To take furniture or not to take furniture? We get that question a lot – especially since our diplomatic homes, thus far anyway, have had our own pieces in them. While naturally the weight limits don’t let us pack up an entire home, we do manage to fit in quite a few of our own pieces, in addition to our own accessories, that help us create a home that looks and feels a bit more like us. After all, we end up everywhere on such a temporary basis,having a handful of things that follow us around and help us feel at home. Still, after every move, I re-prepare myself for the fact that we might not always be able to bring so many of our things with us. With your own furniture, there are never any guarantees. So each move, here are the five considerations we go through when it comes to bringing our own furniture to post:
Do I really, really want it?
Moving is hard work; moving with lots of stuff is even harder work. Especially now, multiple moves in, you realize just how tired you get of “stuff” in general. So the first question we start out with is do we really (really) want it there? Because if you don’t, you might as well leave it right now. There is a part of the move where you will hate everything you own. You will picture it falling off a shipping container and floating off into the sunset on the Atlantic, and during said nightmare turned fantasy, you are smiling instead of crying. So if you don’t really want it, and you don’t really love it, do yourself the favor and get rid of it now.
Are the pieces I want to take ‘drag and drop’ and ‘mix and match’?
We bring most of our “living room” and this is our third iteration of it. The pieces are “modular” enough and complimentary enough that they all go together in multiple configurations; they look good if we split them apart and put a few in another room; and perhaps most importantly, they mix with the Drexel well. Because at the end of the day, you don’t know where you will live exactly and even if you do, they are no guarantees that the housing assignment that you start with is the housing assignment that you will end with (something happens…lease runs out…you’re allergic…embassy relocates…the list of potential reasons that housing changes is endless). So if you have a piece that only works in a specific situation or a specific space, leave it at home. And it probably goes without saying that if the piece doesn’t fit in a standard doorway (I’m looking at you overstuffed, double wide Restoration Hardware sofa), it stays at home.
Is your post willing to take back furniture?
The thing with just about all Embassy housing is that it does come furnished (with exception of a handful of random posts, and those are being phased out for the most part anyway). So love it or hate it, some furniture (and in fact, probably an excessive amount of it) is already in there. The easiest solution to make room then for your own furniture is to have the embassy team come and remove existing pieces, but there is no uniform policy on it. Ask in advance what each post’s policy is, and ask around for any unofficial policies as well. In Vienna, because it was a huge post with lots of storage on a regional basis, removing furniture was not an issue. In Copenhagen, where storage and labor are a premium, removal of furniture was met with a less enthusiastic reception, although they agreed to do it but would make only one trip (so you had to be sure what you decided to take out or keep). In other posts, there is no removal altogether. In some posts, the houses are big enough where I’ve heard that people sometimes just pile together the excess pieces in a spare bedroom. Basically, there is no single answer but various solutions are available depending on the post, your creativity and everyone’s willingness to get along.
Will you be willing to sacrifice other things to bring it?
Unsurprisingly, we work within weight limits for our move. Which means that you can’t bring everything you want, although in our many moves, we have never come up over the limit (yet!) despite adding three people over time to our family. But that being said, each move it does get harder, as things tend to accumulate (even though we purge, purge, purge each time). The point is, the weigh limits are a zero sum game. If you take furniture, you can’t take other things – so if you have a lot of heavy things like a large book collection, or a piano, for example, you’ll have to make some trades.
Would you be okay leaving it behind?
As is probably obvious already from this post, things change all the time in the foreign service life. As you transition from one post to another, the rules might change. Or your furniture might not wear transitions well – for example, when you move furniture from very tropical, humid climates to somewhere dry and cold, it’s common for the furniture to split or dry out. Things get damaged in moves….or things don’t fit the feel of your new life. Or you added to your family and your furniture no longer fits within the weight limits. All of that to say that again, things change and your needs or wants for furniture might change with it. Would you be okay leaving it behind? selling it? watching it fall off the back of that shipping container in the Atlantic. It’s important that things be meaningful enough to take them, but not so precious that it would break your heart to lose them.
For those that travel with furniture, did I miss anything in this quick gut check list? Add your thoughts to the comments below!