Why is Moving So Stressful?

June 20, 2021

According to a study conducted by the United States Census Bureau, the average person will move their household 11.7 times in their lifetime.  The US Life Expectancy is currently 78.69 years which means we move every 6 years! 

There are many types of moves– Corporate Relocations, Upsizing or Downsizing, First Home Purchase, Going Off to College, Retirement Centers or Assisted Living Facilities and each of these moves require thousands of decisions to be made. 

Unfortunately, all that decision making can make us weary, exhausted, dog-tired, worn out, and fatigued!  And the decisions start long before moving day.  As a Professional Organizer I have helped clients to pack and move but not until my recent move (July 2019) did, I feel the impact of all the decisions and feel the weariness, both physical and mental. 

I am very proud of how well my family has handled this move and how well it went from start to finish. I hope this article helps you to prepare for your next move and makes it as easy as moving can be. (Hint—You are still going to be worn out!) 

Let’s look at a couple of Different Types of Moves and the usual ways they occur:

                Corporate Relocation:  Your employer has asked you to move to a new location and you have a deadline for when you need to be there.  The biggest advantage of a corporate move is that the company picks up the expense for packing and moving your belongings.  Generally, a moving company is selected, and a packing date is set.  Then depending on the distance to the new location the moving truck is loaded and arrives within a few days to begin unloading.  Corporate movers are usually very good about packing your items, so they transport without getting broken.  However, sometimes in the rush to get the packing completed, they will pack unwanted items in a box including dirty clothes and full trash cans

If you have a corporate move in your future, I highly recommend that you SORT and PURGE your belongings before packing day.  You will not have time to purge as they are packing, and you can’t be in multiple locations within your home while multiple moving company staff members pack your belongings. 

Once you arrive at your new location the boxes will be placed in the rooms as they are labeled (this can be a disadvantage if you want things to go to a different room). They will unpack the boxes and remove all the packing materials. 

Upsizing or Downsizing: Most of us will change the size of the house we live in a couple of times—we may go bigger when we have children (or when our incomes allow us) and we may go smaller when they move out (or we want to stretch our retirement income).  The rooms will be different sizes and shapes that may require us to replace furnishings.  The key is making sure the furniture fits the new room.  His favorite chair may not fit with the oversized couch in your new living room and you’ll have to decide which to keep and which to replace.   Or you’ll find that you need an additional chair or two by the fireplace.  These moves are generally a DIY project (with help from good friends and neighbors) and have more flexibility on the actual moving day. 

If you know you are going to be moving in the next 6 months, I suggest that you start SORTING, PURGING and PACKING early. 

For my move, I created a Color-Coded Label System (I am happy to send you the template) where each room has a different color label that will be placed on the box and ALL CONTENTS are listed.

In our case, we were setting up a second residence, so I wanted to be sure that any items I had duplicates of were packed for the 2nd home saving us money to repurchase something we already owned. But I had to be sure I didn’t need that item at our primary residence so by listing the contents on the label I could easily retrieve it if needed.  And the color-coded boxes made unloading and unpacking much faster and easier!!!

We unloaded all the boxes into the garage and then carried in only the room we were working on at that time.  No stepping over boxes to get to the ones we needed.  And the labels helped me find the most important (coffee maker) box the night we arrived for the following morning!

If you are going from one primary residence to another, start with items that are in storage and used infrequently like craft and holiday items, garden and tools, or appliances that you don’t use every week.  Get these items sorted and purged and then packed with contents on the labels. 

Next on your packing order should be entertaining items like extra glasses, barware, serving pieces—this is a great time to decide how much of these do you need in your new home???!!! Our lifestyles often change when we move and if you are not going to be hosting large parties anymore, now is the time to purge the excess pieces.  Or if you have a partial set of dishes or glasses that you have been holding on to because you had a cabinet for them, go ahead and rid yourself of them now and save the time and effort to pack and unpack. 

Retirement or Assisted Living Facility:  For many families, the decision to move a parent into an assisted living facility comes on suddenly and can be extremely stressful.  We all have a sentimental attachment to our stuff, but we must accept that other family members don’t have the same attachment.  Most kids do not want their parents’ stuff and that goes for Gen Xers to Millennials.

Although items need to be sorted and purged the process may take longer than we would like and I can only say to cherish the time together, ask lots of questions to learn the stories about the “stuff”, take pictures and keep pushing forward to get the items packed and moved to the facility or packed to donate/sell. 

You can surround them with their favorite items but remember that if everything is “the favorite” then really nothing is—because they can’t all be the same value.

Let’s get started making decisions—SORTING, PURGING, PACKING:

SORT:  Gather all like things together.  All the DVDs, all the books, all the glassware, all the tools, all the towels, and sheets, etc.  Gather from multiple locations and put all together.  You must see it all together to really know how much you have!  When the towels are spread between 3 bathrooms it doesn’t look like so much, but when you bring them all together on the kitchen table, you can match up sets, discard any with holes or stains and keep only the very best to use. 

PURGE:  Discard, Donate, and Sell items as you go.  Why pay for the movers to load something that you don’t really want anymore? It is easier to purge when you see how much you are keeping, instead of looking at what you are giving away. This is why bringing like items together to sort; helps you purge and ultimately pack. 

PACK:  Use packing paper to wrap all kitchen items, pictures, and knick-knacks.  Generally, I like to keep like items together, however, if you have a 2-story house you may need some upstairs and some down so you should pack for both locations.  When you are ready to load the truck, move everything into the garage.  Again, it helps you to see how much you really have when it is all together! Load the boxes first and then the furniture.  When you unload you can place the furniture inside the house in the correct room and put the boxes in the garage. 

Supplies to have on hand when packing: 

  1.  Boxes: a variety of sizes. It is best if they have not been used for food storage/transportation (you don’t want unwanted oils or fragrances to get into your clothes or books). Check on NextDoor or other social media options for used boxes.  If you are going to buy boxes, I suggest buying wardrobe boxes for your hanging clothes.  They hold a lot of clothes and you can pack large artwork in with the clothes as well.
  2. Packing Paper:  Buy at least 2 boxes to start and some bubble wrap as well.  Wrap items to prevent breakage and pack the boxes with extra paper to prevent movement in the box.  Breaks happen when items can shift and move in the box.  No empty space!
  3. Packing Tape and Dispensers:  Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find the end of a roll of tape! 
  4. Black and Red Sharpies:  Medium point to write on the labels.  Use RED to mark any boxes as FRAGILE. 
  5. Pre-Printed Color-Coded Labels:  Write the contents on the label as you wrap, and place in the box.

Supplies to have on hand when loading truck:

  1. Work Gloves: this is hard, physical labor. Save your hands from cuts, blisters.
  2. 2-wheel Dolly: to move boxes on and off the truck
  3. Blankets:  these are available with rental truck companies and are not expensive but prevent damage to furniture
  4. Bungee Cords and Straps:  you will need to prevent items from shifting on the truck
  5. Water Bottles:  depending on the time of year and climate, but it is hard physical labor so stay hydrated.

As for the size of the truck—this is a 15-foot truck with space over the cab.  I was only moving the Living Room, Dining Room, and Office Furniture along with lots of boxes (bedrooms furniture came from the store the next day).  You can see we were not full but due to the great packing and strapping everything in.. NOTHING broke!

A few final tips:

And if all this still sounds overwhelming, hire a Professional Organizer (like me!).  We can keep the process moving (pun intended)!!! Helping you sort, and purge at your old house, or helping you unpack and place items in the best location in your new house.  We make it easier for you!

I always work from a checklist and want to share a couple that I found to be very helpful:

The best moving checklist I found is from SMEAD Organomics. It starts 8-12 weeks before the move to give yourself plenty of time to SORT, PURGE and PACK.

Click on the link and then find “Printable Checklists: Moving Checklist”

Bed, Bath, and Beyond has checklists for Apartment and Campus—more for items to buy, but still a good list to review


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

– Lao Tzu

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