Would you like to know WHY we moved into a new apartment in Melbourne 3 weeks ago and I am still unpacking? Here’s what I have been up against!
In addition to the delays in getting the internet turned on, we’ve discovered that just keeping this 1950 era house warm is a bit of a challenge. There is no central heating — not all that uncommon in Australia — and the entire first week was spent bundled in a lot of layers since the one and only heating unit had died. Many calls and emails to the agent later, we now have the same sort of flat panel Euro-style convection radiator in the main living area that we had in the last house that we built. Now if we just had double glazed windows and insulation!
We’re living in a very urban environment and it’s a lifestyle choice that we have consciously made. But it also means that we don’t have the luxury of just being able to nip out to the back garden to retrieve some stored item from the shed and we are having to rethink every single thing that we own.
When the movers arrived 3 weeks ago, I blithely told them to just put all of the boxes into the larger of the two bedrooms since that was going to be my office and studio. I planned to use that room as a ‘staging area’ to unpack. The garage was already full of Mark’s tools, so that was my one and only option. AND remember, we had shipped an entire shipping container over to Australia from France. Merde!
After the movers departed, I walked to the room that I had assigned as the ‘staging area’ and realised that I couldn’t even get into it. The boxes were stacked from wall to wall, they were stacked taller than I am in most places, and there was absolutely no place to begin. Here’s a picture that I took as they began filling it past any point of management! By the time they were done, I couldn’t even SEE those windows on the other side of the room.
I’ve managed to sort out the kitchen to the 80% organised stage and all of the furniture is in the livingroom and the master bedroom. We’ve even hung some pictures on the wall and I’ve filled the bookshelves. But I have also thinned down, down, down the amount of books we have and the local charities are getting a huge donation. Thank heavens we brought every single one of the Billy bookcases from France that we had purchased at IKEA in Toulouse. Who knew they’d come in so handy immediately to just wrangle the stacks of books into a manageable amount. You’ll note that even the smaller bookshelves were put to use as a kitchen overflow area to handle expresso cups from Rome, huge pottery bowls from Cley in Norfolk, UK, pictures of my two adult children, cookbooks, and our Wallace and Grommit clock looks down on us each day.
Part of our issue with sorting things out was that we hadn’t even SEEN some of the things that were in those boxes for many, MANY years. Before they were shipped to France, they were stored in a storage unit in Ballarat, prior to that they were sprinkled between the house and several buildings out on our rural property in Central Victoria Australia, and before that they were packed up in Melbourne as we prepared to move to the country and build a house. I had to do a bit of mental backtracking, but I discovered that some of those items had been completely unseen for between eight to nine years. If all of those things were not incorporated into our day to day lives, they were invisible. Frankly, we’d BOTH forgotten how much we actually owned and in spite of all of those pre-Europe garage sales and donations, we now find that we still have a LOT of stuff.
Here is my current thinking on the subject…
Do I still place elaborate book plates inside my books nowadays where I write my name??? No.
Do I still place wax seals on the envelope flap when I write a letter??? No.
Do I still need multiple sets of flatware or silver trays for ‘entertaining’ when I don’t live like that any more and am more likely to entertain in a restaurant than our own residence??? No.
Do I still need to keep dozens and dozens of books on the topics of religious studies and spiritual studies and contemporary social issues since I purchased them 20 years ago when I was doing my graduate work, they are no longer current, and they use up a lot of bookshelves??? No.
I’m exhausted by the need to open every single box and touch every single item. But it’s also liberating even when it is fatiguing. I am paring down, down, down, but there are some sentimental items from my late mother that will go back into storage. And since I’ve been a photographer and journalist on and off for all of my adult life, can you even BEGIN to imagine how many folders and binders full of slides and negatives I have from the pre-digital days! Then there are the decades of hand-written journals. All of that needs to be checked and then archived.
Being truly honest, I had a mini-meltdown today when I couldn’t even turn around in that office in spite of unpacking for all of these weeks. I was awash in empty boxes, wrapping paper, and heavy duty shipping bubble wrap. I needed all of that to disappear and I need the shelves to go UP in that room and the cabinets to be brought upstairs so that the stacks and stacks of STUFF on every single surface can be placed in some kind of organisational flow. Aarrgghh!
Here’s where I am this morning. And LOOK! There IS a large and lovely window back there!
It’s the ‘how do you eat an elephant’ theory I suppose. One small nibble at a time.
I haven’t disappeared (although it feels like it some days!), but I am very, very preoccupied with purging and nesting right now. (sigh!) I have so many stories and photos and adventures to share — but I’ll get to them when I get to them. I know you’ll understand that after all these years of semi-gypsy-and-never-really-settled lifestyle, this is a VERY necessary stage of sorting out.
Bye for now!
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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