No matter the circumstances of your relocation, moving is always disruptive. My husband and I are currently undergoing our 17th move. We did not anticipate moving when this year began, but as we all know, 2020 has been full of surprises. Fortunately for us, this particular surprise has been a happy one, but even blessed events in our lives are often fraught with anxiety. Such is typically the case with moving.
While the chaos and turmoil of moving cannot be avoided, they can be limited. Following are tactics and practices that are working well for us, and which I hope will work well for you, if and when you find yourself relocating.
My husband is an expert planner. He's better than anyone I've ever worked with at "wargaming" situations. He has taught me a great deal about the importance of planning and also the process. Given the number of times we have moved, if there is one thing I can personally attest to, it is that effective planning is an essential part of a successful move.
For this particular move, we are packing and moving ourselves the 3.5 miles from our old home to our new home. We are doing so in phases over the course of a month. We have planned out what we will move and when in order to accommodate the various contractors we have hired to redo flooring, repaint walls, and complete other odd jobs at both homes.
We have carefully thought through the best order in which to do things so that we can get the most done under the circumstances. Because floors and walls are being redone at the new house, the first phase of our efforts has focused on the unfinished or non-living areas of the new house such as the workshop, storage space, and garage.
In addition to creating an overall plan for how to conduct our move, we regularly discuss the plan for the upcoming week as well as the day ahead. We set goals for what we hope to accomplish and adapt accordingly. At times it can feel redundant to discuss the same topics over and over, but doing so keeps us both on the same page, and that is so critical for both our mental health and our relationship.
There is so much to plan when you are moving:
Thinking (and rethinking) through all of these things will make your move seem less overwhelming. If you know what needs to be done and have a plan for accomplishing each task, you can feel in control, and crossing items off your list helps you see that things really are progressing despite the sense of chaos that always accompanies a move.
Speaking of chaos, moving, by its very nature, is chaotic. You simply cannot disassemble your belongs (and in the process your lifestyle and schedule) and reassemble it all in a new location without a significant amount of disorder, confusion, and mess.
My advice is to embrace the chaos. If you can enter the process with this reality firmly fixed in your mind, it is less likely to throw you into a tailspin. From my own experience I can tell you that this notion is easier for some personality types to embrace than others, but it is beneficial to all. Just accept it. Your life is going to be in turmoil for a time. The turmoil will end. You will return to a place of peace and comfort in due time. The more you plan and prepare, the sooner the chaos will subside and normalcy will return. Focus on what you can control and simply say to the rest:
"Hello, Chaos. I've been expecting you. Make yourself at home, and don't mind me. I intend to work around you."
The other day my husband lamented, "How long will it be before there is a room in our home that is not a cluttered mess?"
I took his comment to heart and spent an hour rearranging the chaos as a gift to him (not to mention myself). I realized that I had it within my power to contain the chaos. Instead of leaving boxes and other items strewn about everywhere, I decided to consolidate the packed boxes, the empty boxes, and the packing material in one central room (in this case the living room) which is already 90% packed, leaving the rest of the rooms on the main floor clutter free. The room I selected is a room that we don't spend much time in, so despite the fact that you must traverse through it upon entering our home in order to get to the other, more frequented spaces, it disrupts our lifestyle very little to have everything stacked (neatly) in that room.
After doing so myself, I highly recommend creating a clutter-free zone in your home during a move. Let there be a space that feels comfortable and "normal" where the family can gather in limited stress surroundings. The best candidate is the room (or combination of rooms) where you congregate the most.
It is tempting to create lengthy to do lists, but doing so often leads to frustration and discouragement, both of which undermine productivity and well being.
Keep in mind that things frequently take longer than anticipated, and interruptions are unavoidable. Yesterday, my goal was to finish painting the new garage so that we can begin setting up shelving and organizing the space. I had two unexpected visitors (a long time friend and new neighbor, and our real estate agent who is also a good friend). While I enjoyed visiting with both of them and showing them the progress we have made thus far, these disruptions sapped valuable time from the task at hand and put me behind schedule. In the end, I was able to get the job done - with a whole lot of help from my daughter (Thank you, Jessica!). Had I not had the help, I would not have finished, and I would have been faced with a dilemma - whether to dwell on what I did not accomplish or rejoice in what I was able to get done.
Some tasks are time sensitive and must be accomplished by a certain time. Other tasks have a window in which they can successfully be finished. Many tasks are free floating, meaning there is no deadline associated with their completion. Prioritizing tasks accordingly can help ensure that the time sensitive tasks are finished first. Beyond that, it helps to be a little bit flexible and forgiving of yourself when you fall short of your own expectations. Work hard. Work efficiently. Celebrate your achievements, and reassess your plans each day to reflect the reality of what you have been able to accomplish and what still needs to be done.
I have known many, many people who have lived in a home for more than a year and have still not finished unpacking and setting up house. The reason is that they have not taken the time to move in properly. They have continued to live life at the same accelerated pace which greatly limits the time they have to do the work associated with moving.
Moving is time consuming. It's a huge undertaking. In order to complete a move in a timely manner, it is necessary to set some other things on the back burner for a little while. Limiting your outside responsibilities and appointments in order to finish unpacking your home takes far less time than unpacking your home while continuing to live a hectic life. One reason it takes so long to unpack when you're only doing a little here and there as you have time is that most of us are exhausted at the end of the day, and unpacking takes both mental effort and physical energy.
For us the best method has consistently been to simplify our schedules and focus on the move. By doing so, we have consistently been able to be fully unpacked and settled within a couple of weeks of completing the transition to the new home.
Between the exhaustion and the disarray associated with moving, meal planning can be a real challenge. Waiting to "plan" dinner until the last minute when everyone is tired and hungry often ends with fast food. A little planning will allow you to maintain a healthy diet and prepare quick, easy meals. Try keeping fresh fruits and vegetables on hand to snack on, and stock up on healthy freezer meals and other quick fixes your family enjoys.
It is tempting to stuff things into closets and corners to deal with later when you are tired and overwhelmed, but moving is your opportunity to start with a clean slate. Take advantage of this enviable circumstance to sort through everything and toss those things that no longer serve a meaningful purpose in your life. Take the time to set up organizing systems in every room of your home. Don't just move those boxes of old papers in the basement; sort through them. Work until the job is done before declaring victory.
For tons more information on planning for your move, check out my eBook:
Moving Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Successful Move.
In addition to how-to information, you'll find 10 printable checklists to use before, during, and after the move to stay on top of things.
Moving is messy. It generates loads of dust and trash. Taking a few extra minutes to sweep behind a newly moved piece of furniture or wipe down a dusty surface does wonders for one's outlook.
I also highly recommend cleaning entire spaces as you empty them. This works best if you are moving in stages as we are, but it can also work if you have movers loading all your stuff onto a truck. While they are busy hauling items out of the house, you can focus on cleaning the spaces they have cleared. It's a great feeling to be able to shut the door on a room and declare it "done".
Try to avoid shuffling things around. This only creates more work. Determine where an item or box needs to go, and put it there the first time if at all possible. The fewer times you have to move the same item, the happier you and your back will be.
Take time to relax each day. Ideally it is best if you can do so at the beginning and the end of each day. Even if it's only for a few minutes, taking a little time off to indulge in something that relaxes you will help you manage your stress and maintain a positive attitude.
My husband likes to paraphrase the words of Prussian General Helmuth Von Moltke (1857 to 1871) by saying, "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." In the civilian world, this adage could be restated to say that no matter how carefully you plan, something unexpected is bound to happen at some point. This does not alleviate the need to plan (see point number one above), but accepting this fact as truth can help you roll with the punches and adapt when unforeseen problems arise.
Keep in mind that the chaos of moving is temporary. The process of moving, while stressful, can also be fun and exciting. It's a chance to reinvent your space and organize your belongings in new and more functional ways. Instead of focusing on the challenges, concentrate on the end result - a lovely new home where you and your family can thrive.