This was our fifth move overseas, so if anyone should be getting the hang of it, it should be me, right? However, there was one new factor for this latest move that raised the frustration, complication and tear-enducing levels to staggering new heights and it had nothing to do with my husband's astounding procrastination abilities; it was simply, the toddler factor.
When we did our pack-out from Kuwait, I wisely hired our housekeeper to take Bean out of the house for the majority of the chaos. And that made a huge difference in my ability to scurry around and oversee the packing. Fast forward four months and we are happily seeing all those carefully wrapped boxes being unloaded into our garden in Jordan like long-lost friends (yeah, you get a little over-emotional at the prospect of seeing your sheets and dish drainer when you've been living out of suitcases for four months). As the 130 boxes were coming through the front door, I'd quickly glance at the label on the box and direct it's placement - master bedroom, nursery, kitchen, dining-dump-room, etc. - and in doing so I caught a few amusing notations; "lady kits," "flash's light," "baby drops" and "rattan decor". (Upon unpacking, I discovered "lady kits" was toiletries and our "rattan decor" were two straw seat things from Ikea. I never did discover what the "baby drops" were, but the box was big.)
One of the benefits of having to wait for your stuff, in theory, is that you have a few weeks or months in your new home to decide how you want things set up. So once all the filling arrives, you would think it would be relatively easy to unpack and put things where they were going to live for the next three years. And in the past this process was arduous and exhausting, but I never felt like I was losing my mind; until this time.
Unpacking with the "aid" of an eager toddler presented a whole new level of challenges I had not anticipated (though I probably should have). Being fully enmeshed in the "helpful" stage, meant Bean would follow me around and unpack, or re-pack, depending on her whim, whatever box was open and in front of her. Often she'd toddle off with whatever gem she'd discovered and I'd have to go searching throughout the rooms of chaos to find my other boot or camera bag or shower gel bottle (unearthed from the "lady kits" box). If she came upon a box that was still sealed, she'd quickly switch modes and slap on her crampons, grab her carabiners and start climbing, causing lots of Mommy exclamations like "Oh, be careful!" and "Oh, no, let's not do that," and other such insightful statements. Never-ending fun abounded, but the unpacking progress was painfully stagnant and my needs for a tidy nest were going unheeded.
So by day eight of this frivolity I was crankier than a toddler with an unfulfilled demand and felt like it was never going to end. There wasn't one room where I could happily sit and gaze at my little organized oasis. I couldn't even hide in the bathroom because there were "lady kits" that needed organizing that I was constantly telling Bean to "put it back, put it back", wishing I'd get around to just putting it away.
On top of all the fun-with-toddlers I was having, I was also faced with the realization that we own a huge amount of breakable, non-toddler-friendly items, lovingly collected from all our worldly travels. We have piles of glassware and surprisingly sharp metal lamps from Egypt, ceramics from Italy, Portugal and Turkey, framed photos and wooden masks from Tanzania. Why did it never occur to us to just collect pillows from around the world, or country-inspired teaspoons?
The winds finally started to shift the day I got my closet organized. I found myself returning to it repeatedly just to remind myself that it was possible; there was an organizational light at the end of the closet.
So by day ten we were about 90% unpacked and organized and my breathing was far more regular and hardly cried at all. However, now each room had a little pile of what I refer to as the niggly bits; those weird little items that don't really fit anywhere that just end up end up cluttering drawers or baskets. Part of me felt like they should be properly sorted and put away and not just stashed, but that part of me was quickly quashed as my energy, interest and decision-making capabilities had been thoroughly drained dry, and frankly I couldn't give a damn where the candlewick scissors went or my high school calculus calculator, that should never have come overseas, should go.
So in the end, Bean and I survived the unpacking-with-toddlers process, and we now have a house full of lovingly stashed hard-to-reach breakables. And with her helpful packing, unpacking and stashing abilities, we only managed to lose one remote control that we thought has been accidentally "packed" back into a box that went out to trash. Of course, we found it nestled safely in her toy bin the day after the replacement arrived in the mail, but it's probably best to have two, anyway; I have a feeling "fun with toddlers" won't end with just the final moving box.