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So yeah… I’ve been out of touch lately.

Oil of turpentine. Plus paradichlorobenzene—which, if my 40-year-old memories of Chem 105 serve me—is actually mothballs. Mothballs!

In the last few months, I’ve had antibiotics, steroids, decongestants, and a particularly scary form of Indian ear-drops prescribed in Glasgow, Brooklyn, Bangalore, London, and back in Glasgow. Hopefully not related to those turpentine/mothball ear drops, I am now completely deaf in my right ear, but the doctor says that’s temporary.

[Note: This was the same doc who told me now that the weather is “warming up” —to above freezing—in Glasgow, I should start to feel better. I told him I was just returning from 35C/100F weather in India and it hadn’t helped a bit. For perhaps the first time in the recorded history of Scottish conversations that don’t involve a dog or a pub, he changed the subject AWAY from the weather.] 

Are you packing a deluxe tape dispenser or are you just happy to see me?

The past couple of months have also included an emergency trip to New York, my scheduled trip to India, and my unscheduled pneumonia. But now that I’m back in Scotland, it’s time to face facts. Although the house we’re fixing up still lacks doors on the bathrooms, a working oven, and furniture, it now does have the single essential necessity for habitation: internet access. Since we might be renovating this old house for the rest of our lives, it makes sense to do it with someplace to sit. The friend with the moving van said he could be there the next day so I might want to pack. I slapped headphones over my (one working) ear, cranked up the oldie rock, grabbed my tape dispenser—and that’s when the déjà vu hit.

So of course I did what anyone who has a moving van coming in less than 24 hours would do—sat down at the computer and read my posts from my last move to see if there were any useful tips from my blogging past. Sadly, the answer was yes. Below is the post from a few years ago. I’ll let you be the judge as to whether I’ve learned anything since my last move.


Before moving to The Hobbit House in Glasgow, the last couple of times I moved involved one suitcase. One. Really. (I have a shopping list on Ikea to furnish an entire apartment in flat pack. At last count, I’d bought the Ektorp sofa at least five times.) But that was before I discovered online furniture auctions.

PSA Tip: bidding on fabulous online auction bargains while on serious pain meds could be dangerous. You might end up with a pink living room set. With fringe…

So when I found out we’d be moving to Scotland, I looked around my fully-furnished and pinkly-fringed four bedroom tower in the castle in a northeast corner of England and thought about options:

  1. ‘Accidental’ fire
  2. Full flat charitable donation
  3. GFC (Google Fact Check)

The first option was tempting but burning down a medieval castle that belongs to friends is probably not an avenue for karmic growth. The second was out because charities turn out to be remarkably resistant to climbing narrow circular stairways to retrieve my pink fringed crap generous donations, especially when they need to carry them back down said narrow circular stairways, across a courtyard the size of a football field, and out the portcullis gates. Who knew?

Option three, Google Fact Check, took 0.28 seconds to come up with “about 2,500,000,000 results” offering tips for packing and moving. (Am I the only one who finds it unnerving that this works out to about one tip for every three people on the planet?) Most took the form of fantasy timelines, like those wedding checklists that start with “Three Years Before Your Wedding Date—reserve venue, interview wedding planner, hire caterer” and end with a suggestion that you squeeze in meeting the groom somewhere in the six months before your big day.


Really? ‘Cause here’s what I did…

Tip #1: Three months before move, decide what will stay and what goes with you.

Two facts made this a speedy process. First: the all-possessions-destroyed-in-tragic-fire option was off the table. Second: we found a new** house and were moving in a week.

**[Translation: And by “new” we mean 200+ year old victorian instead of 1000+ year old medieval]

Tip #2: Two months before move, select movers and book date.

Since the date selected was a week away, mover selection boiled down to some hang-up calls, a few questions about my mental stability, and one moving company who just had a cancellation. Score!

Tip #3: Get boxes and label them

I thought I could get boxes from some of the local shops. You’d think I was asking the store managers to sell their children into a degrading life of sex trade slavery or becoming phone solicitors for roofing products. “We recycle 100% of our boxes,” they protested. “We can’t just give them to you to use again.”


GFC revealed that you could buy used boxes (probably recycled by my local shops). A set of 65 boxes was surprisingly affordable, so I ordered two packages, figuring everything that didn’t fit could be packed into drawstring trash bags. They arrived with one banker-sized box in each package, one slightly larger box, and 63 boxes suitable for packing a mug or two. I went to Costco and bought a crate of disposable trash bags.

Tip #4: Moving Supplies. Buying the correct supplies (paper, foam, packing peanuts, box cutter, markers, mattress covers, etc.) will save time and energy.

Barb’s moving tip: china wrapped in your husband’s underwear ships just fine. When he asks why his underwear has large circular discs stretched into their fronts, tell him you think it’s very sexy.

Tip #5: Order pre-printed labels

What a good sense of humor these list writers have.

Tip #6-Gazillion:How to pack appliances, dishes, pictures, etc.

My personal approach was to pack my china and then get the flu. I highly recommend this plan, and only wish I’d started worshipping at the porcelain throne much earlier.

I also recommend doing this in the north of England, where people are just way too polite. The moving crew looked in disbelief at the neatly labeled boxes of china and the completely unpacked state of the rest of my flat. But my new BFF and owner of the moving company, Mr. Nelson, said, “We’ll take care of all of it for you, Flower.” (He also called me “Petal” and made me a cup of tea.)

I had wasted several days packing the first boxes because I kept looking at the stuff I was putting in them, labeling them and keeping a list of contents as suggested in the Tips.

 But Mr. Nelson, who (his crew informed me) was in his seventies, blew through my flat like a hurricane, sweeping everything into boxes with detailed labels like “kitchen” or “not kitchen”.

Most Important Moving Tip: Pack an Essentials Box

 I looked over several lists of things that were supposed to go into your Open-First box: dish soap and tea towel, small toaster oven, dishes and eating utensils, flashlight, shower curtain, shampoo & conditioner, change of clothes, sheets and towels, trash bags, tool kit, sewing kit, first aid kit, radio—the list goes on and on. Seriously? If you take even half of that stuff, you won’t have any room for the real essentials– tequila and margarita mix, blender, the dog’s food/toys/dishes/meds/treats/bed, and of course, your hotel reservation. Okay, if you have room you can throw in a change of underwear and a toothbrush, but let’s be practical. There’s sure to be a lingerie store in the new city.

So here I am in the new house staring at Mt. Cardboard. And it’s like Christmas. Each box I open could contain anything from my socks to that really hot book that lived on the back of the top shelf of my closet.

My labeling efforts deteriorated as the flu took over. (NOTE: my daughters find these little bears very scary. They cite the presence of a severed head being used as a bucket by one little bear. Clowns, they say, are never good, and somewhere a headless little clown figure is probably wreaking inimaginable havoc on an innocent populace. My bad.

My labeling efforts deteriorated as the flu took over. (NOTE: my daughters find these little bears very scary. They cite the presence of a severed head being used as a bucket by one little bear. Clowns, they say, are never good, and somewhere a headless little clown figure is probably wreaking unimaginable havoc on an innocent populace. My bad.


The good news? I’ve just found my moving-essentials kit. Margarita anyone?