Stacked next to other high-stress moments in life, moving to a new home ranks near the top. It’s a gargantuan task, from house hunting, selling your current home and securing a mortgage to relocating and handling all the logistical details in between. Plus, you could be changing jobs, moving cities or going through other transformative milestones, like welcoming a new addition to your family. That’s a lot of ducks to get in a row all at the same time.
If you’re grappling with pangs of anxiety, tension and stress regarding your move, here’s how to manage these feelings and make the experience as smooth as possible with careful planning, strategizing and self-reflection.
Identify Your Stressors
Moving is a rite of passage, whether you’re setting off for college or upgrading to a bigger home. While it’s naturally a stressful moment to get through, think about what could be triggering any anxiety so you can address it head-on.
Is it the change of routine, the fear of the unknown, leaving friends and family, or the physical labor involved in physically moving everything? Or all of the above?
Instead of letting these feelings fester, talk it through with a loved one or write your thoughts down so you can better understand what’s going on. You may realize that you’ve handled changes to your routine before, or you’ve been nervous about a new job only to find that you adjusted well afterward. And know that if your anxiety levels get to be too much, help is available via your local doctor, counseling services or through the support of family.
Plan as Much as You Can
Homeowners can help alleviate stress by planning and preparing as much as they can. A 2019 survey by OnePoll and furniture company Article showed that 45 percent of Americans reported feeling “very stressed” about leaving their packing to the last possible second.
If you know your key dates, such as closing on your current home and securing the keys to your new house, work backward and carve out a moving schedule. Even if you don’t know the precise dates, a rough timeline will help. Using pen and paper, an Excel spreadsheet or a shared Google calendar, list the tasks that need to get done from beginning to end and set deadlines for the various jobs. These include canceling or moving utilities and enrolling your kids in their new school.
Check off some easy tasks, such as booking time off of work for the actual move, getting quotes and deciding on a moving company and deep cleaning service, and rerouting your mail for your anticipated move-in date. To stay organized, create a physical file to store all of your paperwork, along with a folder in your email and on your desktop allocated specifically for all things related to your move.
Block out time in your family’s calendar, such as one day each week, to dedicate to packing and decluttering. Go ahead and pack any nonessentials or households items you don’t use every day. If you’re in the middle of spring or summer, move all of your winter coats and seasonal supplies into boxes to get a head start. Be sure to always label your boxes clearly so you know what’s inside. And get the specs of your new home and measure your big furniture to make sure it will fit — you can also start planning how to arrange and decorate the new spaces.
Having your to-do list in one place, with clear timelines to work toward, can help you reduce the pressure. Have a family meeting every month, and then every week as you get closer to your moving date, to touch base on what’s getting done. Seeing the progress you’re making can boost your mood as it’ll show you how on top of things you are.
Get Your Finances in Order
Moving comes with so many unexpected costs, like eating out when everything is still packed up or hidden fees from your home purchase. Try to remove this stress by proactively stashing away savings specifically for your moving fund. If you know you’re moving in six months, even socking away $50 a month could leave you with $300 to work with for repairs, picking up extension cords or covering the cost of a moving van and some boxes.
Call in the Reinforcements
You can trim down your existing budget too, such as by using up everything in your pantry, fridge and freezer to make meals. Decide which areas you want to splurge on — such as a professional deep clean — and where you want to save, such as packing up your boxes yourself.
When it comes to all the minute details you need to tie up with moving, it takes a village. And it’s okay to ask for help. Call in a favor with your closest friends or hire movers to help you with the heavy lifting so you aren’t at it alone. Or recruit your parents or siblings to take your kids off your hands for the weekend while you’re unpacking the moving truck and settling into your new home.
If you have a friend or relative with a knack around the house for organizing and decluttering, or they’re skilled at sprucing up the home with minor repairs, that’s all the better. And sometimes you’re better off paying for a service too, whether for cleaning, painting, packing or any of the other time-consuming but necessary tasks associated with moving.
With your support system helping you shoulder the weight of the move, watch how much more seamlessly the process comes together — and with far less stress on your part because you’ve spread the load.
And remember: Bribes work. An ask for help is easily accepted with the offer of some beer and pizza after a hard day’s work.
Spend Quality Time With Your Little Ones
Some of us may remember the nervous feeling of moving houses as kids and starting again at a new school. It wasn’t easy. If you’re feeling anxious, it’s worth checking in with your kids to see how they’re faring too. Talk to your kids — ask them how they’re feeling and if they have any questions about the move.
Where possible, provide them with as much information as you can. Show them pictures of your new home, give them an idea of what their new bedroom may look like or even walk by their new school and in the neighborhood. To your little ones, the mysterious unknown may be what’s so scary — if they see that the new house and the new school look similar to their old surroundings, this may melt away their concerns.
Give them some autonomy too. Let them think about how they’d like to decorate their new room, where they want to place their bookshelf or their toys, or what kind of bedside lamp they’d like to buy.
Finally, try to stick to their routine as much as possible. Kids thrive with structure and routine, so they know what to expect and aren’t thrown off.
Create Your Sanctuary Space
Expect to be crabby during your move. Ideally, you’ve taken time off work to focus solely on the move, but before and after your break, you could be juggling working hours with packing, unpacking and sorting through logistics. And once in your new home, it’s probably going to look a bit like a war zone with half-emptied boxes everywhere for a few days.
To alleviate that stress point, vow to set up one room in the house first, such as your living room or kitchen, so your family has a stress-free sanctuary. It’ll be a piece of normalcy where your kids can watch TV or you can share a family dinner.
Take time for breaks, self-care and sleep too. Don’t go into overtime unpacking either. If you’ve been working at it all day, you’ll do much better by stopping for dinner and some relaxation to recharge your batteries.
Make Time for Farewell
The most anxiety-inducing part of moving may be letting go of your current home, where your family may have shared years of great memories. Your kids may be switching schools, you could be changing jobs or you might be moving farther away from family — this can all be startling for every member of your household.
So it’s crucial to make time for an appropriate farewell — to your neighborhood, to your family and friends and to your house. Plan a weekend to go back to your favorite local restaurant, take your kids to their go-to park or have a proper send-off in your home with neighbors, family and co-workers.
Take pictures of your home before packing it all up, if it helps. Celebrating the memories you had during this chapter of your life offers closure that may be calming to your family and the people who will miss you. And keep in mind, you can always visit your old neighborhood, keep in touch with loved ones and bring family traditions into your new home.
Embrace the New
Moving boxes and cleaning up aside, moving into a new home is exciting. Now it’s time to make your mark on your new space.
Refer to your new home’s floor plan to get familiar with the layout, and as a family, figure out what you want to do with each room. Take breaks from the heavy lifting of moving and switch gears by picking out paint colors for your rooms in your new house, and comb through Pinterest boards for inspiration.
Think of all of the possibilities — your kids may be looking forward to a bigger playground, you could be dreaming of how to decorate your new home office, or you all may be eagerly waiting for summertime barbecues in your new backyard. Your new home is a blank canvas.
Visit your new neighborhood and scope out the local library, coffee shops and grocery stores. Maybe you’ll be curious about a few restaurants you’d like to try, or your kids may want to join soccer or dance class. Make a list of all the things your family would like to do in your new neighborhood.
Finally, congratulate yourself on this mega milestone as you move into your new home. It isn’t an easy feat, but with your resiliency, you’ll get it done as you embark on your family’s new adventure.
Carmen Chai is an award-winning Canadian journalist who has lived and reported from major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, London and Paris. For NewHomeSource, Carmen covers a variety of topics, including insurance, mortgages, and more.