Moving is no different. Your movers, like mine, might wonder why you have so many books piled up. “Strange people”, they said, scratching their heads in amazement, “they have more books than anything else in the house”.
Yes, moving is a time when a judgment will be passed on you. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
But don’t, for god’s sake, take all your books with you.
Don’t take that tatty volume of Housman that you haven’t read forever and will never read again, and only keep because it makes you feel more intellectual. Don’t be tempted to take that moth-eaten copy of Essays of Elia because you like the way the hardbound cover looks. Please pause a moment and spare a thought for the moth infestation that you will carry across continents, possibly to a wooden framed house. Dump your hard bound coffee table volumes on Monet because you ain’t going to get artistic inspiration from them if lightning hasn’t struck you in all the five years you’ve had ’em.
Best case– you’re adding to the number of things you have to unpack and store.
Worst case– To add insult to injury, your employer isn’t paying for your movers and you’re paying to give up the additional storage space in your new home.
Moving across continents is, I find, a very spiritual exercise in assessing just what’s important to you. A forced purging of worldly goods and streamlining your existence.
From bitter experience, the things that you will need to remember are:
- To pay off your mobile phone bills and terminate the connections. Easier said than done, especially if you had a household with two people and four mobiles (two for you guys, one for your driver and one for the help, but all in your name)- which is quite typical in India. Mobile phone companies don’t always coordinate things properly, and bills have a strange way of coming back from the grave and biting you on the ass months later, when you thought you were home and dry. And then you have to make long distance calls to the India helpline number asking them to terminate the connection. If you do find yourself in that boat it’s best to somehow obtain an email address (no, they won’t proffer it voluntarily, and yes, it will be like pulling teeth from them, but it will make the job easier once all your letters to them are recorded). Check for hidden costs. Ask for a breakdown of all charges. And do ask for a confirmation that all your dues have been paid. You don’t want another set of charges hatching for another 12 months and coming back with interest and possibly threats of civil suits.
- Ditto for internet connections. Don’t forget the internet connection and the wireless dongle.
- Terminate the gym membership (if like me, you went twice in four months, this wouldn’t be something you’d remember about straightaway).
- Let the help go. Give them some severance pay- chances are, they’ll get another job soon, but on the flipside they’re faced with financial uncertainty too. It’s helpful to try to find them an alternate post with family or friends, but I wouldn’t be too bullish on their sticking it out, or even landing up. They might be shy about saying it, but they simply won’t land up. Our live-in lady took the view that she had simply made too much money from her years with us and could now retire happily (she didn’t land up for the job we had found for her). Our driver took the view that he might as well try his luck in a different city (he took an advance from the friend we had recommended him to, and jazzed off without a by-your-leave). It’s best not to expect too much. A measured recommendation might go a longer way than singing their praises. Else you might find you’re in hot water later when your proteges let you down!
- Sell or give away stuff. Perhaps your parents had a second flat where they needed a fridge. Or they needed a bed for the spare bedroom anyway. If not, sell it (don’t give them stuff they don’t need – (a) they had enough of your junk when you were growing up (b) you’ll never hear the end of it. You’d be surprised at the level of enterprise in India. There is a buyer for everything. Pots and pans, crockery, furniture, furnishings, paper, glass, old electrical appliances, inverters, everything, I kid you not. Your help can get hold of the neighbourhood kabadiwala. Sell him everything, and keep the money. It might pay for food for the first few days before your bank account gets set up in the new country! If it won’t come to that much, it might just pay for the taxi fare to the airport!
- Terminate your lease on time. And remember to extract your deposit from the landlord.
- Send your stuff on ahead. The best way is to clear up shop about a week or two before, send your stuff on ahead (by sea is cheaper and takes more time, so there’s not much danger of it reaching before you do). Assuming your stuff takes four weeks to reach, you will have two weeks to find a place to stay before you are reunited with your beloved odds and ends and accoutrements. Con an unsuspecting kind friend or long-suffering family into putting you up over the last few days.
- Get any documents you need from your ex-employer. It’s hard enough chasing them when you’re not employed with them, than to have to chase them from a different time zone altogether.
- Have a chat with your accountant and settle your finances. Get copies of your tax returns and bank statements. There’s a very good chance you’ll need them. And get his phone number and email address- these will be your lifeline before the next tax filing!
- Make lists! Make a list of lists. Worship your list every morning when you wake up, and before you go to bed at night. Hang that pencil from your neck to tick off each point on your list. The List Monster Rules.