I’ve moved several times. From Maryland to North Carolina for college, from North Carolina to Austin, Texas after graduation, and most recently, from Austin to Denton, Texas after getting married. Each time has presented a unique range of emotions and set of challenges. The last move, from Austin to Denton, was easily the most difficult for a variety of reasons, which I’ve written about here and here.
I’ve learned a lot through the process of moving about how to handle it gracefully. Because logistics aside, the hardest part of a move are the emotional ramifications. As much grace as you can pour on a tough, unstable situation, the better. Here are seven ways to handle a move with grace.
1 | Break the news gently to family and friends
It is heartbreaking to look your people in their faces and tell them that you’re leaving. I remember vividly telling my best friends in Austin–I remember what I was wearing, where I was sitting, and exactly how it felt. It was terrible. I knew at the time what I stand by now: that even the best intentions don’t hold up after a move–your relationships will change. Not necessarily for the worst, but certainly for the different. Close proximity allows for friendship in a way that distance does not.
Because of this, do not be abrupt. Be gentle, be vulnerable. Leave room for tears and sadness and grief. Don’t guard your own feelings by being stark and blurting out the news. No, be raw and kind and let your people know how hard it’ll be for you to leave them, even if you’re really looking forward to the next chapter of your life.
I know firsthand the strange, necessary dichotomy of joy and sadness as it relates to moving. When I moved the last time, it was to get married to my husband. This brought me unspeakable joy. But the move also forced me to leave a job that I loved and a wonderful community of friends, which sparked deep sadness and grief, some of which I’m still moving through today, six months later.
2 | Tell your boss and give him/her your timeline
I believe that in a healthy work environment it is wise, honest, and shows integrity to give your boss a fair warning that you’ll be moving. Especially if you care about your job and company, this buffer will allow for your boss to find a replacement and could even provide an overlap where you could personally train him/her up. One of my mentors once told me to “turn on your blinker long before you make a turn in your career and you’ll always be successful.”
In Austin, I sat down with my boss about six months before I moved. This time frame allowed for me to delegate certain responsibilities while still working towards my team’s overall goals. My boss ended up hiring a temporary replacement for me, and I was able to spend hours with her, training her, answering questions, and getting her acclimated. As hard as it is to leave a job that you care about it, the best way to do so is with honesty and grace.
3 | Purge before you pack
Do not pack every item in your home when you’re preparing to move. Do not. That is insane. You need to purge before you pack. If you haven’t already, read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (my review of the book here). Then, get to work. There is no reason to schlep paperwork and clothes that don’t fit from point A to point B! Go through your books and donate the ones that you’ve already read and won’t read again. Clear out your beauty products and trash the ones that are expired or ineffective. Sell or donate old electronics that you don’t use anymore. Go through your home and begin to purge as soon as it’s confirmed that you’ll be moving.
(My best tip? Have a purging mindset everyday. If you’re cooking and come across a melted spatula, trash it. If you’re getting dressed and try on a shirt that’s too small, donate it. Don’t wait for one big, overwhelming “purge day.” Incorporate purging into your daily life.)
I hate clutter and tchotchkes and trinkets, so I’m always working to get rid of things that aren’t beautiful or functional to me. This mindset went into overdrive when I was preparing to move, though. I went through every single book and kept only 15 or 20 out of nearly 100. I got rid of kitchen items that I didn’t use. I donated lots of clothing. This way, when I moved, I didn’t have so much clutter to deal with (though I still had some!).
4 | Pack over time & ask for help
Once you’ve purged extraneous items and are ready to pack your belongings, get some boxes (I used these plastic containers) and start right away. Even if your move is months away, start with off-season items, like Christmas decorations or cold-weather clothing. Often, with big projects (like packing up your entire house), the hardest step is the first one. A grosser version of this idea is the saying “you can’t eat an elephant all at once.”
As your move gets closer, you’ll be able to put more and more items away in boxes. Picture frames and home décor can be boxed up well in advance since they’re non-essential, but I’d recommend leaving most of your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom in tact for your own sanity until the week or so before.
Additionally, please ask for help if you need it when you’re packing. Whether you’re overwhelmed by the logistics of moving or by the emotions associated with it, call your family or friends and ask for them to help you. I remember two nights before I was moving from Austin, I found myself in the midst of an emotional breakdown. I was exhausted, sad, and overwhelmed at packing up the last boxes given my emotional state. I texted two of my friends, who came to my rescue. We turned on music, talked, and laughed as we finished my packing. I’m fiercely independent and not usually the first to ask for help, but I was so very thankful that I had. What would’ve been a scarring, depressing memory turned into a fun and productive one.
5 | Enjoy the city you’re in
I’m the kind of person who subscribes to the “if you’re going to do it, just do it” school of thought, as evidenced by much of my life, namely my very brief courtship and engagement to my husband. Unfortunately, that way of thinking doesn’t serve me very well when I’m planning to move. Moving is a process for many reasons, and this process required me to fight my instincts and stay put even when I just wanted to “rip the Band-Aid off” and move.
Since it’s a process, you may as well enjoy it. Make a bucket list if you’re into that. Visit all of your favorite restaurants one last time. Walk through your neighborhood and take photos. Do a video walk-through of your current home for memory’s sake. Spend time with local family and friends. It can be appealing at times to withdrawal because of the intense emotions that often accompany a move, but I urge you not to. Push into that grief and make some extra memories to take with you when you move.
6 | Plan a “see you later” event
Saying goodbye or “see you later” is so difficult, I know this all too well. While it can be tempting to just bow out of town and leave, I urge you not to. Even if you’re completely adverse to goodbyes, plan a “see you later” event. You probably have family and friends who desperately want to say goodbye to you and bless you as you leave. They may want to give you a gift or a word of encouragement to take with you. Plan a dinner or send off party (or let someone else host one for you). If not for you, for them. But you’ll likely be blessed by it as well–these kind of events, however difficult, provide a bookend to an otherwise elusive ending.
In Austin, I had several “see you later” events. Two of my co-workers and friends hosted a bagel brunch at church for me as a way to say goodbye to the volunteers I worked with. I had one last girl’s night with my best friends to say “see you later”…and cry a lot. My boss took me and my team out to lunch as a way to wrap up my time in Austin. None of these events were easy–none of them. I usually left and cried in my car all the way home. But those moments and memories really helped me to move forward because I knew that I had a community of support behind me.
7 | Give yourself time
Perhaps the most grace-filled thing you can do when you move is to give yourself time to adjust. Don’t set your expectations too high and then beat yourself up when reality falls short. It will take time to meet friends and get involved in your community. It will take time to learn the way around your new city. You will have nights when you fall in love with your new place and you will have nights when you get in the shower and cry for 30 minutes. This is all okay. It’s all normal. It’s all expected. Give yourself time.
It only took me about six months to find a solid group of friends when I moved to Austin, but my circumstances were different then. I lived in the heart of the city, I was single and had lots of freedom, I could spend hours with my friends on several nights a week. Now, things are different. My husband and I live outside of town (and we may be moving again soon) and I don’t have the ability or the desire to spend lots of time away from him throughout the week. It’s been a big hurdle to cross and the difficulty has been fueled by well-meaning but confused friends and family whose advice has sometimes been very off-base and unrealistic.
So, give yourself time. Allow yourself grace. Cling to Jesus, He may be the only thing that hasn’t changed for you (Hebrews 13:8). Your life will come together eventually, so breathe and take on this journey one day at a time.
// Have you ever moved? How did you handle it?
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Purge before you pack, yes! When I moved from my parents’ house to my apartment, I made a yard sale pile, for the neighborhood’s annual yard sale. I also said, “nothing gets moved dirty!” I dusted furniture and the like before loading it into my car to be moved. The exception was for brand new towels that needed to be washed and plates that were wrapped up in newspaper for the move. I spent an afternoon in my new place getting all of that clean and put away. Definitely hard to move from home (same for when I left my fairly small-town college to move back to my parents’). I wish I had a little more grace over stress for both of those moves.
Growing up my mother moved our family of eight, no less than five times. Several moves were to bigger houses, one to a new state, and one after a house fire. I have moved including college and growing up, a total of eight times. It may be for this reason that I purge constantly. I clean out cupboards and drawers monthly. It is not because I am organized or disciplined, quite the contrary. I am a forgetful, disorganized, mess of a person. (I have really enjoyed reading your blog. You are the type of person I would like to be! 😉 I think the only thing that keeps my life together is that I hate clutter and dirt. For this reason I clean, purge, and organize. Emotionally, a move can be exhausting. However, it is great that people can stay connected through blogs and Facebook. My family is planning a move in the next year or so. This time I will be moving with two little ones. I do not dread it because I am ready to pack up anytime!
Blair Lamb says
Oh my goodness. You’re amazing! What a life! 🙂 Write a book, girl!
I consider myself a pretty organized person, but I never purge BEFORE packing and I always regret it! Ugh.
Blair Lamb says
Purge before packing! Purge before packing! Purge before packing! Yes 🙂
Dianne Sharp says
Really good tips! Purging is definitely a must when planning to move house. There is nothing more annoying and useless then packing and moving stuff that you don’t use. Thanks for sharing!