Flashback: A day with the Packers

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Having worked in advertising and marketing, I know all about the power of a good headline. And hopefully this one will have you salivating at the prospect of reading about my friendship with one of Australia’s power couples.

However, it is here that I must come clean and admit that this particular day was in fact spent in the company of a gang of hard-working, muscular Maoris. Packers, yes, but small ‘p’ packers, I’m afraid.

My own special day with the packers was the precursor to all of our possessions being packed into a container ahead of a 2 month marine voyage back to England.

And now, speaking from battle-worn experience, I offer to you my own personal 3 step guide to packing up your life:

Step one: Picking packers

If you Google ‘overseas shipping’, you will have lots to choose from. Some familiar names, but plenty of, let’s say, smaller operators (“Houses cleared, storage, hedges trimmed, overseas shipping, call me on my mobile for a FREE quote”)

Deciding I’d like my chattels to end up in England rather than at some local car boot sale, I opted for the reassurance of the larger operators and, assisted by some insights from handy expat website pomsinoz, I drew up a shortlist of 3 companies.

The quoting process was surprisingly hi-tech. I had been expecting a man in a brown lab coat with a clipboard and a stubby pencil behind his ear, scribbling down unintelligible notes and occasionally shaking his head and sighing.

On the contrary, all three reps whipped out their iPads and proceeded to grill me on the fine details of our shipment (“how many CDs do you have?”… I don’t know…lots)

The quotes varied by $3k so, as always, we chose the middle one which also had the benefit of the company having a wholly owned office in the UK rather than an affiliate. Handy for the inevitable problems at the other end, I thought.

Step two: Culling

Having selected our shipper, we then had only 2 weeks to prepare our home for packing and shipping. I had fully intended to be ruthless here, ditching anything that hadn’t been used recently, but instead found myself racked with indecision.

Plenty of “I might need that” and “I can’t bring myself to chuck that away” led to a lot of things being included in the ‘to ship’ pile when they will probably only end up being dumped on arrival in the UK. A rather lengthy and expensive journey to the tip.

Prior to all of this, I fortunately had the foresight to dump a number of larger items on the street in one of the council’s occasional clean up days, but even so, it still left masses to get rid of.

Some of the better stuff disappeared rapidly via eBay or a ‘free stuff to pick up’ email to friends, but much of it was so crap I couldn’t even give it away, which led to the unedifying sight of me skulking the streets after dark, looking for suitable bins in which to dispose of my excess goods.

But finally we got there…still however leaving a very big pile of stuff to pack.

Step three: the big day

By this stage, my wife and children had wisely already left Australia, so it was all down to me to ‘project manage’ the day.

Beforehand, I was told, “We’ll need somewhere to park the truck – can you reserve about 4-5 car lengths right outside the house”.

Now, anyone who has lived in inner city Sydney before will understand the challenge in finding a single car space, let alone 4-5, but somehow I managed to secure and stake out a suitable slot via a combination of dustbins, traffic bollards and gaffer tape, probably losing any remaining neighbourhood friendships in the process.

On the day itself, I was attempting to ‘work’ from my ever-shrinking home, so was able to experience the packers’ work ethic at close quarters. And I have to say I was highly impressed.

They were up and down the (steep) stairs all day long, wrapping, padding, lifting and stacking. If they had a break, then I didn’t see it. All up, I reckon they were at it for about 9 hours. Top effort guys – thank you!

At the end of the day (literally) and with light starting to fade, they had crammed everything into a 40 foot container, but still had a few items left over.

Rather than send for a new truck, they decided at this late hour to strap them on to the back of the container, making the whole thing look like part of some gypsy convoy, about to leave town.

Anyway, Finally I waved off my possessions as they disappeared into the gathering dusk, hopefully to be seen again in rural Sussex a few months later, while I turned on my heel and went back inside a now totally empty home.

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