About a month ago, we were practically swimming in bubble wrap and packing boxes. It was time to pack up our apartment in Italy and move everything we owned for the third time since our arrival 3 years ago. The plastic crates we packed carefully and checked onto the airline with us back in the beginning came in handy once again, but now we had much more to move than what could fit inside them.
The apartment we were moving out of was completely bare when we rented it. That’s how it works here: either you rent a place that is furnished or unfurnished. If it’s furnished it is full of furniture, appliances, and dishes (often very old and mismatched), which are property of the apartment’s owner but there for your use. If it’s unfurnished it is empty, which means nothing is provided – no kitchen cabinets, no light fixtures, no appliances. Since our apartment was unfurnished, except for the toilet, sink and tub in the bathroom, everything in it had to be packed and moved. Not only that, but we had to store it all for a matter of months until we are able to go back, find a new apartment in a new city, and move it all there.
How do you even do that in Italy? It’s hard enough to pull off a family move like that in your home country when an employer or your friends and family provide resources or support for the relocation. It’s harder when you’re doing it in another country where things are done differently and you don’t have those resources available to you to make it happen. U-Haul and duct tape don’t exist. They have alternatives but we had to learn what they were.
Thankfully, our wonderful Italian “family”, friends from church, did help us to navigate what our other options were and which was the best solution for our situation. They also had a long time friend who could help us make it all happen. We did a lot of the work ourselves (just the two of us!) but we hired their friend to help with what we couldn’t do on our own. For example, he disassembled all our big furniture. He came and took apart all the kitchen cabinets, our massive bedroom wardrobe (they don’t have closets in Italy), our couch, and other furniture. He and Jon also took notes so that he or someone else can help us reassemble it once we move it to our new apartment (wherever and whenever that will be!).
Then it was up to Jon to wrap every piece of the disassembled furniture in bubble wrap, cardboard and plastic wrap to protect it during the moves and while it’s in storage. Unlike the last time when we moved, at least now we knew of a place where we could get a giant roll of “plurri bulb” (bubble wrap) and it’s a good thing because we ended up buying several. If it couldn’t go in a storage bag or bin, it got wrapped.
Jon wrapped and wrapped and wrapped our things until we’d gone through over 200 meters of bubble wrap! That’s enough to run the length of two football fields! That’s a LOT of work! Let’s just say Jon would be happy never to see bubble wrap again.
Anything not encased in bubble wrap also had to be packed, of course. We brought a couple dozen vacuum seal storage bags from the States in anticipation of the move and that’s where all our clothing, linens and bedding went. The “storage unit” we found is actually just a garage – more modern than most Italian garages but not climate controlled – so hopefully they will protect our things from mold and such!
All the non-furniture breakable items went into our faithful plastic bins from across the sea. I even found tags on one of the bins from our initial move to Italy.
One huge blessing during this stressful time was a little apartment on the top floor of our building which we were able to rent from our neighbors during moving week. Since our beds and the rest of our furniture was in pieces days before we moved out, it was so helpful to have a functional apartment to stay in that was also so close to where we needed to work to get our things ready for the move! It also helped Arianna to escape the chaos of her home that was being taken apart around her and have a place to play and sleep in peace.
Eventually, though not soon enough for our tired bodies and hearts, everything was ready to be moved to its new home. We didn’t really have a group of friends or family there to coax into helping us move it all and we didn’t have a vehicle to do it, so we hired the man who disassembled our furniture to take care of it. He showed up bright and early on the agreed upon morning (just a couple hours after we finished prepping everything) with a truck, an elevator, and a team of 5 guys to get the job done.
Our place was on the second floor and while we had a wide stairwell, it was easier to take everything out through the balcony double doors then the front door. The elevator was secured to the balcony railing and they set up an assembly line of sorts to move everything from the apartment, to the elevator on the balcony, to the truck. Here you can see our mattress on its way to the moving truck.
That’s how they did it all morning and afternoon. After their lunch break – Italians never skip their lunch break and it’s almost always at least an hour long – they finished the third trip and our apartment was bare again! We can’t imagine having to have done that on our own and are so thankful to one of our supporting churches for making it possible for us to hire them!
The move included a lot of manual labor but the emotional toll was taxing too. I found myself (Erika) procrastinating a lot at the beginning of the whole moving process. We only lived there for about a year, but I was reluctant to let it go, mostly because I hated leave the security it represented and because I was sad to see our memory making stop in that place. It was the home where we fed our baby solids for the first time, saw her go to sleep one night as a baby and wake up the next morning a one year-old, had our first busy home office, enjoyed conversations with neighbors from our balcony, hosted play dates for Arianna, planted a garden for the first time, graduated Arianna from her crib to her toddler bed and all kinds of other stuff life brought our way. There was also a lot of heartache and struggle while we lived within those walls, but the good made me sentimental.
I took a little walk around the apartment with Arianna on the morning we turned in the keys. Tears fell as I tried to breathe in all the good times we had there once more before walking out for good. I took this shot of the beautiful view from the balcony the last time I stood on it.
As a girl who grew up in the wide open spaces of the midwest, the mountains used to make me feel claustrophobic. But over the past couple years they became a picture of God’s faithfulness and I needed that reminder then.
Anyone who knows Jon and I, knows we prefer honesty and depth to staying on the surface. But the deeper you go the more it hurts to move on. The life we lead lends itself to more transitions then the typical person, which means more hellos and more goodbyes to people, places and things. Sometimes it makes you want to wall off your heart to avoid the pain of all the loss, but the walls would keep out all the good too. So we will let our hearts grieve, give opportunity for them heal, and strive to keep putting them out there as we adventure on to whatever God has next. Even if it means more encounters with bubble wrap!