A Cardboard Couch

December 29, 2023 • 5 minute read

I wrote my Thoughts on 2023 post a bit too soon. It’s been a rollercoaster since I published that on November 4th.

On November 8th, we got the keys to our new place near Sarphatipark. A lovely top floor unit with a great private deck, recently renovated too. No elevator, but you get used to the stairs quickly enough. When we showed up to get the keys, we noticed there was scaffolding cladding the entire outside of our building. Something the broker told us would be down in the next week (spoilers: it was not).

In Amsterdam, due to the narrow staircases, it’s very common to move house via the large front windows. Apartments are often multi-floored and it’s easier to pull everything out of the windows instead of navigating the stairs internally. Moving lifts are exceedingly common, come in many form factors, and you see them all over the city. However, these do not work when your unit is blocked by a few stories of scaffolding. We were a little worried, but our shipping container wasn’t due in to Rotterdam until November 30th, with the earliest delivery being December 8th.

We moved out of our hotel the next week, bringing our cat and a couple of suit cases over to our new neighborhood. I had gotten a new bed delivered from Ikea the week before, and a new TV was due to be delivered soon. We didn’t want to buy a bunch of furniture we only needed temporarily only to try and sell it later. So I decided to build a “couch” out of some cardboard we had left over from the IKEA bed. It would only be a two more weeks until our stuff would get here.

After a few iterations I settled on this design. I made a “box spring” out of a flat IKEA box with a bunch of rectangular loops of cardboard as “springs”.

As my mental sanity slowly drained, I got more crafty as time went on.

I got a bit more creative with the next one. I made a nightstand for my wife without using any duct tape, just twine and holes punched with a screwdriver.

December 8th came and went, the scaffolding was still up and this would make a delivery impossible. Our moving manager sent a surveyor out, and they saw the workers had a parking permit through the 15th, with the next available permit being the 21st of December. It was going to be over a month without any of our stuff, but at least we had a date.

Work was keeping me busy enough, and I tried my hand at another thing we needed, but didn’t want to buy since we had one coming in our home goods: a trash can.

This one’s pretty simple, just a loop of cardboard. Tall enough to fit a garbage bag. I experimented with using twine to tack together pieces of cardboard. Duct tape has a surprising weakness when trying to pin together two surfaces.

The week before our delivery, one of the last contractors working outside our window knocked, he informed us that he was finished with the gutters, and that the scaffolding would be taken down the next Monday. My wife and I breathed a sigh of relief, we finally had confirmation that we’d be getting our stuff!

Unfortunately that next Monday came and went, the scaffolding wasn’t down. So I called the scaffolding company directly, asking whether our unit’s scaffolding was scheduled to come down anytime soon. He said that he didn’t have our address on the schedule for this week, and that the earliest they could schedule it would be January 8th.

Absolutely defeated, I emailed our move coordinator, informing her of the situation. I asked if they could bring some clothes or anything up the stairs, knowing they wouldn’t be able to make our full delivery. She said she would forward the information to the moving crew.

We really didn’t want to spend Christmas and New Years in an empty apartment, especially not after essentially sitting on the floor for a month. Just the idea of sitting in a chair was a fantasy, let alone sitting on our comfy couch from California.

December 21st came, the movers came up the stairs, taking a look around. They couldn’t use the outside lift, as we knew. They said they would try and bring some stuff upstairs. Literally the first thing the brought up was a piece of our couch. A couch my wife and I had been dreaming of sitting on once again. After a few boxes, the move foreman told us that his guys should be able to bring everything up that day.

Words cannot describe how excited my wife and I were. After waiting over a month, then being told we would have to wait another two weeks to get our stuff, we were in genuine shock.

Sure enough, box by box, they brought up every last bit. They helped us unpack some larger furniture, then they departed to the next job. We had our couch finally! The first thing we setup was our living room, a nice oasis amongst the remaining moving boxes. We could finally relax and settle into our new home.

In some way, the reason I was so adamant about making cardboard furniture was to regain some control. Our stuff was on a ship crossing the Atlantic for most of this time, it was out of my hands. But the only thing preventing me from making some useful furniture in the interim was myself, and my skills with a box cutter.

Our lives are often influenced by things we cannot control, but it’s important to understand this, and assert agency over the things we can control, however small.