House hunting

As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been haunting Zillow lately, looking for our next house. This afternoon, I went to look at one with Natalie, our real estate agent.

It was not the house we planned to see. That adorable house had been listed yesterday, inconceivably, at $419,000, and I wondered if the sellers were trying to start a bidding war. When Natalie finally reached them the next day, they admitted that they’d listed it for the wrong price: It was actually $729,000. Don’t even ask me how they could have made such a massive error. Needless to say, we moved on.

The house we did see was great. They’d completely remodeled the kitchen, taking down a wall to form a great room. They did an excellent job.

It was a perfect one-level, with bedrooms at one end and a huge family room at the other which reminded me of our basement. It had A/C, newer roof, windows, furnace, carpet, wood floors — the whole kit and kaboodle. It was well-priced, too.

But it was too far out for where we want to be as long as we are still working. Well, David, really. He’s got such a short commute that more than doubling it probably seems onerous, though it’s probably under 20 minutes each way. (‘m 🚊 to a* g Fell asleep writing this, sorry! Thought I’d leave the ghost typing, just for fun.)

I don’t think we’ll be moving there, sadly.  We need to get our financial ducks in a row. We really need to purge our things down to a reasonable number. But seeing the “perfect” house made that process more real, somehow. Now, as I sort through things, I can picture the hypothetical rooms they will be destined for. And if I can’t find a space for them in the little home in my mind, then they obviously need to go.

Which means I’ve got a ton of scrapbooking to do in my immediate future.

How to lighten your load (with a little help from Ryanair)

On Thursday morning, we left Portugal, flying from Porto to Barcelona.

For weeks ahead of time, we had been stressing out about the flight. You see, Ryanair only lets you have one item of carry-on luggage, and that single piece has to contain within it every single other thing you might have with you, be it a purse, camera, or laptop computer. In addition, that piece can weigh no more than 10 kilos and be no larger than 55 x 40 x 20 centimeters. If they discover you have violated any of these sacred covenants, you must pay a fee of 50 euros to check your bag at the gate.

To make matters worse, Ryanair’s checked baggage is limited to 20 kilos per piece. If you exceed this, you are charged 20 euros per kilo. We paid to check two bags (at an ungodly price that was more than our own tickets), so there was no way we were prepared to pay any overage charges.

The problem? We had departed for Europe with:

  • a) one checked bag weighing 23 kilos (black suitcase);
  • b) one checked bag weighing 20 kilos (blue backpack circa 1988);
  •  c) one checked bag weighing 17 kilos (green backpack circa 1992);
  • d) three carry-on bags weighing an unknown amount, but two of which exceeded Ryanair’s carry-on size limit (black duffel bag and Quinland’s IKEA backpack; the other, my green album tote, was short enough and narrow enough and exactly deep enough); and
  • e) one personal item each (two purses and one camera bag).

This became our own personal story problem. If three people have way too much stuff, and they have to stuff the stuff into a space much smaller than humanly possible, how much stuff will they have to get rid of? Answer: a whole bunch.

First, we had to get another suitcase. This sounds counter-intuitive, but those dang backpacks we checked were small and – much worse – did not roll. We now live in the age of wheels, and you know what? Wheels rock. Backpacks are for the young and foolish, my friends. Rolling is vastly preferable.

Back a zillion years ago on Game Night, I had spied a shop selling bargain luggage. I tried to interest David in it at the time, but he was too interested in various boards and bits to want to shop. Now, however, time was running short. A big rolling suitcase had become a dire necessity. We headed back to the soccer stadium-slash-mall and found a huge red rolling bag, purchased it, and loaded it with groceries. (You can’t put those wheels to waste.)

Next we had to get a device to measure the weight of the bags. We are now the proud possessors of a handheld scale that can also weigh fish and has a measuring tape so we can figure out who caught the biggest one. I devised a way to use it to weigh the big bags without severing our fingers by hanging the scale from my green backpack’s shoulder strap. I am going to patent this idea and make millions.

Round 1 of “Dump! That! Stuff!” soon commenced. We decided that the purses and the camera bag would have to go into the checked baggage, as would the zip-off backpack from Q’s IKEA bag. My carry-on would remain the same, but we’d have to take care not to overstuff it since it was skirting the edge of doom; Q’s IKEA bag would be her carry-on, but could only be filled halfway; and David would carry on the green backpack, turned inside out. He had cleverly realized that with its outer pockets turned inside, it would meet criteria.

The first things dumped, then, would be our other two bags. The black duffle bag was a freebie from Office Depot, so that was no big deal. We’ll need to have a moment of silence, however, for the blue backpack, which had been purchased for my trip to Ireland in college. Its loss was made a bit easier by the knowledge that there was no way in heck that I was going to willingly carry that sucker on my back ever again. We gifted it to the guy who owned the tasca downstairs, which made it much easier. I think we also accidentally gifted him with CDs of a bunch of personal photos, including some flattering “Before” pictures of myself in my skivvies. I didn’t figure this out for a couple of days. David sees no big deal in this, but he doesn’t have his belly hanging out in front of perfect strangers. Anymore.

By the time Round 1 was finished, we had gotten close to our goal. We’d ripped useful papers out of spiral notebooks and tossed the rest, gotten rid of any and all duplicates (CD/DVD case), and figured out what could be replaced later (bottles of conditioner). We still weren’t there, though, so it was time for the real sacrifices. I gave up my black skirt; David gave up one of his four pairs of pants; and Quinland, in a true act of self-sacrifice, gave up her dress shoes. (The one time she wore them, on Easter Sunday, they hurt her feet and she walked home barefoot.)

According to the fish scale, we’d finally done it! We were at exactly 20 kilos per checked bag and 10 kilos per carry-on. We’d lost sleep and sightseeing time and stuff, but our mission was accomplished.

Of course, Ryanair neither weighed nor measured any of our luggage when we checked in… but that’s a different story.

Daily Check-In:

  • I’m grateful! that I have developed my abilities to release my stuff (though it is often done under duress!).
  • I’m lighter! by what feels like a ton of stuff. I am sure we could get by with even less, easily, but we held on to some comfort objects and some of potential use.

Day 4 = One sick child, one lazy day

Day 4 = March 15, 2012

Quinland had a really hard time sleeping Wednesday night. He was wheezing really badly and had to sleep sitting up or he couldn’t breathe. He woke up a number of times during the night, and – when he finally settled in to sleep – ended up sleeping until 2 PM.

David and I slept in until noon ourselves, but even after we got up, we couldn’t go anywhere without Q, obviously, so we had a quiet day at home. We decided to use our time to adjust our plans for the next few weeks, for reasons I shall explain in the next post.

Basically, we had contemplated staying five weeks in Portugal, three in Lisbon and two up North, after many of the BGG gamers from the North had offered to meet us, show us around, and plan activities for us. It sounded like an offer too good to pass up. Well, we are passing it up.

The new plan is to stay in Lisbon until April 3rd, rent a car and drive to the North – visiting Fatima and stopping somewhere along the way (Coimbra?) – and then fly out of Porto on the 12th for Barcelona. We will stay in Barcelona until the 19th, then fly to Munich. Our friend Bryann is being sent to Munich for a work conference, and we can’t miss the chance to hang out with anyone who makes it over here! (Hint, hint, anyone who might be making vacation plans…) We’ll then journey from Munich to Hannover to hang with our friends the E’s, as Nicole’s company is flying her over for a trade show and she is bringing the fab family along.

All this flying really makes us take a hard look at the luggage. The budget airlines over here charge more for a checked bag than they do for a seat on the plane. (Hmmm… maybe my other child, Suity Case Thompson, needs a regular ticket…) Even for the checked bags, the weight limit is really low or the price goes up even more. You are not allowed to carry on a “personal item” along with your carry-on bag, either. As you can see, we have got some work to do:

Tons o’ fun.

I feel so ridiculous for even having this much stuff. I am a total proponent of packing light.  No, really, I am! See the blue bag hiding behind the huge black bag? That’s the backpack I took to Ireland for six months. I decided that was way too big. See the bag front and center, with the padded shoulder strap? That’s the one I downsized to for a year-long trip the next time we went. And the last time we traveled at length, in 1997? I packed one backpack, and it was so small that David carried it for me along with his most of the time since I was pregnant. It was smaller than Quinland’s IKEA bag, the one next to the huge one. It was smaller, in fact, than the school backpack I got Q for 5th grade. The date is the key, though. None of my 1997-vintage random health issues required any special packing, and since we didn’t have a child, we didn’t require anything special for him, like school books.

But have no fear, fabulous readers. We shall conquer this; we shall. (Name that film.) I am going to wear the cooling vest whenever we travel by plane, as that will save about 4,000 lbs. (Quinland noted that it is ironic that the thing that cools you down when you overexert actually causes you to exert more due to its weight.) We are front-loading school subjects that have books that we can dump or send home. We are using up some consumable stuff (meds, toiletries, etc), though not at very speedy rates. We each packed only 2-3 pairs of pants, 1 pair of pajamas, 1 week’s worth of socks and undies, and at most 1 extra pair of shoes (and I don’t even have that), but we will look at each top and scarf and hat and pare down where we can. Wish us luck.

Expenditures: I went to the store in the afternoon, so 16 euros for groceries.

Experiences: My first time walking to the train station / grocery store! I walked into the discount book store that was by the grocery store. The store clerk spoke to me in Portuguese. I said, “Boa tarde” (Good afternoon) then panicked and walked out. The books were all in Portuguese anyway, but the words “discount book store” have some sort of magnetic pull on me.