The Five Stages of Moving

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We are moving.IMG_6354

And we are not just moving out of our apartment, but buying a house.  A home.

Somewhere there is a list of the top ten most stressful things in life, and moving always rates in the top five, right under death of a spouse, death of a child, and divorce.

It seems like it should be a happy and awesome thing.

But there it is, on that list of life’s greatest stresses.

I now understand why.

At first it seemed like an awesome dream.  I just couldn’t believe it was even a possibility, and then to have our dream house practically fall into our lap.

When I was younger, I used to fantasize about having a house to live in with a family, to decorate, to make my own, to fill with joy and love and whimsy.  Somewhere after grad school, in the midst of a crashing economy and crippling student loan debt, that dream started to fade.  Then I married an artist and got pregnant almost immediately.  I cut back on my hours at work while simultaneously taking on the debt of daycare.  And we had another child.  More debt.

We live in a part of the country where housing is very expensive.  Salaries have not grown much over the past decade, due to the economy.  But because my husband and I both have our families here, moving cross country is not an option that feels comfortable or happy for us.  So, we have tried to be content with what we have.

For the most part, we have done ok.

While our beautiful apartment was cozy, as the children grew it just became too small for us.  A home that was filled with love became filled with stress because we never had our own space.

It had gotten to the point I thought we would all live and die on top of one another in the small apartment.

Then I remembered my dream.  Why had I stopped dreaming? I wondered.  Then I wondered what it would be like to open myself just ever so slightly to that dream again of having a bigger space for my family.  My dream was quickly crushed when I looked at the prices for larger apartments in our area.

As fate, or karma, or luck would have it, I ran into a friend of mine who I had not seen for a long time.  In the decade since last seeing her, she had become a realtor.  I told her about my wish for a house.  “Aw, we can totally get you guys into a home!” she insisted.  She whipped out her mortgage calculator and quoted some prices.

My husband was dubious, because of his self-employed status, but he agreed to go to one of my friend’s open houses and hear her out.

We applied to be pre-approved for a mortgage.  During the two weeks we waited while underwriters (and yes, I learned what an “underwriter” is in this process) reviewed our numbers, we looked at houses online.  My friend sent us a bunch of addresses and told us to drive by a few and see if we could picture ourselves living there.  We very  much wanted to stay in our neighborhood, ideally not having our son change schools.

I fell in love with the first house I drove past.  It was a grey bungalo-style home on a double-corner lot and the very end of a quiet street.  I looked at the pictures online and was charmed by the hardwood floors, modern kitchen, and huge upstairs where my husband and I could make a master suite.  We finally got our pre approval and went to see the house the next day.

I just had a gut feeling about this house.  It was the only house we looked at.  We made an offer.  The sellers countered and we accepted.  We put down a deposit and scheduled an inspection.

For days I had butterflies in my stomach.  I could not settle at night, thinking about the rooms, about where I would put stuff on the shelves in the kitchen, about how I wanted to paint the bedrooms.  I thought about packing and moving and cleaning.  I became so anxious about all of these things, I found myself paralyzed by it, unable to do anything about anything because I was totally freaking myself out.

Then I realized, while hopeful and amazing, this move represents the end of a chapter for us.

I’ve always loved my apartment. I was a fiance, a newlywed, and a new mom in this apartment.  I love the windows that look out on the bay.  I love the little yard where my children have spent hours playing in the sand box and paddling pool.  I love the mantle where we display family pictures.  I even love that when we vacuum the living room floor we can still smell just a hint of a doggy smell, left behind by my treasured canine who passed over the Rainbow Bridge three years ago.

In addition to the sentimental stuff, I also love our warm, understanding land-people.  They have always been dependable and trustworthy.  The washing machine and hot water heater were magically fixed at no expense to us when they broke.  Those are no longer luxuries we will have, as we are now the home owners, the ones responsible for repairs and restoration.

We are all excited.  The kids are thrilled about having their own rooms which they will be allowed to decorate as they please.  My husband is happy he will have an office where he can work more efficiently from home than his current station in our dining room.  I am excited about the increased space and opportunities to organize things.

We are all happy about it, but we are also all freaking out a bit.

Kubler-Ross famously wrote about the Five Stages of Grief–  how people go through Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance as they grieve a loss.  It is like we are traversing the Five Stages of Moving.  It is certainly hard to believe, and somewhat abstract in its nature at the moment as we live in this limbo (denial).  I find myself eager to give away one of my kidneys if I could only blink my eyes and magically transport all our stuff to the new house (bargaining).  My husband and I have been snarking at one another all week out of increased tension and concern (anger).  Today I felt sad enough to cry at the thought of leaving our apartment (depression).  And we finally bought some boxes, went through books and weeded out a few loads to donate, in addition to packing a few shelves-worth (acceptance).

Much like grieving, this whole moving process is not completely linear.  It seems like it should be–  look, buy, move–  yet I find myself circling back around denial, depression, acceptance, and back again.

I imagine myself lying in my bed at the new house, but without Emily’s little cot next to me because she is down in her own, sweet little room.  The thought makes me happy, panicked, and sad all at once.

I think about Jack sleeping in a room that is different from the messy jumble where he has slept each night since he was an infant (that is when he wasn’t co-sleeping with us!), and that thought also makes me feel hopeful and stricken all at once.

Change is hard, and I’ve never been particularly awesome at it.

My husband and I are stymied by the thought of a mortgage, and all the little projects we will need to undertake.  We are also running around like wacky lemurs trying to get paperwork in order, and get things over to the mortgage company in time for our closing.

The kids are, no doubt, sensing our stress as they also experience their own anticipatory anxiety which they may not be able to articulate, but share with us in behavioral demonstrations.

It is a great transition for us, but it is not an easy one.

So, I caught myself in all that anxiety, and tried to be more present as we spend the last few weeks in our apartment.

In two more weeks we will move.

But for the moment, we are here.  We are home.

17 responses »

  1. Beautiful reflective piece….and yes all change, even changes we choose, are stressful. They always involve letting go of something known and trusting enough to step forwards into the unknown future….the new. Enjoy your last fortnight in your home 🙂

  2. Well. I just wanted to say that all of this resonates with me, but–and–WOW! I am just thrilled for you guys. Congratulations and may moving be peaceful…

  3. Congrats on the new house! Every change, even positive (especially positive?) is scary…. I still miss sometimes my old place but I think it is normal… Every step of our lives lead us to what we are now so it is natural to miss some of those important steps for us…
    And lots of courage: packing boxes is so boring, time-consuming etc… At the beginning you’ll be very careful to pack carefully and at the end, you’ll discover a box with dishes, garden tools and the remote 😉

  4. Pingback: 8 Ways Having a New House is Like Having a New Baby | momaste

  5. Heartwarming post! 🙂
    I see you moved in 2014. What I want to know is.. Hows the feeling now, after 2 years? because I have just moved..and I don’t feel good.

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