Moving experiences

“I’ve moved!” I’ve been telling friends, with a certain amount of pleasure and abandonment–of the carefree kind, not the physical leaving behind sort. They often came back quickly with “How did it go?” “Good luck with that!” “I hate moves!” or a set of not happy-inducing remarks.

I mentioned last week how moving is highly ranked as a cause of stress. I quoted the following:

“It’s one of life’s most stressful experiences, and it’s because it involves having to cope with change,” explains Nicky Lidbetter, chief executive of charity Anxiety UK. “Moving house represents a transition in life, it’s about change and unfamiliarity and for many people that causes stress and anxietyMay 5, 2016 Read How to reduce the stress of moving house – Anxiety UK.

Now, we’ve moved a lot over the past 15 years, from separate homes as singles into marital home; from our new home in the USA to an official residence in Guinea that backed onto the ocean, and back; from USA to another house in Barbados and back; from our house in a cul-de-sac in the USA to a house in a gated complex in Jamaica, and now within Jamaica. I’ve always thought about the moves with mixed feelings, but more tilted towards the positive, in part because each move was its own start to an adventure, and some of the ‘journeys’ are still underway.

We also had the good fortune of not ending up in some home that was terrible. Our first spot in Guinea was an official residence on a main road; not a very prepossessing house and not much lived in by my predecessor, and it lacked any homely touches. It also needed a lot of sprucing up. But, it was next door to one of the president’s wives, so was in a safe neighbourhood. I negotiated to find a new official residence and made an offer the owner of a new housing complex could not refuse and he gave up his villa to move into one of the tower blocks on the site, and voila! We had nice neighbours, in the Chinese Ambassador and the British Ambassador on either side. The former I rarely saw, but the latter (which had two postings) I saw often and we became and are still good friends. Living with lots of security takes some getting used to, though. Two guards 24-hours a day was too much, though, and I begged to half the detail. When we got back to the simple life, it was nice to be in a bucolic suburb near the Capital Crescent Trail, where it was a five-minute walk to the shops or to a patch that went to Georgetown in one direction and downtown Bethesda in the other direction, and was frequented by people taking exercise in all forms. Much of the year we could opt to ride to work, and when I retired it was my walking place of choice.

Capital Crescent Trail

We’ve been lucky because working for international organisations has meant that we get a lot of help. We have movers to help disassemble, pack, load, list, ship, store, unload, recheck lists, unpack, re-assemble, etc. That’s a huge physical and mental burden lessened, though the fact that you have to move is no less anxiety-creating. But, moves are wholesale, so it’s a full 40 foot container somewhere along the way. Each move, we got rid of plenty of stuff, but then acquired new things in new places and then shipped those home, to then go through a weeding out again later. But, our core furniture is much the same as when we first decided to buy a home. It’s nice timeless stuff, with lots of cultural and geography added, such as wooden figures, carpets from the Caucasus counties, pottery, and dirt from all over, plus abundant memories.

Our latest move from a furnished house to one that was unfurnished also had the excitement–yes, you read right–of seeing our own belongings after their spending more than three years in storage. My thoughts turned first to trepidation about what condition things would be in, but hardly anything was damaged or the worse for wear due to being in a container and warehouse all that time. By contrast, my wife was taken with “I forgot we had that!” She of the minimalist lifestyle. 🙂

Fortunately, too, the initiation of the moves hasn’t always been driven by one part of the couple, because all the liaison can be as burdensome as the questions about what to pack what to ship, what to think about keeping in short-term storage, etc. But, it’s good to have seen it from both angles, as ‘leader’ or ‘follower’.

I have also moved myself a few times, and I was telling the moving crew at the weekend how I moved from an upstairs apartment and got a bed out of a window single-handed. I learned how to move heavy furniture by sliding it on cardboard, up and down stairs. It’s amazing what one person can do. You have to be resourceful. But, as we agreed, you don’t want to do too much as you have work to do at the other end, and maybe a long drive in-between.

But, as far as I’m concerned there’s always something funny involved in a move. It may be people or things that cause the ripples in the stomach. This one has been all about Bed-lam! 

It all began when a friend and realtor offered us some air beds for the first few nights. It’s a while since I slept on one of those and I completely forgot how difficult they are to get off, let alone have a decent night sleep. I woke up feeling I was being wrapped in a huge bowl of blancmange. I had nothing on which I could lever myself, so I slithered onto the floor and then tried to pull myself up by a dresser. I had one night on that THING! I then had to go to the north coast early in the morning after that night and was then spoilt by having four nights in a big, real bed. But, I had to come back and spend one more night on the ‘Titanic’ bubble, which had by now lost half its air. Needless to say the night was rocky, or really squishy. Again, in the morning I had to do my impression of a slithering snake. I’M glad no one was with a camera.

So, I was excited when I heard that a delivery of our furniture would come the next day. Though I had planned to be on the north coast again from early Saturday, my wife ‘prevailed’ on me to delay my trip (as she and our daughter had just flown off to Florida for a weekend swim meet–didn’t they know we were moving?), so I committed to stay till midday. See, I care! 🙂 As luck had it, the first item out of the truck was our bed 🙂 At least a real mattress would be there for when I got back.

The movers came with a crew of about eight men, both old and young. Many moving firms seem to have a kind of ‘succession’ planning going on, with older guys (mainly) showing new and younger guys the ropes (literally, in terms of moving the heavy items). This crew was quite funny in a typically Jamaican way. The driver of the container lorry had arrived with his lady, who was a really ‘fluffy diva’, even down to the powder on her neck. I don’t know what he’d promised her, but the two of them were soon on the grass verge as if they had good to country and were on a river bank. Anyway, the guys told me they would be unloading the container and putting the things into a smaller truck to come down the driveway to the house. It sounded like more work to me. But, I was surprised to see it worked well, and of course reduced some of the heavy humping on and up and over. The supervisor was ‘Mr. Big Picture’ and it’s important that someone has that because some of the men are clueless. “Where do you want this box?” the man asked. ‘What’s in it?” I asked. He did not know. I asked him what was its number and we checked the packing list: ‘downstairs office’. OK. We could decide on general location. I gave general ideas, such as make sure that bedroom things are in or close to the rooms concerned. But, I had to point out that stacking boxes four deep by a window meant I could not get to the window to open or close it. Oh! Yes, oh! 🙂

In between all of this heavy lifting, I suddenly saw some men rolling on the floor with heavy wrapping paper and a man rolled up inside it! “It’s his birthday!” one man said. ‘What happened to the flour?’ I asked. They were having too much fun. Well, noon cane and I left. Most of the container had been emptied. The team was going to assemble as much as possible before their day ended at 4. 

I went to do my business and spent the night with friends, in a real bed. After playing in a charity tournament on Sunday, I headed home and got in about 8. What a joy! My bed! I couldn’t really wait, but I showered and unpacked a little and slid into it and under the covers. Bliss! I was soon asleep by about 10. Then…

Kachunk! I felt the bed move and I was leaning over, with my head toward the floor. It did not feel like an earthquake. So, I got up. I went to the bathroom and looked at the bed in the half-light of 2am. I got back into the bed. After what seemed like an hour, I felt it again. Kachunk! Now, my head was closer to the floor. What the…! I got up and looked the bed. The mattress was inside the frame at a steep angle. Had the bed broken? Search me, as they say. I got up and headed downstairs, knowing that I could at least lie on a sofa. What a disaster! I sent my wife a message in the wee hours, so that she could share my joy when she got up in Florida. I watched some tennis–Australian Open had begun.

In the middle of the morning, some of the loading crew came by. We looked at the bed. Unfortunately, slats that support the base mattress were missing. THey were not in any unopened packages, so somehow they had disappeared. Well, that was good news. I just suggested we move the bed frame and put the mattresses on the floor. So, that’s where we are. My wife came back yesterday and was agog at the stuff that was in the house. But, she seemed to like the make shift bed set-up and was sleeping deeply when I got up before dawn. She didn’t look that stressed. I saw that she had emptied a few boxes before going to sleep…and put away the things I needed to take somewhere today. Oh, I wonder where they are, now?

But, she’s off on the road again, and a two-day conference followed by another trip means that we will put off the joint decisions about whether her long dresses really should stay in the closet with my shirts. I know what I think. Now, let’s see what else I can do? Lots of boxes to unload. Not quite sure why my shoes are on shelves that look better suited for clothes. Where is the food? Well, here is some. Odd. It’s with some bed linen. Hmm! Can I find my Nutribullet? Well, here is a large blender cup part. But, where is the motor base? What are all these keys? Is there a map for the light switches? Oh, that sounds like a phone? Where was I when I last had my cell phone?

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)

3 thoughts on “Moving experiences”

  1. Having had two major international moves in as many years, involving the movement of furniture and ‘stuff’ from three different countries, and from which I’m still recovering, this resonates strongly with me…especially the boxes stacked 4 deep right in front of windows and doors. Nearly six months on, I’m still surrounded by boxes and chaos – though at least I made sure that if nothing else, my bed was assembled and in place before anything else…these old bones just can’t manage airbeds or mattresses on floors anymore…good luck in your new home…!


    1. It can be taxing to clear boxes and we’ve gone several moves without touching some, e.g. old work files. I try to make sure the essentials are found and then life can function well. Then I may tackle a box a day or something to whittle down. The real dangers are having storage like a basement where stuff just accumulates or tolerating the stacks. Have a clearing party! 👍🏾😂


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