I’ve been MIA for a bit as both our air freight (700 lbs!) and sea freight (7,196 lbs!) arrived late August. Since DH works long hours, that means I am unpacking a large portion of that. And with 2 little kids and a house to run, it means squeezing in unpacking while they are at school in the mornings and while asleep.
For anyone who has moved a whole household, you know that stuff seems to multiple while in boxes and that time between everything being out of boxes but not in cabinets, cupboards and closets makes for chaos everywhere.
Our air freight arrived while the kids were at school and I didn’t tell them it was coming. I got all their toys out and set up so that it was a big surprise when they got home. Actually, I covered up DS’ toys and snuck him straight to his crib for nap so that he’d sleep BEFORE seeing his toys or I knew a nap would never happen. DD was thrilled about a good bulk of her toys as she’d been playing for 2 months with the toys from our suitcases and was starting to get bored.
Our air freight also brought our linens and a lot of kitchen items, so it was great to pack up much of the Welcome Kit (aka loaner items) and start using our own things. In an ideal world, the air freight (UAB–unaccompanied air baggage) arrives 3-4 weeks after you do. So the 2 month window was a bit longer than we were hoping for. Such is life.
Then 5 days later our sea freight arrived! 7,196 pounds of it across 7 crates and 225 tagged items (boxes, wrapped furniture, bins, etc). Our limit was 7,200, so we just squeezed in under that! Delivery was slated to last two days, but the movers were efficient and it was done in 1 long day. It helped that we didn’t have much furniture for them to put together and that many of the boxes we elected to unpack ourselves.
Due to our apartment layout, they had to park on the street and unload from the crates into the parking lot in our building. They didn’t have the large moving trucks like in the US and crates arrived 1 or 2 at a time on the back of much smaller trucks. They had two trucks rotating to go to the warehouse to pick up more crates. We had 7 total.
I was at the unload point so I could cross off items on the Bingo sheet as they came off. Every item had a number and I knew how many items there should be. So I’d mark off each number as it appeared. They’d then carry or use the carts to move things to the elevators. Once up to our floor they’d carry/push items down to our apartment where another team was then getting them into the right room.
I was a bit concerned about handling 2 kids (they only have school in the morning) and supervising movers, but they were so excited about their toys arriving it was fine. The movers were also great about talking to them and keeping an eye out for them.
Inside the house I had done a lot of prep to make unloading and unpacking smooth. I’ve got those tips outlined below.
Small Parts in Ziplocs and Labeled-This is actually a tip for the packing end of things, but if you do it, it makes unloading day easier. All small pieces that go with something (pegs to hold up shelves, screws for a piece of furniture, key to a locking cupboard, etc) put into individual Ziploc bags, label with what it goes to, and either tape directly to the larger piece or put into the Parts Box. We’ve done both. Some people hate the Parts Box because if it gets lost, you don’t have any of your parts for anything. If you do use it, make sure you physically see it loaded onto the right van and the right crate.
Tidy the House-If you’ve been living in the house like we were, tidy up everything. Put everything in its place, get rid of trash, return items you borrowed, etc. I also did all my cleaning (bathrooms, floors, etc) as I knew once unpacking started I wouldn’t want to clean that week. Dusting furniture so you have clean surfaces for putting items is also handy.
Pack Up the Welcome Kit–If you’re like us and got a Welcome Kit or loaner items to tide you over, pack them up BEFORE your stuff arrives and get it out of the house. We stacked ours in the hallway of our apartment building. Believe me, you don’t want to be looking for the can opener you borrowed when 7,196 pounds of stuff explodes in your house.
Move Furniture to Its Permanent Spot-Take a good look around the house and move anything that isn’t already in its permanent spot. I hauled dressers around, shifted chairs and added the leaves to our dining room table in preparation for shipments arriving. Way easier to do before everything shows up!
Mark Out Arriving Furniture’s Locations-If you have furniture coming whether a few pieces or a whole household’s worth, using painter’s tape and mark on the floor where it will go. This ensures that the large blank wall where you’ll have a row of bookshelves doesn’t end up covered in stacks of boxes. Alternatively, if you have a lot of furniture coming, use the tape to mark off where they SHOULD stack boxes. I also then wrote the furniture names on post-it notes and taped to walls so I would remember what piece of furniture went where.
Number Rooms–This is particularly handy if your movers don’t speak your language, but even if they do, it will speed things up. Number each room and tape a numbered sheet at the entrance to each room. Then have a clipboard with the numbers and as boxes enter your house either tell the movers what number room or write it with Sharpie on the top of the box so they can take them to the right spot. I wrote my labels in both English and Arabic numbers to ensure understanding. This is extra helpful if you have a large house or more than one floor. Saves the hassle of going “the first kid’s bedroom. No, not that one. The other one!” Just say/write “room 5” and there is no confusion.
Be Prepared with Tools-in your suitcase, bring along a couple handy tools you’ll want right away. I’d suggest screwdrivers in different sizes, a hammer, an exacto knife, tape measure, and Allen wrench (hex key) at a minimum. Yes, the movers will hopefully bring tools to put together things, but sometimes it’s just easier to whip out your own screwdriver to tighten the screw on your pot or your own exacto knife to cut the tape on a box than wait for a mover. Plus, when they leave, you aren’t digging through boxes looking for tools. Also have a Sharpie for labeling boxes, scissors, a clipboard and a pen accessible.
The How Much Should the Movers Unpack Question? That’s really a personal thing, but I had them unpack things that could immediately have a home (like about half our books directly onto bookshelves knowing that DH would rearrange them later), were large enough to be on the floor, or could fit on my counter or dining room table. That got some of the boxes out of the house and gave me more room to move without running out of surface space. In the US when our stuff arrived they unpacked very little but came back at our call for a one time box pick up.