Settling into our House in Dorset

We moved into our new house on March 1. This was our fourth move in six years of living in the UK. Since we were never sure if we were staying, and we had not shipped our personal things from the US, moving was easy because we had a modest amount of things. Living in a house you don’t own, not buying things for the house because you won’t be there long, means that you end up with Zen-like furnishings. Not much clutter. Instead of a chest of drawers, we used inexpensive IKEA steel shelves to hold our clothes. We bought a nice enough sofa, but had mismatched end tables from used furniture stores. A pile of walking guidebooks and maps, but not much else on our bookshelf. A few plastic boxes instead of a filing cabinet. The kitchen drawers were not full. Our clothes cupboard was half full.

We were unpacked and mostly organized in our new house in Dorset within a day. Then our boxes from the US arrived and chaos broke out. We sold our house in Santa Fe, New Mexico last September and the things we decided to ship were put in storage. Everything else was sold or given away. We did not go back to the US to do this. Friends had been renting our house and they helped us organize our things long distance. 70 boxes and a few pieces of furniture sat in a storage locker in Albuquerque waiting for us to decide what we were going to do. Once we started the process to buy a house here, I arranged to have everything shipped.

It took me a month to integrate our US things with our UK life. Some things are still not integrated, but have been moved up into the attic to be dealt with later. Most of it was stuff we were very happy to see. Two chests of drawers that Steve bought for us nearly 35 years ago when we first set up house together. Paintings that we had collected over the years, all done by friends who are artists. Carpets. An antique Stickley rocking chair. 10 boxes of books. Two boxes of wool. Favorite cups and plates.

Household things
Household things

And some things we really didn’t need. A box of face masks that I bought when those volcanoes erupted in Iceland. I must have taken some with us because we moved to England just after that eruption, but left the rest in the US. A bag of keys – to what? A really good tape measure, but only in inches! You need mm/cm here for measuring.

It has been an adventure going through all our things. We have only been separated from them for six years, but it feels longer. It was emotional dealing with everything. Presents from SlowTrav friends. Momentos from our Europe trips. Things I bought in New York City in the late 90s when Steve was working there and I had time on my hands so went shopping. The Stickley chair from our time in Seattle in the early 90s. A beautiful carpet we bought in Santa Fe. The chests of drawers from when we lived in Vancouver, Canada in the early 1980s. Boxes of old photos. A box of letters from the pre-email days. Each thing that I unpacked brought memories tumbling out.

Buying a house here, deciding to stay, no longer having anything in the US – no house, no car, no nothing – has been a big event for me. I loved living in the US and there are many things that I miss. But I love living here too. Every night I have intense and detailed dreams of people or places I have not thought of in years. I wake up with my head in the past. Then I get back to unpacking and organizing and getting this house set up for our future.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

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