Confessions of a Repeat Mover

Despite the labels, sometimes those of us who move often, simply love adventure.

Posted Jan 14, 2015

Prudential Center Holiday

As I was filling out a form the other day it asked for a list of former residences. I gasped. They were addressing me when stating “use additional sheets of paper if needed.” 

Why is it that I find myself packing up every three years or so and moving? As I looked at my “additional paper needed,” I realized that I primarily move between Boston’s Beacon Hill and Providence. However, I do change apartments - oftentimes within the same building or neighborhood seeking the perfect layout, the most breath-taking view, the best karma, or the brightest sunshine. 

Whenever I move, I have an anchor, either a job or a faculty club, most of which have reciprocal privileges. I love the notion of having a club as community as much as I loved living around the corner from Cheers on Beacon Street, although all the neighbors met at the little establishment on Chestnut Street-- similar feelings, same owner.

And then once I realized that I move because of the adventure and meeting the challenge of creating a feng shui atmosphere even with too much furniture, I found I wasn't alone. From the pages of the New York Times, the paper which gave me my first serious writing job, the Gray Lady spoke of people such as myself -- serial movers, compulsive re-decorators, frustrated designers (1). 

These days I am receiving letters from retired friends’ who are telling me of their travels around the world. And I am never ready to follow because I create my own environments, my own adventures, and can spent hours online room planning and seeing a space from different perspectives. But here is the constant in my life. I still have my grandparent’s bedroom set and the 18th century Williamsburg furniture that we bought when first married. And now added to my collection there are pieces such as my mother’s coffee table and my father’s writing desk. 

It’s adventure not repetitive maladaptive behavior compulsion, isn’t it?

When I began thinking of moving again and how I could downsize, I recalled the words of a therapist whose condo I once rented. She was taken by my furniture and etchings on the walls, each with a history and all with a specific sentiment. Despite the modern apartment, my furniture fit quite nicely and the plants on the terrace seemed to bring the outdoors in – because unlike our mother -- I don’t use drapes.

“Hmm,” she said, “It looks as if you cannot let go of your childhood.” Then she suggested that I had a repetitive maladaptive behavior compulsion. 

According to Bowins, “Repetitive maladaptive behavior of non-traumatic origin arises from an evolutionary-based process whereby patterns of behavior frequently displayed by caregivers and compatible with a child's temperament are acquired and repeated. It has a familiarity and ego-syntonic aspect that strongly motivates the person to retain the behavior.” (2)

Somehow, I didn’t think of myself in those terms. And if given the choice between calling a therapist or a realtor, I will call the realtor.

 While we know from Nancy Darling, PhD, that Moving is tough for kids, she points out:

“It doesn't take a long time to become part of an organization when you're the head of the Sunday School or you organize a school bake sale or you volunteer at the Red Cross.” (3)

She’s right. Join a club or volunteer organization. Spearhead a church fund-raiser. Help a colleague run for political office. I love it here in Providence, so why would I consider moving? Because after accomplishing my three major goals, I will be listening for the other apartment out there calling upon me to turn four walls into a home, and be closer to my children. 

Perhaps Robin Finn, in the Times, said it best: “What these serial renters share is the talent of adaptability to a chronic change of address.” (4)

Three pre-moving goals

I sigh at the task of downsizing but smile at what awaits me if I return to a city where I can hop on the T to the Museum of Fine Arts, listen to the Boston Pops at the Hatch Shell, watch the fireworks on the Charles, and walk everywhere. What convinced me to seriously consider my “Back to Boston” impulse? It was at an annual Sunday “New Year After Party” with former colleagues -- the usual suspects -- and their extended family of friends. I came to see how much I miss being with friends who have been a part of my life and family dramas for so many years. As with all of my new Providence friends, they are a blessing.

So to prepare for an efficient move this time, I am taking fewer than half of my family treasures and sending off the rest to live in homes where they will be loved. However, before getting too caught up in the apartment search, I have three goals, which could become long-term and take some time.

First, I plan to go through some 40 years of journals – retrieve what is relevant for family history, maybe unearth the secret to my moving mania, and then kiss them good-bye.

Next I will tackle an entire living room bookcase of photos that I might just sort through quickly and send to my children. 

Finally, and perhaps most important, I will gather the notes sitting on three years of book outlines for my young grandchildren and begin writing. In thinking of my next place to call home, I am envisioning a writer’s studio, sparsely furnished. Since I will just be sharing the space with my Muse, there will be no need for the china dinnerware set for ten nor the two sets of sterling silver flatware.

However, to be ready to celebrate each new chapter completed, every brainstorm, and the little successes that bring me closer to achieving my goal, I will take along the champagne glasses. And on ice there will always be a bottle of bubbly from the vineyards of the Grand Dame of Champagne, Madam Cliquot Ponsardin, a woman of vision and tenacity.

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson


1. The Psychology of Moving -, Sarah Kershaw, February 26, 2010

2. Am J Psychoanal. B.Bowins, 2010 Sep;70(3):282-98. doi: 10.1057/ajp.2010.14

3. Moving is tough for kids, Nancy Darling, PhD,,Jul 11, 2010

 4. Serial Renters in New York City –, Robin Finn, March 28, 2014

 Copyright 2015 Rita Watson