Read again: moving in, hindi moving on. Wag mag-emo. Lol. This entry is about our journey of looking for THE ONE. The one flat that we moved in recently. Wag kang ano. Hindi ito tungkol sa tao. Hahaha!
If you’ve been following our Facebook page, you know that I (Janelle) and my husband moved flats last month. We lived in a flat in Suleimania for nine years and I truly loved that flat. It’s where I started my journey here in Riyadh and I simply love my room. It had a window, which I looked for first when we moved in. I love lots of sunshine in my room! We had a wide living room and dining room and three bedrooms for me, my brothers, and my parents. I also love the neighborhood. There were a lot of Filipino groceries and restaurants and bakeshops nearby. The bakalas are walking distance and there’s even a fashion boutique below our building where I hoarded SR 50 gowns (which I rarely use but I’m glad to know I have, just in case). But then, my brothers exited Saudi Arabia in 2016 and my parents followed in the early quarter of 2017. And then, there are two: my husband and me. We are the only ones left in Saudi Arabia.
We mulled our options: to vacate the flat and look for another flat OR to stay in the flat and have the other two rooms rented out. It was a difficult decision because 1. I am a person that’s happy with my comfort zone (why change it when there’s nothing wrong with it?) and 2. I am not a very sociable person (ayaw mag-adjust, mga bes! lol). My husband is the kind of person who you can put any where, be with strangers and he’ll thrive. In other words: magaling s’ya makisama, ako hindi. Hahaha! Our 3-bedroom flat cost SR 30,000 a year. That’s not something we can afford if we choose to stay there on our own. But renting out the bedrooms is not an option I want to consider (#stubborn). I guess our dream of starting on our own (and my stubbornness) finally won out and we decided to look for our own tiny flat within our budget in a place nearer my workplace.
I was really sad to leave the flat in Suleimania and it’s been an emotional journey for months. I savored each day reminiscing by going through our stuff. It was also hard cleaning out a flat that we’ve lived in for nine years! I promised myself never to be a pack rat again, haha. We were disposing, giving away, selling, or sending stuff. It was a chaotic phase, really. We are very much grateful to our friends who helped us out. Super grateful! Here are some things I learned in cleaning out a flat before moving in to another:
- Start packing early. We thought we did clean and pack early, you know (like a two months early)? But we ended up staying in the old flat a day before the last day of our lease ended. We started cleaning and organizing during the eid holiday. It went on for weeks!
- Go through your stuff one room at a time. We started with the smaller areas like the bathrooms and then we moved on to the more challenging rooms like the bedrooms and the kitchen. Actually we didn’t really ask anyone for advice; we just did this because it made more sense to start with the smaller one so that we don’t overwhelm ourselves at the get go.
- Divide things to: SELL, SEND, GIVE AWAY (OR DONATE), THROW, KEEP. Like I mentioned, I lived in our Suleimania flat for NINE years so imagine the amount of stuff we have! When my father exited last May, he didn’t really bring a lot of things with him and he didn’t really told us what to do with most of their stuff. My brothers also left tons of stuff in their room. I think I stood there for quite a time and just screamed at my husband to THROW EVERY THING AWAY!!! Hahaha. I mean, seriously, if I send those stuff to the PH, will they be used?! Anyway, my husband (the more patient one), just asked me to divide the things into those five categories. Actually, more like four because I was hesitant to sell our items. I mean, most of them are probably not in selling condition. We sold some of the bigger things like the air-conditioners and cabinets. We sent the stuff of my brothers and parents to the Philippines, including some of my things. That made up four super extra large LBC boxes (the ones sent via sea cargo are still on the way). We gave away a lot of pillows, comforters, blankets, kitchen utensils, clothes, shoes, etc. We threw really old, broken, and dirty things. And we kept most of my stuff. Haha. Most of the items in my room are moved to the new flat. Of course, my husband’s few things also came with us.
- Box them up! Just not used boxes, get plastic containers that will make things easier to compartmentalize and carry. I had huge boxes from IKEA where I placed most of the stuff that I won’t be needing immediately but will still use (example: bulky winter clothes). We also got plastic containers to carry stuff from the old flat to the new one. We got them from Hyper Panda for around SR 23 each. They’re available in the riyalin stores and SACO too. These made it easier for us to know which items go to which room (example: makeup, my husband’s snow globe collections, etc.).
- Ask for help. We would like to thank from husband’s cousin, friends, and colleagues for helping us to clean our flat and move. Without them, we coudn’t have made it. I could have just given up right in the middle of our living room and left it at that! Haha! I was the helpless, undomesticated diva in the house, ugh. Lol. The more help you find, the faster things will move along. They also help us save money from hiring movers. We didn’t have to pay a ridiculous amount to have our bigger appliances and furniture moved. (They said that the ongoing rate for movers is around SR 700. Whew!) THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
- Get the new flat ready early. Or should I say, find the new flat or room to move in first! Then move the bigger furniture and appliances next. The smaller ones can follow.
- DO NOT BREAK DOWN. DO NOT BE HOPELESS. You will see the light at the end of the tons and tons of things and many tasks and errands. AJA!
Looking for a house is an all new ball game for us. We spent weeks visiting real estates in the location where we want to move. In Riyadh, getting a new flat consists of a. asking friends if they know a vacant flat or room, b. scouring the internet (mainly FB groups or in expatriates.com) for people renting out their rooms or flats, or c. going to a real estate agency to inquire directly. We resorted to the first two for the first few months of looking around. We visited a few rooms posted in Facebook and expatriates.com but nothing fit what we were looking for. And so went for option c: visiting real estate agencies. The basic gist is to go and visit their office, inquire, and if they have something vacant to offer, one of their staff accompanied us to the flats. It’s a must to actually have an Arabic-speaking person with you if you can’t understand or speak Arabic.
Here are our flat criteria:
- Our own flat, whether it be small, as long as we’re the only ones living on it. This is more about my personality. Nothing to do with my husband who has a wonderful personality. Haha! He’s very sociable and I’m not. I like to keep within my comfort zone and I like quiet and idle moments, especially when I’m writing or reading. I also like my personal space. I don’t want sharing a bathroom (except for my husband, of course, or family members) and I don’t want common spaces in a house where everyone is hanging out like it’s a public space. People who live in flats with other families/couples… I admire them. I’m glad things are working out for you and that you really make it work. Kudos!
- Affordable. When I told friends we are on the mission of finding our own flat with a SAR 10,000 to SAR 14,000 yearly rent, I think every body scoffed at the idea. The location we want is a popular area because it’s near a hospital. Real estate agencies knew that houses and flats are in demand here. Also, there are very few flats that will sit within our budget that will also tick off the other parameters of our search. Hopeless? Not really. We found out that real estate nowadays is in a dip. Many expats are moving out and exiting and there are more flats available for rent. Just HAGGLE.
- Proper layout. What I liked about our old flat in Suleimania is its lay-out. It has a proper house lay-out, at least for what’s normal lay-out for us Filipinos. When you open the door, there’s the living room. Then another space is for the dining room. Then a separate area for the kitchen and at the inner spaces are the bedrooms. That’s a proper layout. Imagine my surprise when we went flat-hunting and was greeted with flats that once you open the door, there were other doors already. There was no space for a living room. There were flats that have sinks in the middle of the supposed to be living room and there were others that doesn’t even look like a flat to me. Eventually, we found one that suits my criteria of a “proper layout” lol.
- Neighborhood. We were looking for a flat in an old neighborhood that has a mix of really old and modern buildings. We’re right in the middle. We like that there are nearby stores (very important) where we can get basic stuff and supplies. Of course, sometimes, the main reason for choosing a place to live is the proximity to our workplaces. That makes the most sense but we also can’t ignore security and safety. Get feedback from people who know the area. Then assess it yourself. My husband has an aversion with streets that don’t have proper lighting. Of course the real estate will give us glowing reviews. Be discerning.
- A flat that doesn’t need a lot of work. There are flats that have affordable rent but needs a lot of work like paint job, floor tiles, etc. That will also take a lot of money and effort and so when we went flat-hunting, we made sure to check out al these details. The little things matter. Also, we wanted a flat on the ground floor so moving wouldn’t be such a hassle (imagine carrying heavy objects to the rooftop) but ground floor flats these days cost a ton and they’re very rare.
Flat hunting can be fun, but it’s mostly tiring and frustrating (#honesttalk). I don’t know if it’s my old self and brittle bones talking haha. It was exhausting to go from one flat to another and don’t find the one you’re looking for. We had a few misses aka the flats that didn’t work out:
- The Flat That Got Away – There was one instance when we thought we already had a flat. It ticked off all the criteria we were looking for. We were already planning in our minds and imagining how to decorate it. The real estate staff promised to help us lower the rent because that’s the only thing we were concerned about. We were really giddy with excitement until we went back to the real estate agency. A few calls after and we found out the flat has been reserved already on the morning of that same day. Wth. Every time we pass by that building where the flat is, my heart flutters a little knowing that it could have been the flat we’re living in. But as all things go for that one who got away, we need to hope for the best, move on, and know that we are meant for something better.
- The Rebound Flat (aka panakip butas) – Because we were heartbroken with the flat that got away, the real estate rep felt bad about it. He immediately got the keys to other empty flats they had and showed us around again even though it was already 10 in the evening. There was the flat that seemed to be “okay” but the lay-out was awkward. It was also in the rooftop and maybe because it was the first flat that looked “okay” among the others he showed us, we decided to reserve it even though our hearts were not on it. We just feel like if we didn’t get it,
no one will love us againwe will not find another one. The day after, we accepted the fact that we don’t really like that flat. We went back to the real estate agency and took back our reservation fee. We assured ourselves that we’ll eventually find THE ONE. Tiwala lang (just believe)!
- The Paasa Flat (aka the flat that gave us hope but…) – During our first week of looking for a flat, I checked out expatriates.com and came upon an ad that also ticked off our list of criteria. I immediately set an appointment with the guy who posted about it and visited agad agad! We loved his flat. It was nothing fancy but it has ample space for a living room and a bedroom that has enough space for our bed and two working desks. When I saw it, my main issue was the lack of windows where sunshine can pour in. Nevertheless, we felt lucky to have found this flat. However, the guy told us we need to buy all of the things inside the flat for the tumataginting price of SR 8,000! That’s apart from the rent which is SR 6,000 for 6 months. Ermnnnn. We understand that some expats need to exit immediately and it does make sense to sell some of the stuff with the flat but SR 8,000 is a lot of money and his things are not brand new! Also, I feel like it’s not our responsibility to buy his things; we also have our own furniture and appliance from the old flat. We tried haggling with him and he told us he’ll let us know soon. He kept on saying he will not give the flat to someone else before he consulted with us again but you know these types: the moment they find someone who will agree to their terms, they’re sold. Anyway, we haggled for a more reasonable rate and he kept on leading us on… until we couldn’t wait any longer. If pinapaasa ka na, it’s better to know when the situation is becoming pointless. Leave and move on. After a few weeks, when we already closed in our deal for another flat, the owner of the paasa flat called us to say he’s ready to negotiate. Uhhhh, thank you but NO.
And like what some relationships are like… we have to go through some misses before we finally find the HIT. After a search that spanned a month or so, we finally found THE ONE. I’ll come back with another entry on how we moved in, furnished it, and finally settled in.
Yes, you’ll meet the one! 😉