I’ve been fairly open about my anxiety.
Sometimes here on the blog, and more so on Instagram (I think because it feels like a smaller, more accessible world when I’m so overwhelmed with everything).
When I’m faced with paralyzing panic, I’m always trying to gauge the validity of my reaction: the fight or flight instinct that both floods my body with adrenaline and makes me want to curl up in a ball and shut down, all at the same time. Originally intended to save me from the clutches of hungry hyenas, somewhere along the way my survival instincts completely lost the ability to differentiate between “mildly stressful” and “life-threatening”, always turned up to eleven.
Sometimes I just sit there trying to figure out how a “normal” person would/should respond to the situation, feeling so very abnormal. I know this isn’t particularly encouraged, but sometimes it helps to put things in perspective.
Well, depending on who you ask, moving is one of THE top 5/top 3/top whatever stressful life events. The exact number doesn’t matter. (Who assigns these things anyway?)
The point is: It’s stressful.
Armed with this curiously comforting fact, I decided to share a few things that helped me survive our house sale and move…
Make All The Lists
This might sound like the most inane, obvious advice ever – “Make a list, psh!” – but let me explain.
When I’m stressed, I find writing lists helps me quiet my racing mind and assure myself that I actually have planned for every last detail. Including apocalyptic contingencies, of course.
So I sit down and literally jot down everything I can think of that needs to be done.
Right down to: “Make List.”
Then I make new lists that break down the bigger items on my main list. For example, “Prep Family Room” might become:
- Touch up paint
- Deal with paperwork piles
- Vacuum rug
- Fold and put away clothes
And of course, those tasks spiral into other tasks. (Like when, “Deal with paperwork pile,” spirals into “Obsess with figuring out how to get out of jury duty.” Life pro tip for anxious people: Move.)
So I make another list.
Then I try to divvy all the tasks up for the day/week/month based on priority, time requirements, and things that need to happen before other things can happen.
My lists may end up looking a little crazy, but trust me: it’s a whole lot less crazy than a million tasks ping-ponging around in my brain over and over again.
I truly can’t fully articulate how magical it has been to feel the burden flow from my mind through my fingertips as I put each task on paper…
The rule is: Once it’s on the list, I can’t worry about it anymore.
And if/when I think of a new thing to do [worry about], it goes on the list and I can’t worry about it anymore.
Clean all the things
The buyers who come tromping through your open house might not know there are dust bunnies hiding under your bed, but you do.
Deep clean all the things. Clean under and behind all the things. Vacuum every crevice, scrub every crack… This is not only for your own peace of mind, as you picture strangers opening bathroom cabinets and rooting around behind stashed toothbrushes and personal toiletries, but also because it’s actually saving you time and effort later.
After everything’s packed and you’re cleaning the empty house for the next owner, you will have already put in all the hard labor – the grout’s already been scrubbed, the corners have already been swept. The last thing you want to do after hauling all your earthly possessions is scrub baked-on spaghetti sauce out of the microwave.
Instead, you can just do some quick wipes, swipes and sweeps and call it a day.
When in Doubt, Throw it Out
Deep cleaning literally everything is the perfect opportunity to do some hardcore purging. Seriously, be brutal… Whether you’re going to be moving boxes yourself or paying someone else, every unnecessary item you move is costing you in some way. Sore muscles, packing materials, hourly labor, fuel charges.
Please note that actually throwing things out should be a last resort. Why feed the landfill and contribute to the growing trash problem of our consumption-based society and pile guilt onto your conscience when there’s almost always someone else who wants your stuff?
Sell it – Craigslist, garage sale, whatever. Donate it. Recycle it. Stick it on the curb with big “FREE” sign. Post it on Facebook. Guilt-trip your friends into taking it.
I’m the farthest thing from a minimalist and I really love my stuff, but I found myself asking a series of KonMari-esque questions as I cleaned/de-cluttered/packed. (Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve merely read about it on the Internet. So maybe this is exactly her method – I can’t be sure):
- Do I like this?
- But do I really like this?
- Do I actually want to pack this?
- It’s heavy… Do I really want to move a box with this packed inside?
- Have I used it recently? (Define recently… In the last month? Year? Is it still in the box from our last move three years ago?)
- Can I live without it? For how long? (It’s really heavy.)
- Can I find another one I like better later on?
- Would someone else like this more than me? (Can I get them to move it? Can I get them to pay me for the privilege of moving it?)
- Do I like this more than the amount of money someone would pay me for it?
- Do I actually like this enough to spend money moving it?
- Do I really like moving things more than money?!
More often than not, I discovered that the answer is no – No, I do not enjoy moving things more than money. Out you go.
Stress Management: Yoga
There are times when even all the catharsis of checking things off lists and cleaning things and the life-changing magic of getting rid of crap isn’t enough and stress starts to spiral into a gnarly-looking anxiety tornado that probably won’t transport you to a magical land of Technicolor and Munchkins.
Again, like some of the other strategies listed above, yoga may be a common piece of advice for dealing with stress…
But on days where all else fails, I find solace in my own signature pose, “Depressed Dog.”
Basic Move: Flop on ground, face in carpet, channeling your inner Basset Hound. Hold for five minutes or until stress goes away, blood flow to your head makes you forget your problems, and/or your husband asks, “So is this what we’re doing tonight, or…?”
Advanced Move: Expel the stress with an accompanying howl/groan or by doing your best Tina Belcher (from Bob’s Burgers) impression…
Eventually, whatever else you’re supposed to be doing will start to sound more appealing than burying your face in somewhat dusty (hey – weren’t you supposed to vacuum that earlier?) and definitely scratchy carpet.
At this point, you can go back to the “List Making” stage, or pick up where you left off trying to decipher your city’s Household Hazardous Waste collection plan, which reads like a discarded plot line from National Treasure. (Here’s a “bright” idea! Let’s make everyone switch to energy efficient light bulbs that are dangerous to throw away and then make it as inconvenient and convoluted as possible to dispose of them safely.)
Finally, thank goodness for a sense of humor that lets me make light of my own crazy.
We all have our own personal brand of “crazy.” Anxiety might not be yours, but whatever yours is, trust me… Moving will bring it screaming to the forefront.
And the absolute best way to make sure you’re prepared for that galloping onslaught is to maintain a healthy sense of humor, finely-tuned to find the absurdity in every situation, even when you’re the one slipping on the banana peel.
In summary, I do not at all recommend moving.
Moving is the worst. I hope to never move again and I cannot in good conscience endorse it to my family and friends. In my opinion, moving should be avoided if at all possible.
But in the event that moving is inescapable, I hope that you’ll find one or all of the above strategies helpful in surviving your move.
So what about you? What’s in your moving survival kit? I’d love to hear your best tips and tricks for staying sane (or something that resembles it).