Home & Garden

April 19, 2014

How rituals can help you deal with a move

Simplifying your daily tasks calms the chaos of moving to a new home (and living in an old one).

It’s 7 a.m. Do you know where your toothbrush is?

If you do, and you can also find your phone charger, put your hands on a clean towel and have all you need at hand to make a cup of coffee, be grateful.

For the last 48 hours, I’ve had none of this.

Every time I move — and if you’ll excuse me, I am going to pause here for a moment of prayer: Dear God, Let this be the last time I move for a while because this is taking years off my life and I would like to meet my unborn grandchildren some day, and I have plans and places I would like to visit in one piece, and, besides, moving is hard as heck on my fingernails and makes me pop Advil like jelly beans, which can’t be good — I remember the importance of patterns.

Patterns matter. They are the tracks that ground your days, the rudders that keep you on the roiling sea of life. All your patterns get destroyed when you take every one of your earthly possessions and plop them into a new place, all at once.

Moving, as I have done this past week (for the fourth time in three years), defines disruption. And it’s why I am staring into space, trying with the mental might of Stephen Hawking to remember where in the universe my favorite pillow might be.

I do not thrive in chaos and I suspect that anyone who says he does is lying.

The hardest part of moving isn’t physical, although the packing, loading, unloading and unpacking is undoubtedly exhausting. The hardest part is mental — making thousands of small interconnected decisions in short order about where to put, well, everything. Because where you put stuff when you set up house dictates your routine in a way that will either help you move through your day efficiently, or not.

When all is in place, you can swiftly get dressed, feed the dog, pay a bill, check Facebook, scramble an egg, tidy up a table and recycle the newspaper, all on autopilot. Better yet, it allows you to devote more brain space to bigger issues, like how to land that big client or the future of Obamacare.

Unfortunately, moving tosses a hand grenade in all that.

On the upside, moving can also help you inadvertently find better ways of doing things. (At the moment, I’m trying hard to stay focused on this and avoid going to sit on the curb by the garbage cans and swill straight shots of whiskey.) Given a second chance — or third or fourth — you have epiphanies: Oh, why not store the can opener by the canned goods!

Whether you’re moving (my sympathies) or are well established and settled in your home (congratulations), carefully consider or reconsider each of your acts of daily living, and see if you can streamline them even more. A few thoughtful changes have the payoff of more time and more brain space, and, given the alleviation of daily stressors, might even lead to a longer life.

Patterns to review

Morning and bedtime rituals. You want to spend these times thinking about the day ahead and processing the day just ending. You don’t want to be rummaging through the hair appliances, or knocking over the toilet bowl cleaner to find your body lotion. You need systems. Hair brushes and hair appliances together. Cold cream next to the floss. Razor by the shaving cream. Think of what you do, when, where and with what, and pull it all together.

Coffee makes and breaks. Set up a coffee station in your kitchen so you can make coffee without taking any steps. That means locate the coffee maker, coffee, filters, cups — for here and to go — and stirring spoons so they’re all in arms’ reach.

Place settings, everyone. This is so forehead-smacking obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of kitchens that aren’t organized around this principle: Store silverware, placemats and napkins closest to the table where you eat. Likewise, store hot pads and cooking utensils close to the stove.

The daily mail. Of course you sort it immediately, right? After you prune the junk, set the rest in a dedicated place, such as a lovely platter or basket.

Coming and going. Create a landing and launch pad. This is where you drop your keys and coat when you walk in, and grab them as you go. It’s also where you set your purse, computer bag, lunch sack, coupons and anything else you want to take with you.

Recycling. Put your recycle bin in a convenient place, because the easier something is to do, the more likely you are to do it. And recycling is the right thing to do.

You get the idea. Living well is a lot less about where you live, and far more about how you live. Now if I could just find my pillow.

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