Moving and Downsizing: 4 Important Lessons

image1 (1)Whenever someone asked me about moving, I responded – honoring my gypsy great-grandfather – that moving is in my blood and one of the easiest things. I do it with my eyes closed…and I do it very well, having had my fair share of moving (60+ times in my adult life). No big deal. “Eins, zwei, drei, ruck zuck,” as we say in Germany. Packing up the household in two days, unpacking in two, maximum 3 days, and having a ball all the way through. “Sweet as” as we say in New Zealand!!

I love moving. I love having a new place with all the new possibilities it brings regarding decoration, neighbours, cafes, environments, shops, and even sometimes new languages. What’s not to love?

Having felt like the moving queen of all times for most of my life, our recent move from Auckland to Wellington (645 km according to google maps) has been a harsh learning curve. I am not as invincible as I thought I am when it comes to uprooting and starting new. Go figure! Maybe that’s why people say “you shouldn’t uproot old people.” But then, I didn’t think I belong in that category yet, even though I have a super gold card that entitles people 65 years and over to free public transport and some other questionable benefits.

Lesson # 1: Sixty five is not forty: It should be pretty obvious, but going into this experience I didn’t know that there is some truth in that. My hunch is that is the same for other people too. Our mind is young, adventurous, and still has the “I-can-do” attitude. Under normal circumstances that may ring true, but moving is a big deal, emotionally and physically. Never underestimate the emotional ‘work’ that comes with moving away from your familiar environment. Having plenty of time to say good bye to friends, enjoying their company consciously, has become a blessing even though it was hard to do at times. Of course we’ll stay in touch, but it will never be the same as living close to each other.

Lesson # 2: Downsizing means letting go of old friends: When kids have left the house and it becomes obvious that a retired couple doesn’t need a four bedroom house with double garage and large garden, squeezing into something half that size requires radical mucking out of cupboards, garage, storage…did I say cupboards??? Reading books about downsizing it sounds all very simple: a stack of stuff for sale, a stack for giving away, a stack for the hospice shop, and a stack for the dump. Well, auntie Betty, downsizing adviser, there were not stacks, we had mountains! Some of the things I was glad to see gone, others broke my heart (metaphorically only). Some had memories attached to wonderful moments when the kids were little and life was a constant struggle to find enough me-time. Yet now, with me-time galore, that looks at times like a very desirable state.

Lesson # 3: I should not have skipped going to the gym: My excuse was “too much to do”. And to be fair, there was lots to do. The mucking out was a gigantic job. Nothing was safe from the big ‘sorting out’. The level of physical exhaustion and the need to lay down and take a nap or sit down and take a break was not only huge, but hit me unexpectedly. I was so unfit, it is hard to believe. I should have listened to my gym person and keep doing these dead-lifts, squats, and long distant bike rides. Now I know, but hopefully this was the last move ever – with me being conscious of course!

Lesson # 4: Give yourself time: Having done previous moves with my eyes closed and in no time at all, it was a surprise that I got tired much sooner, and packing and unpacking wasn’t done in no time at all. It all took much longer, although I tried hard to push through the fatigue. I had to concede defeat. In hindsight, it would have been much smarter had I anticipated and correctly sensed my ‘advanced’ age and calculated more days for the tasks at hand.

The overall conclusion of this move? It is a fact that most people feel much younger than their actual age, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is no rule how we have to feel or behave at a certain age. Well, that is my opinion! But give yourself a good chance to have an enjoyable move when you have to or want to move into a smaller, retirement like space. Get some extra hands to help you and/or give yourself more time for the packing and unpacking. Sixty five is not forty!

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