Pack up all your cares and woe

Psychologists tell us that moving is one of the leading causes of stress, right up there with divorce or the death of a spouse or having your beloved daughter announce that she's marrying a biker named Snake.

Those other stressors may occur only once or twice in a lifetime, but moving can happen repeatedly and stress results each time. Whether you are moved by professionals or by your drunken buddies who own pickup trucks, getting all your stuff from one location to another can strain your nerves.

Beyond the act of moving itself, there's so much to be arranged. You must set up new utility connections and bank accounts and lawn services. You must find new doctors and dentists and barbers and bartenders.

There's a huge learning curve when you move. Things you took for granted at your old address -- the all-night convenience store, the crazy neighbor, the location of the light switches in your house -- all change when you move. You have to find a new store, learn which switch turns on the kitchen light and which one grinds the garbage disposal, identify which of your new neighbors is the fruitcake.

Plus, you must find new places to store all your stuff. At your old house, you knew exactly where you kept, say, the toolbox. In your new home, the tools will be hidden away inside one of 743 mislabeled boxes in your garage. Good luck if you need a screwdriver.

All this arranging and learning and locating generates stress, so much so that moving can result in a "domino effect" of other stressors such as divorce or the death of a spouse.

Because my family has endured relocation without a divorce or anyone getting killed (so far), I now feel qualified to give you the following Helpful Tips for Surviving a Move:

--Lower your expectations.

Many of us approach a move with unreasonable expectations that all our stuff will arrive intact and will fit into our new homes. Instead, think of moving as a Darwinian experience. Survival of the fittest. If your favorite antiques are destroyed and/or lost in the move, then it was "their time to go." You can replace them with a new generation of furnishings. Perhaps something in stainless steel.

--Recognize that moving is stressful for the whole family.

Sure, the adults feel it the most. They're the ones who must pay for the move, get the new utilities hooked up, etc… But we must remember that kids suffer stress, too, and it may cause them to act out. Adults should be gentle with their children during these times. Otherwise, the kids might start entertaining proposals of marriage from bikers, just to escape the new, stress-filled home.

--Take care of yourself physically.

Eat right, get enough sleep, don't push yourself too hard. Above all, don't overexert while doing unaccustomed physical activity. When a couch potato starts tossing around 50-pound boxes of books, injury is sure to result. Remember this tip: You know the box you're lifting is too heavy if you can see your face getting red . . . from the inside.

--Keep your sense of humor intact.

Laughing your way through stress remains a good survival technique. Try to enjoy the absurdity of the situation. For example, all of us who have used professional movers have stories about how they carefully wrap and pack full ashtrays or trashcans containing smelly garbage. If you keep your sense of humor in such cases, there's less chance that you might go after the moving men with a box cutter.

During our last move, my moment of mirth came while I was unpacking my home office. I found in one box, carefully wrapped in layers and layers of protective packing paper . . . wait for it . . . a ream of typing paper.

This discovery caused me to roll on the floor, laughing until tears sprang from my eyes and drool dotted my shirtfront.

Yeah, I know, it doesn't seem so funny now. But it was just the dose of hysteria I needed at the time.

Must've been the stress.

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