Day 282: Living between San Francisco and Mountain View (inbetween state of mind)

The past 24 hours have been juggling several balls. I’ve had to ruthlessly prioritize what I need to do. The first thing was to order a bed so I can completely move in. In the past week, I’ve read lots of reviews about mattress in a box products and tested out some Ikea beds. I didn’t have enough time to check out other stores or go back to Ikea to put in an order when everything arrived.

Luckily you can order online so that’s what I did. I also knew from testing it out that Ikea won’t deliver stuff til next week. Which is annoying in that I want it now and my last day is this weekend in my current place! Anyhow I’ve ordered a bed frame, mattress and a chair.

I went with a white theme. As I read that white looks brighter and makes a room look more spacious. Whereas black color attracts light and draws you in, making room look smaller. My room is a reasonable size, but it’s not huge. So I’m conscious of the space. I also discovered there’s a smaller built in cupboard that’s great for things like my hat collection!

Unfortunately, there’s no upsell option on IKEA website to do assembly. Even though they list it as a service on their website. I decided to use TaskRabbit as I have used them before. I hired a tasker. I know from assembling Ikea beds and other furniture in the past that it takes like 4 hours or so a piece. It’s frustrating and tiring. So I have hired someone else to do it.

I’ve realized that it costs like ~$200 extra when you count the delivery fee of Ikea and the cost of assembly. Should I have bought one of those mattress in a box companies and one of their foundations? My setup is still a few hundred dollars cheaper and it includes a chair.

Personally, I don’t like the idea of spending a lot of money on furniture. I’m ok with spending a bit more on the bed. But I’m not convinced yet that Casper, Leesa, Purple is a better mattress and worth twice as much. If I don’t like my current mattress I can always return it as IKEA has a 1 year guarantee and their mattress comes rolled up too. I also wanted a frame with storage to make more use of the space.

When you’re an expat living in a foreign country, you might not know how long you’ll stay there. My plan is to stay in the U.S for minimum 3 years (up to Day 1095). My L1 transfer visa is valid for 5 years. So I want to review my situation after 3 years. So I don’t want to spend a lot of money on furniture. I also want the flexibility to be able to move around. I love the fact that I can pick up everything in one car and go from San Francisco. Check out the name of my podcast – This Mobile Life!

Now I have to buy stuff like pots & pans, pillows, towels, bed, sofa, tables, chairs, and more! It’s a lot of money to invest upfront. I’ve decided to buy the minimum set I need – MVP yo! Plus I need to get a car too. The bed costs $1,000 and doesn’t include sheets, pillows, comforter, duvet. You’re looking at a few hundred dollars for that too.

I was fortunate to get a combination of hand-me-down furniture from a colleague who was downsizing and lives in the same complex. I got an old table, cutlery, plates, tangine pot, and sushi mats. From the building manager they gave me the demo furniture they use for display apartments when showcasing the place. They placed a sofa bed and table in my place. They needed to put it somewhere and they realized that I didn’t have anything (maybe they felt sorry for me!). Anyhow I now have a dining table, sofa bed, computer table, and basic kitchen setup I can eat from! To their surprise, I asked them for more demo furniture. I asked for chairs. But they don’t have any. You can’t have any shame – that’s how I live my life. Ask for what you want 🙂

I’ve been looking for the bedding stuff. I ordered the Amazon basics sheets set for like $30. My friend was horrified that I bought it as it’s made of micro fibre. She says that it’s like sleeping in a plastic bag. To be honest, I don’t really care. I’m happy to sleep in any condition. But I will take her advice and upgrade them to something better!

Last night I’ve been reviewing articles about what to look for in a pillow and comforter. The conclusion I have come to for a pillow is that it depends how you sleep. Are you a side sleeper, back sleeper or stomach sleeper? My preference is to get a natural material like feathers or goose. I’m going to stay away from latex, memory foam or synthetic as it may get too hot. I’ve been looking on Amazon and it’s really confusing. I’m overwhelmed by the 1,000 choices available! I’m probably going to go to a store like Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea or SF Linen outlet so I can touch and feel them. That way I can get what I want and take it home, and start using it.

The last thing on my priority list is organizing a cleaner to clean my old place. It’s been tricky finding someone for the weekend and at a decent price. I’ve been getting quotes from Yelp using their quoting feature. I can see their reviews and ratings too.

A lot of cleaners are already booked up, not available on Sunday or can only give me a 2 hour time window. It’s annoying. I also need to make a 2.5 hour round trip if I want to be there and review their work. I know I need to lock in something soon.

I know the next week or so is going to be busy running around both places to organize stuff. I’m in that inbetween state of mind.

But I know the end result will be good. I’ll be saving a 2.5 hour commute each day. It will also involve lots of ice cream to celebrate!

However it doesn’t end. I’ll also need to find a room mate and rent a car. Then do my US tax return called W-2’s. I also need to organize my personal finances in the U.S. Of course there’s a blog post to come about those topics!

I’m out like moving out,

Matt Ho

Day 274: Layer Management

The keys to success for living in the Bay Area is layer management. The Bay Area has a lot of microclimates. So when I travel from the city (San Francisco) to South Bay, the climate is very different. It could go from windy to sunny. Or very cold to cold. Also when I get on the Caltrain, it’s much warmer inside. I need to be able to remove layer of clothing easily in a confined space.

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Day 269: How I passed the behind the wheel driving test on my first attempt in California!

I wanted to write this as a record for myself and also to help out other people that are going for their test. I actually passed my test the day before, however the previous day’s blog post was all about the ‘shake’. There was an earthquake the morning of the exam! It was crazy. I woke up at 2.30am and couldn’t go to sleep for about two hours. I had my driving exam at 10am. This is definitely not ideal exam prep! Here’s a summary of what I did to pass the California DMV behind the driving wheel test. Its about my experience.

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Day 115: Licensed to drive (almost)

I’ve been slowly chipping away at my setup tasks for the U.S. Its a longish list that seems to never end and only gets bigger. One of the big things was getting my drivers license.

I really wanted to get my license so I can drive in the future. Today I went to the Californian DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and passed my written driving text exam! So I’m 50% of the way there. To do the behind the wheel test you need to do the written test first. Ironically, its not actually written. You stand in front of a touch screen computer and push some buttons.


My pic of the DMV and waiting line!

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Reflections on 2016 & notes to self for 2017

I write my final 2016 blog post to you from London whilst sitting in my brother William’s apartment. Outside, the sky is completely grey and the trees have all been stripped naked of their leaves. The streets are empty, save for a few souls that dare brave London’s blistering winter weather. A few times an hour, a red double decker bus whizzes past to add some colour into my view.

Every year, this is a post I want to write. But I may not get around to doing it. I do think about my reflections for 2016 and my goals – aka hopes/dreams/fears for the next year. I do it with a good friend of mine where we’ll meet up during the year to talk about it. This post is as much for me as it is for you. Thanks to my friends Fiona Chan & Samantha Low for writing their reflections which helped to inspire me.

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A plug and play world – first post on medium!

I’ve been meaning to write on Medium for a while. Medium is a new platform for publishing blog posts.

A plug and play world

I received my new Macbook air this morning with much excitement. After my new weekly catchup with Holly from Pixc on Google Hangout and some lunch, I unboxed my new Macbook Air and turned it on.

I connected to our wifi, opened up Safari the default browser. Installed Lastpass which stores my logins and passwords. Immediately I was able to login to Gmail and Facebook. When I wanted access to our files and documents, I logged into dropbox and google drive to access them.

For the rest of this story, go here.