Even though my new lease’s move-in date was one month away, I wouldn’t be able to bring my cats into Hawaii for another two months (to avoid the quarantine), but I figured it would be good for me to get the house set up first before bringing them over. And now that I had my new address, I would be able to start shipping stuff to Hawaii.

Fortunately, my landlord was currently living in my new house, and he was amenable to bringing in any packages I shipped over there before my official move-in date. Initially, I planned on taking few belongings with me to Hawaii, because I had heard how expensive it was ship things there. Plus, my new rental came furnished, and I’ve always subscribed to the “less is more” philosophy.


But then I found out that I could ship boxes via FedEx at work, using the company’s hugely discounted rate. So I decided to ship more stuff than I had originally planned, because it would be cheaper to do that than buy new replacements once I got to Hawaii.

Thus began the long, tiring, and tedious process of boxing up and shipping my household overseas. Every night after work, I would come home and pack a few boxes and bring them to work the next day so I could ship them from the company’s mailing room.

Each item I packed had to meet three criteria:

  • I truly needed or wanted it.
  • It could fit inside a box that I was able to haul to and from my car.
  • It would cost more time and money to replace it in Hawaii, rather than ship it right then and there.

I decided I would donate whatever didn’t meet these qualifications (like my car, large furniture, and winter clothes) to friends, family members, and charities. I was just too tired and overwhelmed to hold a garage sale or sell a bunch of stuff on Craigslist or eBay.

A month later, when my move-in date arrived, I took my third trip that year to Hawaii (it’s a good thing I’d saved up a lot of vacation time at work!). This time my mission was to unpack the boxes I’d already shipped over to the new house, and buy whatever else I’d still need once the rest arrived.

Because I knew I’d be doing some serious shopping, this time I rented a car for the week. When I arrived at the house, my house keys were hidden in the secret spot where my landlord told me they’d be. I opened the front door, excited that my dream of a home in Hawaii was finally coming true.

But within a few minutes after entering, my enthusiasm started to wilt. The house was hot and stuffy from all the windows having been shut. I started to worry that I was going to seriously regret not having air conditioning. When I tried to open all the windows, some of them wouldn’t open all the way because their old-fashioned cranks were so aged and rusty.

Suddenly the house looked exceedingly old and decrepid, like everything was about to fall apart. I wandered from room to room, looking at all the furnishings that the house came with, much of it clutter that I didn’t want. I had a huge amount of work ahead of me to get this house set up the way I wanted, but I was so hot inside the house that I just wanted to flop down and cry.

What did I get myself into? I lamented. Did I make a terrible mistake in renting this huge old house that requires so much work? Should I just cut my losses, call my landlord, and tell him I changed my mind?

I sank down on the second-hand sofa, feeling completely overwhelmed. I allowed myself a minute to shed a few tears and feel sorry for myself. Then the stern grownup in me took over.

Buck up, I told myself. You got yourself into this situation, and now you just have to make the best of it.

I remembered my mom’s advice on how to tackle an enormous task: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

And with that in mind, I got off the couch, changed into some shorts and an old T-shirt, and started getting my house in order.

After spending some time cranking open as many of the levered windows as I could and strategically placing portable fans in different rooms, the house began to feel a little cooler, I started to relax and feel better about my situation. It was already getting late in the afternoon, so I made up my bed, took a shower, bought some groceries to make dinner, and determined that I would start fresh the next day, taking one “bite” out of the elephant at a time.

By the end of the week, I had unpacked everything, stored away all the clutter, bought all the odds and ends I still needed, and set up each room the way I wanted. There was food in the fridge, cable TV installed, wireless Internet set up, a new state ID in my wallet, and even a litter box waiting for Alice and Amy in the laundry room.

Mission accomplished. The most labor-intensive part of my move was over.

Now I had just one more trip to make to the Bay Area so I could pack up the rest of my house and prepare my cats for their first airplane ride.