Author Archives: EasyDone

About EasyDone

Marijke lives in Brisbane, Australia and she is passionate about exploring change. She writes about changes in life style, health, mindset and buying a house in France. She sees clients, blogs, does all kind of things creative, takes pictures and she writes e-books. Connect with her on FB, Twitter and LinkedIn

Haarlem, the Dutch city with many hidden secrets!

My trip to Haarlem started not exactly problem free! First of all I spent the biggest part of an afternoon hanging around at Stansted airport waiting for my plane to arrive, let alone leave for Amsterdam. Before that I had some issues at security. Due to several beeps they wanted me to take off all my jewellery, shoes, belt and for a moment I thought more items….

Then they asked me if I was carrying a breathing machine or some other type of health gadget in my hand luggage. They had seen a suspicious shape in my suit case that turned out to be my Nespresso coffee machine! It really does look a little bit like a gun, doesn’t??

The airport was extremely busy but this little bar just had the perfect spot for me. Therefore I decided to kill the time with a glass of bubbly.

flight delay, prosecco, airport

When your flight is delayed, you might as well enjoy the extra time!

Finally after almost 3 hours delay – still only with one drink though – I hit the ground in Amsterdam.  And at 9 pm I was greeted by my cousin and family.

Haarlem, my next stop

I was staying in Haarlem, the capitol of the province of North Holland with a history dating back at least until the 12th century. Haarlem was once one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. It has attracted several Flamish artists and a large number of rich people.

It is also a city of pioneers. They claim to have housed the inventor of the art of printing, Laurens Coster. Plane designer Anthonij Fokker did his first spin around the tower of the St Bavo Church. The same church also is the home of the famous ‘Müller’ organ. Apparently Mozart played there when he was only 10 years old.

Müller organ, Haarlem, St Bavo kerk

The famous ‘Müller’ organ that was played by Händel and an only 10 year old Mozart

The first rail line was from Amsterdam to Haarlem and of course they have several breweries. They are also home to the oldest news paper in the world (1656) – Het Haarlems Dagblad. The one where my host is a journalist.

They claim 😉 to have quite a lot of significant history!

What I have seen is that it is a very pretty city with lovely old streets, dozens of little ‘hofjes’ or hidden court yards and a vibrant cafe life. The hofjes are quite unique. You can find them behind closed doors but if you don’t know they are there you would walk straight past them. We did a discovery tour of most hofjes. I believe we have seen more than 20.

hofje, Haarlem, inner city

One of many ‘Hofjes’. Hidden by a normal door on the street, they are a very private quiet inner city area.

Haarlem also has lots of tiny narrow streets. The people who live there like to put pot plants and tables and chairs outside. I constantly mistake them for cafes! It gives a very green inner city life.

Haarlem, inner city, small street

Inner city little street with cottages and an active ‘green’ scene

Haarlem, inner city, outdoor living

Outdoor living in Haarlem. I quite often thought some of the houses were cafes!

There was another attraction that I wanted to see in Haarlem. A friend in Brisbane lent me a book about the Dutch family Ten Boom who helped Jewish people hide during WW2. Their house was and still is a watch shop. It is in the center of Haarlem and is now open for visits and a tour.

Haarlem, Corrie ten Boom

The house of Corrie Ten Boom, the watch maker who helped Jewish people hide during WW2

Haarlem, hiding place

The small cavity in a bedroom that they built specially to hide Jewish people during the war

It was amazing to see how they managed to help and hide many Jewish people for years before they were betrayed and taken to concentration camps. Corrie ten Boom who wrote the book survived the ordeal and travelled the world for 30 years promoting her life philosophy. It was an inspiring and also sobering experience to see how this family lived and managed to help so many people during the war.

A family reunion at Haarlem

The reason I went to Haarlem was a family reunion. A year or so ago we had a spontaneous cousin reunion at my sister’s place. It was great to catch up and we decided to do it again. My cousin in Haarlem offered to host it this time.

I stayed for a couple of days and it was nice to get to know my cousin and his wife a bit better. It must have been 40 years since we saw each other last. His daughter was familiar to us as she came to stay in Australia with us. And it was great to see her again.

My cousin’s wife has a rather unusual tradition. She invited me to join her for a ‘breathing meditation’ on the beach followed by a brisk walk. The adventure was continued by a dip in an ice bath and as icing on the cake a swim in the North sea. It was very ‘tempting’ but fortunately the weather was on my side! She is doing this every Saturday morning all year round in rain or shine. Quite admirable.

As a seasoned Queenslander I am used to water temperatures of over 21. So for me the North Sea might have been the ice bath in itself 😕

All in all Haarlem seems a lovely city – a bit of small Amsterdam. I could live here I think. Well let’s see what the future holds for us…. For now I am off to Groningen in the North of the Netherlands where I will be staying in an authentic old farm house.

See you there!

First observations and impressions of a traveler in Europe

After only 2 weeks in the UK I have made some interesting observations. Although I was in London, rather the out skirts, I have not been once into the center of London. I did not feel like it and wanted to spend the time to catch up with family and some friends. The ones who live in the East of London 🙂

Observations of English gardens

I am no stranger to London after all I lived there twice for a couple of years. So no, I have not headed to the many attractions that London offers. Instead I have had my first experience to garden in this climatic zone. The job waiting me was to trim and clear a rather overgrown part of a well established cottage garden.

observations, English garden, lush garden, flowers

A typical English garden during the summer. Lush, green and colourful and I was allowed to make my mark!

In Australia I have come across some nasty vegetation. The kind that can tear your clothes or cut through your garden gloves. A bougainvillea thorn can cause infection as I have found out several times. Some garden companies refuse to handle Bougainvillea for that reason.

As I found out the English garden can compete! Roses, Pyracanta and Berberis to name a few. All with thorns that can mutilate you!

This would not be so bad if the local council would provide adequate means to get rid of the garden waste. They think they have come up with a ‘fantastic’ solution. They charge 50 pounds for 50 bags that you can fill up and they pick them up on a regular base. Sounds like it could work.

Well just have a look at the picture below and judge for yourself! The only good thing about these bags is that the plastic used is environmentally friendly. It apparently breaks down easily….!

observations, garden waste, garden bags

Flimsy garden bags not suited for normal garden waste, let alone those with thorns!

More people obviously are not impressed – hence the article in the local paper 😯

Anyway, apart from flimsy bags my time in London was pleasant. Before I change the subject however I have noticed something else that I like to mention.

Observations of London street scenes

A while back I was discussing prices with my friend Greg in Brisbane. He said that he was very happy to pay a bit more in Australia. He pointed out that Australia was a very clean country and public services work well. I had never considered it in that way but after being in London for a couple of days I noticed how right he was.

London is rather dirty. The streets are dirty, the street signs are often so polluted that you can barely read them. Many public bins are full to the brim and people leave house hold and garden waste on the street for days.

observations, garden waste, council services

Garden waste that is left out for days for the council to pick up is a common sight

It is probably an accepted sight for Londoners but for me coming from a cleaner country, it was very noticeable. So dear friend in Brisbane, you have a fair point!

A family reunion in The Netherlands

My next stop will be Amsterdam or actually the smaller city of Haarlem very close to the capital. I assume you all know that Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Quite often people assume wrongly that the capital is The Hague as that is where the government resides already since 1588. Amsterdam is the place where the inauguration of kings and queens take place – it is the royal city.

The reason I am going to Haarlem is a family reunion. Family in the way of cousins and cousines. We had a spontaneous reunion a  couple of years ago and we decided then that the next one would be after my return to Europe. Last time my sister hosted it and this time one of my cousins will open his house for the invasion.

It was special to catch up with all these cousins. There are no more aunties and uncles so apart from memories and old pictures we have no means to find out about our past. One of my cousins created a file with pictures dating back to the late 1800’s. Quite special.

One of my Brisbane friends lent me once a book about a Dutch watch maker family who helped Jewish people during WW2 the nazi holocaust. Their house is in Haarlem and is now a museum. My friend has asked me the favour to check it out for her and take some pictures for her to see. I will gladly do this and I am even taking along some of my family who lives in Haarlem but never have been to the house themselves.

A bit of nostalgia

It seems that my tour around Europe so far is full with nostalgia. It feels like that and it will be nice to pass some of this on to my kids who grew up without strong links to the Netherlands. Although one of them has decided that The Netherlands is the place where she wants to study! She is a Dutch citizen, but does not speak Dutch – so far. She has assured me that this will be different by the end of the year  😆

I’m looking forward to arriving in Haarlem and go a bit down memory lane with cousins and second cousins. Goodbye to London for now until later this year when we have a wedding of a London cousin. The first wedding we can go to since we emigrated to Australia 25 years ago. So quite special!

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observations, relaxation, feeling at ease

 

 

 

After months of preparation let the European adventure begin….

I started my European adventure in London after a brief visit to Singapore. It seemed logical to go to London first to catch up with family in law before heading to Europe. I have no concrete plans apart from ideas but they can change with whatever comes my way. Sounds like an adventure to me!

When you return from overseas after years it is easy to fall into the trap of doing the rounds to visit family and friends. Everybody likes to see you but before you know you are the one who is doing all the travelling.

Favourite destinations

We have nipped this in the butt years ago. I think it was 2009 when we introduced our family concept to give friends options where they could catch up with us. If they were not prepared to make the trip, why would we? The result is that the hard core comes to see us and the rest gives it a miss.

I do have some exceptions to the rule and this has to do with the geographical location of where some friends live. There are my long time friends in Wengen, a ski resort where I have worked a winter or two. Wengen is a favourite and I have no problem making the rather arduous trip of many hours to reach the village.

London is also on the list of places to visit. Respect to age is very likely the reason we usually make the trip to London town. We don’t really expect my husband’s mum to hop on the plane to meet us somewhere.

european adventure, casa bonita, outdoor living

Cooking up a feast in the outdoor kitchen in Casa Bonita, at Palau, Spain

Then there is my sister who has an abode called Casa Bonita, in sunny Spain. Also a favourite to visit but I tend to keep the visits to her other address in far North of the Netherlands to a minimum 😉 Although this time this destination is on my list. She lives in an authentic old farm house. I can’t wait to see the latest renovations and other creative things she usually does to houses.

After that, some time in August I will head to our own house Casa Rita in the South of France. That is as far as my plans go….

My time in London

I have been just over a week in London now and the weather was fabulous. Some call it hot but for a seasoned ex-Brisbanite this heat is not much of an issue. I was in London at the same time as Wimbledon, one of my favourite sporting tournaments. It also happened to be that my favourite tennis player played the men’s singles final and won!

european adventure, wimbledon, tennis match

Sitting on Murray Mound to watch a match on Centre court. The best way after the real thing!

Understandably I was in my element to be able to watch it in the UK time zone. Although the family had to throw in a BBQ at the same time. I still managed to sneak to the TV many times to watch what was happening. I got away with it because I was looking after new born Alfie while watching the match 😛

european adventure, wimbledon, tennis final

The latest addition to the family, Alfie at 3 weeks old watching the Wimbledon Men’s final

My jet lag was minimal as usual. I have a well travelled friend in Ghent who once told me that jet lags were overrated. He gave me some tips to deal with it and with the help of Melatonin it indeed is. Within a couple of days I was back into a routine although I still fall asleep around 9.30 pm. To be honest that was also part of my normal daily routine in Brisbane.

European adventure – a new routine

I may have to adjust some of my habits as life in Australia has an early start. Gyms are open early or 24 hours, cafes have a queue and dozens of early morning cyclist park their bikes for a caffeine shot. In London I have gone for a walk every morning and look wishfully at the many cafes I pass. Not one is open. The only signs of life in early London is the commuter traffic.

With that in mind, getting up at 6 seems silly over here. On the other hand I could also make a nice coffee at home. After all I am travelling with my own portable smallest version of a Nespresso coffee machine. Thanks to my oldest daughter who works part time in this coffee boutique in Melbourne and was for years their employee in Brisbane.

My routine in Brisbane to get up before 6 and either go the gym or for a walk seems a nightmare for many Europeans. In Australia however it is much part of the lifestyle due to hot weather and shorter days. I am sure it will adjust by itself.

European adventure – admin chores!

I have spent a fair part of the week in London sorting out all kid of admin palava. First of all I left Australia without a re-entry permit. Some may call it silly and it probably is but I just let it happen that way. Also I left without being sure about the status of my medical insurance abroad. I used to live in the UK and still have an insurance number but it may have expired. I am not automatically insured in The Netherlands either.

european adventure, bike, Amsterdam

Creative shopping in The Netherlands

So as a Dutch citizen I could be insured in my own country either through the NHS in UK or the Medicare system in Australia. Rather bizarre but so be it.

I have booked my next European adventure. Next week I am flying to Amsterdam for a family reunion near by on the 30th July. Many of my cousins will be there and so is my sister. Her farm house in far North Netherlands is my next destination on the list.

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European adventure, Noosa, Australia

 

 

Our adventure in Australia has come to an end

adventure, Brisbane, Australia

The sky line of Brisbane along the river

Our Australian adventure is nearly finished. I say nearly as some of us are still in Oz, one has left already and one will stay for a bit longer.

We have handed in the key of our house. It was a gruelling couple of weeks with a fair bit of stress. I still wake up in the middle of the night with feelings that I have to sell things I actually don’t have anymore or bring items to people who don’t exist.

It was amazing to see that after selling most of our things we still manage to ship over 8 cubic meter. And that is without the ‘famous’ sofa that I would have liked to take to our house in France. The problem was that the sofa is too big to get into the house. The width of the window is exactly the same size as the height of the sofa.

I did ask my local Limoux handyman for advice but his reply was to assess the situation ‘en place’. Not really the best suggestion. So off it went, our gorgeous sofa to a very grateful lady for a pittance!

Being a tenant in Australia

During the last 5 years we were renters. We sold our family home and found an apparent good house to rent in St Lucia. Very handy for our off spring who went to University and high school. The house turned out to be a bit of a night mare with many structural problems.

Obviously not designed by an architect but more by a ‘wannabe’ builder. He must have saved a lot of money by skipping stages in the building process. After all how can waterproofing and sloping areas for drainage purposes be important. The end of the story is that I am glad that some else owns this house. If it was a car, it would be called a lemon!

We did get to meet our landlady, the one who let us live in a house with damp problems, a whole summer without outdoor areas and an on the verge of collapse retaining wall at the back of the house. She came to assess the condition while we were still cleaning.

Now apparently tenants are the lower citizens of society and therefore the rather frumpy and grumpy grey haired owner chose to walk past us without saying a word. After all why would you interact with the people who paid your mortgage for the last 5 years? I decided that she deserves the house she owns…..

The final jobs before the new adventure begins

Selecting and packing our belongings

So the last weeks were spent on preparing a large garage sale, packing the stuff we wanted to take and cleaning to get our rather large bond back. The garage sale was a success, the removalists were pleasant and effective and the cleaning was gruelling.

In Australia it is common to have to leave your house cleaner than you get it. You can’t hang pictures on the walls and if you do you have to fix the holes.The carpet, ours with damp stains and moth damage needs a professional cleaning service and so on.

You also can’t leave anything on the premises that was not there when you got the house initially. So I took away the washing line, the compost bin, the watering hose and the more than one pot plant that was on the entry report. My neighbour was very eager to take it all.

In the end we left it in a very good state and I could hand in the keys on the due date. In the meantime we have heard that we get all our bond back. We have to do one more task and that is emptying the bins. In fact we were not really supposed to leave the bins full. Rather odd as where are you suppose to leave rubbish and recycling when you are still living there. Again my neighbour comes to the rescue and will empty both bins when the next pick is.

Big changes

So now we are officially homeless and ready for a new adventure. We were able to do a house sit for friends for the last couple of weeks. Keith, my husband who will stay a bit longer in Australia can rent a room at friends until his contract finishes. Our youngest moved in with her friend and family and is now a homestay student. And the oldest daughter lives since a couple of months in Melbourne.

Everything has changed and come to an end Down Under

Let the new adventure begin……

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Downsizing in the true sense of the word!

It has been a turbulent couple of weeks if not months lately but our exercise in downsizing has seen light at the end of the tunnel. Our house got emptier by the day and before we knew we had a very basic existence. As a matter of fact we have sold our bed before we moved out of our house and someone picked it up a couple of days later.

downsizing, making a bed

This lounge suite has been used for sleep overs many times so together with a large ottoman in front, it can be our bed for the last week

My immediate solution was to sleep on the lounge suit. Together with an ottoman it just looked like a double bed. My joy did not last long as someone bought this as well and had picked it up before I have the chance to sleep on it.

An unexpected blessing in disguise

Fortunately something cropped up. A friend of ours asked us if we were interested in doing a house sit in her house while she was on holiday. She has two little dogs and they needed looking after.

It couldn’t have been a better timing. So my answer was ‘yes please’! It also gave us our first house sit experience and hopefully a reference. It made everything so much easier. The timing of selling your furniture and having the comfort of using is tricky. It has not been easy to sell some of our things so when you get the asking price it is time to let it go. Even if it means you have to go back to camping conditions!

I am quite astounded by the attitude of the average second hand buyer. It seems that you must bargain and many people are not afraid to ask if you can deliver. People even accused me of wasting their time because I did not fulfil their wishes.

Downsizing and meeting people

There have been some really nice people and fortunately they have made a bigger impression than the obnoxious ones. One girl bought my upgraded book case and was so happy with it that she sent me a picture after she had filled it with her books. She wanted to show me how nice it looked in her apartment.

Another guy showed up with his girl friend. Both from the USA, they have just moved into a unit in West End and need many things. He is coming back for a a garage sale preview. I have been able to sell our homestay students’s desk, chair and light. He is not that impressed but he was moving out a day or so later, so who cares? Sometimes you just make do!

Buyers like this made everything worth it. I even made a bit of a friend amongst one of my regular buyers. She has bought several of my upgrade items and we got along nicely. We have in common our love for upgrading old bits of furniture. And isn’t that one of the facilitators for friendships, I remember from my Psych lectures.

make-over, upgrade, furniture, about me

Giving a old piece of furniture a make-over with chalk paint and wax

So really, after my garage sale that will take place in a week’s time most things should have gone. There seem to be some ‘unspoken’ rules to second hand selling. People who buy expect it to be cheap so high end items do not sell very easily. This may be logical as people who can afford it do not buy second hand, maybe…..?

This could mean that we had to drop the price for our sofa tremendously or take it. As we did not want to take it, – too much hassle and complications on the other end – we will have to let it go cheap I am afraid. And to be honest I did not care. Better some money than none at all.

Downsizing to the ‘max’

I realise I do not care about any of the stuff we have sold. We think we can’t do without but when it comes to the crunch it really does not matter. It feels enlightening to let it all go and to start from scratch or not at all.

We have had thoughts that things might come in handy and we could buy another house in the future….. Could or couldn’t. Who knows…..

So yes, our house echoed, it is empty and still we managed to do exactly what we always did and hardly noticed the lack of items. It is ‘downsizing’ to the max and it feels good! We even had a dinner party one night and funny enough our guests picked up the coffee table we had on loan.

It was handy that the dining set was still there!

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A sense of ‘unease’ is slowly creeping upon me!

For the first time since planning our emigration to Europe I am aware of a growing sense of ‘unease’. I don’t think it has to do with doubt or regret about our emigration plans. It actually started the other night when I received an email regarding a planned future activity. It made me clear that sometimes plans are not that ‘set in stone’ as you may think.

At the same time my husband read an article in the Guardian about some consequences of Brexit. Apparently several Dutch people who live in UK were asked to leave the UK. Despite the fact they are married to British citizens and have lived in the UK for up to 30 years. New legislation for Brexit has not even started but already now this seems to have started to happen. In the meantime it has turned out that this article was incorrect, but still…..

Add to that that I may loose my permanent residency for Australia. I am not registered in the Netherlands as a citizen as I officially left the country. I may not be welcome in the UK despite my British husband and I escaped a narrow possibility not to be able to live in France in the near future. Looking at all this together I think I may have found the cause of this unease….

What country is my home?

With all this in mind I have not only to decide where we like to live but also where we can live. I am getting this fleeting thought of how incredible ‘uneasy’ a refugee must feel. Not that you can compare my status to those people but I can imagine how this feeling of unease can have its toll and affects your sense of belonging.

I know I have the right to live in the Netherlands but at the moment I am not planning to do so. Australia permanent residency gives me the right to live in Australia although my choice is to leave this country for now. The consequence may be that Australia could withdraw my permanent residency. After having lived there for 25 years, that feels uneasy!

I guess that is exactly how these Dutch people in the UK would have felt. I am leaving Australia out of free choice but the UK was forcing them to leave. They may not have the option of becoming a British citizen, I assume. Lucky for me is that I still have the option to become an Australian citizen. Until I leave this country I qualify.

wedding, Noosa

The setting for our wedding ceremony at Little Cove Beach at Noosa

Several people including two of our friends who are immigration lawyers, recommend that I should apply for it. It feels crazy to get citizenship at this stage. I have never done it because I could lose my Dutch nationality. Since I married an Australian in 2011, I now have the right to remain Dutch while having Australian citizenship.

I don’t know if this sense of unease would disappear if I would decide to do the latter. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t.

The emotional impact of emigration

So far planning this emigration has been a whirlwind of action with very little time for emotion. We have to sell everything, we need to organise our admin, our house needs an end of lease clean, my business will cease to exist and so on. It all is ‘kind of’ under control and there even seems to be light at the end of the action tunnel.

So maybe now the emotional ‘unease’ is slowly sticking up its head. If there are any doubts or regrets, its time to play a role could be at this stage. To be honest I don’t really feel doubt but the feelings I have are hard to bring home.

What I have become aware off is the habit how we take so many things for granted. It seems that everything I do regularly suddenly has got a label of ‘last time soon’! And it gives me this little pang of ache.

Some of the things that I will miss

coffee

Enjoying a coffee at our local cafe ‘Briki’. This cafe has been instrumental for our social life during the last 5 years

The loud Australian birds I hear screeching every day, the sound of the Kookaburra, the gym where I go several times per week, the friends I have made there, the coffee I have at the local cafe everyday with other gym and kick boxing fans, the abundance of colourful subtropical flowers everywhere, the gardens I look after, their owners who have become more than clients, the Brisbane river walks so nearby, the cosy 100 Acre bar across the road, the gorgeous but expensive avocados and the huge choice of international ingredients for food.

Just to name a few…..

curlews, birds

Local birds such as the stately Curlews may not be a common sight in Europe

They are all going to be thousands of kilo meters away from where I will be. And furthermore I am leaving behind my oldest daughter, for a short while the youngest and possibly my husband as well depending on his work contract.

I suppose I can expect a larger sense of unease and a few more little pangs of ache to come my way. I suppose I have to take it as it comes…

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What is your reason to NOT declutter?

Every time when I write about decluttering or clearing it seems to hit a nerve with many people. I wonder why that is. I suppose one reason could be that all of them have an enormous amount of clutter. They know they SHOULD do something about it but find ALWAYS excuses not to do so.

The reason why or why not….

I notice it when I tell people that I have been clearing a lot. I see their eyes go dark, their minds racing while thinking that it is something they really ought to do as well. Maybe people need a big reason to start this clearing process. Something like a move, down sizing after kids leave, selling a house or clearing a house after someone died.

The latter is an experience I went through myself. My mum died when I was just 21 and we had to empty our family home. I can recall at the time that I was not particular motivated. My sister and I just took the things we needed and the rest went either to ‘motivated’ helpers or a skip.

There are some things that disappeared in either the skip or someone else’s house that I regret not to have claimed but I have accepted that. I don’t know the reason for my ignorance, I was after all only 21 and obviously naif.

And at the moment I am going again through this declutter process. Not just decluttering but emptying a house totally. I have about 6 weeks left and although it is looking emptier, there are still many, many things to sell, give away or dump.

Timing it right…..

The trickiest thing will be to hang on to things we need as long as possible but being able to sell them before we need to move out. It feels a bit like a puzzle game. I sell a table and replace it with another one I have. I realise I can sell that one as well as I have another one in my daughter’s room. She just moved to Melbourne and does not want that one.

My husband fears that one day he will come home and there are no chairs anymore to sit on. If the deal is brilliant it might just go like that!

Our outdoor area has gone through a major down size. See below for yourself.

From here

outdoor table, declutter

The original setting of al fresco dining in our house – the table went to a dear friend

To here

outdoor table setting

Back to the IKEA stage – did not last long, sold within 10 minutes

To here

The last stage and this one will come with us to Europe

It shows we possessed a fair few tables and chairs and I haven’t even shown all of them. Australia is an ‘outdoor’ country and there are many spots to enjoy sitting outside. I like to create little scenes everywhere and I did collect table settings accordingly. They have all gone to different homes by now.

Sense of loss and finality

To be honest I expected to experience more emotions when parting with possessions we have owned and used for years. Funnily I hardly care. One thing after the other disappears through our front door and I am totally fine with it. When people I care about or like buy our things I do feel a sense of satisfaction and warmth because I know our stuff goes to a good home.

But I don’t feel a sense of loss when it goes. The only thing that is slowly creeping upon me is a sense of finality. We have officially given notice to our real estate agent. We are really doing this move. It is really happening!

We are selling everything and we will end up with a few cubic meter of possessions that represent a life of 25 years in Australia. Some of the stuff actually came from Europe. We will leave this country with a couple of suitcases each, countless memories and a one way ticket to different horizons.

Even writing this gives me a heavy feeling in my chest. I don’t know the reason for it. I am pretty sure that I have no doubts but the whole thing does start freak me out a bit to say the least.

I will leave it to that and keep you posted….. 🙂

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reason, moving, letting go

 

 

 

 

 

 

My time in Australia is slowly running out!

This morning I realised I have less than two months in Australia. Time is going fast and until now I have felt in control. Since a couple of days though I have this niggle in my stomach.

Decluttering takes time!

Not so much as a result of stress but more due to the fact that I feel I am running out of time. I had planned to be way ahead of the preparations and we ‘kind off’ are to be honest. We only have the minimal furniture left and the cupboards and the garage are almost empty.

Still I feel that for every drawer I empty, for every area I sort, there appears to be more clutter. I can’t believe how much clutter there is. How many things that are there for no reason as I can’t remember I had them. Why do we do that to our selves?

Nothing what I discovered would ever come in handy as I can barely remember what all the little bits and pieces are for. I suppose we are not even the worst of hoarders. But I have sworn to myself that I never want to get into a similar situation. I only buy what I need and will use it for the purpose I need it for when I need it. Not in a year’s time…

Selling stuff takes time and patience!

Selling our furniture has been and still is an adventure. Some things sells extremely fast while others sit there for weeks. It does not matter what price you set on it, people always ask if you would take less.

A couple of things about selling stuff online annoys me. About half of the people who are interested in items for sale, do not follow up after they say they want to buy it.  Also a fair amount do not pick it up. I am thinking of ‘effective’ ways to let them know not to waste my time.

It goes like this:

Hey, just wondering if this bedside table is still available? Yes, it is still available. Are you interested? Yes, would you take $(lower amount). No problem, when would you like to pick up? Five hours later: Any more thoughts…. 8 hours later: Hi can you confirm you like to buy the item?

No freaking answer…..!

This is happening about half of the time.

Another one!

Saturday morning: I would like to buy for $40. That’s great. When would you like to pick up? We are at home this weekend. 4 hours later: can you confirm you like the book case? I have several others wanting it. 8 hours later: If you are serious about wanting to buy, can you get back to me?

Tuesday morning: can I pick up today? 

Can you see why time is slipping away. I have to admit that I am an organised person and that I like to get things done and dusted without too much hassle. This haphazard way of communication is Aussie laid-back to the extreme.

I also get questions about the size. Understandable as people need to know if things fit in their car. Usually I specify sizes in the ad. Still they ask me if it will fit in a Honda Civic or a Toyota. How do I know. You, car owner, know the measurements of your car better than me.

Clearing a house is a job!

It is fun to clear a house. Even cleansing comes to mind. The amazing thing is that so far not one thing that left the house gave me a sense of regret. The first thing that did was a Jade plant that I grew from a cutting. I had put it in a nice pot that I painted myself in a trendy colour.

The plant and several others went to a friend who will enjoy them. That is a great feeling to know things go to people who appreciate them.

Our outdoor table setting was bought by one of my first friends in Australia. We worked together in the Opera house in Sydney. He now lives in Brisbane and will be sipping wine with friends from our old table. The one I recycled, upgraded and painted myself. A sweet memory.

time, outdoor table, declutter

Our outdoor table that I restored and painted has always been a favourite for meals

So between now and the beginning of July when we have to leave this house, there is still quite a bit to get rid off. Planning is starting to get crucial. Yes, I like to sell my dining chairs, but could I please keep them until the end of June. The same goes for beds, the washing machine and the fridge.

One friend who moved back to Belgium made an art out of the timing. She managed to keep the essentials until the end so my hopes are high. We had a group of people over one evening last week and during the night I managed to sell our bar stools, a butler tray and a little side table. And I am allowed to keep them until the end. I actually did not ask, I assume…

What to take – what not to take…

It will be all fun and games. I am really surprised how little I am attached to our furniture. Even the things we had for 25 years… I am happy to shed them.

I have decided to take one piece of furniture – my mosaic wrought iron outdoor setting. A unique piece that I designed myself, I made the mosaic and I local artist created the table base and chairs. That would hurt if I had to sell it.

time, mosaic table, design, wrought iron table

One of my mosaic projects – a wrought iron table setting with a a modern mosaic design

What we do take as well are personal items. We have always bought local art and we have a fair amount to take, there is a Zimbabwean sculpture, a didgeridoo ( how can I not) and some rugs from Shiraz. Photo albums, books that represent memories and things from our kids.

We have set a maximum budget that we will spend for shipping. If it goes over that, I have to start culling again. Will I have time….

Even if you are not moving overseas, it is a cleansing exercise to declutter. It is amazing to empty drawers and create order. Have only the things you USE and NEED regularly. Not once a year but every week at least.

Have a go at it…….! 🙂

time, easydone, blog, limoux, happy up-cycling

 

 

Kerbside collections can be a fun way to recycle – up to a point!

Once every year the Brisbane council facilitates kerbside collections in every suburb. During this collection you can dump large items you don’t want on your kerb. All the bits and pieces you have in your garage, cellar, under house, in your cupboards etc that are too big for the wheelie bins, can be put on the roadside.

 

kerbside collections, kerbside, council

During council kerbside collections large items can be put on the street for collection.

When it is the turn of your suburb you see an interesting phenomenon happening. One that has even been called an ‘Aussie tradition’!

This is what happens during kerb side collections?

Out come the scavengers and the crawlers who drive around in Utes, station wagons and small pick up trucks to rummage through your unwanted goods. They hope to find treasures they can re-use or sell.

There was a time when I was part of this trend. Only last year I started a new hobby business to upgrade old furniture with chalk paints and milk paints. I found several items on the street side that I have turned into little treasures.

This year however I am the one who throws out the stuff we don’t want anymore. It has been an amazing couple of days watching from our living room on the first floor to see what people take. Literally everything apart from some old planks that I put out before the weekend has disappeared.

They took an old timber sun lounger with broken slats and a rotted side. They cut off a plug from an little electrical heater but left the heater it self…?? It is amazing to see what stuff people pick up. I did not ‘get’ the plug. Is this to stop others from ever using the item again…?

When I researched this kerbside activity I found a news article published in 2015 where a Sydney council wanted to discourage scavengers from rummaging through other people’s rubbish. Apparently as soon as the rubbish is on the kerb, it becomes the property of the council. So from that point of view the council could stop someone from taking stuff and even fine them.

Who is liable for the unwanted goods?

A ridiculous thought as the idea of people picking up stuff promotes recycling of unwanted things. Your trash becomes my treasure – an idea I really like. From the article I got the impression that the council wants to safeguard themselves against liability. If they claim that the stuff on the kerbside is their property, it becomes indeed their responsibility.

So typical Australian, this liability issue. During the last 25 years this country has gone from being relaxed and easy-going to preventing schools from having a good old fashioned play ground. All probably because some kid broke his arm while playing. To my opinion that is part of growing up, but no we have to mollycoddle children to stop them them from getting a scratch!

Bondi beach, first steps, beach, Australia

Bondi Beach where the council apparently is responsible for the of location sand banks

My worst example is an adult swimmer at Bondi Beach, Sydney who sued the council for being dumped on a sandbank and broke his neck consequently. He actually won and the council had to pay him millions in compensation. He swam between the flags and the council was accused of being negligent as there was a sand bank in a flagged area.

Who rummages on the kerbside?

Okay, getting back to the kerbside. I suppose there are two kind of people who rummage and collect. There are the dealers who pick up with the purpose to sell. These are the people who cut of the plug, break the glass of the table to get the frame or take parts of equipment. All really happened by the way.

And they are also the people who couldn’t give a sh….! They make a mess of your carefully stacked pile so that it becomes dangerous for pedestrians who walk past. And the liability issue rears its ugly head again…….!

The other type are the people like me who look for items to upgrade for themselves or as part of a business. They are the students who collect bits of furniture because they don’t have much money. And they are those who support recycling and like to reduce our landfill and stop wasting goods.

work in progress, makeover

In the process of giving this table a make-over. Since then sold successfully!

While I am writing this I am just witnessing two students putting my old work table in their car. They had to take the chairs out of their car to make it fit! My table was a recycle project in itself. I made it from an old door and a pair of table stands that I bought in good old Bunnings. The whole thing makes me smile!

What did not make me smile is what happened to me next. I unloaded my garden equipment on the kerb right next to the garden where I would be working for the morning. While I am clearing out a section unfortunately hidden behind a palm tree, some ‘innocent’ crawler took my crow bar.

The thing I use the most and certainly do not want to have to buy again for my last couple of months in Australia. I suppose he reckoned it was up for grabs….! Tough luck.

Have a good week and see you next time! ➡

By the way, it is possible to subscribe to my rants and raves by popping in your name and email below.

easydone, blog, limoux, happy upcycling

 

 

 

 

 

“Am I leaving Australia for good”, I get asked daily!

Am I leaving Australia for good……? To be honest ‘how  do  I  know?

Almost on a daily base I get not only to hear that question but also that I am silly to leave Australia. When people ask me ‘if it is for good’ they tend to get this facial expression of disbelief and pity. It is bizarre as on the one hand people enjoy telling others that I am planning to move to Europe. And on the other hand the reactions are of utter disbelief.

leaving Australia, moving abroad, for good

Permanent? For good? Why would you want you do that? Really?

Australians really believe that they live in the best country in the world. They like to travel and visit other countries but in general would not want to stay overseas. Off course there are some that moved abroad and are happy to be there. I even know some who have left and wish never to return to the land Down Under.

Having lived in London we have come across many Aussies who lived and worked for a couple of years in London. It seems to be just temporarily as most of them tend to go back to Australia when they are ready to settle and have kids.

Why leaving Australia seems to make no sense

Australia is indeed a great country to raise kids. Not only that but also to have a pleasant life. People are friendly, the weather is good in most places and the quality of the essentials in life is relatively high.

The water is clean, the streets and parks are well kept and there are many outdoor facilities for sport and recreation. It is easy to find a free public toilets and drink water fountains are abundant in contrary to many other countries we have visited. However bottled water is in those countries very affordable while in Australia they cost a premium!

Leaving Australia, Stradbroke Island

Good quality and well maintained picnic tables on Stradbroke Island

The standard of the health care system is high. It is easy to get to see a doctor, get a test or see an alternative practitioner. It is overall not an extremely expensive system but in general you have to pay something for every service. The reason you can get an MRI or some other test within a couple of days is because you pay.

I know that in London, UK you have to wait weeks to get a doctor’s appointment, let alone an X-ray. One of the reasons Brexit came along….

One thing springs to mind though…. What about paying a small sum for the privilege of an appointment. Might speed up things a bit…….

Anyway put all these wonderful Aussie services aside and assess what other things could make me stay. The fact is that I have been here over 25 years and have indeed enjoyed fantastic weather, breathtaking nature, empty sandy beaches and good quality food.  It has been wonderful and satisfying.

Byron Bay, leaving Australia

One of the beaches in Byron Bay, one of our favourite spots to visit.

However if I stay another 20 years, granted that life gives me that amount of years to live, I will enjoy exactly that some more. The point is that I want to experience different things. I am saturated with Australian life and made the most out of it, but I am done!

Why leaving Australia makes sense

Staying in Australia feels a bit like stalling the rest of my life. I want a different experience. For instance I want to speak my languages, five of them to be precise. To keep my brain active I have added a sixth – I am learning Spanish.

Australians don’t get this wish or urge to want more. Many of them like going abroad but some of them have not even been out of their state. Our babysitter, age 18 when the kids were young, had not been over the Queensland border. Most Australians have not seen Tasmania or West Australia. It takes 5 hours to fly to Perth and it takes 5 hours to fly to Bali. So you get the gist.

Australians are rather insular. They think their country is the one and only one. In general they can not see why you could want to live somewhere else.

One of my clients, a 94 year old local with a brain that still works like a train, had a bit of a whinge recently. She said that Australia had been the lucky country for a long time. But she reckoned that it ain’t gonna be that lucky for much longer.

She would like to see Australians travel more so they would expand their horizons. She likes them to realise there is more to life than pool, sun and BBQ’s. Refreshing words……?

A friend of a friend went to live in Portugal to retire. He finds it hard and is occasionally lonely. One of his Aussie mates hoped their would be a Coles or Woolies around the corner – that would soften the pain. Another friend hoped I would be able to find a Bunnings in my French neighbourhood if I wanted to get back into gardening.

People, people, every country has their own Coles and Bunnings, but do Australians who rarely travel, really believe they could be the same shops??? Get real.

For non-Australians, Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings are giant monopolies in Australia dictating what Aussies eat, drink and pay for it and how they renovate their houses and maintain their gardens.

A bit of a comparison

Life in Australia is attractive, but it is also superficial. There is a lack of complexity and culture. Not so hard to understand as it is a young country. Also bizarre as we have a population that is made up of dozens of different cultures. Somehow these cultures do not really make an impact in the Australian experience.

The country remains very much a part of the Commonwealth with the remnants of its laws, rules and systems. Apart from the food culture.

During the eighties you could barely find a good coffee, now we have a coffee culture that is world class. ‘Australian Master Chef’ attracts guest chefs with international fame and is watched far beyond our borders.

Coffee culture, good coffees, leaving Australia

Australia – the land of the great coffees and brownies as well, it seems!

You can find ingredients for every type of food in Australia and in the bigger cities many restaurants selling a huge variety of ethnic dishes. That is one thing I definitely will miss. I will be much harder to enjoy the melting pot of different foods that is available here.

The food on offer is diverse but it comes with a price. It ain’t cheap. That is something I won’t miss. Our markets are nothing more than huge outdoor deli’s where organic strawberries are not sold because it is the season. They are on offer because they are organically grown and because of that they must cost a fortune.

Markets in European markets seem to sell their wares in season and for an affordable market price. You buy stone fruit in late summer and cherries in May. Not like in Oz where most people do not even know what fruit is in season at what time of the year. It seems to be available all year round, but there is hardly ever a cheap time for any fruit.

This may be to protect the local market or due to the monopoly of our supermarkets but I am fed up with paying 4-5 dollars for an avocado. We grow them ourselves, they are an Aussie ‘icon’, so why on earth 4-5 dollars?

Leaving Australia is a ‘sure’ thing

Anyway, enough on the subject. There are many reasons for me to stay in Australia but the pull to explore other things that Australia does not offer has become so much bigger.

So yes, I am going to be leaving Australia for real. I am not sure if I am leaving for good nor am I sure that I will remain in Europe forever. Who know these things? Life throws many things at us and sometimes it forces us to make changes for the worse or the better.

Nobody knows in advance and also nothing is set in stone. In contrary to many Australians we have the option to leave and live in other countries.

We have the passports. Lucky us……..!

easydone, blog, limoux, happy upcycling