Here we go again. To relocate is no easy thing, especially when you move internationally. Over the years I’ve done that several times; however, I only had a small luggage with me. I learnt to bring with me only the essentials, and buy locally for my daily needs. If you think of it, there are  little things you won’t find locally, and most of them will just fit in a backpack. What you can’t bring with you on a flight, you can always ship by mail.

Nevertheless, when the moving involves an entire household, two adult humans and two cats, things are a bit more complex, even if you only move within the same town. Luckily enough, Jeff and I are strong of the experience from the last two movings, plus an invaluable global resource: banana boxes.

Shrinking expertise

buried-in-boxesOver the last two years, Jeff has first moved in with me in Dublin 7 and, later, we have moved together twice – to Dublin 8 and to Bray. Since the beginning, we have gone through a process of shrinking of our belongings from the excess to the bare minimum. I didn’t have much when I landed in Dublin. However, since the very beginning, I started to make my apartment nicer and bought all sort of furniture and decorations to make it ‘mine’. When Jeff moved in, it was clear that my apartment wasn’t big enough for the two of us, not because it was a tiny apartment, rather because Jeff came with a 6-year legacy in terms of ‘things’. We were soon overcome by boxes. Many things he had, I also had newer, so we started junking doublets and selecting what we wanted to keep.

It took us quite a lot. Eventually, we decided to find a larger apartment. I left behind a new table and chair, a brand new sofa and bathroom cabinets.

move_cartoon-1We did love our new place in Islandbridge. It was good sized, in a nice area, private but with big windows and tons of light coming in. It needed repainting and reflooring, but we counted to do so over time, with the landlord’s permission. I could see it shining with just a few touches and some extra comfy furniture. We were extremely unlucky. We immediately had a rough start in dealing with a narrow-minded agent to get permission to repaint the walls (not to mention to replace the carpet with hard-wood flooring). When she made it clear that we didn’t even have permission to modify the position of the desk in the living room, we got the message and we dropped both communication and our enthusiasm for the place. We were stuck in an apartment that couldn’t be improved or even made decent to live in. The whole thing was quite bothering, depressing and disheartening. When the landlord eventually defaulted and fled to Malaysia, at least, we had the solace of not putting too much money into it. Over this 12-month long odyssey, we managed quite well to throw away all the old things we had.

10-sleek-space-savers-that-are-perfect-for-a-tiny-apartmentThe final cut on our things came with the moving to our current apartment in Bray. We were passing from a good-sized two-room apartment down to a tiny one-room apartment. We left behind a brand new double fridge, new King size mattress, new filing cabinet, large cooking pans and utensils of any kind, tech gadgets, blankets, pillows, sets of extra duvets, treadmill and so many other things that couldn’t possibly fit in our new place. Even so, after a drastic reduction of our things, we have had boxes in the bed room. There are things we can’t get rid of – for me, that would be books.

We are now at a point of bare minimum possessions, with most of the extra boxes gone, and yet, no room for any more clothes or shoes (luckily enough, we are not fashionistas). Sometimes that’s just frustrating… and an incredible exercise of co-hexistance. If we have made it here, we’ll have no issues at all in the future.

Now that we are about to move again – and leaving the country, this entire shrinking process just comes handy: less to be moved, very little to be left behind.

Why banana boxes?

When Jeff first moved in with me, I found myself surrounded by dozens of banana boxes. I soon understood what their advantages were:

  1. banana-boxThey are easily available, and for free: any supermarket will have some of them every day for disposal, so they’ll happily hand them out upon request;
  2. They all have the same shape and size, which comes handy for storage and handling.
  3. They are extremely strong and you don’t need to seal them, as the cover will perfectly slip onto the base and won’t slip off.

For two years, banana boxes have helped us moving our stuff around and rationalize our operations. Today it’s time to start it all over again: later in the day, we will head to Tesco and load up on banana boxes. Luckily, this time we won’t need too many of them.

It’s time to start packing!

Categories: Life in Ireland

2 thoughts on “The art of packing

  • Sam Sussman

    Yes I know how you feel.
    We are moving into a 1200 sq ft condo from a 2600 sq ft house and 25 years of things.
    I am finding it heart aching.

  • Downsizing is always a painful process… nonetheless, I think I’m jealous! 🙂

    Houses and apartments in North America are so much larger and spacious than in Europe!
    That’s one thing I truly miss… a comfortable place to live.

    Where we are now, it’s a bare 430 sqft apartment (the smallest place I have ever lived). Earlier we were in a ±700 sqft apartment… More than that, most of the apartments are furnished with such crap furniture and household appliances that’s really a challenge to find some decent place to live. Typically, there are ‘modern’ apartments for people working in the multinationals, which are a higher standard than the rest of the apartments, but they all have the same furniture. Same color, same handles, some kitchens, same bed heads… That’s truly depressing, especially if you don’t like the ‘looks tidy but it’s uncomfortable’ style… wherever you go it’s the same story. And you have little chances to change things or to bring in your own furniture.

    Landlords don’t want you to touch anything (renting that type of apartment is more or less like living in a hotel room) and there are periodic inspections – believe it or not, you never know who has the keys to your place. Many agencies tend to send in their handymen when you’re out to work. No insurance company will cover you in case something gets stolen or broken, but that’s not the agency’s concern: they will tell you that they only sends in trusted people, but won’t take responsibility for any damage they will cause. Now, the thought that some total stranger can enter your place when you’re not in is something that truly challenged my nerves.

    In general, they make it really hard for you to feel home… You feel more like a long-term guest, with little protection from the system.

    Agents are typically rough, flippant and unpleasant… You go to see a place together with other 20 people, and if you are 5 minutes late, it’s none of their problem. You missed the chance, and that’s your tough luck. So many times we have waited for an agent to show up half an hour late, just for a 5 minute visit. The entire process of finding an apartment is miserable and frustrating. There are so many people begging for a place – any place, in any condition – that as they see you asking for a stove that doesn’t come out of the 1920s, it’s seen as pickiness and they will choose someone else. The bottom line is that they don’t want any ‘problems’. They only want your money. 😉

    In a small town like Dublin, all of this doesn’t make any sense other than greed and speculation. They won’t follow the law to register the lease or to give you a rent book as per the law, but when you have to leave or you have a small request, they will all want you ‘to follow the law’ and you must comply meticulously.
    This lack of respect truly bothers me… They treat foreigners like idiots and even if their game is obvious, you never are in a position of strength.

    No one ever starts an argument with the landlord, because no one will rent you place without a good reference. The system is totally broken.

    I’ve never seen such shortsightedness. In the end, they choose to set their standard low and what they’ll have is low standard immigrants – and a highly transient society. No one decent person can go through this circus every single year or even less. They make you want to run away. Unless you buy your own place… but no, thanks.

    Hopefully in Belfast things will be a bit better. I’m really longing for more space and to shake off the feelings of being unwanted.

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