The Angst of Moving

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” 

~ William Morris

Moving is one of life’s major changes and stressors. The older and more settled you are, the more difficult it is. Stress walks in the moment your decision to move has been made.

Moving Van, the angst of moving, Susanne SkinnerWe’re moving. My husband and I are downsizing, and sorting through memories: a life filled with furniture, clothing, dishes, and all the items in between as we prepare to relocate to a smaller house in another (warmer) city.

It’s a process of letting go, questioning the usefulness of each item, and discovering things we forgot we had. The emotional angst that comes with moving is tied to everything we have, because each item tells a story. It’s the story of us.

You Are Not Your Things

Memories are not held in things. I hear myself say this; the rational me knows what I value most is stored in my heart. Holding my mom’s china makes me doubt this.  I never cared for it, but parting with it now feels like I am letting her go. I am not holding a set of dishes; I am holding my childhood, my connection to my mother and her larger than life spirit.

I’m not just leaving my home, I am leaving a place. We have had roots here for over three decades. Our community has been the center of our lives and our children’s lives, but we know it is time to go. I do not have a heavy heart but I am sad as we close this chapter of our lives.

There is a weightlessness that comes from cleaning and sorting, knowing there will be much less on the moving truck than when it arrived seventeen years ago. Downsizing this house has been on my to-do list for a long time, and the realization that we are moving forced it to the top of the list.

Rooms that were sacred spaces for our children have been empty for a while now. One room became an office; another became a guest suite. The big table in the eat-in kitchen feels the emptiness of the chairs around it; the breakfast bar is so much easier for the two of us. The quiet space we created for reading and studying waits patiently for someone to enter the room.  The house is way too quiet.

Too Much Stuff

House of Stuff, too much stuff, the angst of movingWe live a house filled with stuff, and we look at each other and wonder where it all came from. The answer is obvious; it arrived one item at a time over the passing of many years. New items pushed old ones to the attic, basement or garage. Grandparents and parents passed away and their stuff became our stuff and pretty soon it became a house of stuff.

It was easy to convince ourselves a time would come when all that stuff was needed. As soon as someone wanted or missed an item we’d be glad we held on to it. But that time never came, and we discovered the lesson all of us learn when moving – nobody wants your stuff.

We squared our shoulders, created a color-coded spreadsheet, and began the decision-making process that will ultimately reduce what we move by 75%. I wish it was easy – it’s not – but it does free you from material bondage!

There is a liberating feeling that comes from decluttering. Picking up each item and remembering its relevance in our lives, then separating everything into a Keep or Go   pile has become the evening and weekend routine. Our goal is to make the Keep pile small but savor the memories of each item we let go.

There’s a Garage in There Somewhere

A garage is often an extension of the man cave. It’s a little different here since the garage is actually an old carriage house. It’s never housed a car except in the worst New England blizzards.

garage, man cave, carriage house, packed with stuffInstead, it holds lawn and garden furniture, old skateboards, a snow blower, lawnmower and the vast array of tools Bob the Builder uses to keep our antique home in tip-top shape. We hope the new owners will feel the love.

Tools mean something to a man. We have three boys who inherited the fix-it gene so they will live on in a new basement or garage.  We are only taking what we think we need, and we have been very critical in our decision making. I find myself adding more and more to the let go pile.  It’s a good thing.

A New Chapter

Begin againWe are staring a new chapter in our lives, but grateful to the community we have called hearth and home. We get to keep the stories, laughter, memories and experiences; but most of all the many friendships we have built throughout the years. Each one holds a special place in our hearts; carried with us wherever we go.

We are excited for what comes next, even though we aren’t quite sure what it is.

When We Moved

I know what Susanne is facing because we went through this process five years ago — although without the carriage house. She’s at the sorting stage. Here’s a post I wrote about stuff, memories and the unpacking stage.


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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

3 thoughts on “The Angst of Moving

  1. Less Stuff One of the obvious reasons you should downsize and rent your bigger house to someone else is to have less stuff. The less stuff you have the less you have to maintain, clean, and replace. Have you ever donated items or held a garage sale? The process of going through your stuff to let some of it go can be very freeing.

  2. We are going through this right now! We sold our house (2850 SF) before it went on the market (we were in Hawaii when they called & said we had an offer!). We came home & started house hunting right away. We were blessed to find a smaller home (1911 SF) with a view! Our current house has a view & that was the one thing I was going to miss. Unbelievable that we found this house was going up for sale! A neighbor told us about it & this is a house I sold to the couple 8 years ago! So now we are under the gun to get ready to move by March 29th. Losing 1000 SF is requiring a LOT of purging. But it feels good to be getting rid of stuff we never use. Our kids don’t want any of our stuff— they like what they have. So we’re having a garage sale the week before we move. We will glad to have the next 6 weeks behind us!!

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