Last time I moved was an across-town affair about six months ago and it really shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. After all, it was just across town. But, because this was a downsizing move after having sent two of our three kids to college, there was a lot to sort through and many decisions to make on what to keep, what to store and what to donate. We had lived in this house for almost ten years and, unsurprisingly, we had managed to accumulate “stuff”. It turned out to be a much bigger effort than I had anticipated.

And even though I thought we were in pretty good “moving shape”, in hindsight that was not true at all. One of the reasons was that we didn’t have a hard cut-off date. So, even though we had a moving day where most of the furniture and boxes were taken, it still became a long drawn-out process. It was like a battle on two fronts – dealing with unpacking and settling at the new house, while still taking care of the last of everything at the old place. I think I prefer the pressure of the up-front stress, to the long drawn-out process we ended up having.

One of the reasons moving day is so stressful is that it typically marks the end of a period of planning and packing and trying to figure out logistics. It’s the day when everything has to be ready! In reality however, it doesn’t really stop there, because once you are out you have to hit the ground running setting up your new home. I think this is especially true if you are relocating to a new country. I remember when we first moved to the US and were trying to get our home up and running with basics such as phone service, cable, trash and gas – it was stressful and sometimes very confusing.

First of all, every phone call was a bit of a nightmare as I wasn’t sure I would be able to follow along in what the person on the other end was asking of me. I was new to the specific lingo of whatever industry I was talking to, so names and expressions often didn’t make sense. To top it off, I didn’t have full check on things like zip code, area code and gate code, or whatever other codes and numbers they were asking for. I didn’t even have a social security number the first few months, which was a problem in itself.

Sometimes when I got stressed, I couldn’t remember any of it and just hung up and started over. Sometimes when being asked to pick the level of service that best matched our needs, I just picked the middle option because that’s all I could think to do. In addition to all this I was living in a sea of boxes, trying to locate necessities and comforts alike, without much luck. It was a mess!

I spoke to a friend the other day who has a lot of experience moving, both internationally and locally. She told me about the “moving box” cataloging system she has developed and I was mighty impressed. She has worked out a system for labeling boxes and tracking every item in a spreadsheet. She told me the story of her college-aged son calling her from school to see if she had his back-up glasses as he had misplaced his regular ones. The glasses were buried deep in a box, placed in a stack of boxes. A quick consultation with the spreadsheet and she could easily locate the glasses. She sent them the next day. If only those were my boxes in my garage right now!

I hope my next move is still a ways away. But when that day comes, I vow to be better organized, to stay on top of paperwork, be smarter about time and be more willing to apply the “if you haven’t used within the last year, you can get rid of”-rule. For now, I will focus on the more pleasant aspects of moving, namely the possibility of forging new connections, meeting neighbors and getting to know a new community – even if it’s just across town.

By: Felicia Shermis

The active work of finding your groove