our kids so much since they were born.  They experienced symptoms of withdrawal from TV when we finally got settled into our new home.  Roxane and I both were still going to work each day and then coming home, fixing this, repairing that, boxing things.  Wednesday of that week would be moving day.  I had enlisted the help of Roxane's brother and my nephew, Josh, who had just recently moved to College Station to begin attending Texas A&M as a freshman.  I took a half day off from work that afternoon.  First stop was the U-Haul rental center.  Got my U-Haul and headed home.  I backed it into my driveway, opened the garage door, and just started throwing things in. Our new home was only about four miles away, so many trips could be made quickly.  The goal was to get it all done on Wednesday.  We had to be out of the house by Friday.  The first few trips actually went well.  Things were leaving the old house and being put into the new house. 

I could feel progress being made...until we decided to empty the attic.  Replacing the doors was traumatic episode #1 for me.  The attic was traumatic episode #2.  I couldn't believe how much crap we had put over our heads.  It was just unreal.  I was the person in the attic handing the boxes, tubs, toys, bed frames, Christmas decorations, etc., to the guys below.  August heat!  It was quite a cleansing experience.  I must have lost five pounds.  I think it took five or six big Gatorades to rehydrate.  I still get a little dizzy thinking about it.


We ended up throwing half of everything in the attic away.  I'm not a hoarder, so it's easy for me to part with things that I no longer find useful.  Roxane is the same way.  That was one of the bonuses of moving.  We were easily able to discard things that we no longer needed. 

However, the secretary at the sanitation department with the City of College Station probably thinks I'm a little crazy.  We have one day each week when one can set bulk trash to the curb, and the city will pick it up.  We had been piling this trash on our curb throughout the week, but we eventually ran out of curb.  I called the city and told them that I was sorry I had missed the bulk trash pick-up day the previous week.  Was it possible for them to pick it up today?  “Why sure!” the lady said.  “We can have it picked up by this afternoon.”  She and I got to know each other pretty well by the end of the week.  Once they picked our trash up from the curb, we quickly ran out of curb again with more trash.


I lost count of the number of trips I made between houses that Wednesday.  I finished emptying the last load by myself (My help left early.) at 1:00 in the morning.  While I had been moving things, Roxane had been doing more painting, touching-up, and cleaning.  We finally hit the air mattress at about 2:00 or 3:00 that morning.  Then up at 6:00, and we were back at our day jobs.  That evening we discovered that we had forgotten all of the small stuff in the cabinets and closets.  It's as though stuff was multiplying.  We could never get it all!  This was the last day, so we had to get it all out.  Again, we hit the air mattress at 2:00 in the morning and woke up at 6:00 the next morning.  Before leaving for work, we loaded into our cars the last of the odds-and-ins which consisted of random things lying here and there.  Then we threw some more stuff to the curb, and I called my friend with the city again to let her know how sad I was to have missed the bulk trash pick-up day the week before and if it was possible to have it picked up today.  “Why sure, Mr. Hord!”  And finally, the house was empty.  We headed off to work.  There seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Of course, all of our belongings in our new home were in total disarray.  We had put everything in the kitchen and formal dining area because we were having laminate floors installed that Friday in the living room along with carpet in the bedrooms.  The installation of laminate flooring can be a little messy.  They pull up the old floor and scrape away all of the stuff on the foundation which causes lots of dust and stuff to go everywhere.  Roxane had given me specific instructions to go to the new house during my lunch break and separate the kitchen and dining room entrances with plastic lining to keep the dust off of our belongings.  I followed her instructions.  However, I used duct tape to put the plastic lining over the entrances.  I learned later that this wasn't the best adhesive to use.  The lining stayed up while I was looking at it.  The flooring guys arrived a little later, and I told them that I was going to leave them there and go back to work.  Roxane left her job later that afternoon to check on things.  She called me.  Her  tone  wasn't so cheery.  “The plastic lining fell to the floor and dust is everywhere.  You need to come home and fix it.”  So I drove home and did my best to put the lining back up.  Roxane had tried to tell the workers that they needed to put it back up, but they only spoke Spanish.  Roxane was taking a nap in the car.  She was exhausted; I was exhausted, and while we were happy to finally be out of our old home, we now had to shift gears and get things situated in our new home.  The flooring dust incident was traumatic episode #3.


While Roxane napped in the car, I spent time in the garage putting everything that needed to go into the attic...into the attic.  I was cleansed again, losing another five pounds.  I had to drink some more Gatorade that evening to rehydrate.  Meanwhile, Roxane went to her mom's house to spend the night with the kids.  Thankfully, her mom had watched the kids for a couple of days while we made this transition.  I stayed in the new house that evening and slept on the air mattress.  But before I went to sleep that evening, I made sure to have a bath with the jets on in my new garden tub in my new home! 

Time slowed, and we were able to settle into our new home at our own pace, slowly, one day at a time.  Several months later, we are finally settled in.  The decision to move so quickly has paid off as we have a really good renter who takes care of our old home and pays rent on time.  Only occasionally do I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because of the event.  If the devil ever hands me a note telling me I have to move, I will happily tell him, “Go to Hell!”