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20 Dec 2021

Old stuff, new stuff – As the late-twentieth-century philosopher George Carlin once opined, “Your house is just a place for your stuff.” This fact never becomes clearer than when you have to move, and as a result you are confronted with the astonishing amount of stuff you’ve managed to accumulate over the years. Regular readers will know that HJ and I are in the middle of this process right now. I won’t bore you with the gruesome details of all the little stuff, except to say that I’ve developed some handy heuristics for figuring out whether I want to keep certain stuff. Probably the most important of these is this: If I didn’t know that I had it, or I forgot that it was there, I don’t need it. That may sound obvious, but it’s very easy to open up a box of things that you had kept for sentimental reasons but hadn’t looked at in years and had forgotten even existed. Yet you can’t bring yourself to throw them away, so you put them back in the box, where they will lie dormant for who knows how many more years—probably until the next time you move. I don’t tend to be too sentimental about most things, but not everyone in the present equation shares my feelings on this, so we are keeping some stuff that I would just as soon throw out. The way I look at it, someone is going to have to throw this stuff out someday.

“I’m not terribly surprised that things haven’t gone smoothly.”

But that’s not the kind of stuff I am going to talk about today. Today, we’re going to talk about the bigger stuff. Although we are moving to a place that is smaller than our current place, it isn’t that much smaller (minus the verandah space, it’s actually roughly the same size overall), so fortunately a lot of our bigger stuff will fit in it. The desk that I am sitting at right now, for example, will fit into my new (but smaller) study, as will the bookshelves to my right (hopefully with fewer books on them). Our bed will also fit in the new (and, again, smaller) bedroom, with the mattress that we debated switching out for a new one until we realized that we don’t really need a new one yet—but we do need to conserve funds wherever possible.

That’s been a question we’ve had to ask ourselves a lot: Do we really need a new version of this thing? Our microwave oven is rather old now and is very noisy, but it still works fine, so we don’t really need a new one. Our rice cooker also works perfectly fine and is not that old. Our television is apparently considered small now at 40 inches, but it still suits us just fine and will be big enough for our new (and—perhaps you are detecting a pattern here—smaller) living room.

There are things, though, for which we will need new versions, and these are primarily associated with the kitchen. The kitchen is the one room that is bigger in our new place than it is here, and I’m pretty excited about that. At long last I will have an island (well, a peninsula, to be precise) where I will be able to make my dough and stuff for baking, and it will be high enough that I won’t have to hunch over it just to reach the work surface! One of the new bits of stuff that is going into the kitchen is a new oven. I was fond of our existing oven, but the new kitchen is set up for a built-in. As a result, we needed to get a new oven, and we decided on a Miele. Now, you might think I’m getting fancy with my imported appliances, but the Miele was actually cheaper than comparable Korean ovens. To be more precise, Miele had a cheaper version without a bunch of bells and whistles that I didn’t want or need, while the Korean version started with all the bells and whistles—and, of course, the accompanying price tag.

Also new in the kitchen is the cooktop. We currently have a two-burner gas cooktop that gets the job done but again is not built in to the counter. We are not getting a new gas cooktop, though. Instead, we are going with induction. This is primarily because HJ was worried about the lack of ventilation in our new place. Here, we can open up large windows on either side of the apartment and get a cross breeze, but that will not be possible in the new place. So HJ didn’t want any gas appliances (the oven is electric, too). Having cooked with gas for almost all my life, I was skeptical at first, but I’ve since come around. For one, cooking with gas creates a lot of harmful fumes. Gas is also rather inefficient when you think about it. You’ve got this big flame beneath your pots and pans, and only some of that heat makes it into the pan itself. The rest radiates out into the kitchen (along with the fumes). Induction, though, heats the pan itself using magic! Sorry, I meant “magnets.” It heats the pan using magnets. So there is no wasted heat, and no gas fumes. I imagine it will take a little while to get used to cooking entirely on induction (I hear that the timing is different, as pans on induction heat up faster), but I think I am up for the challenge.

We will also have a new washing machine in the kitchen, which may sound like an odd place for a washing machine, but there’s really no other place for it. (Besides, when I lived in London as an exchange student, I remember that our washing machine was in the kitchen, too.) Our current washing machine works just fine, but again we need a built-in unit, so it’s out with the old and in with the new. I don’t find washing machines to be very exciting in general, so I’ll leave it at that.

Buying all of this new stuff was the simple part—fitting it in the new kitchen turned out to be the challenging part. Our new oven arrived last Thursday, along with the technicians who were going to install it. I had a talk to give at school that afternoon, so HJ went to see how things went. When the talk ended and I called her to find out how it was going, she was in a panic. Apparently the space for the oven was too small, so the technicians were unable to install it. I wasn’t too worried about this, though, because we had given the interior design place the proper specs for the oven, so it was on them if they screwed it up. And, as I mentioned at the end of my last entry, the renovation schedule gave us plenty of time to absorb setbacks like this. After we talked with the interior design guy, we found out that the fix was not a difficult one, and the oven is set to be installed tomorrow (with the interior design company footing the bill for the technicians having to come back, of course).

That wasn’t the only thing that didn’t fit perfectly, though. We went over to the apartment right after lunch on Saturday to find the washing machine technician standing in the kitchen having an animated conversation on the phone. Turns out that the space for the washing machine wasn’t right, either, but this time it was too big—there was going to be three or four centimeters extra space at the top. This might not sound like a big deal, but built-ins are supposed to fit precisely into the space and are not designed to have extra space around them (that is, the top of the washing machine is just bare, unfinished metal and not the usual smooth finished surface you see on a stand-alone washing machine). This was definitely not our fault, because we had left the washing machine to the interior design company as part of the package. I overheard some of the other end of the conversation, and apparently the interior design people were blaming the mix up on me. Well, not on me directly. But I heard something to the effect of, “Well, the client is a foreigner, so we had to make the countertop higher than usual, and that must have thrown off our measurements.” That sounds like a load of malarkey to me, because they knew exactly what model of built-in washing machine was going in and should have built the cabinet above it to leave just enough space. The interior design guy told us not to worry about this, because the cabinet door would extend down beneath the cabinet to cover the space above the washing machine, but this is completely missing the point. That’s like building a wall with a gap in it and then telling the client not to worry about it because you’re going to cover it with wallpaper. That gap above the washing machine will still be there, and the top of the washing machine will still be visible when we open the cabinet. Dust will still find its way in to sit on top of the washing machine, and the cabinet will be three to four centimeters shorter for no good reason. This bothers me more than the oven did, to be honest, but there is no way around it unless we demand a completely new set of cabinets be installed. That would probably push our timetable back too far, though, so we’re going to have to live with this.

I’m not terribly surprised that things haven’t gone smoothly. Not because I think the interior design company is incompetent (although after what happened with the washing machine I honestly wouldn’t also say that they are terribly competent, either), but because things like this never go smoothly. That’s just the nature of the beast. I don’t care what happens along the way as long as I am more or less satisfied with the final result, because the process is not my responsibility. This is, after all, why we hired a professional interior design company and didn’t try to do this ourselves. True, there are things that we are not completely happy with, but in the final analysis they are fairly minor issues. And I can guarantee that this process would have been a lot more stressful had we tried to contract all the work out to individual contractors and organize everything so that it came together the way we wanted.

There was one final hiccup with the remaining new kitchen appliance, the induction cooktop, although this did not have anything to do with the interior design company. HJ got a text message from LG on Friday saying that the delivery of the appliance might be delayed. As the cooktop was set to be delivered (and installed) on the day we move in, a delay here would be annoying, as it would mean we would be without a cooktop until the new one arrived. We do have a standalone induction burner that we can plug in and use if necessary, so it’s not the end of the world, but it is not ideal. However, when HJ called LG to find out what was going on, the girl on the other end immediately knew who we were and set our minds at ease. Apparently what had happened was that they had scheduled the delivery date early because they expected a delay. Of course, we didn’t know this, so we assumed that “late” meant... well, late. But the expected delay actually just means that the cooktop should be delivered on time. I think they could have done a slightly better job communicating all this to us, but I am comforted by the fact that they had the foresight to build the delay into the schedule.

So that’s the new stuff. Well, most of the new stuff—we are going back to IKEA on Wednesday to pick up a bunch of smaller things, such as some lights, some night tables, etc. But we also have to think about the old stuff. How do we get rid of our old washing machine, our old oven, and all the other things we can’t take with us, like the big set of cabinets out on the verandah or the console underneath the television? We put up some fliers around the apartment complex advertising some of the things we needed to get rid off, but nobody showed any interest. That’s when we stumbled on Karrot Market, a market where users sell used goods and appliances. Karrot has been around since 2015, apparently, but it is only recently that I started seeing ads for it on YouTube. HJ’s father managed to sell his old bed on Karrot and recommended it to us. So HJ started an account and put all of the stuff we needed to get rid of on it. The washing machine sold in ten seconds. This is not hyperbole—I mean that a buyer contacted HJ literally ten seconds after she put the washing machine on the app. The rest of the stuff has been selling a little more gradually. Perhaps the hardest thing to part with has been my oven. You may have noticed that I wrote above that I “was” fond of our oven. That’s because it is no longer ours. The original idea was to have someone come and pick it up on the 27th, when we are actually moving, but an interested buyer asked if we would be willing to part with it early. Apparently, the buyer wanted the oven to bake some Christmas cookies. I wasn’t too keen on going without an oven for a week, and I knew that we could leave the oven on the app and probably get a buyer who would be willing to wait until the 27th. But the idea that someone out there really wanted to make Christmas cookies and didn’t have an oven to bake them in made me change my mind. HJ and I were picturing a young mother wanting to make cookies for her kids, so we were surprised when the buyer arrived on Saturday and turned out to be a young guy. The times certainly have changed! I hope his cookies come out just as he wants them to, and that he appreciates my sacrifice.

There are still some things that haven’t sold on Karrot yet, such as the cabinets or the console; as the move date approaches, we intend to cut the prices and see if we can just get them off our hands. The truth is that just getting someone to come and take them for free would still be a win for us, because we wouldn’t have to pay extra to throw them away.

And that’s the state of our stuff right now. I probably could have spent more time going through stuff, but I will be spending most of this week trying to finish up grading for the semester. If I can finish that up by Friday (or sooner, if I can manage it), I imagine I will do some last minute sorting over the weekend in an attempt to reduce our moving load, even if by only a little. I don’t imagine that I will have another update on the move until after we are in our new places, so this is probably it for now. In the meantime, I will wish you a merry Christmas, and possibly a happy new year as well (although I hope to at least check in before that). See you on the other side!

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