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The Stages of Moving

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Moving, like grief, evokes a specific set of emotions among those who are doing it. I would know. I’ve moved five times within the last three years. I’m familiar with the process, and it’s exactly the same every time. So if you’re thinking of moving anytime soon, remember this. Know what you’re up against. It’s the only way to come out on top.

1. Denial
There are a few key signals that let you know that you’re going through the “denial” stage of moving. You’ve looked at places. You’ve signed a lease or taken out a mortgage. You have a date that you’ll be moving on. But following all that, you’ll notice yourself thinking dangerous thoughts that might clue you in as to how not ready you are mentally. “Oh, I don’t have to pack yet. Moving day isn’t for a while.” This works when moving day is two months away, but you’ll notice the feeling that you don’t actually have to pack your stuff doesn’t go away when you get to the point that you really should have started packing your stuff. “I’ll organize my room. That way, when I pack, I’ll know exactly where everything is so my boxes can be nice and neat.” Good luck spending the next two months organizing your room. “Ooh, getting a lease that gives me overlap is great! I’m going to go to the new place and paint. I can pack later.” With few exceptions, you can paint once you’re there. Any of these thoughts, or thoughts like this, express one sentiment that you might not even be conscious of: This isn’t actually happening. Or at least, it’s not happening any time soon. You’ll deny the time you have left and, even worse–you’ll deny the fact that you haven’t done shit yet.

2. Anger
Eventually you realize you’ve been in denial. Usually about two days before moving day. Then you’ll start assembling your boxes and look around you and think: “Shit. When did I get so much SHIT.” You’ll notice how angry you are at every single one of your possessions. “T-shirt. I don’t even fucking wear you. What are you DOING in my HOUSE?” or “Fuck you, Nightstand. DON’T fit into the moving truck. See if I give a fuck.” You’ll also notice that you’re directing anger at yourself. “Rachael, you stupid bitch, you should fucking know by now. You’ve moved enough times. It takes more than two days to pack all your belongings. Screw you.” This anger may seem irrational, but it’ll get you moving–and chances are, you’ll end up with a nice bonfire of shit you’re angry at, too.

3. Bargaining
“Oh please just get in a box stuff just fit in the damn box please I’ll do anything I will even tape the box shut so it’s slightly open on top if you will just fit.” Sound familiar? You’ve moved recently, then. “Okay, bedroom, I know I organized you and everything but right now I need you work with me here. Please just pack yourself up. I will trade ‘organization’ for ‘speed.’ I don’t really care that much about being organized, anyway. Just work.” This one’s a little more dangerous, because soon you might find yourself putting things in boxes that don’t belong together at all. Make sure to keep your sex toys out of any boxes that might be opened immediately–like the one with the deodorant that you’ll want to put on as soon as you realize how much packing up the van has made you smell.

4. Depression
In some great miracle, you’ve managed to pack up all your belongings in an increasingly disorganized fashion. You’ve put it all into a moving truck. You even got the truck to your new place. With some help from friends or family, you got all the boxes and furniture into the appropriate room, or at least into your new home. At this point, you’ll look around, completely exhausted from a few days of heavy lifting and freaking the fuck out over how you’re going to get stuff to your new place, and burst into tears. Because you’re not done yet. You’ll look around your awesome new place and say, “No. No, don’t. I can’t. This…this has to be over. What did I do wrong? I’m so sorry. I’m…*sob* just not sure where to even put this.” It might also come with a few realizations about your place. “These cabinets. They’re so nifty! I love them!” will turn into “What the fuck can I even put here? They’re so tiny.” You’ll set up your bed, put some sheets on it, and refuse to do anything for days. You’ll feel apathetic and worthless. Don’t worry, though. It’s just a part of the process.

5. Acceptance
Acceptance happens approximately a month after you’ve moved. You’ve gone through the depression stage and forced yourself to set up a few rooms. Your kitchen is at least a little organized. The cable guy came so you have TV and internet. But at some point, you’re going to look at your place and think: “We’ve been here for two months. These boxes are NEVER getting unpacked.” And, for now, you’re completely okay with that. You’ll stash them in a closet or a basement, forget that you own them, wonder why you bothered moving stuff that you clearly don’t care enough about to unpack, and move on. And next time you move, those boxes will come with you. “Oh, I was so smart. This made so much less work for me!” you’ll think, not even considering the fact that in the years you’ve lived in your place, you didn’t look at the items once.


I’m still slightly convinced that we’ll get the rest of the boxes unpacked and set up. I just have to finish painting. It won’t take long. I’m not in denial. I haven’t started a whole new cycle. I swear. I just want a red kitchen.


About Rachael

Hi. I'm Rachael. I realized one day that, even though I read a lot of books, I often have a hard time remembering them later on. I guess that happens when there's so much to try to remember! So I started The 50 Book Project, with the intention to read and blog about 50 new (to me) books in 2014. I read a lot of fantasy, but I'm trying to branch out and experience new stuff. Any questions? Suggestions? Let me know! Comment, or email me at

22 responses »

  1. So true.

    Also, I moved in March, and still have unpacked boxes. Every time we move, we basically have a designated box room that we plan on making a study/workout room/whatever that instead just houses the boxes we never unpack until the next move when we are like, “Fuck this shit, I didn’t need it the whole time I was here, why on earth would I– oh, wait, baby books! That old baseball glove. Look, it’s my first grade class picture!” And then the stuff gets transported to the new box room.

    We have a philosophy about all the things when moving: Move twice, throw it out. This holds true for anything that is not expensive electronics, pets, or children.

    • Mike (doctor boyfriend)

      One could argue that if your children don’t unpack themselves within two moves, you should throw them out. I mean, by that point they’re probably starting to smell. (Well, unless your moves are really far apart, in which case they’ve probably gone past the stinky stage and are in the “box of bones” stage. Then you should DEFINITELY throw them out.)

      • Plus, if they don’t unpack themselves in that amount of time, they’re probably pretty dumb. I mean, that’s Darwin Award material right there. We don’t want the dumb kids.

    • Oh my god I have a baby book somewhere. I always assumed that my mom would keep that. She’ll keep that, right? I won’t have to take up responsibility for my own baby book?

      Then again, I’m sure once I have kids and I have baby books that I filled out like 10 pages in before getting sick of it, I’ll wonder why the hell I keep moving them, too.

  2. We moved into our current house almost 4 years ago. I still have unpacked boxes of crap piled up in the corner of my bedroom. I have no idea what is even in them at this point and don’t care. At this point, they may still be there when I die. Hopefully nothing was living in them when we packed them. I think the children and pets are all accounted for. If not, eh, I guess I never really needed them that much anyway.

    • We’ll be moving again in 3 years because that is how long Mike’s residency is. I’m almost positive that we will have either boxes of shit that we never unpacked or boxes of shit that we unpacked, couldn’t decide what to do with, threw into a “we’ll figure out what to do with this later” box and shoved in a corner. It wouldn’t surprise me. If we’re responsible, they’ll end up in the basement. And then we’ll move them again.

  3. You forgot the step when you first know you are going to move where you swear you will do it right this time.

    • Oh, shit. I think that fits under “denial” with the other stuff. While you’re sitting there saying “I have plenty of time,” you’re also saying “I’m totally gonna get this shit done.” And you completely ignore that those two thought processes are inherently contradictory and OH SHIT–the procrastinating one wins every time.

  4. You should write a leaflet for the military, we have to move so much it’d be easier if they just handed this to you in leaflet form and said good fucking luck. Instead they try to be all, oh you do it every other year and you’re NOT a pro at it?

    • Hm. I do have connections that way. But from my understanding, the military seems to operate on a “good fucking luck” basis in all things, so this doesn’t surprise me at all. My advice to military peeps: Hire someone.

  5. Dear Sweet Mama

    Oh, dear. I just promised myself this morning that starting Monday I would do 4 hours a day of packing/garage sale sorting/throwing out. I can’t face it today. Or maybe we should wait until we go see the new house and figure out what can go in it. At least we know where we are going – between Oregon and NJ left a lot of ambigious packing moves. I think I may just have to margartiarize myself and think about it tomorrow in Tara.

    • Knowing where you’re going is an important first step. Margaritarizing (or ginandtonicizing, or rumandcokeizing, or bubblegumvodkaizing) is an important second step. And third. And fourth. Etc.

  6. There’s another step that’s been overlooked. Possibly because I’m the only person that has it, but I feel compelled to share regardless.

    6. Blame. This is the phase you enter months – maybe even years – after you’ve moved in, and even completely unpacked. It’s when you start looking for something you once owned, and now need. Such as, oh I don’t know, a bookbag. You start by checking all the places it SHOULD be, like the closets. And then under beds. And then… even the attic. But no bookbag can be found. This is when the blame comes into play. You first blame the boyfriend, who was TOTALLY IN CHARGE of moving that sort of stuff. Upon his denial (see step 1) you move onto the movers, who were definitely had the sneaky look of thieves. They MUST have stolen it! Then the boyfriend reasons with you (which is the last thing you want in the blame phase) “why would they take a $40 bookbag and not the jewelry or lockbox?” Fine. IT’S ALL MY FUCKING FAULT AND I’M SORRY. I BLAME ME.

    Yep. Blame. (This totally didn’t happen to me yesterday. Nope, definitely not…)

    • And truth be told, it probably all goes back to the Anger phase. That bookbag was likely burned. Along with my dignity.

      • HAH oh wow we have definitely experienced that. I mean, not to the angry degree, but a “Where’d you put my ornamental baseball bats?” “What? I haven’t seen those.” “They were in a box.” “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” “They were here. WHERE ARE THEY?”

        Hint: They’re still in a box.

  7. You seem to have forgotten the Booze part. Whenever I have moved, I first cry, then I give myself permission to drink gin and tonics during any of the packing/unpacking process. It seems to make the process a lot more enjoyable. Then one day I realize that I have been drinking multiple gin and tonics every day and I still have boxes sitting around and now I have just stepped over some social boundary of acceptable drinking behavior…. whoopsies.

    • OMG, yes! CRITICAL ELEMENT. I prefer ice-cold beers in a cooler. You reward yourself after each closet/room/drawer/lamp with a beer.

      This also reminds me of our last move, when I made the mistake of trying to pack our liquor cabinet by myself. I was so sick of moving at this point that I found myself in a quandary: I was in the “throwing it away” stage, but you can’t THROW AWAY liquor. There was no way in fuck I was going to move all of the bottles that only had a couple shots left in them, though.

      I was so fucked up by the time I packed that single box that I don’t think I could even tape it shut.

    • So, all these boxes that are still here…it would help if I grabbed one of those alcoholic Capri Sun lookin’ things?

      • Yes. It helps. I also use liquor when displaying the “wonderful” Christmas Village that my parents bestowed upon me when I was in my twenties, You know, your twenties, when you have no house and hardly any furniture and you move 675 times in 10 years, but YOU NEED A FUCKING CHRISTMAS VILLAGE that takes up five giant boxes and is full of tiny breakable pieces. Hence the drinking….. hence more tiny broken pieces. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  8. Kelly = currently in Anger phase. I just found an amazing apartment for me & my dog love and of COURSE I have eleventeen billion boxes of shit that I can’t imagine myself ever needing and/or giving away. I may have kicked a Cabbage Patch doll that I’ve had since my time in the womb out of disgust. It’s an ugly beast, this moving thing, and I can’t wait to be done.

    Also, fuck putting my bed together. I’m sleeping in the refrigerator box I’ve lined with my hopes and dreams for my future.

  9. Pingback: Lemonade « Oh, Rachael.

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