We hired the tag sale lady, bought the boxes, continuously poured over the paperwork—but moving requires that pound of flesh and more—of your body, your emotions and your mental health.
It was so much easier doing this same exercise sixteen years ago. Why: 16 years younger, with 16 years LESS STUFF. And the distance of the move was shorter, the new dwelling having a similar footprint to the last one. With five previous moves under our belts, there were still lots of surprises. This last move was a stunner. So please keep in mind these tips if a major move is looming on your horizon.
TIME PLAYS A BIG ROLE
The biggest odds against everything going smoothly for a major move is lack of time. Now when I google moving tips I can either feel badly or just have a good laugh. There was no time to download Aps! No time to list everything that went into each box. I was purging every cabinet, drawer and closet as fast as I could. We were taking loads of stuff to charities, meeting other charities at the front AND back door as they came to pick up chairs, couches–even a piano. And with the help of a dear friend, we had a major garage sale one week before the moving truck arrived. NO TIME.
So: don’t sell your house in one day, like we did; and if you do, ask for more time. Sellers still have some power, though in most states it’s the buyers with the power.
Give yourself lots of time to find a new dwelling. Oh, we were so lucky we found a great place within two weeks of selling our home. The clock was ticking. Also, try to avoid a move across the country to a different state, a different time zone under time-limited, lots-of-pressure circumstances. That’s what we did. Buyer’s remorse?? None. But that doesn’t mean it was easy going!
The Mental Health Part of Moving.
And in retrospect, I don’t recommend it. Once our moving ball got rolling, it was more like being chained to a speeding train that we couldn’t get off. The ride didn’t allow meditation, breath catching, calm decision making. And then my mother died. (My daughter joked that if I then got pregnant or took on a new job, I would be living through the major changes in life that mental health experts warn about.) Well thank God no chance of either of those happening. So what do you do?
- make lists
- make lists for your lists
- stop showering and wearing makeup because there is no time
- assign one person to deal with the banks, realtors, moving people, etc
- assign the other person to handle everything else–like what to pack, what to give away and how to keep clothed and fed during this time
- make huge folders (digital and hard copy) for millions of pages of paper
- try to sleep at night
- if you can’t sleep, imagine the completion of all the above and you’ll probably become unconscious regardless
The Mental Health Part of Unpacking
But seriously, you know there’s lots of boxes and packing and upheaval. You know there’s too much paperwork. But did you guess at the mental health part? I didn’t. But suddenly I am in this new home and I need something. I cannot find it. What to do: zero in on the following thought process:
- I packed it, I know I did
- I packed it, so maybe the box it is in hasn’t been unpacked
- I know where it is if I’m still in the old house
- damn, I’m in the new house, so where is it?
The end of this thought process is a wild racing through boxes that have been opened but are still not all unpacked. A mess is created as you dig. The final result it that the item remains unfound. (This happened with my IPod. I condemned all the movers for taking it on a whim, when this past weekend I opened a drawer in my dresser and there it was. WHO PUT IT THERE??? I did. I am just having a hard time THINKING.
It’s Like a Major Case of Jet Lag
Yes, I’m older this move, but think of all the items I touched in my house back in Iowa, all the items I had to make decisions about. That’s why Henry David Thoreau was so right: …what should be man’s morning work in this world? I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out the window in disgust.
Well, I did give things away and Thoreau would have been proud. But I made hundreds of these decisions about furniture, books and files. The question: can the mind hold it all in perfect memory order? Does being in a different environment add to the confusion? Does trying to set up new utility accounts, change address, unpack, fix things in the new place (these inspectors sure don’t inspect that well!!) and continue to be civil to family affect how the mind works?? YES. It has to be somewhat like jet lag–you have not only gone through a change in time zone, but a change in everything else. Even where you put your toothpaste.
Lance Kriegsfeld, UC Berkeley associate professor of psychology, is doing amazing research on jet lag. He writes: “This is the first time anyone has done a controlled trial of the effects of jet lag on brain and memory function, and not only do we find that cognitive function is impaired during the jet lag, but we see an impact up to a month afterward.” Though Kriegsfeld’s research basically applies to people who travel across different time zones frequently, there are similarities. “Chronic jet lag alters the brain in ways that cause memory and learning problems long after one’s return to a regular 24-hour schedule…”
So I’m going with my theory. It calms me down. I can take a deep breath and think more clearly. Now I can find things!
One final thought. If you are a Boomer and you are faced with moving, the other thing you encounter as you sort books, photographs, even clothing are memories. I had my mother’s wedding dress, my children’s baby teeth, a list of the gifts I received for 8th grade graduation and a list of how much our wedding in 1970 cost. The live 5 piece band was only one hundred dollars.
Memories mingle with lists and duties. The brain becomes overloaded and you just cannot remember where you put your IPod. Moving could be a danger to your mental health! Well that’s my theory and I am sticking to it.
Do you have a different experience or theory??