I am a researching, packing machine. Every day, I spend several hours researching “the best” of something, then we go out and purchase it, come home, pack it well and drop it off at the storage unit – rinse, repeat. Either that, or we buy items online making us either best friends (or worst enemies depending on the day) with our UPS and FedEx delivery men.
If it’s a nice day and nothing too heavy is delivered, I’m sure we’re friends. If it is raining, the cartons are heavy or bulky (or both) OR we are receiving 5 or more boxes necessitating multiple trips from the van, I’m guessing we’re not their favorite customers. Every day we come home from shopping to a new pile of boxes on our doorstep. We often get two deliveries a day, mid day and then again in the evening. Sometimes, we can see our front door – sometimes, not! I’m pretty confident we are adding a significant uplift to their route. We only have 4 weeks to get everything we need before we fill our container and send it off with a kiss and high hopes that it arrives safely, with everything intact.
We arrived in JAX on October 31st and moved into a new house the next day. We were fortunate to be able to get a short-term house rental in Atlantic Beach, the town we formerly lived in for 6 years. I had fantasies of seeing all our old friends, hanging out on the beach a bit and doing whatever we missed before we left on our grand adventure. The reality has been a bit different. We’ve been very focused and very busy getting everything ready for shipment.
First, we concentrated on furniture. The former owners left a skeletal amount of furniture – couple of bedroom sets, a comfortable (but ugly) sea-foam green colored couch, plus a kitchen and patio table with chairs. These were perfect for our 2 week stay at the house – just enough to get comfortably by – I called it ‘upscale camping’. These were all things the owner either didn’t take back to the UK with her or couldn’t sell locally. We know this because as people asked us which house we bought, they’d say oh yes, I bought her __XXX__. (Fill in the blank … table, couch, chair, lamp, car!, etc.)
Furniture stores in Grenada leave a lot to be desired. Furniture, although “new”, tends to be rejects from other parts of the world that never sold – meaning they are usually of inferior quality and generally scream the 80’s in both styling and colors. Plus, furniture is really expensive due to the high duty placed on each piece as it is imported. Because Grenada is a poor country, the primary way the government gets money to provide services is through VAT and customs duty – and some items have a 100% uplift. (This means if you import a $40,000 dollar car and it costs $4,000 to ship into Grenada, it will cost an additional $44,000 in duty or $88,000 total) OUCH! We did try to buy the owner’s car, but it was already sold when we saw the house. DARN!
Our good friend, Marion Pierre, hooked us up with the owners of a villa that had recently been purchased and who were planning to remodel and buy new furniture. They were selling off the contents by room. We wanted the living room couches so we also got some tables and lamps as part of the deal. We bought a new kitchen set that was lovely, plus another patio table and chairs and some miscellaneous side tables. Even if we don’t use everything, this was a deal for us because it took off some of the pressure to purchase and transport everything from the US and we didn’t need to pay duty on those items.
The first couple of days, we scoped out the used furniture stores in JAX for good deals. There are some really great stores with lovely items, all at unbeatable prices. My biggest issue is that we hadn’t really figured out how we were going to configure the huge living area (30 feet by 30 feet) so it was hard to visualize what to purchase. We did buy a gorgeous Asian room divider screen, a recliner and a rug. After procuring the couches and other miscellaneous furniture in Grenada, we knew we’d have enough to be comfortable enough for our first year. I also think we will have some furniture locally built. There are some great craftsmen in Grenada. We’ll just need to be really clear about exactly what we want as they tend to build traditional, formal English furniture that is beautiful, but not our style.
Next, we started sorting through our storage unit in Middleburg. This is where we kept all our precious things when we began traveling. If you’ve read from the beginning of our adventure, you’ll know we sold most of our things, just keeping Art and family keepsakes like crystal and silver. Everything I had read about traveling said “sell everything else”, otherwise you’ll open your unit sometime in the future and wonder, “Why did I keep THAT – And pay to have it insured – And pay storage fees?”
Since we were planning on traveling exclusively for 10 years, we were pretty brutal in deciding what we stored. The great news is almost everything in the unit will be going to Grenada with us. The bad news is that if we had known how quickly we would succumb to Grenada’s allure (we thought we’d rent for the next few years until we s old our big property) we would have kept a lot of the practical things like blenders, pots and pans, etc. and wouldn’t have had to rebuy all those day-to-day items. Everything was fairly well packed already so it only took us 2 days to go through everything and add additional cushioning in the boxes and super pack things like the crystal. The contents are now ready and just waiting to be loaded into the container.
Now we started focusing on “the list” – everything we thought we would need in our new home that we didn’t already own. This was our one time opportunity to bulk ship everything into Grenada via container – keeping in mind this was probably the only time we might get a break on duty as first time home owners and knowing that whatever we didn’t buy we might need to do without – because it either isn’t available on island, would be ridiculously expensive and possibly of inferior quality or we’d have to ship the item individually with high shipping costs on top of any duty.
Michael, bless his heart, focused primarily on all the infrastructure items and I focused primarily on beauty and fun. (The best part is that I think we each thought we got the good end of the deal). Michael’s list had things like – fans, pressure washers, tools, wheel barrow, gas grill, stereo speakers, photography stuff, TV’s, ice maker, wine cooler, etc. My list had thing like – dishes, glasses, bedding, towels, kitchen stuff, drawer handles, curtains, candles, pool floats, etc. The weirdest thing I had to buy was plastic ware. Plastic items are outrageously expensive in Grenada for some reason. IE – a Brita pitcher is about $28 here and $100 there, regular plastic storage bowls are also 4 to 6 times as expensive. It’s crazy, so I purchased every possible plastic thing we’d need from here. Even with duty it will be much less expensive.
My mind just about blew up with all the decisions we had to make and the speed that money fled our bank account. Twice I had to pay off our credit card early so we’d have enough head room to purchase more. With no additional career income coming in, this was pretty sobering. It’s very much like thinking about everything you’ve bought over the past 30 years for your house and rebuying it in a month.
We had rented an additional 10’ by 10’ storage unit for all the new items we purchased and soon after, we rented another one (not that we had a lot of stuff or anything …..) With everything having to be packed well enough for shipping, the space filled up quickly. We also some purchased items for friends like a TV and a table saw so they could piggy back on our shipment. This way, they will pay US prices and will not need to pay separate shipping, just duty. I’m blaming the need for the third storage unit on them.
We also swapped out the 20 foot container we reserved for a 40 foot container – but that is another story. Stay tuned.