This post originally appeared on The Happiest Home in 2013.
Two months ago, we said goodbye to a house our whole family loved. As we packed, I ached: I knew I’d miss the brilliant natural light in the master bedroom, the wide-open space of the downstairs, the snug backyard where my daughters set fairy tables. I hated the idea of moving into a new space that would not feel like home.
But one thought made it easier to close the door: when we’d first moved in, two years before, I’d hated the house. I hated the morning sun in the bedroom that woke us at dawn, the postage stamp of the backyard, and the giant, empty living room.
In other words, the house we were leaving hadn’t been home either. Until, well, it was.
I’m a homebody, and moving is always wrenching for me. I’d rather pull teeth than uproot myself. But if moving is a must, I want to find a way to find a peace with new spaces, learn how to make them home, and have a good attitude in the upheaval.
Why is it so hard to move? I was struck by the wisdom in this article about new homes: changing houses is like adding a new member to your family. The house changes everything about your life—how you cook, relax, sleep. As a parent, simply having a set of stairs for the first time meant I felt more worry, more feelings of separation, and a headache every time I wanted to vacuum upstairs.
You may be moving to a dream house or downsizing against your will. Regardless of the circumstances, moves can be jarring. So what can you do to create a home?
Give yourself (and your kids) permission to grieve.
Knowing that you may feel loss will make it easier to keep it in perspective. For about six months in our last house, I thought feeling sad meant I had made a big mistake. But once we created new memories, got used to the changes in our routine, and discovered the house’s perks, I realized my sense of loss was temporary. I wish I’d had more grace with my grief.
Be proactive about changing what doesn’t work.
Once my negative feelings about moving receded, I started experimenting with the house. I was amazed at the power of simple changes. We cleared the back patio of junk, painted a few accent walls, and rearranged our furniture. Each change made the house mine. You, too, can find ways to improve your space. Once the craziness of moving is over, note down the things about the house that aren’t working. From there, work on simple ideas to improve things. When you cultivate a can-do attitude, you’ll see past imperfections and find possibilities.
Accept the house you have.
You may be used to more kitchen storage, a bigger backyard, or your own washer and dryer. But if you hold on to what you’ve lost, you’ll never experience contentment. Simplifying is always possible. For me, losing most of our garage storage meant we chose to give away tools, decorations and supplies that didn’t fit. Once we did, we no longer had a gigantic mess on the garage floor, and a source of daily annoyance vanished. It was well worth the loss of boxes we barely opened.
Ask for help.
If you’re like me, decorating magazines make you break out in hives. Or, as a single mom, you might struggle with putting together an Ikea bed alone. Ask friends and family for help—and offer a batch of cookies or dinner to thank your benefactors. If you’re new to a city, finding support can be trickier—but a humble request for assistance from new neighbors and friends can sow seeds for deeper connections. You can find support in the midst of your move.
A less-than-perfect move can still bring joy.
A year into our last move, I was amazed at my fondness for a house I’d once disliked. When I looked around, I saw all the ways I’d chosen contentment. That sense of gratitude and empowerment helped make the house beautiful to me.
This time around, I’m choosing to approach our next house with a sense of joy right from the start. I know that home is waiting for me, if I’ll just unlock the door.
Image by Brittney Bush Bollay