Four Questions to Consider Before You Move

Moving– whether it's across the street, county, state, country, or world – is a big decision. Where you live plays an important role in defining your outlook, attitude, happiness, energy, and perspective on the world. Moving can determine whether you're living your best life.

Moving is also an expensive, time-consuming, difficult, and stressful ordeal. It's like getting a colonoscopy and a root canal, simultaneously, without anesthesia.

A 2020 survey of 1,000 Americans – conducted on behalf of a moving company – found that 64% of respondents reported that their most recent move was "one of the most stressful" things they had ever experienced. (Second on the list of stressful events was a breakup or divorce.)

That doesn't stop Americans from moving. Today, somewhere between 10% to 13% of Americans move each year. And the average person in the U.S. moves nearly a dozen times in his or her lifetime. The demographic that moves the most, as you might guess, is people aged 18 to 34.

But most moves in the U.S. – about 85%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – are within the same state. Nearly two-thirds of all moves are within the same county. And, as I (Kim Iskyan) will get to in a moment, a lot of moves now are due to unprecedented housing issues...

Where You Live Matters Even More Now

Where you live is all the more relevant in these work-from-home, lockdown, pandemic times. The U.S. Department of Labor reported in its American Time Use Survey that people age 15 and over, on average, spent 2.1 hours more per day at home in the last six months of 2020, than they did during the last six months of 2019.

Part of the reason for that was that the portion of employed people who worked from home doubled to 42% in 2020 compared to the previous year. Changes in this sort of data are generally glacial and microscopic. So enormous moves like this are – like everything else last year – unprecedented.

With where we live being so much more important and with so many people on the move, we're here to help...

In the coming weeks, we'll be rolling out a series on moving, to address how to think through moving, where to move to, doing your due diligence, tips on making the experience less unpleasant, and how to start your life anew in your new house.

I'm writing this from hard experience. I've moved states or countries nearly 30 times, between the nine states in the U.S. and 10 countries. All told, I've moved at least 40 times.

And if "two moves in a year is worse than a fire" – a modern-day reinterpretation of Benjamin Franklin's declaration in 1758 in Poor Richard's Almanack that "three Removes is as bad as a Fire" – I'm burning up. I'm just now on the tail end of a second pandemic-era international move (from Singapore to Ireland in 2020... and Ireland to the U.S. in 2021) with my family, within a year.

And just now, I'm writing this in a house that echoes – because it's virtually empty. My family is waiting for the 40-foot container with our household possessions (and everything else that we couldn't fit into eight suitcases) to arrive from Ireland. So moving is very much on my mind...

Four Pre-Move Questions to Ask Yourself

To start off, below are four issues to reflect on before you move – whether it's across the street, state, country, or world – to be sure that you're doing it for the right reasons.

1. Why do you want to move?

According to data cited by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, in 2019:

  • 40% of people who moved did so for housing-related (i.e., living conditions) reasons
  • 27% moved for family-related reasons
  • 21% for a job (and the balance for various other reasons)

As you might guess, moving nearby is mostly for different housing, like better neighbors or a bigger (or smaller) house. Longer-distance moves are for work or professional reasons. (The exception here is for older people – who move bigger distances more for family than for work.)

So, why do you want to move? More space? A better view from your backyard? A quieter neighborhood? A place that requires less maintenance? Or to be closer to Junior and the grandkids?

Whatever the reason, be sure you're not using the sledgehammer of moving to address an ant of a problem. Say, a basement that occasionally gets damp, a less-than-convenient flight connection to see the kids, grass that isn't as green as you'd like.

If so, you might wind up spending a lot more time and money than necessary to make things better. It's easier to spend $40,000 renovating the kitchen than a large multiple of that to be in more or less a similar situation, only with better cabinets.

Of course, "a change of scenery" is as good a reason to move as any, as is "I just feel like it." But just be sure that you know up front why it is you want to move, because the "why" will likely get a lot of scrutiny when you're in the throes of moving ("Why did I ever decide I wanted to move?"). If a move isn't going to make a material difference to your life and happiness – however you define that – ask again, why?

2. Who are you moving for?

Of course, this is part of the "why" of moving. Is it because you want a bigger living room, to be closer to family, or want to be further from the highway? Or maybe your partner is having trouble getting up the stairs, doesn't like the neighbors, or was offered a job far away. No matter the reason, make sure that you've psychologically signed on before you start.

It's difficult enough to get out of bed in the morning when you don't want to. Moving if you don't want to – or if you haven't fully committed internally – is a whole lot worse. You'll resent every moment of moving, and you won't be any more satisfied once you're at the new place.

In other words... make sure that before you move, ensure that it's for you – even if, at first, it's for someone else.

3. What are you giving up and what will you have to change?

A lot of things in life – your health, that deli on the corner that had your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's, a comfortable pair of shoes – we often don't fully appreciate them until they're gone. It's the same thing with where you're living right now.

It might be obvious, but your everyday living experience is comprised of countless features, steps, processes, and practices that – once they're part of the fiber of your experience – you don't even think about. Things like the nowhere-else-to-put-it drawer in the kitchen... The neighbor who walks his dog at the same time every day... The friendly garbageman who always waves. The placement of the light switch for the living room... and so much more.

When you move, all of that will be different. You'll need to reorient yourself to a new environment and develop new routines, new "hacks," get to know a new neighborhood, learn a new house, and think how far you'll be away from old neighborhood friends.

When you move, you have to change a lot about your everyday life. If you welcome change, then good for you. But if you don't, moving will be all the more stressful, difficult, and challenging, in ways that you may not even think about before it actually happens.

So before you dig in to the details of your move... Do an inventory of how you like things now and what will change. And then ask yourself if it will be worth it.

4. How much will it cost to move?

Moving isn't cheap. And depending on where you're going, it's likely to be a lot more than just the cost of two guys and a van – or, if you're the do-it-yourself type, a U-Haul plus a stack of boxes picked up from next to the local grocery store garbage bin.

Don't forget to factor in the time you'll need for packing and unpacking, where you'll stay before you get a place to live, and how you'll eat and sleep before your household goods arrive. (I'm writing this on a Costco party table and chair, after sleeping on a foam mattress from a local mattress liquidator – all items purchased to hold us over until our things get here).

If you're moving internationally, are you going to buy a car (or two)? Are you ready to deal with weird mortgage rules that may prevent you from borrowing? What about the cost of residency permits or, traveling abroad every few months if you need to renew your tourist visa?

It helps to put together a budget for your move – whether it's across the street, or around the world. And while you're doing it, think through each step of the process, including where you'll live and sleep, and how you'll get around. It might sound obvious, but there's nothing worse than overlooking something, well, not so obvious.

After you've thought through these four questions and decide that yes, in fact, you (still) do want to move, where are you going to go? It's not such an easy question. If you have options, it makes sense to come up with a structured way to think through them, and evaluate the pros and cons. Stay tuned... I'll get to that in my next issue.

Best Regards,

Kim Iskyan