The 5 Stages of Moving

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Moving can be exciting. It feels symbolic of new beginnings and fresh starts and it sounds like a great idea…in theory. But somehow, as soon as it goes from theoretical to actually happening, moving becomes the kind of gargantuan life event that you can’t quite wrap your head around. As moving day approaches, you might find yourself experiencing some familiar emotional stages.

1. Denial

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In the weeks and days leading up to your move, it’s easier to pretend the move isn’t happening at all than to do what needs to be done to prepare. Sure, you might book your movers or truck — you know, the things you have to do well in advance of M-Day, the things that have actual accountability to other humans. But the other stuff? The stuff that no one can call you out on not doing? That’s harder.

Specifically packing: Packing denial is a real thing and anyone who has moved has experienced it. It’s Saturday before your move and you have nothing to do. You set the day aside to pack, told everyone you know that you’re busy “prepping for the move,” but then you find yourself sitting in your house, surrounded by empty boxes (or pieces of cardboard, if you haven’t gotten around to taping them into actual boxes yet)...and you do nothing.

You don’t pack. You don’t wrap your tchotchkes in newspaper or fold your clothes or anything. You see the boxes. You know in your brain space that the move is still happening, but you act like it’s not happening at all and hang out with your Netflix account instead.

2. Anger

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After the denial comes the anger and oh boy, is there a lot of anger. First, there’s the self-directed anger: Why didn’t I pack sooner? How could I have been so irresponsible?

Then, there’s the anger with literally everyone else in the world, because moving brings out the worst in humanity (or at least makes it impossible to see the good in anyone until your move is over). You’ll be angry with your S.O./roommate/sibling/whoever is going to live with you in your new home — or even just the people who agree to help you move out of your old one.

Or, if you’ve hired movers, you’ll be angry with them. You’ll be angry that they showed up late or didn’t bring enough tape or furniture covers. You’ll be angry that they aren’t as muscular as the Hulk and impervious to dehydration, not because you’re an evil villain who doesn’t want them to take water breaks, but because every break anyone takes makes moving day that much longer and moving day is the worst.

3. Bargaining

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Next comes bargaining. Sure, you might engage in some literal bargaining — like trying to convince the moving company to give you a discount because Joe the Mover carelessly broke your favorite lamp — but it can be more subtle than that.

You might also find yourself bargaining with your preferred higher power, promising to be a better person if nothing (else) gets broken/your friends don’t bail because this is turning out to be WAY harder than you implied/you finish the move before midnight/whatever.

4. Depression

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After a while, you’ll accept that no amount of bargaining will help you avoid the inevitable and that you’re going to have to replace roughly 20% of your belongings and you’re not going to bed until at least 2 a.m. tonight.

Cue the sads.

5. Acceptance

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But after the abject sadness, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. You hit a point (around 10 or 11 p.m.), when you accept that this is your move and that, as bad as it might be right now, eventually it will be over and you’ll survive it.

You accept that this day sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it and start to really focus on the future — on decorating your new place, on all the extra space you’ll have now...on throwing away half of everything you own so that you’re next move won’t be this hellish nightmare.

But the important thing is that you accept it that this one is a hellish nightmare and you make the decision not to let it get to you anymore.