The Psychology of Moving
Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best
Moving is tough--regardless of the circumstances, any time you have to pack up all your worldly goods (read--old college papers, lamps you've been meaning to fix, kids’ art projects) and move them to a new house is overwhelming for even the most chipper and optimistic among us. When you've landed your dream job--three states away--and your spouse has to leave their career, when life has thrown you a huge curveball and you're more or less forced to move, when living alone is no longer possible---you've got to deal with a lot of emotional ups and downs along with the stress of the actual move.
One of the biggest stressors in moving is coping with the whims of the real estate business. You're a successful adult, respected in your community, and your life is completely at the mercy of a bunch of people you've never met--what if your house doesn't sell? Suppose the people buying your house decide they want to buy another house? Suppose they decide they want you to leave the curtains and the kids' playset? What if the appraiser notices the crack in the foundation that's sort of hidden behind the landscaping? What if the inspector finds your new house has a leaky roof or there's a new bowling alley and travel plaza planned for across the street from your new neighborhood? Here's the reality. You have no control over any of these things. The best you can do is ensure that the realtor selling your house and the realtor helping you with the new house are competent and do their jobs--and work with both to have a contingency plan should something go awry.
Consider real estate transactions a giant run of dominoes--closings usually depend on another closing going as planned. One snafu six steps down the food chain can impact your buyers timing, and the same thing goes for the house you're buying--a last minute glitch might mean you can't close when you thought you could, and you're up at night wondering how it's going to feel to be homeless for a few days, or if you could just move into one of the moving company’s trucks and set up camp.
Relax. One of the benefits (possibly the only one) of the recession is that real estate rules and standards have changed and there aren't nearly as many last-minute surprises with your closings. You should find out about any potential problems well in advance of your closing date, and in the event something does change, moving companies are wonderfully adept at working with changing schedules. If something does slow you down, you should have the option of moving in a few days before you actually close--again, a good realtor plans for contingencies, so you don't have to fret about these things.
Touch base with your realtors and lender once a week leading up to your closing date to ensure all the inspections and repairs and whatnot are on schedule; staying on top of it gives you at least a feeling of control, and if there is a hiccup you're not blindsided.
If the worst does happen, like if you're building and weather has delayed inspections and you don't have the occupancy certificate three days before you close because the electrical isn't finished, AND you've got a rock solid close on your old house and the movers are slammed, don't panic. Most moving companies offer temporary or long-term storage until you can get in your new house, and your realtor can help you find short-term housing until your house is ready. Issues like these are unlikely, but when they do occur your stress levels skyrocket--so trust your team to help you figure it out.
The Emotional Stages of Moving
So, you're moving--and it might be welcome, it might be a challenge. You could be going three blocks or three hundred miles away. Everybody's situation is different, but people are pretty much the same--the emotional rollercoaster just varies from house to house. Some are kiddie sized, with happy Disney characters to ride in, and others resemble a gravity-defying, nausea-inducing Loch Ness monster. The trick is to turn that roller coaster into a smooth ride with happy little people singing "It's A Small World" as you sail through your closets.
Some researchers and psychologists have equated moving--in any circumstance--to the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief model. That is, you feel denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance.
When you've built a life in one place, it's totally normal to have regrets about leaving the home where you were carried (or carried) over the threshold, where you brought your kids home, where you celebrated all those birthdays and graduations. If your move is not choice but necessity, it's okay to rage at the fates that have brought you to the place where you're leaving your home because you have no other options. Be angry, yell and scream at the walls and lean on your family and friends for support. Spend some time trying to figure out how to not have to move--maybe your spouse could commute, or get a crash pad in the new city; if you need help keeping house you could get live in help. Working through your options, as insane as they may be, helps you work through the reality of moving so that it's a little easier to accept it.
Then you can spend a few days or weeks in denial, of sorts. This is when your friends ask if they can come over and help you sort through stuff, and you fudge a little and say you're almost finished, when in fact you've thrown out two matchbooks and one pair of those disposable pedicure flip flops and don't have a box to your name. If you're really struggling with the nitty gritty of purging and packing, let your friends help. Or, ask your moving company to pack for you--most full-service movers have professional packers who can either get you started or do the entire job for you.
Finally, you'll accept the transition and change. It might not be the day the trucks pull up, it might take a few months. But the human spirit is a resilient thing and you will come to accept and embrace your new surroundings. That's not to say it will be easy, but being open to making a new life and trying new things can ease the nostalgia for your old house and your old life.
Your family members will all have the same feelings, although with varying degrees of intensity--teenagers’ reactions are going to be a little more aggressive than that of a toddler. If you're leaving your family home for senior living because one spouse's health has declined more rapidly, then the more active spouse may feel more anger and denial. The important thing is to remember that the emotional swings are normal and it would be strange if you didn't get sad, or mad, or a little crazy during the process.
Keeping your move in perspective is key to getting to the new house in one piece. Your life isn't contained in the brick and mortar of your old house, your life is in the memories you've made there. Remember that you won't lose old friends, and that you'll make new ones. Your kids will make new friends, and so will you. And one day, you'll open the front door and say to yourself, "I'm home."
Easing the Transition
People are creatures of habit--even babies pick their snuggly animal and woe to you if it's in the wash at nap time. So, when you move, you're usually giving up all your habits of place and even if you're looking forward to the new house, the new life you've got to build around it is challenging to even the most adventurous. When you're moving and worried about creating a new life for you and your family, here are some ways to ease the transition.
Get your family excited about the move. If this means agreeing that your teenage daughter can paint her room black, grit your teeth and get the paint. It might mean you finally have enough yard for a dog--decide what sort of dog you want, and as soon as the last box is unpacked, go to the local shelter and pick one out. Plan to bring home two, as everybody needs a pal. Let your boys pitch tents and camp out in that new yard. Yes, it's bribery of a sort, but it's all for the greater good and the excitement of new privileges and besides, puppies help everybody buy into the new house and town. And, if you're the one having a hard time with it, seeing your family happy goes a long way to improving your mood.
When you're moving, the information superhighway (if you're older that phrase means something to you) makes the trip a lot easier. You probably used real estate websites to find your new house and research schools and neighborhoods, so you have a pretty good idea already of your new bubble. Use social media to connect with people--towns of every size have mom groups that offer everything from pediatrician reviews to the best yoga classes--and don’t forget to use your new neighbors as a resource. Lots of neighborhoods have websites and online directories that tell you whose kids babysit, dog walk and mow grass.
If you have kids, transitioning activities is a lot more important to them than that pediatrician. Being able to jump right back into soccer or karate or gymnastics keeps them in a routine and helps them assimilate into their new community-the last thing you need is to have moping kids around the house complaining that they hate you and don't have any friends. And here's a fun fact--research shows that moving during the school year is easier on kids than moving over the summer break. When you start a new school at the beginning of the year it's easier to get lost in the crowd, but when you come in when school's in session, it's more likely your kids will make friends faster and get more involved in school.
The loss of a sense of community can be the hardest part of a move for the grown-ups. When you're used to stopping by a neighbor's house just because you see her car in the driveway, going to a new place where you don't know a soul is hard. Keep in mind that your new neighbors are probably interested in being friends with you, because they've likely said goodbye to their drive-by buddies and are looking forward to getting to know the new neighbors (aka – you!). Walking your dog is a sure-fire way to meet the neighbors--their curiosity about you is high, and this gives you a low-key way to meet everybody.
The old-fashioned cliché of the church social is a cliché because it works. Most churches and synagogues have newcomers’ groups that welcome you and your family, and help you figure out how you fit within that community. Most schools welcome volunteers, and if you're part of a national organization like Rotary or Junior League your membership transfer immediately brings you into a group.
Life changes are hard, but by giving yourself and your family the okay to be a little sad about the past will help everyone embrace the future.