Moving to Hawaii – Shipping Stuff

I mentioned that we received the priority packages we had shipped from Monument, Colorado. I also mentioned that they arrived pretty beat up, prompting worries about the bigger boxes we had shipped. We received half of the big boxes today, and they were in surprisingly good shape. The ones I’m still concerned about (computer, monitor, sewing machine, sewing machine accessories) are yet to arrive, so there’s still some apprehension about them.

Melisa Creations - Fruit Smoothie

Melisa Creations – Fruit Smoothie

But, you may wonder, how did we come to use the Post Office for shipping stuff to Hawaii?

Let me take you back to April . . . 
We had just accepted the offer on our house. All of a sudden, shit was getting real. We would be without a house and we’d yet to decide where we might look to find a new place to call home. 

We had looked at Wyoming, other places in Colorado, Florida, the Northeastern seaboard, back in Michigan, Washington state, Montana, Arizona, Alaska . . . no place called out to us. 

. . . except Hawaii . . . 

It was a quick decision, along the lines of “Screw it! If we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it! Hawaii, here we come!”

The euphoria lasted for about ten minutes . . . then, “Great, but . . . HOW?”


Mind you, we’re no strangers to drastic and difficult moves. Picking up from Michigan and moving to Colorado was not a snap by any means. Still, there’s no ocean between Detroit and Colorado Springs. This time, hiring a moving company to truck our things was not an option. 

We started to look into shipping options. There are companies that will sell you space in a shipping container . . . by selling you a 5′ x 5′ x 5′ custom-built enclosure for about $3K. 

Here’s the thing. You can hire a 8′ x 8′ x 20′ shipping container directly from Matson. And, they don’t care what you put in it. Up to 25K pounds. 

For about $7K, they will ship a container to your from California and pick it back up once you load it (in our case, $3K for the round trip) and then ship it to any Hawaiian port (the remaining balance of $4K).

Until the middle of May, that was the plan. Ship a container to the Big Island. The reasons we leaned that way . . . the nice pieces of furniture we had. Our teak bedroom set, our teak dining room table and chairs, our breakfast nook table, our Pottery Barn sectional, our tiered Drexel Heritage cabinet, our glass tables, and our cedar bases sofa and coffee tables. 

There were other things, of course . . . books, teapots collections, memories accumulated over the course of forty years. Yes, we had a lot of things, and for a very simple reason. We realized early on the cost advantage of buying quality stuff. Most of what we owned was as good as new even after 20+ years. The teak bedroom set is still being sold – you can buy it new for $7,400 . . . and it would look just like ours did. Same for most of what we owned. 


We would still have to get rid of a lot of things, but our most cherished things would join us in our adventure. 

Then, in May, we changed our minds. We reasoned that it would be easier if we became more mobile. Lean, limber, svelte, able to move on a whim and follow the changing trade winds. It still seems incredible, but in the course of a little over two weeks, we emptied our house and sold most of what we had. I’ll have another post about that process, but, for now, let me just say that saying we would get rid of everything and actually doing it are two very different things. 

Some things we just could not part with. Some things we parted with we still miss and will miss for a while to come.

However, that’s the decision we made . . . and shortly after we made the decision was when I read something on a blog . . . someone had moved to Hawaii by shipping about thirty boxes through the US Mail. We did some calculations and figured it would run us between $1,600 and $1,800. 

20160621_134017-01.jpg 20160621_134035-01.jpg

That sounds like a lot, but realize that just replacing the computer with an equivalent machine would run me $2,500, and that’s not counting the monitor, Melisa’s sewing machine, and other stuff we shipped. 

My goal was to keep shipping costs to under $2/pound. That was accomplished by a combination of using flat-rate boxes for the heavy stuff that would fit in them and shipping larger boxes via ground (actually, ground and ship).

For the latter, I bought Hope Depot medium boxes (18″x18″x16″). My target weight for each box was between 40 and 55 pounds. That kept the shipping cost for each box near the $2/pound range. A 60-pound box is even cheaper per pound at a shipping cost of about $95. (Hint: buy the heavy duty version of the boxes. Also, buy the heavy duty Scotch packing tape – about $20 at Costco for eight rolls. I bought cheaper tape, and it does not hold up as well) (Hint no. 2: make sure the cardboard is free of dust. I would wipe the box with a lightly damped rag to clean any stray dust; it gives the tape the opportunity to form a good bond.) 

For them who had not seen this photo from the earlier post, this is what we ended up with:


Having received a few of the boxes, I would suggest a few more things. The smaller boxes (Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes) are a good deal for heavy small items, but the boxes do get beat up. Were I to do it again, I would put tape along every edge of the boxes. I would also reinforce the walls of the boxes, especially if there’s something heavy in them. I would use luan pieces to provide extra rigidity and strength. 

Whatever you have in them, make sure there is no play in the contents. The more you can pack the box with something, the more rigid it will be and the better it will resist impacts and the obvious manhandling they receive. 

The same holds true for the larger boxes. The only one that showed damage was one I had not packed fully. The others were also beat up but arrived intact. At least, that’s true for the ones I’ve received so far. 

By the way, you don’t need a physical address . . . you can send the packages to yourself by addressing them to “General Delivery” at the receiving Post Office. You then just show up with an ID and pick them up. 


We still second-guess ourselves . . . would it have been easier shipping a container’s worth of stuff? Actually, it probably would have been easier, less traumatic, less frustrating, less aggravating . . . and, it would have required us moving our stuff at least three times. We also calculated that between the shipping, the intermediate storage, the renting of equipment and manpower to move the stuff it would have cost us over $10K, and that’s probably a low estimate. 

So, what would we do now, knowing what we know? Difficult to say. The easy answer is we would start planning for the move a lot earlier. The difficult answer is that we still think we did the right thing . . . but we miss our stuff. Not in a greedy, “mine, mine, mine!” way, but rather we miss the things we lived with for many years and which were acquired because we liked both their functionality and how they looked.  Things we could replace for a much higher cost than what we sold them. 

A small measure of comfort is that those things are with people who appreciate them for the same reasons we did. 

There is also a certain freedom associated with not being tied down to things, although we are not completely severed from stuff . . . we have all those boxes. 

On a completely unrelated subject . . . today there was a bit of surf. Not much, but it was nice hearing the pounding of large volumes of water hitting the shore.


Here is a sequence of a wave coming in . . . 






Wait . . . I could show you this . . . 

and this . . . 

and this:

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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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17 Responses to Moving to Hawaii – Shipping Stuff

  1. sandra getgood says:

    I’m hoping I never have to move a long distance again… not even to Hawaii. But just in case I… or anyone I know… decides to do so, am saving that brilliant manual of what you did, what worked, and what didn’t, for future reference. And I love the surf….. somehow, Hawaii surf seems better than most, and the videos are wonderful. Saving those too.


    • disperser says:

      Not sure about brilliant, and there’s still a few boxes in transit, but overall, we don’t regret try decision.

      And yes, of the surf I’ve seen, I prefer the surf here.


  2. GP Cox says:

    I would love to move, but I think I’m too old and rickety for all you’re going through! Good luck!!


  3. What an enormous feat Emilio!!! We will eventually downsize too and I have started getting rid of “stuff” now. I don’t think we’ll move too far from where we are though :)


  4. To think when I moved to Hawaii when I was 21, I left with 2 suitcases . . . that was it. When I left Hawaii it was a whole different story. We did use a container but it was a whole lot cheaper 17 years ago. I bet you can’t wait to get all of your belongings and move into your new home. I really miss the sound and smell of the ocean.


  5. AnnMarie says:

    Those are beautiful flowers . . . I can’t wait to see how you and Melisa will landscape your new house. And speaking of, I Googled “hawaiian houses”, since I really have no good idea of what that architecture looks like, and the results show very lovely structures with lots of overhangs and balconies. What fun you’ll have house hunting and exploring the island in depth!


    • disperser says:

      The market here is pretty hot, which means inventory is low and prices keep going up. We’ll see how it goes once we start looking for houses. Right now, getting a longer term rental, getting residency, switching insurance, registering the car, getting a HI driver license . . . plenty to keep us busy.


  6. Wow! What a major undertaking! I admire your hard work (and Melisa’s hard work) to make your dreams reality! Continued good luck as you get settled in a new home! Will it be a tree house?!
    Those vids of the surf made me teary-eyed (joy tears)! So beautiful! Love the song the ocean sings…I could watch it for hours! Makes me miss the ocean in CA…and I know Hawaii is much more beautiful!
    The Oh, Bro’ Where Art Thou vid made me snort-laugh! It’s one of my fav movies! Makes me think of the line: “We thought you was a toad.” :-D


    • disperser says:

      Normally, I would make a remark along the line that it wasn’t that hard. But, no . . . it was difficult, and it took a lot out of us. But, we are here. That was the big first step. All else is just details to work out.

      And yes, I do like many quotes from that movie . . .

      . . . any of you fellers smithies or had some training in the metallurgical arts?
      . . . You sold your soul? . . . I wasn’t doing much with it anyway.
      . . . Well, ain’t this a geographical oddity! Two weeks from everywhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That was a very informative posting on what it takes to make a major move! I was born 20 miles north of where I live now and grew up 20 miles west of there. I have lived in my present house for 47 years and have never lived outside of the San Francisco Bay Area. Thanks for the story of your adventure from Colorado to Hawaii.


  8. Penny wise pound foolish by the sounds of it,
    So you’ve had enough of the snow and want some warmth and sunshine in your doddering old age?


    • disperser says:

      That has the ring of castigation to it . . . rest assured that we are fiscally responsible and the decisions we make take into account all manner of things, but most of all the impact of said decisions on our finances.

      We do not have a support group or financial safety net we can rely on or fall back on. It’s us and what we have, and having worked for what we have, we both value it and appreciate it, and little of what we do puts our finances at risk.

      As for the weather . . .

      . . . were it up to me, somewhere in the middle of Alaska would suit me fine. Actually, any remote area would do, regardless of weather.

      The truth of it is that I can live anywhere and be fine with it, but I have a wife I love very much, and her dream is to live in Hawaii. That means that dream becomes my dream too, and I embrace it with gusto and determination.

      That said, Hawaii is a pretty nice place, if for no other reason that in the week we’ve been here we’ve yet to hear a single dog bark. Not. A. One.

      Mind you, in the past eleven years we heard enough dog barks to last us 2.765 lifetimes, so it’s not like we’re dog-barking deprived.


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