Mark and I have moved nine times in almost sixteen years of marriage. Nine times in sixteen years! We’ve lived in apartments, townhouses, and single-family houses. We’ve lived in the three states and two countries. We’ve rented homes and owned homes. Moving nine times in sixteen years has meant a lot of change in our lives. If you’ve moved even one time, you know how much work moving can be and how stressful the entire situation is from start to finish. And while it hasn’t always been easy, it’s certainly been educational. So I’m kicking off the first edition of Top Five Wednesday with a list of the five best life lessons I’ve learned from moving.
Five Moving Life Lessons
1) It takes a year to feel normal again. – The first few times we moved, I expected to feel settled into our new place within the first few months. I would unpack the last box, look around and think, “All my stuff is unpacked…Why doesn’t this feel like my home yet?” I learned that it takes one year before I start to feel “normal” again. Yes, literally one year. That’s twelve months…about 9 months longer than I originally expected. It takes that long for our new house to feel like our home. It takes me 12 months of driving around a new area before I finally feel like I know where I’m going. At first, I was dismayed by this reality. But now it’s what I’ve come to expect. We moved into our current house last summer, and it took me until this summer to really feel at home here. It takes time to adjust to a new home. And it takes time to adjust to a new job, a new baby, or a new marriage. It also takes time to adjust to a new break-up, a new loss, or a new disappointment. Too often, I think we panic when we don’t immediately feel comfortable after a big change occurs. Give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable for a while. One day (and yes, it may even be 12 months later), you’ll wake up and realize that you feel at home in your new life.
2) Broken or unusable items go in the garbage can, not in a moving box. – You don’t fully realize how much stuff you’ve accumulated until you have to pack it up in boxes and move it. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting to pack up everything you own. And so it becomes very tempting to pack up everything, and I mean everything, you find in your path, toss it into boxes, and be done with it. Clothes you haven’t worn for two years, broken kitchen gadgets, pens that don’t write anymore…all into boxes. I often tell myself, “Well, I’ll just deal with this junk drawer box when I get to the new house.” And do you know how I deal with it? By dumping that junk drawer box, completely and unchecked, right into my new junk drawer in my new house. It takes a lot of discipline to take the time to actually get rid of all that broken and unused stuff. But does it really make sense to pack up your broken hair dryer or those pants that don’t fit anymore and take them with you to your new house? No, it really doesn’t. Changing houses is a great time to weed out what doesn’t work anymore and throw it away. But the same principle applies to any big change. Did you procrastinate at your old job and miss deadlines? Don’t pack up your procrastination and bring it to your new job. Get rid of it!
3) It’s not the house, but the people that make a home. – We’ve lived in small apartments and big houses. We’ve rented and we’ve purchased. We’ve lived in newer houses and older houses. At the end of the day, each one of those places eventually felt like home because they held our family inside. It didn’t really matter how big the house was or what colors we painted the walls. Our family turned those places into our home. The same is true about the rest of our lives too. The cars we drive and the clothes we wear don’t matter nearly as much as the relationships we have with the people we love.
4) Something often goes wrong, and it’s not the something you expected.- Every time we move, I make long lists of things we have to do to get ready for the move. I always assume that being organized will prevent anything from going wrong. And yet, something always goes wrong. Our move to Germany required a great deal of planning. I had lists upon lists…and lists to keep track of my lists. I thought I had it all under control. But when we got to the airport, we discovered that our dog’s kennel (purchased specifically for being labeled “airline approved”) wasn’t the right type of kennel. Mark had to purchase a brand new kennel on the spot. He was then told that our dog would arrive in Germany a day after us due to some problem with the connecting flight. Imagine our surprise when, four hours after we arrived in Germany, the Stuttgart airport called us to say that our distressed dog was waiting for us in the Stuttgart airport. Apparently she had made the connecting flight and arrived the same time as us, but nobody told us. So we sped back to the airport and picked up our clearly scared but otherwise healthy dog. In all of my list making, I hadn’t anticipated chaos surrounding our poor dog’s travel plans. Things go wrong, whether you are moving, planning a vacation, or simply going about your day. Make plans as best you can, but recognize that something may still go wrong. And when it does, you can find a way to deal with it.
5) Saying goodbye leads to saying hello. – I believe that one of the most difficult things about moving, besides all that packing, is saying goodbye to the people and places you love. We’ve moved out of our hometown (Pittsburgh, PA) twice now, and both times we left behind many people we loved. Saying goodbye to them was difficult. But when we moved out of Pennsylvania last summer, we were moving to Maryland, where we had lived a few years before. Saying goodbye to our loved ones in Pittsburgh was difficult but it did allow us to say hello again to friends we hadn’t seen in years. The end of one chapter meant the beginning of another. I can think of so many times in life when I’ve had to say goodbye to one thing (a job, a dream, a city) in order to say hello to another one. We are constantly evolving, constantly moving forward. Sometimes we have to be willing to say goodbye to the past in order to say hello to the future.
Have you ever moved? I would love to hear what life lessons you learned through your moving experience!