Shifting boxes again – but differently

We did it. The move has happened, nothing seems to be broken (at least I have not found out yet) and we have been living in our new house for a week now. It is great – although I am still constantly searching for things that are hiding in the boxes somewhere, and spend a lot of time running up and down the stairs, fetching or disposing of things that are on the wrong floor.

Slowly we are finding our routine. Slowly the boxes are being unpacked. Some of the are easy: stacks of t-shirts that just wander onto the shelf in the wardrobe where they belong. Some are a bit more tricky: pots and mugs and kitchen stuff that needs to be organised in the new kitchen. But these are things you need, so you find a place for them. And then there is the third type: the “oh no”-boxes. “Oh no” as in “oh no why on earth did I pack this, where am I going to put it, I do not really want it anyway.” Some of the “oh nos” I finally throw away (should have done that in the old house already). Some eventually find a place, some wander down to the cellar and might be thrown away later after all, when shelf space gets more scarce and the “oh nos” have to fight for their right of being against the rightful cellar dwellers like the winter coats, the vacuum cleaner and the tool box. Actually some of the tools will wander further into the deep space of the garage, as soon as we have got rid of the growing stack of now empty, folded boxes that waits for the removal people to pick them up again.

These empty, folded boxes are actually pretty annoying, at least at the ones that are not (yet) in the garage but claiming a lot of free (wall) space in the house now. They are wobbly, they tend to fall over and are constantly trying to un-fold themselves again.

And then there is this one box I have been looking for: the box containing the last bits I packed from our bedroom – the bedside lamp, the alarm clock, these things. I especially need my alarm clock back! At the moment I am using my mobile phone, which inevitably results in me forgetting it next to the bed in the morning. I am so used for it living inside my bag, so I never check if it is really there when leaving the house.

Need to find that box tomorrow. It is probably hiding somewhere behind two boxes full of “oh nos”. But it cannot hide forever, because I am brave and will also tackle the “oh nos”. But not now. Now I will have another cup of tea and then try to go to bed a bit earlier than usually.

Good night.

12 years ago – and now

12 years ago we were on the point of moving to the Netherlands.

12 years ago the place that feels old now was brand new for us.

12 years ago I was making plans where to put our furniture (the few things we had) and the books (we already had a lot of those).

12 years ago I did not speak any Dutch.

12 years ago we had no kids.

12 years ago we were not even married yet.

Now I am realising that this 12 years are the longest I have ever spent in one place.

The boys only know this home, younger one was even born in this house (different story). They have learned to walk here, never even blinking at those steep Dutch stairs. They never tripped over the one step between living room and kitchen, because they did not know a world were there wasn’t one.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not regretting our decision to move. On the contrary, this place has enough annoying features to make me not feel sad to leave it. And I am totally excited about our new place.

But there was a time when this place was heaven – it was big, spacious (without kids, coming from a small apartment), the balcony was huge compared to the one we used to have before. The excitement of living near the sea (we still will be), of exploring a new town (still enough places to explore if I choose so). Coming to this place was adventure (new country, new language, new everything).

Now, on the point of moving, between all the excitement of having the new house, the garden, everything, I want to stand still by the happy memories of this place. Saying a sort of thank you.

Thank you for the good times.



And now let the next adventure begin.

New home, we are coming!

Seeing old things in a new way

Isn’t it funny how we look differently at things that are about to change? Things that have annoyed me for the last couple of years now only earn a shrug. When the door handle in older one’s room fell off again the other day, I just slammed it back on and told it “I won’t miss you when we move.” Same goes for the dripping tap in the kitchen. (It does not drip all the time, or we would have fixed it long ago. I can go weeks or months behaving properly, but from time to time it seems to need some leaky days.)

I am sure the new house will have its little snags too (after all, nothing is perfect), and we will discover them bit by bit, but for now everything is shining with promise. Promise of a new beginning.

I also look at our stuff differently. “Where will I put you in the new house?” is a question many items have to answer. And if the answer is not satisfactory, their chance to make it into one of the moving boxes are not so good.

It feels good to let go of things I have not used/worn for years now. Things that are just sitting there in the cupboard or hanging in the wardrobe. They did not disturb anyone, so no one disturbs them. I tended to not even see them anymore, they just blended in with the background. But now everything is taken out and down, being evaluated, there are not fixed places anymore. And now guaranteed space in the new house.

There are of course things that do not need to go through my inquisition. Some things are sacrosanct, like the boys dearest toys, the stuffed animals in their beds (although the ones hiding in some boxes have been getting some pretty inquiring looks from me lately).

It feels good to have fresh eyes, be it only for some time. I know the alertness will wear off. As soon as the last box in the new house has been emptied, the last pieces have found their place, the routine will slowly come creeping back. When I will begin to know the place, will stop having to look for things, when I will open the right drawer in the kitchen automatically, my gaze will start to slide over things again, will stop noticing things. It is a feeling of increased ease, probably of really feeling at home, but it also takes away the sharpness, the awareness.

So maybe it is a good thing that it will probably take us ages to unpack those boxes. Maybe it will keep the gaze fresh a little longer. To keep on questioning the daily routine, to keep on really looking at my life.

House of Boxes

I am living in a house full of boxes. Empty boxes. Full boxes. Made of cardboard. Empty boxes, stacked flat against the wall, waiting to be filled. Full boxes stacked wherever there is a bit of free space, waiting to be moved to the new house and there eventually being emptied again.

So the contents of our house is being moved through these  boxes. At least the lucky part. The not so lucky items get sorted out. Some go directly to the bin. Some wait to get transported to the recycling facility (broken electronics, anything with batteries in…) . Some get distributed to friends and relations (clothes/toys the boys have grown out of…). At some I look and say softly: “What will it be? Are you in or out?” Sometimes the item in question manages to look so endearing and cute that I decide (against better knowledge), to transfer it to the moving boxes instead of the bin. With a bit of a bad conscience (I do want to de-clutter, I really do), with the faint excuse that I can still decide what to do with it when unpacking at the new house. Knowing very well that the chance of throwing it away there are slight. (The item knows that too. I can hear it sniggering inside the box.)

In the meantime look around for more space to put some boxes. (I know this goes without saying, but they really do need much more space when filled than flat!) You can stack only so many of them on top of each other until the whole construction gets wobbly. Three are absolutely fine. I give it a try and decide four works well too. But I am a bit hesitant to put a fifth on top, if only because it is hard to heave them up. Some of them are quite heavy (Yes, I know you are not supposed to fill them to the rim with books. I hardly ever do. But even the soft things I put on top of the books seem to have some sort of weight, strangely. It kind of adds up.)

So instead of shelves filled with books and lots of other stuff, I now have empty bookshelves with rows of cardboard boxes in front of them. And two boxes next to the bathroom door. No, make it three, I put another one up there this afternoon. And three in older boy’s room. Luckily he does not complain (so far). I can’t put any boxes in little one’s room, because there is no space. (That’s one reason why little one is so keen on this move: he will get a much bigger room!) I could put some boxes next to the wardrobe. Just need to figure out where to put the sports bags that occupy the space now. Hmm. They are not so heavy. I could put them on top of the boxes, couldn’t I? I wonder how many boxes I can stack there – the wardrobe should give them extra stability. Will see…

(And by the way: What is the answer to any question asked in this house starting with “Where is…?” – Correct. The answers is: “Probably in one of the boxes.” If I only knew in which one. But I am sure I will remember in time for unpacking. Almost sure. Hope the funny little stickers I put on the boxes won’t fall off.)


The Adventure Continues…

We really did it. Last Friday we signed a lot of papers – and we got ourselves a house! (Oh well, a lot of it actually belongs to the bank, but that is not the way it fells anyway…)

Our house. I can really say it now. I can say “the rain will be good for our garden”…. A house where we can change things if we want, a garden for me to dig around. – And it is so pretty! The previous owners left it in a great state, so we do not need to start from “nothing”.

Before Friday, there was a manic frenzy of paperwork and things to be considered, of “will this work out” and “are we going to make this appointment” (with husband suddenly having to travel a lot). Now, there is even more to be organised: getting some minor repairs done to the new house, starting the moving business – there are so many people that have to be notified, companies that have to be contacted, contracts that have to be moved with us (think gas, electricity, water, telephone… the lot). And so much to be sorted, thrown away (old paper!) or given away (some of the boys’ old toys).

On top of it all, the in-laws will be coming to visit over Easter – in the old apartment, in its strange in-between stage of half filled boxes and half empty shelves. This is definitely not going to be an elegant Easter celebration. 😉 Plus we had planned to go on holiday after Easter. Planned and booked everything before we even had the slightest inclination of buying a house. So, instead of finishing our boxes, we will be travelling south.  Completely crazy, on the one hand, but maybe also a nice break. But needs some organising too.

So, busy, busy, still very busy – but with a nice picture of our garden in my head, ideas forming of how the house will look like with us (and our stuff) in it.

My plans for a quiet, relaxed and very creative spring have turned upside down.

Not quiet at all.

And, to be honest, not so very creative, if you look at the writing side. Don’t even find much time for my blog. Having finally gotten myself one of the (hopefully) last cold bugs hopping around these days does not really help (sneeze, cough).

But the whole house business is creative in its own way, if you look at it from another angle. So I choose to fill the small notebook I am carrying around with me with measurements and lists of things to do and people to contact, instead of story snippets and dialogues. But story time will come again. Maybe the notebook will then be filled with house things.

Doesn’t matter. I got another one for Christmas (seems like a long time ago). Still empty, waiting to be filled.

Choosing a Challenge

There haven’t been a lot of big choices around lately. Just the usual day-to-day stuff. But suddenly one sneaked up and sort of presented itself rather unexpectedly.

We have been living in the same apartment for quite some time now. It has slowly changed from being very spacious (when it was just the two of us) to getting more and more crowed (with the arrival of the boys, followed by their clothes and toys and books and more toys and even more books). So thoughts of moving to a bigger place have been in the air for a while, but we never really did something with them, except for the occasional glance at our local real estate website. We like our neighbourhood so we would like to stay close, we would love to have a bit of a garden for a change, and we would prefer our future home not being one of the really old houses (which were built around the 1920s).  Since our neighbourhood basically consists of these old houses, what we wanted was a bit tricky. The old houses are beautiful, but most of the time you have to renovate them for a fortune, and you never know what is lurking beneath the floorboards or inside the walls.

So we concentrated on optimising our current apartment, chucking out some stuff here, putting up new shelves there, rearrange some corners, build a higher bed for little one so he can have a little cave for this toys underneath it (no worries, it is not that high and it has security railings on the side 😉 ). Apart from the issue of the old building being quite draughty and the bathroom being the coldest room in the house (in winter), we were quite happy.

But for no special reason I had another look at that real estate website. And saw the house. Not huge, but bigger than our place now. With a garden. With a cellar (storage capacity!). Built 1980. Only a few streets from here. Affordable.

Without really believing it, we scheduled a viewing with the real estate agent (something we have never done before). Afterwards we found out that the house actually belongs to one of husband’s colleagues. So they had a long chat. And it began to feel like this house has been waiting for us.

So, believe it or not, we are in the process of buying a house! It stills feels rather unreal, but it is happening. – Husband is talking to the bank. I start unearthing stuff we can throw away (you won’t believe the amount of paper work that has been sitting in binders for years… totally shreddable!). We both play games of mentally arranging our furniture in the new house. Little one starts getting excited at the thought of having a bigger room. Older one thinks it really cool that his room will have a (small) balcony. They both love the thought of turning the garden into a football field.

It does feel strange. When we were faced with the choice of going for it or not, both husband and I were a bit “ooooh, are we really doing this?”.  After we chose “yes” we still were “do we really want all this” (meaning the financial side, the moving part). We felt  like we were gambling – having a nice place to live in after all. Should we trade our comfy cave where we feel at home, where the boys have been living all their lives (and where little one was born – literally).

But if feels better every hour. It is happening. We choose this. Choose change (although a small one, staying quite close to our old place) over habit. We will be moving house soon.

(I know that for many of you it might sound ridiculous – such a small move, such little change. But for us it also is a commitment – to stay here even longer. We have been “expats” in this country for years now, always with half a thought on the possibility of leaving soon. But we have grown some roots here, without noticing. At the moment, there is no other place that is pulling us towards it. So we will stay. For a while. And – if everything will be going according to plan – in our new house.