Here's a tip, from me to you, for nothing. If you have had a huge year, are pregnant with your third child and are lurching toward your Christmas holidays like a cartoon dog in the desert, then here's a piece of advice: do not, at this stage, make arrangements to move house.
I have done this. In fact, I have just done this, last week. And while it's true that I did survive, it was only barely.
Things started to go off the rails when I heeded the advice of a friend and booked the use of "packers". Initially I was in love with the idea. Mainly, because I could say to my colleagues, "Sorry, I just have to take this call from the Packers" and, "The Packers are coming today." Sadly, I was referring to two spry 20-somethings in matching embroidered polo shirts arriving at the doorstep of my '60s brick veneer and not, as it sounded, organising a lunch date involving lobster and Veuve with an ex-model and a billionaire on a yacht in the harbour. Oh well. Pregnant women shouldn't eat shellfish or drink alcohol anyway, so crisis averted!
The night before the packers were due, I went around the house placing little red tabs on the cupboards I didn't want them to touch. We still had to live here for six days before The Big Move and I wasn't going to be squatting in my own home. The pantry got a tag, as did my wardrobe. Initially I thought, "What the hell, take all my clothes – I only wear about four things in there on high rotation, anyway."
But then I remembered I had stashed a freebie in there that had been sent to me at the radio station that very day. It was, I blush to reveal, a $220 sex toy. Now, let me get this straight, I wasn't hiding it for use later ... I wanted to show my partner the sheer amazing technology of it and that nowadays these things come with all the bells and whistles. (I stress that's figuratively speaking ... can you imagine?)
Anyway, after we'd laughed nervously about it, turned on each of its SIX SPEEDS and suggested maybe wrapping it up for one of our mothers (ho, ho, ho) I threw it into the back of my top shelf among my trackie daks and old maternity bras. There, it looked about as comfortable as a supermodel at a Weight Watchers meeting. Just as I was contemplating the packers discovering this dirty little secret, I swiftly placed a red tag on the door, mouthing to myself, "I'll deal with our battery-charged friend a little later, methinks." When I arrived home after the packers had gone, I was relieved to find the contents of the wardrobe untouched. The tags worked!
I then filled a drawer in the kitchen with what I considered to be essentials. I'd made a bolognese sauce, so I felt pretty up myself for remembering that I needed to put aside a huge pot and a sieve. I put in some cutlery, about six plates, some plastic bowls for the kids and some glasses and cups. Not exactly a comprehensive list, but enough to cover us for whatever we needed to eat for brekkie, lunch and dinner. My fella the Chippie threw in some tongs and a Barbie Mate tool. I have no idea why, but I appreciate his effort. So ... I packed that drawer, marked it with a red tag and moved on.
Sadly, for reasons still unknown to me, when I checked the status of that drawer post-packers, I was aghast to find it totally empty. All our essentials ... gone. They were somewhere in the towers of boxes stacked high in the living room. It was then I coined the phrase "like trying to find a sieve in a box stack" - feel free to use this phrase whenever someone unintentionally, temporarily, ruins your life.
That night we had a roast chicken hacked apart with a butter knife I found in the dishwasher. I peeled potatoes with a little sharp knife, also in the dishwasher. Ever done without a peeler? The potatoes came out looking completely colonial, like something Ned Kelly's lady friend might have prepared the night the Jerilderie Letter was penned. The carrots looked like they'd been whittled with a chisel from a chunk of balsa wood.
My partner and I were on time-share with the solitary fork. I quickly shovelled in my chook, while he paced, checking my plate and asking every few minutes, "How many more mouthfuls are in that for you?" It made me so nervous I got indigestion. Have you ever spied on a cat using the litter tray? Yep. Watch someone do something and they can't perform. In the end I just handed him the fork and said, "Your turn."
Later that night we realised we hadn't planned ahead nearly enough ... my four-year-old's Pillow Pet was packed. As was his night light. The only book left untouched was the boring one about nursery rhymes. And the pull-ups? Gone. Thank goodness for the car boot and its never-ending stash of crap.
So then we were looking down the barrel of five days with almost nothing in the kitchen. I have to say, I enjoyed the challenge. It was like camping, without the insects and digging a hole to go to the toilet.
I'd like to think the moral of this story is that we could all learn to live with less, and that I immediately donated anything I hadn't used in two years to charity, but my lesson was far more superficial. I learnt that peelers are not essential and not to bring home naughty things if you have no intention of using them.
This article first appeared in Sunday Life.