5 Life Lessons from Those Who’ve Moved a Very Long Distance in a Very Short Time

published Oct 25, 2019
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Let’s face it: moving sucks. And when you find yourself having to relocate in an aggressively short period of time—say, just a week or two—things get real.

“The whole process feels overwhelming and nightmarish because it is,” says my friend Janine Doyle, a marketing and communications professional, who, after a sudden change in a housing situation, decided to relocate from Illinois to Virginia to be closer to family.

According to those who’ve done it, a short-term move will never be stress-free. However, they say there are a handful of things that can prevent the event from feeling completely traumatizing.

“Moving can be expensive or it can be cheap—but no matter what, it’s stressful!” says Alex Frenkel, another one of my friends who quickly relocated to Los Angeles from Chicago earlier this year after securing a dream job in media production. “Do what’s best for you to minimize the stress.”

But what, exactly, are ways to reduce the emotional hardships of moving? Here, Frenkel and Doyle pass on the most helpful lessons they’ve learned from their experiences moving a long distance in a short period of time. (You’ll see they’re pretty good lessons for life in general, too):

Let go of your extra baggage

Moving’s way easier when you have fewer items to transport. This is the time to perform an expedited Marie Kondo cleanse.

“Get rid of EVERYTHING you can… anything you don’t want to drag across the country and up three flights of stairs and then put away. Then donate the rest and accept it’s going to a good home,” Frenkel says.

There’s always an option beyond the ideal

For those still house hunting, signing leases sight unseen can be scary! But that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically end up in a bad living situation. While it may not be ideal, it’s certainly is doable. If you’ve got a pal in your destination city, ask them to tour places for you and trust their judgment. Utilize technology and have brokers take you on a FaceTime tour. Otherwise, budget money for temporary housing and a second (albeit, less stressful) move once you’ve relocated. 

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst

If you’re using professional movers, absolutely do your research, check reviews, and get multiple quotes. But you probably know all of that already. What you probably won’t realize until it’s too late is that you really don’t have time to spare if things go wrong. Take it from Doyle, who found out that her van reservation was cancelled… the morning of her move. While you’re surveying the moving company landscape, ask each company what their availability looks like on your moving day. Identifying which mover may have room on their slate can help you decide who should be your first call in case of an emergency. It could save you a couple of hours when it really matters.

There’s a time to save, and a time to pay up

Moving takes money—often more than you were expecting and definitely way more if you’re doing it quickly.

“Now is the time to dip into that savings/emergency fund and don’t look back!” Frenkel says.

If you’re looking to hire a moving company, know that pricing structures correspond directly with how’ll they’ll affect your stress level: The cheapest option—reserving a moving van and doing it yourself—requires you to do the most work. Mid-level options take off some of the stress, but still require you to be flexible. For example, you’ll have less control over the arrival time and could end up without your belongings for awhile. And, of course, you can do little to no work and have movers pack, move, and unpack your boxes—but you’ll really have to pay up.

And if you do pay for top-tier movers, don’t expect everything to go smoothly: Frenkel spent a good penny on her movers and they still ended up packing her toothbrush next to her toilet bowl brush—gross!

When relocating for a new job, a good way to limit the effect moving has on your wallet is negotiating a moving stipend along with your salary. Note: As of 2018, taxpayers can’t claim a deduction on moving expenses, so budget that into your negotiations if possible! Also, Frenkel recommends reading the fine print on your stipend, as it may come with limitations and require you to spend a little bit out of pocket.

Take care of yourself

If there’s one thing you absolutely must do on your moving checklist, it’s take care of yourself. You can buy another computer, furniture set, or complete wardrobe, but you can never buy another you.

“Up your therapy appointments if you need to—it seriously is not an experience that people should go through alone if they can avoid it,” Doyle says.

If therapy isn’t in your budget, try dedicating just 15 minutes each day during the process to do something rejuvenating. Whether that’s doing a guided meditation, reading a favorite book, or even just taking a long shower, it can really help to center yourself during the stressful time. (Need more ideas on how to practice self care? Here, 10 great ways.)

Doyle also urges folks to reward themselves when all is said and done: “If you’re moving with a partner, plan a date night. If you’re moving solo, plan to take a day to be a tourist in your new city or book a massage—just do something!”

The best thing about quick moves? Just as soon as they begin, they’re over! You’ll get through the suckiness—just remember to keep breathing!

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