One person's move means more stuff for co-workers

Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2004

Many writers far more poetic than I have spewed graceful prose expounding on the power of Alaska's natural beauty and irrepressible spirit to infiltrate even the most hardened hearts of its transient residents so that when they leave, their souls take part of Alaska with them.

Their friends, meanwhile, take in all the crap they leave behind.

Like blenders, bookshelves and crock pots, for instance. And silverware.

Lots of silverware.

My house is a testament to Alaska's knack for getting people to lighten their loads when they leave. It's a veritable graveyard established in memorial to past acquaintances who decided to move Outside. They took with them their fond memories of seeing bald eagles soar along the Homer Spit, screeching to a halt to watch days-old moose calves frisk along by the road and catching a glimpse of Denali before the clouds closed in.

But the ironing board, George Foreman Grill and end tables got left behind.

I can understand the phenomenon. The cost and effort involved in moving to or from Alaska is enough to make a minimalist out of the most devout pack rat.

I've been there. I was born and raised in Alaska, but going Outside to college and moving back to the state four years later was an experience in economy.

Though my collection of posters, cactus named Fluffy and goldfish Bait were very dear to me at the time, I found myself saying some tearful goodbyes at the Dumpster outside my college apartment when the time came to board a plane north (not Bait, though, he found a good home).

Budgeting the staggering costs of shipping items to or from the contiguous states forces a person to make some hard decisions and even harder rationalizations.

"OK, dear, we can only afford to send one more box, and we've still got Junior's clothes, the photo albums and the family heirloom urn with Grandma's ashes left to pack."

"Well, maybe Grandma wouldn't mind being in a Ziplock for a while. You know, it would improve her view."

Working in the revolving-door world of newspapers gives you a chance to witness this phenomenon firsthand or, more appropriately, secondhand.

In my three years here, about 10 people have come and gone in my department alone. For the ones who leave the area, this means their departure is accompanied by a list of belongings that gets circulated around the office. Stereo equipment, microwaves, furniture, cookware and all those other necessities of civilized life suddenly become expendable when faced with the task of cramming your worldly possessions into a car, box, suitcase or shipping crate.

Making the list is the first stage in downsizing desperation. At that point, the mover hopes and holds out for reasonable prices in exchange for the possessions they'll be parting with. Some people, usually the ones who have recently moved here themselves, immediately snap up items from the list.

But smart shoppers are hip to this game. They know that the closer it gets to the moving date, the more desperate the seller becomes. Prices are drastically reduced. The Dirt Devil upright vacuum with original box listed for $40 to start with is lowered to $20, then $10, then $5.

As the exodus date dawns, the seller is desperate to jettison whatever is left unsold. At that point it's either given away to whoever showed an interest or thrown away, and giving it away is preferable because it saves a trip to the dump.

This system explains the rather mismatched contents of my house. There are items in pawn shops that have had fewer owners than some of my stuff. My TV, for instance, has entertained three former Clarion employees before it found its way to me.

It may not be as trendy as shopping at IKEA, but there are some good deals and nice stuff to be had in this system. And now that reporter Mark Harrison has announced his plans to leave, it seems that it is Christmas at the Clarion once again.

In the spirit of Christmas, I'm willing to dispense some helpful advice (in exchange for a toaster, perhaps?): Those bookshelves are not going to sell for $200. You're marketing to reporters, here, Mark, not Slope workers. We don't have that kind of cash.

Oh, and let me know when you need that coffee grinder taken off your hands.

Jenny Neyman is a reporter and design editor for the Peninsula Clarion

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