I am an emotional creature. I am planning on beginning the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 at the end of the week and I don’t know why because I really feel like what I need is less empathy. Everyone should have a little empathy – but the way the balance worked out, some people have none at all and others have way too much. I have way too much. I feel pain for ants that will never make it home to their families even though I know ants don’t have families.
In college, my concentration was exercise science. In one class, we were learning about stress effects on the body and we filled out the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory. At the time, I was surprised to see “change in residence” on the list. I didn’t understand it. I was a freshman and I still thought moving was great. How can moving 6 months ago cause emotional stress today? I moved to a new place to go to college and everything was awesome!
Now I understand otherwise. For emotional creatures like me, moving is not easy. It wasn’t so hard going to college- to some extent because I wasn’t truly parting with my parents’ house – it existed for me to go home to whenever I needed. The succeeding moves were more difficult. It converted to something more than just physically relocating clothing and kitchen utensils- that would have been easy. I am fairly organized and have gotten the process of moving down to a checklist. No, you are not just relocating, you are redefining “home.”
Since college, “home” was once a row-house filled with more girls than rooms and we’d watch “Married at First Sight” every Monday. It was a cozy apartment shared with a college friend and two cats with carpeted floors and a grill in the grassy courtyard below. It was an old house where the plumbing was dry-rotted and I lived alone, covered in sweat every night paying more attention than necessary to the groaning pipes and scrabbling squirrels in the attic. It was a house in the French countryside where I had to walk a mile to the grocery store and no one spoke English. It was a small AirBnB condo with my fiancé where we practiced our first dance in the living room with no blinds.
My new “home,” where I arrived this Saturday, is yet undefined.
If you can’t tell, I move a lot. Life is complicated with a husband who is finishing his degree a few states away but working on a project across the ocean. In the last year, we moved every 3 months – across the ocean and back. Before that, I averaged 1 move per year since I left for college at 18.
I’m still not used to it. Every time I arrive in a new home, I feel foreign and unfamiliar. What am I supposed to do in this space? Where will I set up my easel? Are we going to eat meals at the kitchen table or the living room coffee table? The first week, I am always miserable and I hate it. Who are these people claiming to be my neighbors? This is unfamiliar. I hate this bus route. I will never get used to this neighborhood. Even an unfamiliar grocery store can throw a person for a loop.
The first night in a new place is unpredictable – it is either a night of celebration or a night of mourning. Neither a sign of things to come. My first night this weekend was a night of mourning. I moved far from my family again and was nervous about my first day back at work on Monday. I felt anxious and worried, uncertain of my decision to move where I did. I sat in bed crying while my poor husband watched, confused. But the second night was one of celebration. We cooked our first meal in the apartment, a simple pasta with sauce, and opened one of our favorite wines – honeymoon spice from the Niagara Honeymoon Trail winery.
Deep inside me, I know that in a short while it will be okay and I will get used to it. But in the moment, I feel like this time will be different and I will be miserable the entire duration of the lease. Maybe this time actually will be different…. Who knows?
The Stages of Moving:
I lose a week (month) pre-move stressing about the move. Do I have everything ready? Cardboard boxes, U-Haul reservation, lease requirements… will I need a shower curtain? (I didn’t) Renters insurance? (I did) Will there be a washer/dryer in the unit? (There was) Then I lose a week (month) after the move. Resisting unpacking and wishing I had time to go to the gym or relax on my couch and watch TV- but the couch is covered in boxes, one of which containing the TV itself.
Choosing your new home
Choosing a new home is the first and longest step in the moving process. There are so many options out there with their nice real-estate photography that it is hard to know what you’re getting into without first visiting the property. In my case, I had to choose an apartment from abroad so I had no option to visit in person. I picked a new apartment building with a company that I rented from before so there would be minimal surprises.
Questions to ask when choosing a new home:
Can I afford it? (never live above your means!)
Is it in a good location?
How will I get to work – bus, train, car, bike?
Can I walk around the neighborhood – sidewalks, safety, stores within walking distance?
What are the nearby grocery stores?
Is there parking and how much does it cost?
Is it pet friendly?
What is the noise level – both street and neighbor?
Amenities – gym, pool?
Is this size / space appropriate for me or do I need something larger or smaller?
Preparing for the move
Consider the new space versus your old space. Does it have the same number of rooms / need the same furniture? In my case, my living room was smaller so I had to get rid of a couch and I added a bedroom and bathroom so I needed to buy additional bedroom and bathroom sets. I immediately listed the furniture I didn’t need on Craigslist so there would be enough time to find a buyer. I’ve been buying and selling furniture on Craigslist for about 7-8 years now without an issue – I recently discovered Facebook market and might try that as well in the future.
Other disparities I had were I now have a shower door and didn’t need my shower curtain anymore, all my closet space was for hangers so I didn’t need my dresser, and I had some outdoor space so I needed furniture for that.
Other preparation for the move:
Sign the new lease / other documents
Reserve a U-Haul truck rental if needed
Close out the old lease / documents – cleaning fees, security deposit return, move-out check-list and forms
Renters insurance (if needed), utilities (transfer electric, gas, and water accounts to your name), cable / internet set-up
Fill out forwarding address form at the Post Office
Set up time and day to pick up new keys
Change of address for your driver’s license, work, insurance
Packing for your new home
I’ve adopted the Marie Kondo life – well, at least a little. Every time I move, I assess whether or not the material possessions I continually lug around spark joy in me. I’ve found it’s easier and easier to let go each time I move as I really just want to have less stuff to carry. I usually find that more things cause me agony than spark joy – especially if I am keeping them out of guilt (aka gifts I have no use for).
I usually pack in a day or two leading up to the move so I don’t accidentally pack anything I need for day-to-day life before I move. I know this sounds like procrastination, but when I pack too far in advance I end up having to unpack my things before moving so I can find something I need at the time. I also set aside a backpack with my “essentials” to pack last minute and have with me right away at the new place. These include: toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, soap, sleep mask, pajamas, chargers, computer, moving documents / lease, a set of forks, water bottle, paper towel roll.
Write the contents on each box on the side of the box. I go a little overboard in this department and keep a sharpie in my waistband (women aren’t allowed pockets) to write down every single thing that goes in the box, but if you just write “Kitchen” or “Bathroom” it’ll be fine.
Pack each box by each room. For example, all kitchen appliances, utensils, and spices in the same group of boxes. All bath mats, shower curtains, soaps, and shampoos in the same group of boxes.
The only thing I would spread out is books. Put a few books in each box. They get heavy fast and you do NOT want a box full of just books.
When packing clothes, keep them on their hangers and fold them in bunches or 4 or 5 articles of clothing at a time with hangers facing inward. Put clothes in large garbage bags instead of boxes. When you arrive in your new home, you can just unfold and hang them up right away.
Take this time to go through what clothes and items you don’t want or those that don’t spark joy. I get rid of things with every move and only get more satisfied with my wardrobe. I may have less articles of clothing, but overall I like them more. Unwanted or joyless items tend to bring down the items around them making the overall appeal of the wardrobe decrease. I do this with everything I pack, although sometimes I skip this process in the packing phase and do it just in the unpacking phase. I got rid of 2 garbage bags of things last week when packing and 2 more this week while unpacking. I plan to donate them to a women’s shelter. I am sad to let some items go because I bought them and then never wore them, but it makes me happy to donate brand new items that may bring someone else joy. I also give away things I haven’t worn or used in a long time. They are only going to degrade with time and disuse in my home, and they can be bringing someone else joy instead.
Unpacking your belongings in your new home
My tips for unpacking are:
When you bring the boxes into your new home, put them into the room corresponding to their contents right away. Carry the “Living Room” boxes straight to the living room and the “Bedroom” boxes straight to the bedroom.
Make the bed first! Build the bed frame, lay the mattress, and put the sheets / pillows / comforter on ASAP. You don’t want to have to make your bed when you are already too tired and want to go to sleep. Being able to go to sleep in your made bed the first night will make a huge difference in making this your new home.
Next, get out your bathroom supplies – toilet paper, mats (lean them against the wall, but don’t put them down until the next morning or they will get stomped on by dirty shoes during moving), soap, shampoo, shower supplies. It will be nice to wake up in the morning and take a shower with all your supplies and mats already put out. Also, you will probably need to use the bathroom while unpacking and it is good to have the toilet paper and soap ready before nature calls.
Cleaning supplies – some spaces in your new home may be dusty or shelves may need cleaning before you can put things away on them.
Kitchen supplies – have forks and cups available to eat the takeout you order the first night. Don’t expect to cook anything as getting all the supplies out and ready can be too hectic. Besides, you deserve a treat!
Living room furniture – so you can take a seat and relax
Clothes – so you have something to wear the next day
Rest of everything
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to moving. It is a very intimate process as you part with your old home, memories, and way of life and move somewhere new. Allow yourself to feel emotion and understand that it’s normal to be upset or happy. There is no right way to feel after a move. Don’t overwhelm yourself with plans for the future or questioning your decision. Just take it easy and try to relax in your bed during the first night, feeling proud of all the work you did that day.