If you have ever moved, you will agree with me that moving is the best way to get rid of non-useful things. In Belgium, I moved 3 times. This was before having kids, and I complained A LOT about the work that it was. If only I knew that I had NO idea what a hard move was!!! This was before I had a baby, I was John snow, I knew nothing.
Last year I had to organize a move 5000 km away with 2 kids (one wasn’t even walking). In one way, that was easier than my previous moves because we had a moving company, but in the other way that was harder, because we had a moving company. You see 5 big guys coming in your house, going through your stuff, emptying your drawers. Some are more careful than others. I will forever remember this one guy, Patrick, he was in charge of packing our basement. A nice guy and all, but Patrick was a little bit… let’s say confused. In general, this must be Patrick’s main characteristic in life. You see, the first morning we met Patrick, he told us he messed up his heart medication with some laxatives, so he really really had to use our bathroom… a lot. Yes, he told us that on our first encounter and boy, did he use the bathroom a lot. Patrick also messed up the crystal champagne glasses from my grandma. He though they would be fine travelling for 6 weeks in a container on a boat in a simple box without wrapping. So did my husband’s race bike. Basically, pretty much everything in our Belgian Basement did not arrive the way it should. Big sorting, thank you Patrick. There is no basement in UAE houses anyway, so where would I have put all that?
We had a very European (means tiny) house in Belgium. But the movers kept telling me during the 4 days of packing “You have a lot of content”. I wasn’t believing them until I saw these 265 boxes in total and the humongous container that we filled with them. They did a listing of all the boxes and everything that was in those boxes, for insurance and organization purposes. And this is when the reality hit me. I knew I was no minimalist. I’ve always been more of a collector. But seeing written black on white how many things you have is impressive. Number of shoes, jeans, bags, glasses, toys, candles, I had no idea it was so bad. I thought I did a sorting before the move, but clearly, I didn’t. I have to admit I tried like a snail, to bring with me every single thing I own. Except one thing: my wedding dress. I was so afraid the container would fall in the sea, that I kept it safe in the Belgian country side. Yes, it looks stupid to prepare for the worst to happen, but I still remember the moving company manager laughing at me while telling “Yes, it happens M’dam, containers fall in the sea all the time! And sometimes it’s really stupid. Like last year, one container fell at the port, while we were loading it on the boat. It felt just between the boat and the dock. We couldn’t recuperate a thing. Stupid Hein?”. Lovely guy.
But apart from my wedding gown, I took everything. Going in the desert I took all my winter clothes. We might end up in Russia or Scandinavia in 4 years. I took all my souvenirs, from the Christmas cards to the letters of my besties I used to write when we were 14. (The new generation won’t have this problem, they will have their laptop and icloud, but I’m old, I had no phone nor internet for 18 years). It was very comforting to take all those memories with me, I thought I was going to need them to feel at home. I was so wrong.
I can tell you that I deeply regretted it when all those 265 boxes finally got delivered in my home in the UAE. We had some diplomatic issues to get our shipment back (people think life is easier for us diplomats, BS) but when finally, the “container” arrived, I wasn’t there. And I think it was for the best. A picture worth a thousand words, right?
All of our stuff, that were packed so well in Belgium (except from the basement), had travelled from the Jebel Ali port (1h drive in the burning desert) in 3 open trucks like this. So, some of the damage can be blamed on Patrick for sure, but others will be on some guys from here. Our clothes were full of sand. The candles had melted on the way and some of our electronics died. Nothing dramatic, just a little reminder that these are just THINGS, do not lose it over that. As my husband saw that, he told them to put up the beds (gotta sleep somewhere) and just put the boxes in the right room and not to unpack. We had to do the job ourselves to record and minimalize the damages. And even that, putting in the right room, hasn’t been an easy thing. It was written on each box where it came from, but many workers can’t read, so my husband used tons of colored posts-it and checked every box before entering the house. One against ten movers, that was bound to go perfect. How he managed to stay calm is a miracle (or maybe he was just happy our things finally arrived).
I had two very young kids, a 415 squared meters house, 265 boxes to unpack and NOBODY to help me. My husband was working, after all that’s why we are here, and I knew no one in the country at the time. People in Belgium were jealous because of the pool in our garden, I wasn’t able to go in it for two months because I was too busy unpacking. Of course, at first, having your personal belongings feels so good. It’s like Christmas morning. You open those boxes and explode with joy as you’re rediscovering your own things. Without even mentioning the kids! If You could have seen their faces! They were so happy to have their toys, bed and parent-stuff-they-cannot-touch brought over here. It made a huge difference for them. But this was true for maybe half of those 265 boxes. The other half were non-useful things that I wonder why I moved.
So now I learned my lesson, I think, and I will try to move less stuff next time. The only problem is we are now in a HUGE house, UAE standards, that we had to fill! This first year, we spend all our money on furniture. So next move might be even worse! But I see every expat selling all their belonging just before they move on Facebook groups. That’s how I learned that my neighbors were leaving btw. I also have to admit it’s easy for me to say that from where we are. We are in a good posting with plenty of furniture shops. If we need something, we have plenty of choice. But if you are stuck for 4 years in a place where everything is hard to find, it’s another story. Then packing everything like a snail and buying extra is probably thought as a necessity to create a nice home. And if you forgot something… well, airfreight is only a couple of 100’s of USD per kilo… .
In the end, this is all about “What makes a house into a home?”. I’m sure I’ll talk about that notion in another post, but I can tell you, your couch, your bed, your favorite pajama and even my husband’s beloved Tempur memory foam pillow, isn’t what makes a house your home. At least not for me. Now that I realized that, with a little help of our dear Patrick, I try my best not to get attached to things and spend my money more on experiences than things. But I’m far from perfect and those crazy sales here are turning my head off. So, I kept on buying shoes!