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How to mentally prep for a move to a new place

A senior dog with moving boxes
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Even if you managed to sell your old one for a sizable profit, moving to a new place can come with the bittersweet feeling of leaving something behind. As you pack your boxes and get ready for moving day, it’s important to prepare your heart and mind for a big life change, as well.

How to emotionally prepare for a move

1. Recognize you’re going through a major life change

While you might tell yourself, “It’s just a move,” don’t underestimate the toll uprooting your life can take.

“Whether you’re leaving home for the first time to start your freshman year at college or downsizing from the home where you raised your family, moving is a big deal,” says Brent Reichow, Realtor with Matt Lill/Partners in Minnesota.

With that in mind, give yourself extra time to prepare. Rather than waiting until the week before your moving date to sort through belongings and say goodbye to your best friends, space it out. Instead of feeling like you’re climbing a towering mountain in one day, you’ll feel like you’re conquering a long journey over an extended period that allows for rest and recovery between each hike.

2. Remember you’re leaving property behind, but you’ll carry memories with you

Leaving a home is hard, especially if you’ve watched your family grow within those walls. However, think about your life the same way you might think about a movie or a play: The physical elements simply provide the stage. What truly matters is the characters involved in the scenes.

“Remember that a house is a physical structure,” Reichow says. “What makes it a home is the memories. Honor those memories with your loved ones through the pictures you cherish and funny stories you continue to retell. Incorporate the old with the new by leaning into the excitement of your new home, making the space your own and embracing the start of a new chapter.”

3. Have a stress management plan in place

While reflecting on those memories can be helpful, thinking about packing — and then unpacking when you arrive — will be daunting. In fact, a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. adults revealed that people believe moving is the most stressful event in life, beating out other overwhelming events like getting married or divorced and having kids.

So, take a breath, and put together a plan to calm your nerves. A morning walk or a meditation session can help put you in a different headspace. In addition to focusing on calming exercises, eat healthy meals, and be sure to give your body time to rest. 

4. Take comfort in the fact that you’ve done this before

If you’re overwhelmed about this move, keep in mind that you’ve managed to do this before.

“What I tell people is this: Whatever home you’ve lived in for any significant length of time stays with you forever,” Danny Glick, Realtor with @properties in Chicago and founder of the Danny Glick Group, says. “Think about it. Close your eyes and think of your childhood home, the bedroom you grew up in or even your elementary school classroom. You can probably picture it perfectly in your mind. While you may no longer have access to the physical space, the memories that are attached will be with you forever.”

While it might seem really hard right now to leave your home, your past relocations also seemed tough at first, but you did it, and you’re OK — and you will be again after this move.

5. Talk about it

If you aren’t moving on your own, it’s important to have a conversation with the family members who are also dealing with the potential for sadness as they say goodbye to their current home. Make sure that everyone can be open about the move. By making time to confront those feelings of sadness now, everyone’s voice is heard. It’s especially important to listen to kids who might be scared of going to a new place and making new friends. Check-in with them to identify how you can help them deal with their feelings and concerns.

6. Look ahead to see how the change will create a positive impact on your life

No matter how much emotional weight you’re carrying right now, try to look past the here-and-now to envision how the decision will make a difference in the future.

“I remind clients all the time to celebrate the time they’ve had in their home, and to remember that they’re moving for a compelling reason,” Sam Olson, a Realtor with RE/MAX Gold in Nevada, says. “Maybe there’s an exciting new job opportunity, or their family is growing. The next home is going to be as fantastic as the one they are leaving, just different.”

In some cases, though, the reason for the move might be grounded in tough practicality. Even then, it’s important to recognize that your rationale is going to pay off.

“Two years ago, I worked with my parents on the difficult decision to move from our family home,” says Reichow, who has a personal understanding of the emotional toll involved in leaving home. “In the 1980s, they bought a fixer-upper and worked extremely hard turning it into an amazing home for our family. When my father was diagnosed with cancer, we knew our large, multi-level home would no longer suit their needs. It was a tough decision and going through more than 40 years of belongings was a taxing process — but in the end, relocating to a one-level-living home provided them the necessary comfort needed.”

Written by
David McMillin
Contributing writer
David McMillin is a contributing writer for Bankrate and covers topics like credit cards, mortgages, banking, taxes and travel. David's goal is to help readers figure out how to save more and stress less.
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Mortgage editor