In the last 10 years, I’ve moved a lot, from tiny apartments alone in the middle of the city to massive Victorian mansions with tons of roommates, from state to state and country to country. As both an introvert and a highly sensitive person, it’s easy for such dramatic changes in my environment to become overwhelming for me.
Why? Because when my normal routines are disrupted, I am thrown into mental and emotional chaos. My living situation, ordinarily the place where I go to recharge away from people and the intense stimulation of daily life, transforms into the very place where stress can be at its highest. Moving can then make it hard to find the space and quiet needed for me to be a happy and functioning introvert.
As I prepare to move yet again (as I write this, I’m surrounded by the boxed contents of my life), here are five strategies I use to help navigate the challenges of transitioning to a new place.
5 Tips for Introverts to Survive Your Next Move
1. Space out the tasks that require interaction with people.
With moving inevitably comes an assortment of phone calls to make and emails to send. Like many introverts, I find phone calls to be draining at best and anxiety-inducing at worst. To combat this, I make a plan for when and how I’m going to contact my bank, new landlord, insurance agent, post office, utilities company, moving truck rental agency, and anyone else who needs to know I’m moving. In the weeks leading up to my move, I call or email only one or two people a day until I’ve made my way through the entire list. Spreading out the calls helps me feel calmer and more in control — and allows me to tackle the most social tasks at my own pace.
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2. Accept help… within limits.
Whenever I have moved, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have family and friends willing to help me out. Moving is a big job, and if people offer to help, take them up on it! (And buy them dinner or something else afterwards because it really is kind of them to give up their Saturday to lug boxes around for you.)
There is always the danger, however, of the well-meaning extrovert who comes to help pack and is somehow still around to set up the new kitchen two days later. Then suddenly I find myself cranky at them because I haven’t had solitude in days — and cranky at myself for being upset with someone who is just trying to help.
To avoid this, I ask for help with specific tasks. If someone offers their assistance, I might say: “Awesome! I think I’ve got the packing covered, but I could really use your help Tuesday afternoon with moving boxes into the apartment.” That way, I can place boundaries on when there are people around and when I have time to myself.
3. Pack your survival kit.
In the days leading up to moving day, I pack a suitcase with the clothes and toiletries I need for the rest of my time in my old place and the first few nights in my new one, just as though I were going to stay at a hotel. That way, everything I need is in one place, and I don’t have to worry about accidentally packing the shoes I need and having to dig through a dozen boxes to find them (I’m speaking from personal experience here!).
The last thing that goes into my suitcase is my introvert survival kit. What do I need to recharge myself over the next few days? Maybe it’s a book or a few tea packets so I can relax for an hour or two. Maybe I need my journal so I can write out my pre-moving jitters. Heck, maybe it will be supplies for a manicure! Whatever it is that will help give me mental space in the next couple of days goes into the suitcase for easy access during the chaos of the move.
4. Identify what you need to feel at home.
The first night in a new place can feel weird. Nothing is unpacked yet and the noises are unfamiliar. To help myself feel at home, I think ahead to what would make me most comfortable and make sure that is my priority on moving day. For me, I feel best if I have my books unpacked and organized in my new place.
What is the one thing that would make your new place feel like home for you? Would it make you feel best if you had freshly laundered towels to take a nice shower before bed? Make sure you know where you’ve packed them or plan to do a quick load of laundry when you get to the new place. Does it make you feel better to cook a meal in your new kitchen? Go grocery shopping the first night and have kitchen supplies at the ready. Do you need to have something on the walls to keep them from seeming bare and strange? Make time for yourself to hang up your pictures or wall art before you’re done for the night. Whatever will make you happiest in your new home, prioritize that on move-in day to make for a smoother transition.
5. Allow time to process memories as you pack.
My introverted and highly sensitive tendencies make packing an intensely personal experience for me. Rather than having an army of people to throw things into boxes, I find I work better if I do it myself and allow time to process the memories of my old living situation before moving. Like with making phone calls, I plan out my packing schedule a few weeks in advance, assigning the kitchen to one day, clothes to another, books to another, etc. Then, as I pack each area, I allow myself to move slowly and work through my thoughts and feelings.
This helps the transition feel less jarring, but it also makes moving into my new place easier. I can consider how I want my new home to be set up and pack accordingly while cataloging the time in my old place. Of course, there are some times where it can be nice to have a couple of people to help with packing, but make sure to check in with yourself and allow yourself the space to mentally prepare for moving.
Introvert, I hope these tips make your next move a little easier. What helps you with a move? Let me know in the comments.