Setting up the basics

We’ve been working hard to get some basics set up this week. I wanted to mention a few things we have done that might be helpful for anyone else moving to Canada.

Our house contained no furniture whatsoever on that first day we arrived. And of course having sold everything before moving except for a bookshelf and our son’s bed frame, we needed to buy some replacements. Our budget wouldn’t allow for new stuff and with little kids it’s really not practical to buy brand new as you’re constantly worried they’ll trash it and you’re having to make a whole bunch of rules about being gentle with the furniture when really there are more important things to be policing. So it was second hand all the way.
The problem with buying second hand is that, these days, you need the Internet to find stuff. And of course not only did we not have Internet at the house, we didn’t have Canadian numbers so couldn’t text or call people advertising things for sale. So an Internet connection became our primary focus and because cable TV goes hand-in-hand with wifi, we had to buy a TV as our first piece of furniture. Ridiculous! But that’s just how things seem to go with this move, one thing depends upon another and so on until you find yourself having to buy an electric screwdriver in order to use the toilet.

We bought our TV from Costco and it sat on the borrowed dining table while the cable guy connected our Internet. We asked around and went to half a dozen furniture places but realised very quickly that our thoughts about buying second hand were spot on and we couldn’t afford anything new, even heavily discounted.

The next options were Kijiji, kind of like Gumtree, for those in Australia and the UK, and various buy/sell/swap groups on Facebook. The trouble with buying stuff like this, aside from not having the Internet or phone numbers, was that even if we settled on something, how would we actually get it? The hire car we got is just a Toyota Rav4 (what a crap car, I’d never buy one!) so not much room to carry big items of furniture.

We met our neighbour on the other side (not the burly, bare-chested towtruck driver guy) who very kindly invited us to dinner with her family which was delightful and very welcome given we were starting to get sick of eating out after five days of it since arriving. Someone mentioned it was possible to hire trucks for the day from Home Depot, more or less like Bunnings in Australia or B&Q in the UK. So we thought, great, we’re set.

A sign out the front of the consignment store. One of many scattered throughout, all fabulous and funny!

After doing a bit of hunting around, I discovered something called a consignment store. We drove down and it was basically just a second hand furniture store. After looking at new stuff in other stores like The Brick or even Ikea, we knew even the cheapest new stuff would be out of our price range. The stuff in the consignment store was priced well and the sales assistant was fantastic, showing us everything they had that we could have missed just browsing around by ourselves. We discovered prices were flexible so we chose what we liked, based on what we could afford predominantly, and we ended up with two big chests of drawers, a TV unit, an armchair, an ottoman, three side tables, a padded blanket box, a matching bedside table and cupboard for the Dude’s room, an oversized coffee table and a glider for about $900 all up. We took what we could on the spot and arranged to pick up the rest the next day in a $20 hired truck from Home Depot.

Cars. Some of these North American ones are just stupidly big!

Well. It wasn’t straight forward. When Mr Chewbacca rang to ask about availability of trucks he was told they will not hire to someone without an Ontario driver’s licence. So he rang U Haul and was told something just as ridiculous. It’s like they didn’t know that people from other places might want to hire a truck and they really had no idea what to say. I did some quick Internet research and discovered a bit on U Haul’s own website saying they’d accept a licence from overseas and eventually we convinced them. What a stupid ordeal! Like most stuff of this nature in Canada, it’s bureaucratic and any systems in place are antiquated.

Anyway so Mr C picked up the stuff and that was great, we had some proper furniture finally! We found a lovely couch on Kijiji and after some research, traipsing around various different shops, purchases and returns, we settled on some rugs from Walmart and Canadian Tire as the house has no carpet in it.

I spy a moving truck... finally, our stuff from home has arrived!

Oh, the house. I could write a whole series of posts about how dodgy it is in terms of the quality of workmanship, materials, everything. It’s not the age of the house, it’s clearly just been built to a very low standard. And over the years it’s been painted or updated or repaired but never to a good standard. I now understand fully why Mike Holmes is as successful as he is. I think he may be the only Canadian thus far to realise that you need actual standards to construct a house properly. Anyway, we’ve got toilets that get easily blocked, walls that are slightly curved by accident, strangely undulating floors, warm patches on kitchen tiles, doors that don’t fit properly, just cheap, shoddy workmanship all round.

The truck arrives. Yep, that's the extent of what we brought!

The fridge, which is from Ikea, of all places (generally speaking rental properties here come with whitegoods), looks pretty but the water dispenser gives very odd-tasting water and the water hammer is so loud. Oh and it doesn’t fit in the space properly so has been rammed in and actually warped the surrounding cupboards. No air circulation. And you can’t open the cupboards above it because the doors get stuck on top of the fridge! The microwave (another fixture) is balancing on a weird shelf that juts out at just the right level for you to take out an eye of you move while standing in front. The oven is this huge white standalone monster, self-cleaning apparently, and all gas! It’s a beast and looks ancient but apparently isn’t and works well. Virtually all the kitchen cupboards are too small and not easily accessible. It’s like the whole kitchen was built for show, not to actually be used.

Setting up the only piece of furniture from Australia that we weren't willing to part with

Anyway, enough whingeing, suffice it to say the house looks cool but pretty much needs to be rebuilt from scratch and we now have furniture! We also have a car, the purchase of which and inevitable associated drama is a story for another time. And our stuff arrived from Australia. We spent thousands to send toys to Canada apparently…


Materialism and minimalism

Drafted at the end of May this year. Two months until we flew to Canada.

So the latest thing we have to confront in our quest for a possible home in the northern hemisphere where it snows in winter is the cost of relocating our goods. To move everything across, excluding electrical appliances as the voltage differs too greatly, is simply not financially viable. We need to cull.
Now this shouldn’t be such an issue for us given we don’t have a lot of stuff as it is and the majority of what we do have was either free or cheap, but this isn’t just a matter of leaving out a few things we don’t really care about. This cull sees us leaving behind three quarters of our worldly possessions. These are things we’ve had not just since we first met but things that belonged to each of us years before, as children, even things that belonged to our parents and grandparents.
The bookshelf is the hardest piece of furniture to give up, even though we were given it free. It was blue, purple and pink and missing a shelf but we recognised it as a solid piece of furniture with style and we sanded it down, bought a new shelf, and painted it a chalky, off-white gloss. It wasn’t long before our then-toddler smashed the rocking chair into its base on many occasions and chipped off bits of paint. But we stood him against its side every six months and marked his height and the date with a felt tip pen. It was to be a portable height chart. When our daughter arrived we marked her length at birth on the other side. It was almost as good as owning our own family home and marking heights on a doorframe. But now, will even the bookshelf need to find a new home? And the books it holds?

Today I chucked out some books I truly don’t like or want but it was just a handful. In truth, I love our collection of books, from Mr Chewbacca’s extensive Ian Ranking collection and the thick one about South African history that he assures me he’s actually read to all those Steiner ones ill probably never read and old favourites like Atonement or the Anthony Keidis autobiography or the Star Wars almanac. I’m struggling to come to terms with the possibility of leaving them behind to pursue an avenue that may actually prove wrong.
Everything is riding on this. It has to be right. But I’ve never felt so uncertain.