Friday, 15 June 2018

[ moving house ]




There was a gorgeously long and winding piece I wrote on the Vietnam trip, which I promised several friends ages ago would be forthcoming, and which you've now all seen.

However, about five minutes after we got back, we went into moving house mode, and the world has only vaguely stopped spinning recently. So, this got mostly written while I was mimicking the little girl in The Exorcist. Brace yourselves.

***

Divorce, death, and moving house. They say these are the most stressful things you can go through in life. All things being equal, I'd take a divorce to be honest. Because I think, somehow, I have blotted from memory the utter dreadfulness that is moving. 

I mean, we all know how appalling it is, but you somehow forget the endless ridiculousness that comes with packing all your crap up, moving it, then unpacking it. 

To be fair though, moving house is a massive way to demonstrate evolution in your life, moving onwards and upwards, etc. etc. It's the main reason that, after seven years, I've swapped the funky hipness of Newtown for the cool stylings of lush and leafy Epping. Here are some things I learned along the way.

***

We all hoard things. All of us. Even in the smallest way. You can go years at a time and never really notice how many patterned tablecloths or novelty tea spoons you have. Until you move house.

Nine bags of clothes, three rubbish pick ups, four weeks-worth of recycling, eight billion old shoeboxes, and a partridge in a pear tree later, we had cleaned the house out. 

Mum is a million times better at this than me. She's clear, decisive, and ruthless. Sadly, I spend 20 minutes staring forlornly at a dress I haven't worn for five years, pondering the possibility of it ever matching any of my other clothes, let alone actually wearing it. 

Let me give you some advice in advance; if you haven't worn it for more than a season (as in, if you didn't wear it last Winter, you probably won't this Winter), toss it. No amount of wistful looks or attempted pairings will suddenly change that. 

This goes for clothes, shoes, bags, linen, and basically anything else in the fabric department. Bag it up, stuff it in a charity bin, and be done with it. You then get to have the added bonus of feeling smug about your goodwill towards society. Win. 

Small side note; books. Some people can read, appreciate, and release. Some people cling like the pages of every book are the notations of their soul, and every page is a crystallised moment, floating in sea of memories, following the lives of complex characters, weaving in and out of storylines... sorry, where was I? Something about throwing books out I think...

Anyway, guess which one I am... 

***

Packing is stressful because all your things are all your things. These things, no matter how much society tells us they are only things and not lives or people, are still *your things*, and therefore special because you worked long and hard for them. 

So when you have to pack them up in boxes and zip them into bags, where you can't see them or feel them or use them, it's hard and a bit sad. 

And also really, really confusing. 

Where the hell is my hairbrush? Have we packed the toaster? How is it that I can find two pairs of animal slippers, but not one pair of shoes appropriate for work? FFS, where is my bag with my security pass and my keys and my good lipgloss...dammit...

Anyway. You will lose stuff, you will find stuff (pfft, no, of course not straight away, who are you kidding?), you will buy stuff you already have. Which means you have two options. 

If, like yours truly, you have low-level, high-functioning, constant anxiety about pretty much everything, try not to worry too much; your OCD will be able to pinpoint pretty much any item you can think of, at any one time. You may not be able to get to it, but you know where it is. Try to make peace with that.

On the other hand, you could develop a system the Federal Police would proud of, that basically involves a forensic-grade approach to packing; with layers and labels, packing then stacking, and the option of unpacking then repacking a box if needed. This option requires a will of iron, spreadsheets, and the patience of a saint. 

To be clear; neither is pleasant and neither will work 100% of the time. Soz. 

***

Movers, much like real estate agents, are vague, dodgy, and require regular instruction and monitoring. They're like the hamstring injury you got in high school; simple enough to take care of most of the time, but a right pain in the ass when they flare up. 

Ours showed up early. At any other time, in almost any other situation, this wouldn't be so annoying. Turn up early for a meeting? Hurrah, time for a coffee! Guests turn up early for a dinner party? No worries, have some wine, hold my kid, I'll be in the kitchen. And let's not mention how great an early train or bus would be.

However, the complete opposite is true when movers turn up early; you haven't disassembled the beds, emptied the fridge, or got out of your pyjamas yet. Just because you've been up since 4am chewing your fingernails and wishing it was all over already, does not mean you are ready for people to just rock up. 

I'd also mention how it feels when they turn up late, but I'm breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. Moving on.

***

When someone offers to help move house, say yes. Even if you think they may have nothing to do, say yes. Nothing is worse than you and your loved ones (the ones who live with you), sitting there in mutual horror watching the movers try to manoeuvre your grandmothers' antique sideboard with all the delicacy of a drunk sloth, and wondering which one of you will break into tears first.  

Relatives, friends, random work acquaintances - all these people can buy coffee, smile reassuringly, and make pointed comments ('do you think we might try it the other way?') without making it sound like a threat. Say yes; other people create a squishy boundary between you and the seven hours of hell you have ahead of you. 

***

Book in advance. Book. In. Advance. BOOK IN ADVANCE. WEEELL in advance. Packing gear, movers, cleaners, internet, phones, cable, leave days off work (you will need them, trust me), friends and helpers, anything you can book early, do it. 

I had a friend once who did a move within a fortnight. We're no longer friends, not because of this, but definitely as a contributing factor. 

She bought boxes on the Sunday and worked a 60 hour week. She then packed her kitchen first (*shudder*), her precious items last (jewellery, keepsakes, etc.), and then worked another long week. On the Friday before the Saturday of her move, she did the rest of her packing. 

If it seems like I'm being harsh, let me explain further; she had a 2 bedroom, fully furnished apartment, with enough stuff to compete with even my maximist sensibilities. 

On the day of the move, her best friend and I were there to help. Not her brother (she didn't want him to see her stuff. I know, weird), not her parents (both fit and able to lift), not her boyfriend (she thought he might be busy. I'm sorry, what?). Nope, just us. To say we were surprised would be an understatement. 

The movers were ok, if a little dopey, but that was to be expected. The day was clear which was good, and we were only going a few suburbs over, so it's not like this was going to take all day. 

Yea. About that. 

Somehow, between us arriving with coffee, planning the route to the new place, and getting halfway through packing the van, the wheels started to come off the bus, as it were. 

Said ex-friend had her first - of several - meltdowns for the day, and it just went downhill from there. I can't quite recall the entire day, but the gist centred around four boxes going missing, the power not being on at the new place (I didn't even think that was a thing), a missing boyfriend (I think we found out later he went skiing. Hmmm, smart man), a dented fender in a brand new car, and some suspicious circumstances surrounding some keys. 

PLAN. IN. ADVANCE. Things will go wrong, that's a given, but nowhere near as many as if you treat moving house like a military operation to a foreign country. 

***

Pick two sets of hardy clothes, a sturdy backpack, and scope the local takeaway for healthy options.  Treat moving house like you're auditioning for Survivor. 

No clean clothes. No fresh veggies. No way out, but onto the next 'burb. Survivor: Domestic is coming! Dum dum duuum!

Hair will be greasy, fingernails will be chewed. Socks will be worn not twice, but thrice, and all the things you usually put in a folder, key holder, basket, or hall table? Now in one, feels-like-a-rucksack-fuck-I-hate-camping bag so you don't lose it. 

On the bright side though, this stage only lasts about two to three days, tops. But - repeat after me - think ahead; that one bar of soap and that one store that doesn't lace everything with butter will be like the coloured flags on the end of that 70m flagpole over the cliff-face that is moving house. 

***

Lest I have made this entire endeavour sound like it's without merit, there are some good parts (besides the fab new locale).

Your ability to stay awake through pretty much any other activity will become preternatural; with the heightened anxiety of getting everything done, all other events, no matter how hectic, become almost relaxing by comparison. No major meltdown at work can compare to trying to recall if you packed the HDMI cable in the loungeroom tech box or bedroom tech box. 

Your body will also develop an uncanny ability to process caffeine and sugar. Seeing as your heart spends half the day pumping its way through stupid phone calls with tradies, service providers, and real estate agents, it never really slows down.

So, basically anything below jackrabbit-on-crack doesn't really register - hence your sudden ability to down four cups of coffee instead of one, and eat cake six times a week. Nice, right?

But a small word of warning; when you start to come down off the runaway rollercoaster of activity, the crash is hard, and you won't know it until you've tried to drink your new routine fourth latte before midday, and all of a sudden you have a raging headache like a hangover from your twenties.

The other thing moving house does is demonstrate your unbelievable strength of will and endurance. Even when you think you can't take any more stress, any more sleepless nights, any more silly, unsatisfactory phone calls - you can and you do. It brings out the best and worst in people, and you will sit there, for weeks even, afterwards, slightly stunned by your own fortitude. Well done you!

***

To anyone who is about to move house, I say this; take a big deep breath, strap yourself in, and just roll with it as much as you can. 

There are no real enjoyable parts until the end. There are no funny moments you will recall with fondness. It's hectic and brutal and you'll wish you had thrown even more money at it than you got swindled out of in the first place (movers, service providers, don't get me started again). 

But there is this; you are a badass at everything else you do, and this will be no different. 

Oh, and mentally mark a bottle of rum for consumption the minute the last thing is done. 

~*LTM*~