Moving is something people do. It’s normal. And yet, research has shown that moving is more stressful than divorce. So why sign up for a guaranteed shitstorm? Because of the rainbow and pot of gold to follow. Have you ever stayed in a doomed relationship too long because you dreaded the messy break up, the heart ache, the loneliness, the social media humiliation and the need to start all over again? It’s understandable to delay cataclysmic transitions. Yet, sometimes, you just have to move on. With moving, as with splitting up from a partner, things may have to get worse before they get better.
“Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” Elon Musk
Going from one home to another is like leaving a long-term relationship and jumping into a brand new one. First, there’s the breakup. You have to dump the old and familiar for the prospect of something better. Even though the physical move may happen in a day, saying goodbye to your current place can be a long, emotional process. Clearing the clutter forces you to relive every snapshot you come across and face all the mixed feelings that arise as you purge. Sure, you get to unearth a few treasures on your way out (“Look- my high school graduation cap tassle!”), but mostly it’s just relentless hard work. The decisions—to keep or not to keep—can be draining. Every item woos you into another mini-relationship. Do you still care or do you want out?
Maybe it’s time we Kondo our relationships, like we do our stuff. Ask this: does it spark joy?
Then comes move day—the tedious dismantling of rooms and overwhelming smell of cardboard is enough to send you running to the UPS Store for more bubble wrap. To follow, there’s that awkward liminal space when you don’t yet have a comfortable place to land. This is a short-term struggle, but it’s stressful. Because while you’re sleeping on an air mattress in an otherwise empty room, you’re processing the break up with your former surroundings and the potential of your new spot. You might experience a moment of buyer’s remorse: “OMG! What have I done?”
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Neale Donald Walsch
Changing your place of residence is destabilizing in itself, but it also leads to changes in many other key relationships: your dentist, your neighbor, your veterinarian, your DMV. Not to mention, your therapist. I know this from experience, having lived in 7.5-ish states and moving 8 more times since landing in lovely California. Regardless of the size of the move, it’s a major ordeal. I’m happy to live in Santa Barbara now after 25 years of calling the San Francisco Bay Area home. Throughout the transition, people often remarked, “That’s a big move!” Big, I wondered? What about people who move coast to coast or country to country? But moves are like break-ups– you can’t really know the impact on someone based on number of miles or anniversaries. My realtor friend tells her team of agents to move once in a while, just so they remember how bad it is. Empathy and compassion really help when your life is in the blender.
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.”
They say real love begins after the insanity of the honeymoon high wanes. And so it is with moving. You won’t know if it’s worth it until the dust settles, your utilities are turned on, and your new roots take hold. If you feel like you’re on shaky ground for a while, give it time. Put simply, moving sucks. But it most likely beats the alternative, because nothing’s worse than staying stuck. The life expanding decision to move on from a home or a partner rocks your homeostasis. This goes against the natural undercurrent of your unconscious. Recognize that you’re undertaking something radically difficult and be kind to yourself, every step of the way. If you’re contemplating a transition in love, location, or both, you have my respect and support. It’s not easy to walk away. But things worth doing are rarely easy. In times of epic upheaval, it’s good to have a safe haven where you can go for a respite of comfort and peace–be it your favorite trail or your therapist’s couch. And if those too must change, rest assured, there is another trail to be walked and another couch to cry and laugh upon.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”– Albert Einstein