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5 Great Ways to Unpack Your Habits the Next Time You Move

Moving Unpacking Habits

We all have habits, some good, some not so good, and plenty that we don't even know about.

Moving can provoke many of our unbeknownst habits to come right up to the surface. Often, those habits tend to flare up and cause a lot of aggravation.

Some of us have perceptions of what a move is supposed to look like, but the reality of the situation is quite different. Others spend hours planning and sorting and organizing and still feel overwhelmed and anxious. Regardless of your moving style or the habits that ensue, there are great ways to offset some of the stress and tension associating with moving.

1. Recognize Your Habits

It took me many years to recognize my habits associated with moving. I would put everything off until the last minute, which caused me a lot of stress. In the past four years, I have moved once per year, and my habits became more evident with each move. We moved again two months ago and this time I was ready to address my habits associated with moving. I understood that my habit (procrastination) wasn't helpful-- to say the least. Rather than focus or dwell, I tried something new.

2. Divide and Conquer

In the past, and sometimes still, I have the habit of doing too much. However, I have come to the realization that my method hasn't always served me well, particularly when it comes to moving. For one thing, taking on too much at once leads to overwhelm, which can hinder the moving process. Additionally, I just wasn't good at every task related to moving.

Some people are better equipped for certain tasks than others. For example, my husband is great at packing. He has his own method for organizing which is logical and efficient. I'm great at unpacking and have the patience and desire to put everything away in a practical space.

When we each do what we prefer to do--and subsequently are better at-- we work together and move forward. This helps offset needless stress and brings us closer to achieving our goal.

3. Ask for Help

Asking for help has never been my forte. In fact, 'not asking for help' was a habit I didn't even know that I had. I've always liked doing things on my own. As I have come to accept that I am simply not skilled at every task (nor have the patience to carry it out), I have also learned to ask others to help me.

My mother is gifted with incredible organizational skills. She can look at a drawer and see the potential for compartmentalizing--even within such a tiny space. When we recently moved, I dreaded lining our kitchen cabinets with parchment paper. I grew up in a home where the cabinets were always lined, but I never did that in my own home. I just didn't have the patience for such a task.

For some reason, lining the cabinets seemed like a really good idea, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. It made me feel overwhelmed because I didn't know where to begin and it felt like a huge task. I debated whether or not to call my mom and ask for help. I knew that if I were to unpack my dishes in the cabinets as they were, there was no way I would ever take them out again just to line them.

I picked up the phone and called my mom and asked if she could help. Without even hesitating she said, "Sure!" She actually sounded happy to do it. I can't imagine how lining cabinets could ever make a person happy, but then again, I don't look at organizing as a 'fun' thing. In any event, the following week my mother came over and lined every corner of every cabinet in the house.

There isn't a word that could adequately describe the jubilation and relief brought forth by having this task completed. In fact, I was surprised by how happy I felt. What I came to understand was that thinking about whether or not to complete this task became a burden. Once this task was completed, a huge weight was lifted. I didn't even realize how much this task weighed on me, but the habit of thinking about having to do something that I loathed, felt heavy, thus adding undesired tension to my body. Creating the new good habit of asking for help made me feel lighter instantly.

Additionally, because my mother helped me line my cabinets, I was able to recognize how important this seemingly trivial task was to me. Rather than waste time and energy on guilt and procrastination about when/how/if to get that task done, I was now able to focus on other aspects of the move.

4. Hire a Professional

Fortunately, we are now in an era where professional organizers can come to the rescue during stress laden and time sensitive situations such as moving. I think that hiring a professional organizer is one of the wisest investments one can make in general, let alone with a move.

A few years ago we moved back to the US from overseas. We had 10 years worth of junk to sort through and pack up in a matter of weeks. We also had kids under 2. I contacted a professional organizer and to this day still think it is one of the smartest things I ever did.

I will never forget her method for de-cluttering. She took out a box of my stuff from a hall closet. She dumped it all on the floor. Then she said, "You have thirty seconds to pick up everything that you want. What you don't pick up goes." Perhaps it was extreme, maybe even a little harsh, but she helped me understand how to prioritize the 'stuff' that was most important to me.

5. Pay Attention to Your Body

As an Alexander Technique teacher, I've had quite a few students come through my door with aches and pains after a move. For some reason, we have either accepted or gotten used to the idea that moving is supposed to hurt your body. But that's simply not true. Engaging in activities-- whether they are exercise, sitting, walking, moving, etc-- shouldn't cause pain to our body. It is only when we push our selves unnecessarily that we experience bodily pain.

The stress of moving can lead to rushing, which is often the culprit for accidents and misuse of the body. Therefore, it is important to take the time to pay attention to our bodies--before they alert us with pain.

It is helpful to think about ways we can work with our body mechanics, rather than against them. For example, bending at the joints is one way to use our body efficiently. During Alexander Technique lessons, I explain to my students why it is so useful to use our knees more. Whether we are getting in and out of a chair or going into a squat on the floor. The knees are a brilliant part of our body and can be extended much more than we think.

During a typical move, there are usually boxes or other heavy things to lift. Rather than bend over by bending at the spine, why not keep the back upright and bend down with the knees and allow them to extend as far out as they can, and then lift the object and come up using the feet and knees for support. This will allow the appropriate muscles to aid in the movement, rather than bending at the spine and then lifting which only adds undue tension to the lower back.


The biggest lesson I learned from my recent move is that I had a set of habits associated with moving. I recognized my triggers and was able to stop and think about them before reacting in a habitual way.

Giving myself permission to wait and take my time with the move was very counter-intuitive, but it saved me a lot of time because I was able to resist engaging in the triggers that had previously turned into obstacles.

This move was the easiest and smoothest one yet because I permitted myself to let others help me. This alleviated the mental burden of 'doing it all' that had previously weighed me down.

Moving doesn't have to be as stressful as it may have been in the past, if we recognize our triggers, pause, and allow ourselves to choose new directions that create more space and better use of time.

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