Limit Your Moving-Day Stress
How to move across town or across the country without killing each other.
Posted Dec 16, 2018
Back in 1967, two psychiatrists, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, created their Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), better known then and now as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holmes_and_Rahe_stress_scale
The instrument measured 43 life factors, ranging from horrible (death of a spouse - 100 points) on down to something rather mundane, at least in their 1960s view, like getting a speeding ticket (11 points). They suggested the higher the sum total of all these 43 life events - divorce, separation, getting fired, changes in health or financial well-being, etc. - could lead to a final score (300 or over) that suggested the possibility of being on the receiving end of a stress-related illness, e.g. heart attack, stroke, major mental illness.
Critics have argued the SRSS is not a useful predictor of significant changes in physical or mental health because many (resilient) people have weathered difficult life storms without succumbing to illness, while others might shut down completely after experiencing something far down on the measurement scale. Some stress management researchers have complained that the SRSS did not age well, that the issues measured then don’t reflect modern life; a foreclosure (30) is marked lower than sexual difficulties (39). These are all discussions for another day.
The value to the SRSS is that it reminds us of the harm of what we call “allostatic load” today, where the cumulative effects of stress - your bucket of crap - is just way too full. The more tough things you have to manage, the more they impact your sleep, appetite, sex drive, relationships, friendships, levels of anxiety, anger, or depression, and finding joy in life.
One marker in the Holmes-Rahe scale is “Change in Residence,” which gets only 25 points. If you add in either marriage (50), separation (65), retirement (45), or divorce (73), that’s a big chunk if you add any of those to having to or wanting to move to a new home. Moving itself, even if you have enough retirement dough to get that beach house in Fiji, is stressful. It may be less so if you have enough money to simply turn the entire process over to a moving company and say, “Box it all up, deliver it to my new home, unbox it, and put it away.” (And who, besides Beyonce or Jeff Bezos has that kind of dough?)
More likely, you will have moved to a house or apartment using a combination of friends and family with pickup trucks (don’t forget to buy the gas, beer, and pizza); some version of “two guys and a big truck will move you”; or a full-on haul across several states, with a big moving semi truck stuffed to its roof with (too much of) your worldly possessions. Even moving within the same apartment building, across the hall or up or down a floor, can be a stressful hassle: refrigerators and washing machines are heavy; all of your oak furniture weighs a ton, and who’s going to put that 86-piece bed frame back together?
If you live alone and you have to move, most of your stress is self-directed, and while it’s tiring, it usually doesn’t result in you lashing out at others. If you’re in a relationship and have to move together, it’s way too easy to start picking on each other, even to the point where it affects the health of your relationship. Sleeping on a Walmart air mattress and eating cold pizza night after night will do bad things to even the strongest of couples.
As such, here are a few tips to survive a move across the hall, street, city, state, or country:
- Sit down together before your move and agree that it can be an extremely stressful process and you will both try to be kind to each other during the days before and after. Rules: no name-calling, no public scenes in front of strangers.
- Be personally ruthless about hanging on to possessions and get rid of a lot of stuff (sell it, donate it, give it away, toss it) before you move. Don’t criticize your partner for what he/she keeps after this process is over. Agree to go minimalist. Don’t make rash decisions on the moving day to throw away or give away things you really want because you’re frazzled about how to pack it.
- Buy the necessary supplies and wrap and box everything well in advance. Don’t do what lot of people do, at the 11th-hour as the burly moving guys are standing there, and start stuffing things into garbage bags or just tossing expensive, breakable items into the back of the truck.
- Mark every box in detail. Don’t just write “Kitchen” on it and put it on the truck. If you have seven “Kitchen” boxes, it can be frustrating to find the one with the coffee maker in the new place. Note what’s inside accurately.
- Assume that the moving company people will not care about your stuff as much as you do. Assume they will break some stuff, despite your or their best packing efforts. Get over it or file an insurance claim; don’t obsess. If it’s really valuable, rare, or sentimentally important, put it in your car.
- If you have to stay overnight in a hotel on the way to the move, do not leave anything important or valuable in your car. Hotel parking lots are the scenes of many sad stories, where people who were moving had a crook break in and steal everything the night before they got to their new houses. Get a luggage cart from the lobby, make several trips if you have to, but bring all valuables inside your hotel room. Sleep soundly and reverse the process in the morning.
- Put only one of you in charge of the moving men team. Both of you shouting orders only stresses them and you. Tell them politely where things need to go and don’t argue in front of them.
- Don’t be a superhero and try to unload everything in one day. It’s exhausting and leads to extra soreness the next day (the Walmart air mattress won’t help you get much good sleep). Get the basics where they need to be - toilet paper, soap, and shampoo in the bathroom; pans, plates, bowls, forks, and spoons in the kitchen; mattress and box spring in the bedroom; dog or cat food and bowls where they need to be.
- Go out for nice dinner on the second or third night to celebrate surviving the process. Hopefully, you’re both still speaking to each other by then.
Dr. Steve Albrecht is an HR seminar trainer and author of 21 books. He can be reached at DrSteve@DrSteveAlbrecht.com or on Twitter @DrSteveAlbrecht