The Moving Anti-Queen

My living room, courtesy of our latest move

I’ve moved more than you have. Seriously, I’m sure of it. Every single year for the past 15 years, I have moved into a new place (usually throwing in a new city, state, or even country for good measure…I mean, if you’re going to move, make it count, right?).

It’s sort of hard even for me to believe, and I’m the one who did it. But starting at age 19, I moved into a new dorm room every year throughout four years of college in Iowa. That’s pretty normal, OK. But then came my rented room in Chicago. Then an apartment in Ann Arbor. Then my parents’ house in East Lansing. Then Apartment #1 in China. Apartment #2 in China. Apartment in Bolivia. Cabin in Petoskey. House in Petoskey. In-laws’ house in Harbor Springs. Apartment #1 in Germany. Apartment #2 in Germany. Yup, that’s 15. 15 years, 15 moves.

And you know what? It hasn’t gotten any easier. In fact, it’s gotten harder, because now I have two kids under three, which means that every task takes at least five times as long as it ordinarily would. I haven’t gotten better at organizing, packing, selling, cleaning. I’ve gotten worse. To those of you seeking advice for how to cushion the blows dealt by moving, the only advice I can offer is to avoid it in the first place.

The irony is that while I’ve moved more than most people, I also seem to hate moving more than most people, certainly more than my husband, who previously never seemed to care whether he was living out of a tent, house, suitcase, apartment, or van. I, on the other hand, find moving so emotionally jarring that it almost drives me insane every time. I blame my wrinkles on moving, which is certainly convenient.

Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about whether or not I’ve enjoyed living in the diverse places I’ve called home. I’m a richer person for it, and so on. I’m just talking about the physical act of assembling and disassembling stuff, the discomfort of transitioning between one place and another.

A New York Times editor wrote an essay in which he explained the toll that his “serial moving” habit had taken. “For someone who hates to move,” he writes, “I’ve moved a lot: six times in the past 14 years.” Many of those moves, as I read on, happened within New York City. My first reaction was, “Please. I’ll see you six moves in 14 years and raise you nine moves plus three continents.” My second reaction was, “Now, why am I not in The New York Times?

It was a great essay, of course. The writer pondered our connection to “stuff” (granted, moving would be so much easier if we didn’t feel compelled to take it all with us, right?). “I like my stuff,” he writes. “Not all of it is freighted with significance, yet much of it — books, snapshots, drafts of novels, short stories — gives me clues about who I was, who I am now and where I’ll go from here.”

And it’s not just the trappings of materialistic adulthood. When we sold our first item in preparation to move, my three-year-old, whom we had dutifully been prepping on the plans (“First we will move out of our apartment in Germany. Then we will fly across the ocean to Michigan. Then we will drive to Vermont.”) threw himself on the ground and screamed: “Where is my coat rack?!” His reactions have softened since then, but I think that initial distress represented some basic urge to have predictability, everything in its right place.

Not everyone has this luxury, of course. For plenty of people, moving is a part of life, not up to choice as it has been for us. Hats off to these folks, and my sympathies. It’s hard. I think there’s a reason psychiatrists count moving as a major life stressor. We humans might crave adventure and excitement, but we also crave stability.

Even my husband, the former van dweller, has now finally reached his “moving max.” He is done, he says. He knows how I feel. No more moving! he declares. This. Is. It!

I believe it is, but not everyone is so sure. As my mother-in-law pointed out, “You do have a track record.”

Point taken. Check back with me in a year!


18 thoughts on “The Moving Anti-Queen

  1. My parents live with me. We just moved leaving my paid for townhouse to rent 8 miles east close to Miami Beach. 2/2 condo with lot’s of amenities. Was a bad neighborhood and association near collapse. Try to sell but can’t get 30 cents on a dollar in this market. I’ll be 63 the 18th and parents both 88 – I don’t think I can do the move thing again.

    1. No way, Carl, I don’t blame you for not wanting to move again. It’s the wrong market to sell anyway, like you said. Every time we’ve moved we have had to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. In the future, I really can’t imagine advantages ever tipping the scale again. I’m tired, but thankful to be settled.

  2. Sarah, thanks to your great writing talent, you had me shaking my head, wringing my hands, clucking my tongue, wiggling in my chair and laughing at my own moving memories and horrors as I read this terriffic post. You certainly succeeded in drawing me into your “scene”!

  3. Oh my! You ARE a mover and a shaker… funny, as I was reading, I realized we’ve lived in several of the same cities… college in E.Lansing, summer as a counselor in Petoskey, Chicago, Germany, but – not China and definitely NOT AA – haha, I’m sure you can guess why. Best of luck on your next move and newest adventure!!

    1. Wow, what a small world! Can’t believe how closely our travel maps resemble one another. I’ve just hopped over to your blog to see what you’re up to now–I wonder if you’re living in Vermont? 🙂

  4. Lol-my wrinkles come not from moving, but from the impact of moving on the moving anti-queen. It’s a good thing you’re so darn good at everything else:)

  5. Dear Sarah, wow! You have moved a LOT. I wish you well in getting through this challenging move with two little folks between the boxes. It will be worth it when you settle in at your new home, though. I promise. 🙂

    1. The two little folks definitely upped the challenge of this move; I think that’s why I found it so exhausting. Fortunately, we’re all adjusting pretty well now. I think your promise was correct. 🙂

  6. I’m with you…I loath moving. And those overseas moves, with the required adjustments of culture at the other end can really be stressful.
    Hopefully this last move sticks for you Sarah 🙂

    1. That’s true, Cynthia, and even when you’re moving back to your “home” culture, it’s easy to feel the effects of “culture shock,” sometimes even stronger than before. We’re doing well so far– not planning on going anywhere. Thanks for checking in. 🙂

    1. Kathy, so sorry to be responding so late. We moved in late July–the new community’s great, but I’ve just had a hard time keeping up with blogging. I think the dust has finally started to settle and I can imagine a better routine on the horizon. Thanks for getting in touch.

    1. Thank you, Michelle. I’m really sorry it’s taken me so long to get back on board with your blog. I hope your move is going well– it’s hard to say when the “settling” is completely finished, but we’re definitely getting closer.

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