Emotionally Moving

The warmer months are usually when people put their house on the market, pack up and move out, sometimes leaving the home in which they raised a family. Moving to the next stage of life can be exhilarating and freeing but letting go of memories (and belongings) can also trigger feelings of loss. It’s a juxtaposition of emotions, but managing these reactions can make selling a home a bit less stressful.

A few years ago, my mother-in-law, Sheila, moved from her home of 42 years to a fabulous new condo. Excited for the fresh start, she began the monumental task of sifting through four decades of belongings. Like many people, Sheila struggled with the dueling of sentimentality and practicality. But her family stepped in to support her in the many necessary steps toward moving on.

The first step, even if one is physically strong, is to solicit help wrapping and packing. The logistics of moving are extremely draining. If all energy is spent on this, there is little left to process the emotional aspect, and it will creep up later, hitting hard. This is the time to ask for help, or at least pay for it.

The next step is to clearly envision the decorating style in the new home. This is an important part of embracing the future. Consider whether the new home should be similar to or different from the former house. To usher in the next stage, envision at least one room with a completely different feel from the previous home. Disciplined thinking about the potential changes between old and new encourages an easier transition. Sheila originally planned to use her previous, though still beautiful, blue couches in her new living room. Ultimately, she decided that a brand new color scheme would better symbolize her fresh start. She still used the couches in her sewing room, but her new living room is in warm, welcoming neutrals—colors she had never used before.

If anxiety or sadness make it difficult to part with belongings that won’t fit in the new home, ask for assistance in deciding what to keep. Seek help from someone that does not have the emotional investment, but who recognizes that letting go is a difficult task. For Sheila, I was that someone. At times we didn’t see eye-to-eye, but by the time the moving truck arrived, only the most important items remained. She needed the gentle push to recognize that in order to have an unburdened new start, some items had to be released.

When letting go of belongings, it is natural to ask kids and grandkids if they want some. They may not, but don’t take it personally—save that energy for the move. And if possible, don’t attend the estate or yard sale. It can be traumatic to watch strangers rifle through things that had meaning for you. Finally, remember that humans are adaptable—it may be surprising how easily you adjust to new surroundings when you face them with positivity.

dr. susan bartell

dr. susan bartell

Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally-recognized psychologist and author practicing in Port Washington. She also speaks throughout the country on a wide range of topics to help individuals and groups improve emotional and physical health and life balance. drsusanbartell.com