Stage one: Create a brilliant plan and set a budget
First, you make a plan. Not just any plan, but a Donald Trump-level plan — AKA the greatest plan in the world! This move is going to be different than your last move, because you were so ignorant back then. Now, you have your shit together. Now, you have 12 moves under your belt. You’ve learned! So this time, things will be easier. You talk yourself in circles figuring out every last detail, and spend way too much time convincing yourself that moving over a period of 2 weeks will definitely be easier than doing it in one shot. You won’t be stressed out, you tell yourself, because you’ll have so much time. SO. MUCH TIME. Luxurious time! You dismiss the nagging thought that dragging your move out might prolong your stress rather than relieve it. Your plan will surely save you!
Stage two: Make a pact with partner/roommate
Before you really start packing, you take your partner’s (or roommate’s!) face in your hands and you promise not to turn on them. “Let’s not let the stress get to us!” you say. “Let’s make sure we make time for one another. Let’s try to have fun with this.” At this point, you still naively believe in your perfect plan, and that everything will go smoothly. You are gushing with excitement for your new life and are still a few weeks out from being buried in boxes. Being kind to one another through all of this seems somehow feasible. You have your priorities in order and your ducks in a row.
Stage three: The excitement phase
In the first days of the move, you buzz with excitement. It’s all about paint colors, picking out furniture, and creating room plans. You pack a few closets and shelves up and you pat yourself on the back for being so on top of everything. Wow, I’m really crushing this whole move, you think to yourself, someone should recognize me for my heroic efforts immediately. You apologize when you snap at your partner and generally take care of business. You are motivated by fantasies of your new setup, so getting things done feels almost like a gift. Your brain is on fire. You are firing on all cylinders. You blog about it, telling the world you have arrived. You have no idea what is to come.
Stage four: The knee-deep phase
It’s the day of the big move! Congrats — you’re at least 12% of the way there! Especially since you decided to do the long move to “make things easier.” Great work, past you! All of that prep and packing and labeling things and coordinating vans, painters, family members helping and craigslist furniture sales? It’s starting to fry your brain. You can hardly keep track of two sets of keys — the old place and the new — much less orchestrate a successful move. It’s only one day, you tell yourself. Then, you suddenly remember that there are at least 2 more weeks of moving days. Not to mention unpacking everything. No, focus on today! One day at a time. You invoke a mantra to help you with your overwhelmed anxiety: this too shall pass. You say it to yourself way too many times as you try to keep your cool amidst the chaos. You’re not a chaos girl.
Stage five: The everything-goes-to-shit phase
You’re beyond knee-deep now. You’re fully immersed. Even if your amazing moving plan is panning out smoothly, somehow everything else in your life is still managing to go to shit. You dial it in at work. You drop balls in your social life. You hardly have any time to care for your perfect little angel pets. You start answering people honestly when they ask you how you’re doing, and tell random sales clerks that you’re sorry, you’re just SO stressed from moving (as if they care). You’ve long since broken your promise to your partner not to turn on them, and you’re seriously considering whether you can afford the new place on your own (kidding… kidding!). You haven’t eaten a decent, healthy meal in over a week, and you’ve stopped convincing yourself that you’ve earned a burger and fries just because you lifted boxes for 7 hours that day. You just want a green smoothie and a nap. Or a long soak in the ocean. Or even just a five minute break from thinking about your to-do list. You imagine that this constant stress is what parenting small children must be like. Come to think of it, how on earth do parents of young children move? you wonder. You start to understand why someone would buy a house and just stay there for 25+ years. At this point, you’d live anywhere for the rest of your life, just so you never have to go through this again.
Stage six: The screw-it phase
“Screw the plan. Screw the pact. Screw everything. Let’s just do this thing and get it over with,” you say at 9:30 on a Tuesday night as you pack yet another carload of stuff — the night before you’re supposed to be out of the old place. You officially regret your decision to take your time with this move, as though moving could ever not suck. As though there is a way around the drudgery of going through every single thing you own, or the disgust you feel at yourself by owning so much useless crap. You get a serious case of the YOLOs: throwing away things you previously promised yourself to restore, nixing efficient systems in favor of just getting it done oh-god-please, and packing boxes which only consist of a dust pan, a mug and a weird painted plate that hangs on the wall that you think you might have inherited from your grandmother. You will get through this thing no matter what. NO. MATTER. WHAT. Your fatigue gives way to pure grit. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel — you will, for once, be victorious over this dusty old house that got the best of you on more occasions than you can count. You are invincible. You furiously clean the old place to be done in time for the walk-through with the landlord. You electrocute yourself trying to put an old, hard-wired smoke detector back together because you are working so quickly that you don’t realize just how disgustingly sweaty you are. “FINE, you win house,” you say, as you lick your wounds.
Stage seven: The “you mean it’s not over?!” phase
Well done. You’ve gotten out of the old place, despite previous you’s best efforts to drag on the process for all eternity. You promise yourself you’ll never be this stupid again. A slow move being less stress — imagine the ignorance! You stroll into your new place, completely worn out from stress and being on your feet, constantly moving for 12 hours a day for the last umpteen weeks. And then it hits you: you’re not even close to being done. You still have to unpack everything you own. Buckle up, because that to-do list isn’t shrinking any time soon. There are utility bills to be turned on, about 78 online shopping accounts to register with the new address, pictures to be hung, book shelves to be filled, closets to be organized, and pieces of furniture to be built. Take a deep breath. What was that mantra again? This too shall pass.
Please send help. 🙂