Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

When it comes to the big moves, it’s the little things that matter the most

Moving apartments has made me realise the true value of my most unassuming possessions

Moving houses can often evoke interesting feelings especially when it comes items dear and near to the heart. Reem Mohammed / The National
Moving houses can often evoke interesting feelings especially when it comes items dear and near to the heart. Reem Mohammed / The National

Suresh has seen enough. After babbling instructions, my arm waving has caused a plate to shatter on the kitchen floor and he pulls me aside discreetly. “Sir, I think it is time for you to go.” The man is kicking me out of my own house. To be honest, I would have done the same just without his calm bedside manner.

The reason for my neurotic behaviour? I’m “advising” Suresh’s stoic crew, who are helping me move, to treat every item – from a chipped cup to a thank you card – with the care befitting a painting by Picasso.

I’m not the best when it comes to interior design. I’ve been living in this flat for seven years and on a good day it can resemble a neat hospital waiting room. However, all the items in my home, from the books to the craggy couch, are priceless to me.

And that’s because over the years I learned that I value things less for their beauty and more for sentimental reasons. This has made for some strange shopping experiences with friends and family.

Two months ago, I decided that it was time to buy a new bed. The decision was forced upon me after my battered mattress took on a strangely confining shape that would have challenged Harry Houdini.

You would think for such an important item – it is estimated we spend up to one third of our lives in bed – that I might have taken an active role in the search and purchase.

Nope. With the exception of requiring the bed to be “high and soft”, I left the decision to my family.

Maybe they thought I was lazy, but I knew that if it was their choice the bed would serve me for life.

I am the same when it comes to my oud collection. I always ask my mum to purchase whatever scent she likes for my flat. She would explain the decision should be ultimately down to my nose, but I would tell her that it’s more a heart thing. If I purchase it, it’s just a soapy scent from the market. If she does, it would remind me of her and my family home in Australia, and I would immediately feel better.


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This explains why I have never been unhappy with my flat’s lack of styling: it serves a higher purpose. Whenever I would get struck down with the expat blues – that gnawing feeling that life is passing me by – I would look at the jagged cup my former colleague Sara gave me before returning to New York, or I would touch that thank you card my friend Kerri made me before heading off on her next adventure and the books signed by all the authors that I have interviewed over the years.

These objects tell me that I am loved, my work is appreciated and that this whole Abu Dhabi experiment has been a success.

“You are not the only one,” Suresh told me outside the front door. “I have been doing this for nearly 18 years and I do see people acting very sad, like someone has died, or acting very nervous.

“We have moved pianos, big chandeliers and living rooms and we never had problems, but we know the small items cause the most tension. It is always the little things that people care about the most.”

Updated: March 24, 2018 04:11 PM