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How to Minimize Stress During a Move

Moving to a new house or apartment can be overwhelming.

September is around the corner. Maybe you've taken on a new job. Maybe you’re moving across the country for university. Or perhaps you’re taking a long, soulful trip and placing your belongings in storage for the fall.

Moving is often a challenge. It requires preparation, money, and it often forces you to make tough decisions. It can be a real psychological test. How can you purposefully tackle moving without stress and anxiety?

I just went through a major move myself, having relocated from Glasgow (UK) to Madison (USA) to take up a new position. And during my adult years, I’ve jumped back and forth between Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Eric Muhr/Unsplash
Source: Eric Muhr/Unsplash

It hasn’t always been easy. So the five ideas here spring from personal experience, research, and observations!


Purge. Declutter. Rationalize. However you want to put it, start this process early. It’s a crucial strategy and it simply involves sifting and sorting through your belongings.

Clutter can be stressful. And it helps to eliminate unnecessary items. It just makes sense to clear the junk from your home by organizing things. Try three piles: Sell, donate, and toss.

When I moved to the U.S., I started to organize two months before my flight. I sold my TV, beds, dressers, and BBQ. And I donated and binned the rest. There’s a certain amount of anxiety built into this process of downsizing but it can also feel extremely liberating.

Support Network and Pride

Look, sometimes it's not easy asking for a favor. Don’t forget, though, that 99% of people have experienced a move. So, part of taking the pressure out of the moving equation is recognizing that people will either help you – or they won’t. Simple, right? Ask for help. You’ll probably get an affirmative.

Use your network of friends or family and have them either pitch in or provide advice. It’s not productive to be overly prideful about inquiring about help. Just bite the bullet.

Recently, I leaned on a couple of brawny friends for their muscles; at the same time, I used my colleagues at work (who knew the city better) to figure out how best to unload big-ticket items. Because I had a bit of a budget to work with, I also hired some tough-looking movers.

Get the Ball Rolling

Don’t delay. Make a plan. Sketch out a list. And start crossing items off that list. Procrastination is the enemy of your present and future self. Basically, find that moving “mindset.”

Of course, you got the ball moving when you started to downsize. Now it gets slightly more serious. Look into potential movers and rental vehicles. Gather a few estimates. Work at this slowly and steadily.

And how do you do that, exactly?

Time: Block off Time

How can I balance work and your move? A personal life? It’s not a simple task.

OK, time management matters. As I said above, start by downsizing. You’ll need to set aside a specific (and untouchable) amount of time where you can focus on your move.

Hire someone to mind your children. Skip your daily allowance of Netflix. Clear your schedule on the bank holiday. Do what you have to do to carve out space. You’ll accomplish more by packing continuously for several hours than you will by packing in short bursts of time.

Time II: Watch the Clock like a Hawk

Nothing is more stressful than knowing that you can only start moving into your new home at 8 a.m., but you need to be out of your apartment at 12:00 noon that same day.

Matthew Hamilton/Unsplash
Source: Matthew Hamilton/Unsplash

Avoid this situation by building yourself ample time to make the transition. Yes, this means you may need to pay “double rent” or “double mortgages” for two weeks to one month. But this will allow you the benefit of time — and that can decrease your stress level.

In addition, create mini-deadlines for yourself. Promise yourself that you’ll pack up one room per day, for example, or that you’ll unpack for two hours each night after you move into your new home. This will prevent you from lingering in limbo for too long.

Final Thoughts

Over the past three years, I’ve made some life-changing moves as I bounced from Canada to the UK and USA. During that time, I was teaching and writing at universities – as well as trying to finish up large and small projects.

The only way I was able to manage all of the life-altering and tense personal trips was with these simple ideas. It’s also important to remember the help that others have offered and treat them accordingly.

More from Lucas Richert Ph.D.
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