You know what they say about moving house, don’t you? That it is one of the most stressful things in life, right next to divorce and losing a loved one. And as someone who spent the better part of her youth moving from one apartment to another, I have to agree that there is some truth to that.
It’s not just the sheer physical inconvenience of packing up all your belongings and then unpacking them at the next stop (and mourning all those that get damaged in the process). It’s also the emotional upheaval of leaving behind a place where you made memories with your loved ones, where you laughed and cried, where you lived a part of your life, no matter how brief the period.
Put all this together, and it is completely understandable why it is such a wrench to move out and move on, even if you are moving to a better address, a bigger house, or a nicer place. Which is why I have great sympathy for those of you who are currently struggling with a move. I know what a pain it is to pack away your entire life in an endless series of cartons, with the knowledge that in a few days' (or weeks') time you will have to undertake the same process in reverse.
I know the sense of loss when you can’t wake up to the view that you got so used to. I know that strange, unsettled feeling when a house doesn’t quite feel like home, even though all your possessions are in it. I know the pain of trying to adjust to new neighbours all over again. Not to mention the agony involved in getting a new Wi-Fi connection, installing new phone lines, and cable for your TV. It’s enough to drive anyone bonkers.
So yes, I do agree that moving house is one of the stressful experiences in life. And once you’ve made yourself at home in the new place, it’s completely understandable to swear to yourself: never again! But don’t be so hasty. Hard as this is to believe when you are drowning in a sea of cartons, there are a few upsides to moving house. And sometimes, they make up – if only partially – for all the hassle involved in moving.
For starters, this is the best way to de-clutter. There’s nothing like the thought of packing up all your possessions to scare you into re-evaluating if you really need all this stuff. Those jeans that you haven’t worn since before you had the baby; the boots that have seen better days; the tat that people keep sending you for Diwali and Christmas; those dog-eared copies of cheap thrillers that you will never read again; the stack of DVDs that you’ve already watched; those pots and pans that have had the Teflon coating cooked right out of them; the list of the junk we all tend to accumulate goes on and on.
The rule in these circumstances is: if in doubt, delete. As in, chuck out with the garbage. If you think that someone else can get some use out of some of this stuff, then make a bundle and cart it to a charity shop (or a lending library). But be ruthless now. Get rid of all the junk. I can guarantee that you won’t miss it in the next place; in fact, you’ll barely notice it’s gone.
What you will feel is infinitely lighter, as you reclaim those empty spaces that we all need in our lives. Ah, an empty space. A clean slate. A bare canvas. That’s what a new place is. This is your opportunity to try something new, to create a new ambience for a new you. Experiment with colours: if you’ve always gone for light, inoffensive pastels, try a bolder colour scheme (if you’re too scared, limit yourself to one wall out of four).
Paint a mural on the ceiling. Jazz up dark corners with some snazzy wallpaper. It’s too much of an investment to buy new furniture, but it is quite cost-effective to give it a new look. Change the upholstery, or just buy new slip covers. Accessorise with new throw cushions, or a brand new set of curtains, and you will have updated your interiors without breaking the bank.
But more than the opportunity to de-clutter and re-decorate, what a new house brings with it are the possibilities inherent in new beginnings. Maybe this is the place where you will finally reinvent yourself, becoming the person you were always meant to be. This could be the setting that inspires you to write the novel you always wanted to.
This may be the house where you get around to starting a family. This could be the place where you finally find peace and contentment. And if you’re lucky, and it is meant to be, then this could be the home where you live happily ever after. What more could you ask for? (Apart from never having to move again, of course!)
From HT Brunch, February 22
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