I saw a Master Chef TV program recently where a contestant competed against a famous professional chef to cook a dish of their choice. The chef had many years of experience and created a culinary masterpiece. When asked if he had found it challenging to do so in the time allowed, he said the cooking itself had been easy, but what had been difficult was doing it outside the environment of his own kitchen, where everything has its place and he can reach for things without even looking.
He was missing what is known in the cheffing world as mise en place, meaning having all the necessary tools and ingredients to hand. It reminded me of a story my husband, Richard, often recounts about the intense three days of mise en place preparations he once made in order to single-handedly create a 33-course banquet for the 33 guests of a wealthy Italian family he once worked for as their private chef. Each guest was invited to choose one of the dishes that made up the menu, and they were to be served with hardly any waiting time between courses at all. You can’t deliver that level of excellence if you have to hunt around for where you put the salt!
I listened to this TV chef’s words with some sympathy, not because I’ve ever worked in a kitchen, but because, when Richard and I moved this year from the UK to Australia, what I really missed during those two in-between months, when we lived out of suitcases while buying a new home, was the mise en place of having all the things we use each day around us.
Moving home can be a destabilizing experience, and moving continents even more so, because a much greater learning curve is involved, figuring out how to do even the simplest of things. So, during this period, we’ve been looking for ways to ease the process, and I thought I’d write this article to share some of the methods that have worked for us.
Clutter clear long before you move
Letting go of anything you will not need in your new home makes the process much easier, so we did this months before the big move, to avoid getting stressed out nearer the time.
Take your own bedding
One of the best decisions we made was to bring our own feather duvet and pillows so that we wouldn’t have to sleep with cheap synthetic ones for weeks. They weigh very little and squeeze down to almost nothing at all if you pack them last thing and use some gentle persuasion (sit on the lid) when zipping up the case. Having these with us made a huge difference to the quality of our sleep wherever we stayed.
Pack your own kitchen knives
We brought with us a large knife and a small one, packed in our check-in luggage. They don’t weigh much or take up much space, and make a heck of a difference when cooking in a poorly equipped kitchen.
Stay in self-catering accommodation, not a hotel
When moving to a place you’ve never lived before, an important part of house-hunting is to get to know the different areas, to find a location that works for you. Staying in a hotel doesn’t allow you to experience what it’s really like to live there. It offers creature comforts but buffers you from having to shop for your own food and find your way around the neighbourhood. We found that renting self-catering accommodation gave us a much better feel, was much more affordable, and much more spacious too.
Humans are territorial animals and we rest our consciousness in the place that we live and on the things that we own. Trying to live out of suitcases while travelling doesn’t allow you to own the space or feel fully landed. So the first day we arrived in each new place, we fully unpacked our suitcases and found places to store all our things. This is one of the easiest ways to make a temporary place feel more like home.
A much deeper level of owning a space can be achieved by space clearing, to remove the energies of previous occupants and instil new, higher frequencies for yourself. For this, the most essential piece of equipment is a high quality Balinese space clearing bell, which is one of the first things we always pack when travelling. We rented three properties during our house-hunt and space cleared each one, making them more nurturing for ourselves and for those who stay there after us.
Invest in stationery
The paper trail created by selling and buying a home, closing and opening a business, and moving from one continent to another is copious and can’t be done entirely paper-free. We brought laptops, pens and paper with us, but they weren’t enough. Soon we were juggling piles of documents and receipts, and had no idea where anything was. So pretty quickly we found a stationary store and bought some essentials – a small printer, some paper, some files with dividers, a stapler and a hole punch. It was a small price to pay for sanity and order.
Buy a car
Buying a car in the first week rather than renting for a couple of months was a no-brainer for us. Richard had already done the online searching and had a shortlist before we left the UK.
And we seriously needed a car. Here in Perth, house hunting is a mammoth undertaking, covering a region that is 5386 square kilometres (2080 square miles) in size, stretching 123 km (76 miles) from north to south and 60 km (37 miles) from east to west. It’s the second longest city in the world, soon to become the longest if it continues to expand at the same rate. We drove 5000 km (over 3000 miles) in our first four weeks to thoroughly explore, decide where we wanted to live, and look at properties in those areas.
We bought a cheap run-around that had a few scratches, so we fondly nicknamed it Scruff. It did its job and, a few weeks later, when we found the car we really wanted, we sold Scruff for almost the same price we bought it for.
Maintain your sense of purpose
During the whole process, bear in mind the reason why you decided to make the move in the first place. For Richard and I, it came about because we realized we had achieved everything we had moved to the UK to do, and it was clear that new possibilities would be open to us in Australia. It was also very cheering to remember, with gratitude, that we were between homes rather than homeless, and to view the whole process as an adventure rather than a hassle.
Keep your sense of humour
This was probably the most valuable thing we brought with us. It weighed nothing, and helped us to surf through all the challenges along the way. Mostly the process unfurled beautifully at every step, but for the times when the going got tough, and “boo” just wasn’t enough, the punch-line of this clever little skit by Scottish comedian, Fred Macauley, reminded us to keep our sense of humour and move on…
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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2017