Zen and the Art of Moving

There is something spiritually uplifting about moving; a new home is a new beginning and packing becomes a purifying ritual, a time to decide what you will take and what you will leave. Packing for a move is the packrat’s only true redemption. When else are they likely to discard, recycle or donate the mountains of clothes, unread magazines and knickknacks? Packrat or not, it can seem like a daunting task. Take a deep breath and meditate on this phrase: packing can be pleasant…

Moving can be a stressful experience, both emotionally and physically. However, with the right materials, proper planning and packing techniques, as well as some key stress management techniques, you can master the art. Like any challenging yet worthwhile life-skills, Zen and the art of moving must be a conscious choice and can be learned. After speaking to thousands of individuals who have moved as a result of employment changes and others who have moved for personal reasons, stress management experts conclude, which comes as no surprise to me, that moving can be stressful. The reasons for the stress may be, however, a little more surprising. Here are several reasons for our stress when we move.

  • Security Alert: Our homes provide security.  They shelter us from the elements and the outside world. When we make a move, we are giving up known levels of security and trading them for unknown security. This loss of security adds stress as part of our brains now have to be on the alert for potential dangers. Consciously or not, it may take weeks or months before we feel safe in the new environment.
  • Memory Triggers: As we pack up our years of accumulated belongings, we are also forcing ourselves to review our lives. Although many of our possessions will trigger positive memories, some of them may trigger painful memories. We may find old photographs, mementos, letters or clothing that remind us of losses. We must also make decisions about what to keep and what to discard. These discards can also represent losses as we leave our past lives behind.
  • Reprogramming Blues: Once we have lived in a home or apartment for many years, we become used to where we keep our things.  We learn the locations of rooms, doors, steps, cabinets, windows, electrical and water outlets, and hundreds of other objects. As we learn these locations, our brain is programmed to remember them. When we move, we have to de-program our brains and reprogram them for new locations.  This forces our brains to work overtime in subtle ways that add to our stress and cause fatigue.
  • Support System Sacrifice: Our old community provided obvious and hidden supports. We learned the locations and hours of the local grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, religious and school institutions.  We developed some acquaintances and friendships.  In moving, we lose those support systems and have to find replacements.  Although the new ones may be an improvement, it still requires effort on our part to find them and make them part of our new lives.

Yes, moving is stressful. It does help, however, to become aware of these hidden sources of stress. Knowing the sources of our stress can also point us toward some solutions so that we can overcome the stress as quickly as possible.

Below are some simple tips that can turn your packing and moving experience from exhausting to exciting. While you are multi-tasking to finalize the details of your new home, it is easy to overlook the important things. While many of us prepare an eight- week right down to moving day checklist outlining moving details from A to Z, I find this a helpful checklist to use the week leading up to your move as many of these tasks are often overlooked. Use this general checklist below to keep you organized.

Preparing to Move Checklist

  • Withdraw contents of any safe deposit boxes, return library books and DVD rentals and pick up any dry cleaning if you are moving to another city or province.
  • Make plans for young children to be cared for on moving day
  • Defrost your refrigerator and freezer; plan simple meals for moving week to avoid using appliances or order take-out.
  • Pack a box of items you will need immediately upon arrival at your new home and have movers put this box on last or transport it with you.  In case of unforeseen delays in the arrival of you belongings you won’t be completely inconvenienced.  (Remember, inconvenience = stress) Some essentials are pens and paper, coffee mugs, tea bags or instant coffee, a small box of laundry detergent, scissors, towels, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush, medication, plastic utensils and paper plates, tools and a flashlight.  If the movers are transporting this box, clearly mark it as LAST BOX PACKED-FIRST BOX UNPACKED.
  • Fill any necessary prescriptions and medications needed for the next two weeks.
  • Carry all valuables, including coin collections, deeds, wills, mortgage or rental paperwork, stock and bond certificates and jewellery with you on moving day.

If, despite your best efforts, you are unable to master the Zen of moving, you may also want to add some Tylenol to your box of essentials!


Article featured in Living Life Magazine (Fall 2006).

There are no comments yet, but you can be the first