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2014-09-10 11.15.38It has been almost four weeks since we moved into our new apartment. Our shipment of furniture and household goods arrived in Hong Kong on September 7 after a two-month journey from Canada. It cleared customs quickly and was delivered to our new place on September 10.

Everything arrived in amazingly good condition. Unwrapping things here, I could see how expertly our movers in Canada, Brytor International, had handled everything. Too bad the movers here dropped a few items. There is an insurance claim in our immediate future.

I was so discouraged as the movers brought box after box into the apartment. There were 137 tagged items plus the piano. This stuff will never fit, I thought. The movers set to work putting the bigger furniture into place and reassembling where needed. We all spent an inordinate amount of time looking through boxes for the legs for the couches, which were eventually found in a box of kitchen stuff. But then they started unpacking some of the boxes and that’s when things started to feel out of control. There was no plan, just: unpack the boxes. Regrettably, some of the first up were knick-knacks and ornaments – the last things I wanted to deal with at that stage. And bedding … I really wished that guy wasn’t taking duvets out of boxes because I had no place to put them yet. As 4:00 approached (they were scheduled to be here until 4:30), I asked them to focus on unwrapping the kitchen stuff, which they did before leaving.

2014-09-10 11.16.15Our new place looked like it was under siege. The difficult exercise I had gone through of down-sizing our possessions and organizing the move-out in Canada was still pretty raw for me and I was overwhelmed facing it all again. I knew the furniture would fit in this particular apartment but it was all the other schmoo – the pots and pans, kitchen gadgets, pictures, clothes, etc. that I thought would never fit.

It was a tough first few days but it all worked out in the end. Yes, I got rid of more things and donated six boxes to the Salvation Army, but I managed to find spaces for everything else. We invested in some good shelving to supplement what was here, creatively re-visioned where certain pieces would work, and my serving platters are now in my office, but that’s OK.

I estimate that I got rid of about 60% of our possessions in the course of down-sizing our home and yard in Canada. What’s left just fits into this 1,100-ish sq ft apartment with virtually no storage space. I am so grateful that I was totally unsentimental about purging. In fact, I can only remember a few things that I parted with. I think I deserve a big hand for a tough job really well done.

It looked so lonely sitting in the entrance area. I couldn't bring myself to take pictures during the uncrating.

It looked so lonely sitting in the entrance area. I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures during the uncrating.

The piano arrived in good shape except for some scraping on the wood in one section. We were amazed at what good tune it was in; the A was really close to pitch, and the whole keyboard was relatively in tune. It was nerve-wracking watching these movers uncrate it and move it into place, but they succeeded.

Lessons learned:

  • For a move-out, try to stagger the packers’ services so that you can work with them. I suppose it would come at a price, but I would try to schedule one or two at a time and spend more time on labelling and getting a good sense of what I would have to deal with at the other end.
  • The same is true for the move-in. Schedule the unpacking over a few days. It takes time to place things, and with four people unwrapping things, I couldn’t possibly keep up. I ended up asking the movers to send a team back a few days later to unpack the china and the remaining boxes of kitchen stuff. There is no way you can put everything into place immediately. It needs to happen in stages.
  • Make sure things are clearly labelled as they are wrapped and packed at the originating point. Cryptic markings like “2 pictures” just isn’t helpful.
  • Make sure there is a plan for the movers to follow during the unpacking. It is unlikely that your mover will do this kind of strategizing for you, so take the time to figure it out in advance. Prioritize boxes as they are brought into your new home – what will you need first in the new place and what can wait until later to be unpacked.
  • If, when down-sizing your possessions, you have the slightest doubt about bringing a certain item, heed that inner voice and leave the item behind. When you think you have given away and down-sized enough, take it another 15%.
  • Really pay attention to the insurance requirements at the receiving end. Take the time to read the fine print when you are signing off. Did the goods arrive in the same condition in which they left? Be sure about that. Don’t be rushed into anything.

Having had such a good experience in a serviced apartment here in Hong Kong, I sometimes think that maybe we should have left everything behind in Canada rather than bringing it here. There is a lot to consider in that: to store or not to store, how firm is the duration of your stay in the new city, costs and losses, but I will look at that option way more seriously if I find myself in a similar situation again.

More to come on our new neighbourhood.

I'm so glad Paul didn't ask his boss over for dinner.

I’m so glad Paul didn’t ask his boss over for dinner.