Saturday, October 19, 2013

Packing

Compared to our last move (three blocks down the hill), this move was a monster. It took months to prepare for, weeks to pack and technically we're not even finished since our stuff is still in transit! Right now my favorite pots, pans, and other belongings are on a cargo ship somewhere in the Atlantic - and hopefully not at the bottom of the Atlantic.

Before even taping together the first cardboard moving box, we needed to figure out how much of our stuff we wanted to take. This would determine what kind of moving services we needed. Some expats get rid of just about everything they own (or put it in a storage unit in the US) and bring only what they can fit into a few suitcases on the airplane. Others whose move is generally paid for by their employer will pack their entire home along with a car in a full metal shipping container. Since we are picking up the bill, we settled for something in the middle. We decided to leave behind the majority of our furniture, some of our decor, and any thing we hadn't used recently.
Cargo ship bound for the Port of Oakland... and just might head back out to sea with our stuff.

We chose to move through Moving Star, who does domestic and international moving. For customers with smaller sized moves, they offer shared metal shipping containers. Our belongs are stored in a separate wood crate and/or palette within the metal container. We decided to save some money and pack everything ourselves. We were requested by the moving company to leave all of our boxes open until our moving date, where someone will be inventorying what's in each box.
Let's see how well they do.

Packing our apartment was time consuming and mentally exhausting. We questioned each item: would it survive the voyage, would it be cheaper to replace or ship, would we easily be able to convert the power, would we need it in the next two or three months. Overall we spent three weeks packing, starting with just the evening and eventually turning into all day extravaganzas of bubble wrap.
Inventorying every item that's moving with us to Europe.
It's feeling less and less like home.
Almost done!

We were able to find a new home for many of the items that stayed behind. Furniture went to friends and family, housewares went to families transitioning out of homeless shelters, craft supplies items went to a donation based crafting store, office supplies went to local schools and some items went to Goodwill. It took a bit of extra time and effort to sort out where our used items could go but it was worth the effort to help out our community and loved ones. In the end, mainly pillows and a couple other items went in the trash. This website really helped keep lots out of the landfill.
Donated books to an organization that resells them as a fundraiser for the San Francisco public library.
On moving day, three men showed up right on time with a moving truck and our empty 200 cubic foot wood crate inside. One person took a rough inventory of what's inside each box and immediately after the two other men taped up each box and loaded them into the wood crate. A few boxes didn't fit within the crate and were wrapped on a separate palette.
Q considering taking the long way to Europe.
Looks like there wasn't room for Q and some of our belongings in the crate.
Now that the movers took the boxes out, it really doesn't feel like home.
Thank goodness we still had our sleeping bags and a bottle of champagne.

In the end, we pared  our belongs down to a 320 cubic foot shipment, three suitcases (technically one was a cardboard box), two carry-on bags and a bike.

Our belongings will be taking the long way to their new home. Departing the Port of Oakland California, down to Central America, through the Panama Canal, up to England where it will go through customs and then onward to Zurich, Switzerland. The whole trip should take roughly eight weeks. I'm nervous to see how our stuff weathers the journey. We'll have to wait until mid October to find out how well we packed.
Eight weeks at sea.