My husband Dan and I have moved ten times in eleven years.
Crazy, right? We crisscrossed the country from Massachusetts to Maryland to Ohio to California to Illinois to Tennessee and back to Illinois. We both took turns following each other’s dreams, moving for our education and for our work.
To keep my sanity during those moves, especially when we added three kids into the mix, I developed what I call The Art of Happy Moving.
I made it a blog, then I made it a book. I know moving happily sounds like an oxymoron, but after all my moves, I finally figured out that it doesn’t have to be.
Make a list of three (and only three) reasons you feel excited about your move
There are two choices related to emotions that turn your move into a happy move.
First, you can choose to focus on the positives instead of ruminating on the stressful parts. Easier said than done, I know, but the way to begin the process is to make a list of three (and only three) reasons why you feel excited about your move.
Happiness research shows that we feel happier when we list three reasons to feel grateful (instead of, say, thirteen.) So, write down your three reasons and keep that piece of paper handy as you pack your millionth box.
Recognize that you have a choice
Your second emotional hurdle might be to realize you do have a choice whether to make this move or not, even if it may not seem like it at first.
Why are you moving? Life event? Rent? Opportunity?
Maybe you’ve been out of work for a while and you received a job offer in a city where you’d rather not live. One couple I interviewed found themselves in this sticky situation.
His story: John relocated his family to small town Georgia for a new job, even though he did not want to move. Since John had been unemployed for a while, he felt like he had no other options.
In contrast, his wife Alison made that move to Georgia with a positive attitude because she believed they did have a choice. If they hadn’t moved, she figured they could stay in Florida and move in with John’s parents until he found a local job opportunity. Because Alison saw and pursued a variety of alternative options, this helped her feel in control of the situation.
Your happiness will increase if you explore your options and reframe your move so that you realize that you likely do have a choice in the matter.
Use a pro’s checklist to organize and simplify your move
When I meet with people to discuss their moves, they sometimes feel discouraged by how many little details they need to remember. Moving logistics can overwhelm you if you let them.
Happy moving means figuring out the best ways to categorize and organize a move so that you feel less stressed. And yes, there are easy ways to do that.
The first thing you can do is to lay out what you might forget by using a moving checklist. There are a lot of good ones out there. Check out this robust moving checklist. I also have free downloads on my blog.
All you need to do to have an organized move is to start checking items off items from a professional’s list who has already thought of everything for you.
Declutter to make moving, packing and unpacking easier (and less expensive)
If you only did one single thing on this list, I think my most effective tip for happy moving is to get rid of everything you own. Seriously. It’ll make your move so much easier.
Okay, if you absolutely must move with your twenty-five favorite pairs of jeans (or your kids), here are three easy tips to help you declutter.
Get Help Loading Your Truck
See prices for movers by the hour – instantly.
Read real customer reviews.
Easily book your help online.
First, start with the heavy items in your house. Decluttering for a move is different than decluttering to spark joy. It costs money to move heavy or large items like books and furniture, so you necessarily need to start there. (There are very cost effective ways of moving stuff when you hire movers by the hour, by the way.)
Second, gather similar items into one area and create a “store”. Choose which t-shirts or books you want to “buy” and donate or sell everything else. I call this the “Toy Store Method”. It’s shockingly effective to use my Toy Store Method to declutter with kids, too, so try it out.
Third, just ask for help! If you feel emotionally attached to your things and this is hard for you, ask for help from a friend or a family member who can guide you through the simplification process.
Strong relationships help mitigate moving unhappiness
Every happiness study highlights strong personal relationships as a main indicator of happiness.
This is why I started writing The Art of Happy Moving. I moved from Chicago to Knoxville, Tennessee, and it was tough to make friends in a city where I didn’t know anyone. After so many moves, it surprised me how difficult it was to meet people. The loneliness hit me harder than I expected.
That’s when I learned that many other movers found themselves in the same situation of feeling alone in an unknown place.
For a happy move, make it a priority to spend time with family and friends before you move. Schedule a girls’ night out or a weekend potluck and leave the moving boxes behind for a while.
After you move, make an early effort to get involved in the community. Try things like meetup.com, Facebook event browsing, or even local papers. But there is a catch!
Over the past several years of moving, I’ve taken group guitar classes, knitting lessons, and I’ve volunteered for local non-profits. The secret to making friends is to do something that you love for you, not just to make a friend. People can smell desperation (believe me, I know), so find time to do things for yourself and like-minded friends will find you.
Take advantage of the proven fresh start that moving offers to create new habits
Your move is an opportunity to start life over.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they move is that they focus so much on the moving logistics that they don’t think about what happens after the move. You can be anyone you want to be. One research study found that 36% of successful habit changes could be attributed to a move to a new place.
That’s why it’s a shame if you don’t take advantage of the break in routine to create new habits.
If you want to eat healthier, mediate more often, or spend quality time with loved ones on a regular basis, plan ahead and prioritize these goals so you can achieve them in your new home. The odds you’ll succeed at your resolutions are far greater after a new move than after a new year.