Selling our life away

When we decided to change our lives and move to London for three years, we realized it would mean selling our house, cars and much of what we own. Knowing that would need to happen was one thing. Actually doing it is entirely something else.

This week, the company we hired to sell most of our possessions started the process in earnest. We identified as best we could the few things we want to put in storage (china, china cabinet, various keepsakes) and an even smaller amount of things to ship to London (clothes, a few kitchen items, etc.). Then the crew ascended on us to catalog, photograph, and prepare the rest for sale.

What that means is literally taking everything out of it’s proper place, grouping things, photographing things, getting our possessions ready for an online auction that will last 10 days. And it isn’t just getting rid of things…it is dealing with all the memories all those things have attached to them.

It isn’t easy. It is painful. It is devastating.

We also hadn’t anticipated the impact on our lives this would have. Our normally neat, well kept and tidy home became a chaotic mess. The inside looked like a hurricane came through. And about all we could do was sit and watch, and answer the occasional question of whether this or that should be sold.

These pictures don’t quite capture the level of pandemonium that we’ve lived with the last few days

I have to say the crew who did this were outstanding. Polite. Conscientious, and sensitive… even compassionate. And for all the moving of things, some of them quite fragile, I’m not aware of anything being broken.

At the end of three days of this, the crew head came and told us there were finished. The house is in a little less mess, although we still see many of our things sitting in different places, labeled to be sold.

Tomorrow the online auction will begin. Our kids are coming to take away some furniture and other items they are interested in. So the house is beginning to empty. In a little more than a week, buyers will descend on the house and the auction company will distribute our life’s possessions. Anything left unsold will be donated or trashed. About the same time the moving company will take storage items to store, and pack a few things for shipment. And then, all will be gone.

All in all, we know this is the right thing to do. We are anxious to begin a new life chapter in London. And some day, hopefully some time from now, our kids won’t have a huge estate to deal with.

Still, the week has left us stressed out, and feeling a little like we’ve been hit repeatedly by a large truck. I’m not sure we could have done anything differently. But for anyone considering this kind of a massive life change, be prepared. It isn’t easy.

Trials & Tribulations

All along, we have expected this transition from our home in the US to the UK to be a difficult process. So far, the difficulty has *exceeded* our expectations.

View of the London skyline from our hotel room

First the visa snafu (see previous posts). Once that got resolved, we could at least travel again. Last week, we headed to London on a mission to find and contract a flat (apartment, for our US readers). Fortunately, my company has a relocation service, so that at least helped give us a better starting point.

Day one of the search, and our relo service guy, Tom, had seven properties for us to look at. And actually, most were nice and could be workable. We decided the first one we looked at was best, and decided to place an offer – at the asking price. Soon afterward, the landlord said they accepted, we paid the deposit, and all was done.

Except it wasn’t.

We cancelled all the viewings on Day two, assuming we were done. We had made an appointment to see the apartment again, to refresh our memory and start thinking about how we’d make it ours. Just before the appointment, the relo person called. There might be a complication. Actually, a big one. The landlord had received another offer at a higher price, and decided to accept it (although we had already put down a deposit). So, our apartment was gone.

But…there were two other units available in the same building, and the agent kindly showed us. Both were nice and workable, albeit at a higher price. We ended the day considering whether to go with one of those or one of the others we previously looked at on Day One.

Next morning we made an offer – for the asking price again – on one of the two alternatives in the same building as the first. Landlord seemed receptive. So, progress?

Not exactly. After we sent the offer — full asking price — they later responded that since the flat had just gone on the market… maybe they should wait for other… better… offers. When we countered by offering a bit more money, they waffled on the “pets accepted” part, and proceeded to put in a very ridiculous “pet clause” requiring a pet deposit and pet “rent.” Our relo person told them that they were trying to push off a US version of a pet clause that is illegal to use in the UK. After hours of back and forth, and one sleepless night (in which we were envisioning being homeless with 3 kitties in the next month), we started considering how to make the other flats we saw work for us.

Then another call from the relo person. Seems that the first apartment that we originally placed an offer on was now suddenly available again (offer they accepted fell through). The landlord was again very interested in renting to us (of course, at a few hundred pounds over the original offer). So after some deliberation, we decided to regroup and settle on the original apartment we wanted.

That started the process of filling out “referencing forms.” Online forms. Confusing, convoluted online forms. Forms that had parts that didn’t fit our situation, and other functions that plain didn’t work. Finally, after a weekend of struggling, we got through all the online forms and were again making progress.

We returned to the US on Monday this week, totally exhausted but moderately hopeful we had secured an apartment. As of Wednesday night, we have almost gotten to the contract stage. Barring some unforeseen glitch (and there have been a lot of those so far), we should sign a contract tomorrow and have a flat ready for us in a few days.

Meanwhile back in the US, the company we’ve hired to sell most of our possessions started the task today of cataloguing and photographing everything in our house. No small task, given we have 44+ years of accumulated things to go through. To do this, they basically relocate everything in the house to take photos. Consequently, the home we’ve always kept neat and tidy now looks a bit like a hurricane has struck the interior. Probably another two or three days to go. Very nice people doing this. But still a stressful, emotional experience as virtually all the possessions have some kind of memories attached.

Some of our belongings…sorted, grouped, catalogued and priced for sale.

At least – maybe – we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. There are still several hectic and stressed-out weeks ahead as we close on the house, sell all our stuff and two cars, make arrangements for transporting 3 kitties and probably a thousand other details yet to be encountered.

I’m counting on a day – hopefully in the not too distant future – when we’ll look back on all this and say, “yes, it was worth it.” And if all goes really well, we’ll both have some shreds of sanity left when that day comes. We hope our kitties will also come through this ordeal unscathed and again happy in our new home.

Certainly starting to get real

It has been months since we first started talking about moving to London. Seems like things moved at a snail’s pace, and the whole kerfuffle about our visas slowed things even more.

Now things are moving and the whole experience is getting very real. We put our house on the market, and within two days had an offer to buy. Our kids have been identifying things they want to take, and our possessions are beginning to dwindle. We’ve now signed a contract for a company to come and sell most everything in our home. We’ll store a few special items, and move a very few things to London. Much of what we’ve accumulated over 40 years of marriage (and some from even before) will go away. And while much of the stuff is just stuff, the memories associated with it make the process stressful at best.

Next step is to find a flat in London that we’ll call home for the next 3 years. The relocation company has already warned us that having 3 cats to move in will complicate our choices. What that actually means remains to be seen. But getting a flat identified and contracted, with a set move-in date, is crucial. Assuming all goes well with our home sale, we will need to be out of the house in early June. Hopefully, we will have a place to move into about the same time. The uncertainty of all that ratchets the stress levels up a few notches. The timing is getting to be very tricky. Sometimes all the doubts crowd in and we find ourselves thinking, “Oh, what have we done?!” Usually a good night’s sleep helps with that, but more and more often we are waking up in the middle of the night to stew about all the things we need to do, and all the arrangements that have yet to be made. It is exciting… yes, but also very, very… terrifying.

All said, I think one day we’ll look back on all this and conclude it was the right thing to do. That day won’t come next week, or probably next month. For the sake of our sanity, we’re hoping it isn’t much longer.

At least now, things are moving ahead and we can start to look forward to our new adventure becoming a reality.