Monday, April 16, 2012

Overweight? No way!

That was our reaction when the day before we left for India, the packing company called to tell us that our HHE (household effects – shipped to post by sea) were overweight. And not by a few pounds. Overweight by a whopping 1,100 lb!!!

How was that possible? A few weeks before our pack-out, we had a guy from that same packing company come and give us an estimate of the weight of our stuff. He said all of our stuff was between 5,000 and 6,000, meaning that even if we shipped everything we owned to India, we’d still be under the 7,200 limit by about 1,000-2,000. The estimate seemed a little on the low end to me but what do I know. I am not a pro, he was. So we trusted him. We also told him that we were planning on buying some things from Costco but he said that as long as we don’t go crazy, we should be OK.

We did go to Costco and bought this:


I’d say that’s no more than 200 lbs and some of it went into our UAB, a separate shipment that goes by air, so it doesn’t affect our HHE weight. We also put some of our furniture (a zero-gravity chair, a few bookcases, our daughter’s bed, our dining table) in long-term storage. So, we shouldn’t have been overweight. But we were.

Needless to say, it was not a pleasant surprise. With a million things to do the day before our departure, now we had to drive to the packing company’s office in Sterling, VA to play Tetris, the Foreign Service edition. I was also quite ticked off because we thought we were going to be under based on the dude’s estimate, so I didn’t pack things that I could have easily left in long-term storage separately. I had things that I wanted to donate, such as classic books, which are available for free on the Kindle and kids clothes. I was planning on putting them in long-term storage. But after the misguided low estimate, I put them in HHE, thinking I would donate them in India, where there is a greater need for books and clothing. Yeah…

So, anyway, to Sterling we went and this is what the facility looked like:


Great big boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff.

Here are our HHE boxes:


We had to open them (with the help of the packers) and pick out the things we were willing to leave behind. We were short for time and the packers, understandably, didn’t want to go through everything. This is what it looked like in the end:


The smaller pile in the back (top right corner) is what we left behind. We were looking for heavy things we wouldn’t miss much – furniture, books, bikes and the like. Then the stuff was weighed on a large scale and when it hit 1,100 lb, we were done. It took about an hour but it taught me a valuable lesson: experts can be wrong, so you have to be prepared for that (especially if you have a gut feeling they are off) and pack accordingly.

Next time, I’ll set the things we can live without aside. I’ll be there when they are packed to ensure they are packed separately and label them so I can easily identify them and pull them out, should the need arise. And when our HHE gets here, I will immediately donate all the stuff I meant to, so we are not over when we leave India.  It would be nice if the packers could tell you as you are packing when you have reached the limit but that may be too much to ask for…


  1. Although an amazing glimpse into the travel route of packed shipping crates, it was one you could have definitely done without. I am curious to know how much paper they used as well since that adds unholy amounts of pounds. With language classes and two kids (one VERY young) it is hard to be hands on during the packing - we pre-pack as much as possible with small things into plastic containers and bubble wrap and use bedding, pillows, stuffed animals/soft toys to fill out boxes that they are packing dishes in. We also save a lot of the boxes for appliances and glasses for best transport and low weight. So sorry you had to deal with unpacking a packed pack out. There should have been a better way to know your weight before it got to that. Didn't they have a scale to weigh each box before they wheeled it out of your home? Not very impressed with this shipper. :(

  2. I would have been SO annoyed! And I would have had way more from Costco ;)

    1. Yes! And yes I did want to buy more from Costco but Paul kept saying they'll have everything in India, which they do but it is so expensive. Like $10 for a box of Cheerios expensive. But we live, we learn, right?

  3. We had almost the same experience (and so did another friend of mine), that we almost maxed out our weight, even though it was estimated we would be about 3,000 lbs below the limit. I know what happened once I unpacked, and I wonder if the same will happen to you... I had stocked up my favorite shampoo, and EACH had 3 huge sheets of packing paper around it. Etc, etc, etc. Non-fragile items, full of packing paper (and those things weigh a lot, and add up fast). And THAT is where our weight came from. With 2 people, 2 bedrooms, and leaving the heaviest of our furniture behind, there was no way we really had that much weight.

    1. We were wondering the same thing, Carla. Because our stuff itself shouldn't have been over the limit after all the furniture we put in long-term storage. I guess we'll see how much packaging is in there when we unpack the stuff. I also prepacked most of our clothing and bedding in vacuum bags - not sure if that's good or bad.

  4. packing materials put you overweight for sure. I can't tell you how much paper wrapped our tupperware or toys that were non breakable. I would have been livid!


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