Life’s most stressful events, according to a very non-scientific Google search I just did, include having and caring for babies, starting new jobs, and moving to a new home.
I took a new job five months ago, but it required commuting long-distance. So it has prompted a transition for us: we’re selling our house in New Jersey and buying a new one in Maryland (meanwhile, my wife has been taking care of two little daughters largely alone for big chunks of the week). As we navigate this change, seven insights have surfaced that might help anyone moving to a brand-new place.
1. Make time and space to say goodbye.
We had a Christmas party that doubled as a goodbye celebration seven full months before our impending move. With life’s busyness, we weren’t sure we’d have another chance to get together with many of our friends again before departing the region. It was great to see folks, even for a little bit. There was a bit of a psychological release that evening — a realization of, “Okay, it’s real — here we go.” Because we are drawing out this move like an interminable jam band concert, we’ve had other, smaller chances to say goodbye to friends, which have been so important.
2. Put your roots down deep. When it’s time, be ready to pull them out and re-plant.
My wife attributes this life philosophy to a college friend of ours. Sometimes, in these early stages of adulthood, you can see the next move coming before you’ve even settled down in your current place, and there can be a temptation to avoid making any real connections with people. What’s the point when you’re just passing through? That’s not a great way to live, though — keeping your eyes on the future without attending to the present. Invest in where you are as if you’ll be there for the rest of your life. When the time comes, say your goodbyes, mourn the loss, and go on to what’s next.
3. Pray for help.
I used to think that as a spiritually mature person, I could focus my prayers exclusively on saying “thank you” to God. Asking for things in prayer made me feel like I was in third grade and asking for help on a spelling test. Now, I say: malarky.“Ask, and it will be given to you,” Jesus tells his disciples. (Who knows what “it” is, exactly?) A good prayer for moving is, “God, I can’t handle this by myself. Help me. Help. Please.”
4. When packing, channel Marie Kondo. (Or, in the words of Henry David Thoreau: Simplify, simplify.)
We did our first round of packing before listing our house for sale, decluttering so it felt bigger and might allow potential buyers to imagine themselves living there. (Family photos on the walls were replaced with copies of fine art paintings we printed out at Walgreens, for instance.) As we cleared drawers and bookcases, the same message kept repeating in our heads: We have too much stuff, we have too much stuff. Moving is a good time to purge. The trick will be thinking about our next move after this one as we’re tempted to fill our new house with the same junk we threw away.
5. Get comfortable in the tension.
Moving is stressful. It’s also exciting! There’s sadness and freshness, a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. My wife and I feel all of these things every day. I think the key is not trying too hard to block out particular emotions. Let the different feelings come, recognize them, acknowledge that the stresses aren’t necessarily making you a more patient person, be gentle with yourself and with whoever you’re moving with.
6. Accept help gratefully.
People have generously offered to help us prepare to move in a wide variety of ways. We are very fortunate to have a community of friends and family who are willing and able to help, which is definitely not the case for everyone. Nevertheless, it can be hard to accept help because it can seem like a sign of weakness or desperation and I’d like to show that I’m in total control, thanks very much. But we’re not in control, of course, and we don’t have everything figured out. I’d want friends of mine to accept help from me in a time of transition. Humble acceptance of help plus genuinely thanking seems to be a better path than saying, “No, thanks, we’re good.”
7. We found an actually-good usage for social media.
The neighborhood we’re moving to has an active Facebook group and an email listserv. We already have some babysitting leads, plus some suggestions for various contractors and dentists and so on. This is maybe the best use for social media I can imagine: a powerful tool helping people to make real-life connections, sparking communal happenings that come to exist in the actual world. I’m already planning our initial “We’re here in the neighborhood, come say hello” post. Maybe someone will bring cookies.