Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Life in a cardboard box

I moved to London on a cold winters day in early 2002 with my bright shining new Samsonite (wedding gift from aunt) containing the 20 kgs of life that the airline kindly permitted**. Now 20 kgs may seem a deceptively large number but when moving from parents home where every possible utensil and all design of linen is available, it is hard to decide what is essential to steal for the new home being set up. I decided that to make life slightly less complicated I would first pack my clothes and then depending on space/ weight available choose a few utensils.

Having heard all about the legendary London winter I ended up packing nice thick clothes, gloves, beanie hats, a variety of woolen socks and solid shoes. Needless to say my 20kgs filled up really quickly.

And I brought no utensils.

When we began packing up our things last week for the move my initial thought was that we didn’t have too much stuff. We'd been careful about collecting junk and consciously clearing out the unessential. Nothing a few cardboard boxes and suitcases couldn’t hold. I was so wrong.

In our 3.5 years in the rented flat we seem to have collected 20 large files of paper (bills, leaflets, notices, letters etc.) that could better be used as nest materials for some poor birds, numerous pieces of ‘decorative’ items – mirrors, wooden statuettes, assorted candles, paintings and etchings, 5 x 4ft stacks of books, a mile high pile of MAD and National Geographic’s and plenty of other things. When I say ‘we’ I mainly mean me – I have become a bit of a hoarder and till DNA proves otherwise I’m blaming it on my genes.

Most of this stuff is not what I need, just what I want. I am the Accumulator. Seemingly I need to be surrounded by these materialistic things – wood, paper, plastic and ink.

Moving day was an eye-opener. 24 small, fairly flimsy cardboard boxes and 6 medium-big strong cardboard boxes later we were three-fourths packed. A kitchen of stuff lovingly brought bit by bit from the Indian kitchens of my family and procured from supermarkets here, packed with care. Pressure cooker. Idli-maker. Belan and tawa. Woks and pans. Home ground masalas. Matching storage baskets. Cleaning materials. Plates and bowls. Crockery and wooden salad servers. Table mats. Table runners. Hand embroidered napkins and holders. Fondue set. Dals of different shapes and sizes. All the essentials to create the meals for our bellies.

Clothes got dumped into suitcases. The all important footwear took up more space that we thought possible. Knickknacks sorted into piles to take with us, give away or recycle. Packing was done in a wonderment of where all this stuff had been hiding all this time. We even resorted to bin bags at the end of it. Our movers arrived early and within an hour and a half had moved our rented lives into what we hope will be our very own home for the next few years. Up and down in the lift, several trips through the corridor and into assigned rooms. The new flat looked oddly empty even with all the boxes.

Our furniture arrived the next morning. Or rather its parts did. The assembly men efficiently assembled solid pieces in a few short hours. Hey presto, we suddenly own furniture – a bed, sofa’s, chairs, dining apparatus’. Now it looks less bare but not complete. Just a higgledy-piggledy mess of boxes and bin bags.

Now we must disassemble these boxes and find storage space for all our things. A shelf for linen, hangers for clothes, shoe rack for the millions.

Slow and steady. Breathe deep. Don’t let stress headache take over. My entire motto’s for the mo.

**This is my firm view: the people who decide how much luggage can be carried when you move abroad (anywhere but the USA) are all idiots. Period. Why is it that when you travel to the US you can have 2 pieces of baggage each weighing up to 32kgs but when moving anywhere else you can only carry 20kgs? Do people in other parts of the world need less? Idiots.


  1. Unpacking is the worst nightmare. But if you are willing to take it one day at a time and accept that the flat needs time before it becomes a proper, habitable flat, then you'll be fine.

    And I so agree about the baggage requirements. 20kg is just stupid. Like you, we worked around the 20kg by bringing stuff over the many trips back home.

  2. So when's the house warming ceremony... and you're right on about the luggage.

    20kg's... it sucks.

  3. i hate moving! having moved to 3 places and back home in between each stint in the last 4 or 5 years ... i hate it

    when i moved to the USA for the first time I thought ... huh! so much allowance what fun ...

    before I knew it i had 2├že that much stuff

    now ill be moving back to the uk again so the nightmare will start all over!

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  5. Ah, the rules have just become more convoluted for travel to the US. Airlines like Lufthansa flying via Atlantic allow two bags of 22kg each. (50 lbs per bag) Anything excess is billed to you.

    Airlines like Singapore still allow two bags of 32kg each.

  6. B'cos everything in the US has to a complete diametric opposite to whatever else the world is doing/thining/contemplating.
    Your move-ent woes by the way sadly reminds me of my impending soon to happen move. Damn!

  7. I moved out of my apartment at school to a new place near the hospital I am doing residency at in June. And while packing for the move I found three boxes that were unpacked when I first moved to medical school four years ago. If I didn't need it in four years the likelihood of it being of any use to me now is slim to none. Needless to say I trashed the junk.

  8. Moving house is such an exhausting and draining process. And I will have to move in October with a toddler in tow which is just going to make everything doubly hard! The good thing of being in India is my mom comes over for moving week and helps out a lot.

  9. I went through the same exercise last yr all alone... i hate moving home.

  10. I can so relate to your post. We moved house last weekend and are still jumping over half unpacked boxes to get from one end of the room to the other!

    On a totally different note - what's a good place to buy the Indian dals and spices in London?

  11. Jane: I hate unpacking!!! When will it all be done....
    And 20kgs is just a stupid random number.

    Me: No house warming - exhaustion is my excuse. And yes, 20kgs does suck!

    Prerona: I do not envy you the move. I hope it goes as smoothly as possible.

    Gayatri: Convolution is just the missing key ingredient to already hellish travel across the globe. But I guess its one of the 'perks' we must put up with to be able to traverse such distance between home and home.

    Jhantu: All the best with your move.

    Sinusoidally: Yes, I have cartons of similar unused but much 'needed' junk. I shall have to build up the courage to chuck them out though!

    Rohini: All the best with that move. It's very brave with a toddler. I do envy the support system available in India though which makes all the moves a tad easier though no less tense!

    Chakra: I ahte it too. Hopefully we won't for the next 5 years!

    Pea: There is an excellant spice shop on Drummond Street which is near Euston Station, which sellls dal and every masala known to man. Else you can go to East Ham where the highstreet (right turn out of the station)has loads of grocers who stock indian veggies and stuff. These are mainly south Indian though. Added bonus is the possibility of a meal in Saravana Bhavan!

  12. I hate packing/unpacking/moving/all of it too. But this past week, when I myself was shifting gear, I was grumbling to myself about all the accumulated crap I had. And right then I found a sheaf of poems I had written 4 years ago. It was a lovely surprise.

  13. 20 kgs is a joke. In a month's time I am going to start packing up to leave India and I don't want to start thinking of what I am going to leave behind- which of my books and photos collected, this is just the begining of my nightmare and I don't want to think about it. Hmmmpff....!!!