Back in August of 2019, the realization that we had sold our 4000 square foot house with a nearly 2000 square foot finished basement (372 square meters/186 square meters) was setting in. Now we had to figure out what to do with all of our stuff. Glibly, I said that I’d be happy to sell or give away all of it because stuff was just stuff. Right?? (If you haven’t heard George Carlin’s “stuff” routine, click here for a good giggle). I had this dream in my head that we could live in a furnished place and simply pick up and go whenever the whim hit us. Rrrrrright.
We had moved to New Jersey from California in 2012. In California we lived in a darling little 1920’s era house of 1200 square feet (111 sm) for 13 years. When we moved to New Jersey, we rented a small place before we bought our big house in Chester. We jumped from a 2 bed, 2 bath home to a 4 bed, 3-1/2 bath home. Through my own strange justification process, I reasoned that we hadn’t lived there long enough to really acquire that much stuff. We didn’t have young children and it didn’t seem like it was filled with stuff. Spoiler alert…you always have more than you think you have.
As the process began we quickly realized we were going to have to make some tough decisions. We would sell some things, donate others, throw some out, give some away, and, in the end, store the rest (original artwork, photographs, collectibles, sentimental items, investment pieces, etc.). We knew we weren’t going to ship any household items to Portugal for a few reasons: 1) we could buy what we needed for less than it would cost to ship, 2) we weren’t sure how long we might be there…what if we got there and hated it? Then what?!, 3) we couldn’t bring anything electrical due to the differences in both voltage and plug configuration (we are, however, bringing cell phones, laptops, and tablets which can easily be charged via USB ports) 4) living spaces are much smaller in Europe so our current furniture, rugs, and beds would likely not fit, 5) we would like a more contemporary living environment so much of our furniture wouldn’t be appropriate, and finally 6) we plan to live more minimally there than here.
We pared our lives down from 6000 square feet of living into an impressively-packed 10’x20′ (3mx6m) storage space. If you’ve ever played Tetris you’ll have some understanding of what that experience was like. Egad.
And, our cars. What do we do with those? We went back and forth for months. We learned that you cannot import a car that you have not owned for less than 6 months. We also learned that buying cars in Portugal is very expensive primarily because of the VAT (value added tax). As an example it would cost us 30% to 40% more to buy the exact same make, model and year of the car we decided to take. Most cars in Portugal are manual transmission. We consulted multiple people and sources to make the best decision possible. Some said don’t bother shipping a car unless its a collectible and/or you just can’t part with it; others were on the fence. The Portuguese Consulate didn’t seem to dissuade us when we asked them about it. Paulo, our friend in Portugal, said he’d help us secure a great car, but in the end, we decided to ship one of ours because we had been the sole owners, it was only 2 years old, had 13,000 miles on it, was familiar to us, was NOT a manual transmission, and we could use the interior space (trunk and back seat only) to send some of our personal belongings. We hired Schumacher Cargo to ship the car in a private container as opposed to a “roll on/roll off” option which was less expensive, but wouldn’t allow anything inside the car.
The process to ship our car in a private shipping container required that we secure a US Federal Tax Payer ID number (EIN). The reason for this is that they no longer accept Social Security Numbers or passports due to potential fraud concerns. We also had to provide the original title of ownership (a copy is not acceptable), record of purchase (i.e. copy of a check), statement from the finance company or dealer showing the car has been fully paid for, a manifest summarizing all items in the car and finally, official documents provided by the Portuguese Consulate allowing us to import the car with a tax exempt status for both the car and the personal items inside (2 separate documents). The car could not have more than a 1/4 tank of gas/petrol at the time of drop off to Schumacher or they would charge us an additional $125.00 to siphon it out. Like a total idiot, I forgot about this detail a few days before we were scheduled to take the car in and we had to drive around burning gas. Groan…
It will take approximately 45 days from the day we dropped off the car to the day it arrives in Lisbon which we did on December 12th. Oddly enough, the majority of that time is spent here in the US waiting for the car to get through US customs and loaded onto a ship. The actual transit time on the ocean is between 7 and 10 days depending on weather. I’ll provide another update on what happens on the other end when we go to collect the car and get it legalized to drive in Portugal. Going forward we will have to learn to live with one car (psst…it isn’t that hard if you and your spouse are not working).
As of the date of this post, we are scheduled to leave one week from tomorrow. It is both exciting and slightly unnerving. We are super excited to finally be so close to truly stepping into this adventure and hope we have crossed all our ‘t’s and dotted all the necessary ‘i’s! Well, I guess we’ll find out soon.
My next post will be devoted to Sweet Pea, our wire haired fox terrier, and all the planning and prep we did to bring her along (photos included – because she’s super cute).
If you have any specific questions or are curious about any aspect of our planning and move, please post a question below. I’d be happy to provide an answer or even devote a blog post to it. Thanks!