I moved my stuff in my new apartment the other day. Boxes upon boxes of stuff crowding up my living room. It was stifling. Overwhelming. But full of hope. Here we are five days later and I can start to see the rainbow at the end of the storm. I think, I can see why people have housewarming parties. It’s to celebrate the joy of making it through the physically and emotionally draining process of decluttering and packing up, hauling your worldly possessions to somewhere new, and then unpacking it all, designating new places for things, buying and building new furniture pieces and making a house into a home. Well I’m on the final stretch now and after the lessons learned, and the pain and problems I’ve been through, I’ll be well and truly ready to share the joy when this is over.

 I had it all organised and thought it would be straightforward. The building next to my city hotel had furnished apartments it used to lease available for offer at a discounted price – sign of the times. City living was something I was used to, and the public transport access meant I could leave my car with my family longer, until borders opened and I could collect it; it would also keep my costs down for now. In fact, I used to live in this building and my storage unit was just up the road. So were all the shops I was familiar with, the small businesses. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The downside, if there was one, was the apartment wasn’t clean, visibly wasn’t clean, and the realtor made promises he didn’t keep about that. I also assumed that being a large property company, that when they pushed back my move-in day and forced me to stay longer in the hotel, that they would have the place cleaned.

BIG MISTAKE: never assume anything. Or trust promises.

When I collected the keys the following week, it was for a still dirty house. I was under the illusions made by the realtor that they would cover my costs, so I arranged for an end of lease cleaning team to come at the start of my moving day, to get it all done before I brought anything in. I arranged a one-off carpark in the building for them. I waited outside the building for them to arrive. They didn’t show. When I called them, they said they did show and did call but because I wasn’t there they moved on to a different job. They proposed I wait hours for them to be done and they *will come back*. Hmmm.

BIG MISTAKE: expecting businesses charging hundreds of dollars to be good on their word.

I managed to get the building’s cleaner to do a quick once over between his duties so that it was in a liveable state for the interim. It was such a huge experience for me. I have always done things on my own. When I lived here before it was a brand-new building. Things were sparkling and new. When I left, I was broke and broken, and I wiped it from top to toe myself. Other homes have been share-houses or nanny houses so big cleans weren’t necessary. But this? This has been a beast. This time, for the first time ever, I actually had the money to pay someone else for their troubles. This time, I could make life just a little bit easier on myself. When I challenged the realtors, they promised a cleaner on the day my storage goods were being moved in – two weeks after I came in – so I dutifully had the mover stack everything up in the living room, out of the way. I had a list of specific tasks to tackle. Again, no cleaner. Instead I was told the landlord insisted they had paid for a clean and wouldn’t pay for it again.

NEXT MISTAKE: landlord is either lying or being deceived; also lives abroad and wouldn’t know from a personal visit. Which means, realtors also can’t be trusted to be good mediators. I was told to clean it myself and take pictures to prove how filthy it is. Which I have been doing. (Ed note: I have since resolved things with the realtor and I’ll leave it at that.)

LESSON LEARNED: hotel visitors are grotty and hotel cleaners don’t get given enough time to do deep cleans. Ever.

ALSO LESSON LEARNED: kudos to end of lease cleaners; it is physically gruelling.

So, this week has brought the joy of choosing new places for my things. For unpacking some boxes for the first time in almost 20 years (like my favourite books), since I first packed them up at my parents’ home before I left for overseas. Others unpacked for the first time in seven years (like kitchenware) since I actually moved out of here as a uni student. I still have the storage unit; my lease for the apartment ends in November so I will have to move again and there is some validity in keeping the storage a few more months. Being paid up for a few more weeks, I went in before moving day and using my dutiful lists recording what I had, opted to pull out things that were unnecessary and leave them in a new smaller unit for now. That meant the mover could go in and just empty the larger unit easily. The new smaller unit however, has so much room that despite initial intentions to empty it, I’ve decided it’s a good ‘garage’ to store my empty boxes and suitcases for the interim.  There’s been joy though, that knowing in December I’ll achieve another big goal, to be done with storage forever. (insert celebration emoji here)

It’s been a draining, exhausting week. I’ve scrubbed doors and doorframes and wiped shelf upon shelf and vacuumed rooms so dirty that a couple of feet created enough dirt to fill up my little stick vacuum’s container. I’ve piled furniture and furnishing deliveries on top of the living room disaster. I’ve faced my procrastination and resentment demons, noticed when I didn’t want to do something and tried again or moved on to something else for a while. Being COVID times, I’ve built new bookcases to be the library I always dreamed of having, all alone. Sat at my new dining table, knowing no one will join me there for a while. I’ve taken joy in giving my late grandparents’ things a new home and a new life. Filled my bookshelves with books I’ve longed to read. Laid out all my clothes and toiletries to see just how much I have and just how much I need to declutter. Washed my brand-new saucepans and cutlery and unpacked my glasses and pyrex collection and made a kitchen full of just what I need. Given my cookbooks a home at long last!

So many little joys as it all has come together. It’s not finished yet, still I have to muster the energy to start more days of cleaning first, then building, then unpacking. I do see why many people give up and leave boxes packed for months or even years after they move in. But not me! I’m going to make the most of this isolation and get moving on another priority page for my wall – this one of little projects to conquer, little tiny jobs that won’t be overwhelming like, declutter tshirts today. Choosing one folder or pile to investigate. I want to start spending weekends reading my books. I want to enjoy being at home, in my own home with my own stuff, all of it, and decorate it and feel cosy and learn to cook again! To flip through my travel scrapbooks and read of journeys gone by. And one day, maybe, if restrictions are lifted, I’ll invite people over for my very first housewarming.

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