At the end of March 2020 we moved to an apartment near our old rental house. The backdrop to this move was the growing Covid 19 epidemic. On our return from Christmas in the USA, news of the virus still lingered.
After 25 years in Japan, we finally took the plunge and bought our first (and final) property. We were enticed by the huge roof balcony overlooking the bright lights of Saitama Shintoshin. We can sip cheap wine and imagine it’s Manhattan.
We brought in builders to renovate the place before moving in. Walls were demolished spreading light into dark corners and creating great cross breezes. The bath was jettisoned allowing us to extend the kitchen and install a breakfast bar. Admittedly, we might have gone a bit crazy with the lights.
Our rented house was large and spacious with enough room for two families. In a previous life, it had served as a daycare for retired people. It still bore the remnants of that business, a large neon exit sign above a doorway, rails in the toilet and a prominent bright red wall phone that possibly linked directly to Donald J. Trump.
Our new apartment is roughly half the size of the previous place, requiring a huge downsize of our “stuff”. Through January, February and March, a laser focus turned to our clutter built up throughout the house. Hundreds of books squirreled away in raids at Book Off were gathering dust. Camping goods, no longer required because of a lack of interest in discomfort, sweat and insects had spread in the household. Literally hundreds of soccer items had to go. Socks, shin pads, shorts, jackets, coats, even headbands!
The internet became a godsend, our junk turned into others’ treasure. DVDS and crap paperbacks with glowing reviews from the Daily Express and Mail sold for money! Old soccer cards or unwanted games brought in more cash. Facebook Garage Sale was amazing.
Then we went old school. Using the American way, we had a yard sale without a yard! We hung out clothes in front of our place, laid out tables groaning with unwanted goods. We left signs with price tags and a note saying—- please put the money in the post box. This worked in Japan. Checking the mailbox become the highlight of the day.
The customers didn’t exactly flock but they did arrive in clusters (luckily not corona clusters at this time). A flurry of activity, and suddenly a few more thousand yen in the post box and a large amount of space created. Slowly, as the virus spread, our pile of crap got smaller.
Frequent nightly visits to see the renovations at the apartment saw gradual improvements. Picking our way through the debris and noting down adjustments to be made, the place was becoming our vision.
It seemed as if Covid 19 was chasing us into the new apartment. News of its rapid spread around the world got louder. The day of the move, our Japanese friend helping us to move wore his mask as did we. The apartment janitor didn’t hide his hostility to our moving procedures (he has since thawed and is very friendly) We used our puny muscle power to lug stuff upstairs with no apparent tactics. The maverick approach worked. We had done it! Cups of tea were made. Goodbyes were said. Lockdown was beginning. A week later, we closed our schools and took all 500 of our students online.
We look back and think how lucky we were. Some might think us unlucky (taking on a mortgage, paying a substantial downpayment and for the renovations in cash (depleting our emergency fund), but we could have been unluckier. The day before our garage sale, Abe announced schools would close from the Monday. Our garage sale was the day before the first lockdown. If we’d planned on selling in full lockdown, it would have been impossible. We managed to move and while our business has suffered, we’re doing OK.