How to move house, mindfully

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Moving can be a massive life change and evoke a whole range of emotions, including stress. Here we give competent advice to support you in coping with the physical and emotional changes

Anyone who has been through a move knows how stressful it can be. For the most part, moving house can be an exciting fresh start, but sometimes experiences we haven’t dealt with can hold us back and prevent us from really enjoying it.

After going through a dozen moves myself and working as a psychotherapist for many expat clients, I’m curious to see what makes them so difficult.

There are people who have struggled with a lot of insecurity so the unknowns that come with moving create early insecurities and a sense of discomfort. What will my new boss think of me? Why can’t I get along with this new employee? There may be uncertainties about achievement, belonging, trust … or others who felt they never belonged to their family / school / social group and moving to a new place creates fears of not conforming. And with moving comes goodbyes, which can be particularly difficult to deal with.

Movement can also strain current relationships. People have different approaches and coping strategies when it comes to dealing with change, and when these arise, people can find that they are clashing.

So how can it be a less stressful life event and what should you do if it is still difficult to deal with?

Be prepared and make a plan

The reality of moving is that there is a lot that needs to be done and a little planning can help you make sure you have time for everything. Some people find to-do lists especially helpful for keeping them organized and feeling like they are in control.

Set realistic expectations

Don’t ask the impossible of yourself. Aim for a realistic number of tasks to be done each day before the move. Take the time to complete the tasks and hire appropriate help to get them done. If possible, take a few days off as you will find that you never have too much free time when a moving date approaches.

Focus on the endgame

If you feel overwhelmed by all of this, take the time to remember what you gain by taking this step: is it a bigger room? An advertisement? Are you moving to a new place that you look forward to? Basically, remember that today’s difficulties will be worth it in the end.

See the new beginning as an opportunity

If you have not had good experiences with movements in the past and it is difficult to judge the situation positively, remember that history does not have to repeat itself – part of what happens is in your hands so you decide know how this next phase goes. Your life will evolve. How can you set things up to be more successful this time around? How can you learn from your previous experience?

Remind yourself that today’s troubles will pay off in the end

Rely on your support network

If you have any problems, say so. When family and friends ask how things are, it is common to be tempted to reply that everything is “okay”. Usually people give this answer so as not to worry others or to realize that it is more difficult than expected. Or maybe the actual step is fine on the surface, but emotionally you feel vulnerable (worried, lonely, overwhelmed) and it is helpful to talk about it. With the partners involved in the move, it is beneficial to simply talk about the reality of the situation and how each of you is experiencing the change.

Be honest to yourself

I have often seen parents turn their attention to how the move is going for their children, but neglect their own feelings or people who just “get their way” by filling up lots of emotions until they become unmanageable. But if the past is holding you back, or if you just need to talk to someone detached from the situation, you should seek additional support during this difficult time of transition and change.

If we are not in touch with how we experience things, if we do not reflect on our experiences, then not only are we protecting ourselves from the pain, we are missing out on all the excitement. Even in one step there will be fears and challenges as well as hopes and surprises. By managing the former, we can enjoy the process and the endgame.

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