5 Great Ways to Deal with the Psychological Effects of Moving

There are no two ways about it. If you’re moving, you’re in the middle of a life-change. Could be good, could be bad. Could be exciting, could be scary.

The truth is, it’s probably all of those things before everything is said and done.

It’s pretty normal during a move for somebody to have a meltdown. It’s not every day that you’re confronted with the past, present, and future all at the same time.

Moving is the functional part that happens between the past and the future. You’re engaging in letting go of something and starting something new. It’s a place of transition and that can put you out of sorts. Let’s take a look at 5 great ways to deal with the psychological effects of moving.

5. Call in Friends

If you’re under 30, you’re probably still on the beer-and-pizza moving party plan. That’s when you call in your friends to move your stuff and you repay them in beer and pizza. And while that’s awesome if you can get it, we’re talking psychology here. You’re either processing your feelings or trying not to. Make your packing more enjoyable by having a friend (or two) around to talk to.

4. Plan, Plan, Plan

Your best defense is a good offense. You can’t have a good offense without a good offensive game plan. That’s what you need to have a move with minimal stress. Work through the floor plan of the new space. Know which things are going where and remember to clearly label as such while packing. You really need 6-8 weeks to pack and move properly. Work out a timeline and have fall backs for potential problems. The more you plan and can anticipate up front, the fewer surprises you’ll have when time is of the essence.

3. Sing it Loud: Let It Go!

Did you know that the average storage rental lasts 4 months and that 96% of the stuff in the unit typically ends up in the trash afterwards? Basically storage is for the stuff you want to throw away but can’t yet, for whatever reason. I’m not saying this to make you feel bad about storage but rather to make the point that it’s hard for us to let go of things. Whether it’s for utility value or sentimental value, there’s a lot of stuff that hangs around “just in case”.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you haven’t worn it in a year, let it go. If you haven’t used it in two years, let it go. And if you haven’t actually looked at it in five years and it’s not extremely valuable, whatever it is, let it go.

The cost of storing and moving them outweighs their utility or sentimental value. Have a garage sale and earn some cash. It’s something your friends can help with. 🙂

2. Love it Deeply and Make it Count

Now, let’s be honest, you’re not going to let everything go. Some stuff has to stick around. Grandma’s quilt. Her crazy old handmade bed from a tree from her parent’s backyard. Stuff like that.

So here’s a word of advice: pick the stuff you want to save, that’s meaningful and difficult to replace. Keep those things. But be realistic. You can’t keep everything.

I’ll give you an example. My Dad kept everything that I ever brought home from school as a kid. He put them in paper grocery bags, stapled them shut, and wrote the date on it. When he moved a few years ago, he decided that he didn’t want to move all of that history. It was my responsibility to decide what to save and what to throw away. And whatever I kept, I had to take with me.

After looking through a bag or two I quickly made a decision. I would only keep two kinds of things: Writing assignments and good or memorable art projects. The rest was a melange of spelling quizzes, math homework, kids art involving paper plates and construction paper, old school announcements, and the like. Those didn’t show my personality. What I wanted to keep were things that I wrote or that I made that reminded me of what I was thinking at the time. To me, those things are priceless.

By the time I was done, I had filled two curbside garbage cans with my old history and was able to take back what amounted to around two shoe boxes worth of good material. It’s great. I have some really meaningful stuff from when I was a kid, but not so much that I’d never want to look at it. It’s easy to move and easy to store.

When you’re going through your old memories, you want to think the same way: keep the best, dump the rest.

1. Treat Yourself: The Principle of Moral Balancing

There’s a well known principle called the Principle of Moral Balancing. The principle is based on the idea that we each have a fixed point of morality inside of us. When we do something bad, we do something good to make up for it. When we do something good, we do something bad to make up for it.

This sounds crazy but it’s why after you work out you think it’s okay to have that slice of pizza or an extra glass of wine. After all, you’ve earned it, right?

When you’re packing, you’re working. It’s stressful, it’s a workout, and it can be tedious at times. All of these tell your brain “you’re doing a good thing!”. This means you’re going to want to do something bad to even it out. What that is, I can’t tell you. It’s different for everybody. You may eat crazy things. You might buy things you otherwise wouldn’t. You might get a little crazy with the beers. You might also become a bit of a jerk. You can tell if you’re becoming jerky because in your mind you’ll be thinking, “can’t they see I’m packing/moving here!?”.

Since you know ahead of time that you’re going to be trying to do something “bad” to treat yourself for doing the good work of packing and moving, you might as well go ahead and consciously plan what that is. Maybe it’s a massage. Maybe it’s a nice dinner, or a new pair of shoes. You get to pick. As long as you feel like it’s a treat, it counts.

Doing all of these things will help you maintain your sanity during your move.