There comes a point in life when you’re just too old to pack up boxes and lure friends with free pizza and beer to help haul them on and off a moving truck. I’m there. At the same time, I’m also cheap. Luckily in the Foreign Service, because you’re moving for your job, your job arranges and pays for movers to do this for you. Let me tell you, I had every intention of making sure the U.S. taxpayers got their money’s worth.
Most Foreign Service folks I know spend a lot of time sorting, labeling, and otherwise getting ready for what we call “pack outs,” but I didn’t intend to. I had visions of doing absolutely nothing to prepare and just sitting back sipping a lemonade as I watched the movers work their magic.
I had my reasons.
Reason #1: I’ve never been an obsessively organized type. My theory is that it will all get where it’s going eventually and if the kitchenwares happen to get mixed up with bathroom supplies, well, life will go on.
Reason #2: It’s not like I’m moving to, say, Benin. I’m moving back to America for goodness sake. If something I meant to ship by air accidentally ends up shipped by boat, and I won’t get it as quickly as I would have liked, well, there’s always Target.
Reason #3: I’m at post alone with a toddler, and I’m seven months pregnant. Extra and unnecessary work? No thanks.
Days passed and my pack out date approached, and I continued to sit back and do nothing. But then, the weekend before the scheduled pack out, I started to get a little antsy.
There was so much stuff we could and should get rid of. Wasn’t it better to do that here where people would really want and benefit from our discarded goods as opposed to DC where it would probably end up trashed?
The air shipment should beat me to DC whereas the boat shipment as might take months to arrive. By that time I would have a newborn and probably no energy to make our new house feel truly like our home, which was one of the main reasons we decided to buy rather than rent in the first place. Wouldn’t it be well worth my time to organize in such a way that our favorite stuff got there before the baby?
If you haven’t seen a toddler throw a tantrum, I assure you it’s not pretty. If a little pre-planning would allow Flynn’s favorite toys to come more quickly, and possibly avoid a tantrum or several surrounding the absence of his moto giraffe or his blocks or his slide, wasn’t that maybe worth it?
Being pregnant I have limited wardrobe options. Mostly maternity clothes are awful, but I’ve managed to collect a few items that I don’t totally hate. Didn’t it make sense to ensure I had them with me for my last few months of pregnancy?
You see where this is going.
Even my unorganized self was beginning to see the value of some pre-pack out organization. And so that’s how I spent my Memorial Day weekend: throwing out, giving away, sorting. Moving all the items I wanted as my air shipment into one room together so they couldn’t get mixed up with the boat shipment. Pre-packing my suitcases to make sure everything I planned to carry with me on the plane would fit. Hiding those suitcases away so they couldn’t accidentally get thrown into a box bound for the boat.
In other words, all those things my Foreign Service friends suggested I do but that I’d initially turned up my nose at.
Much as I would have liked to sit back sipping lemonade once the movers arrived, this wasn’t exactly how things went either. Basically, I had to constantly circle the house keeping an eye on everything, because yes, the movers did try to box up my packed suitcases. No, they didn’t remember to pack the dresser that I pointing out multiple times was mine and not the embassy’s. Yes, they did try to pack up the embassy’s vacuum cleaner. And so forth. It’s not that they did a bad job. Not at all. It’s just that no one knows where all your stuff is and where it’s supposed to be going better than you do.
Anyway, after two full days of packing up and hauling off, it’s all gone. Except for those packed suitcases of course.
This leaving post thing is starting to feel pretty real.