Moving is right up there with death and divorce when it comes to stressful life events. It requires physical effort – sorting and packing – and mental effort – hiring a mover and saying goodbye to friends, says Dr. David Posen, a physician in Oakville, Ont., who specializes in stress management and is the author of Staying Afloat When the Water Gets Rough (Key Porter, 2005). "The question to ask is not, How is this going to work out? The question is, What can I do to make this work the best way possible?" We've turned to the experts to bring you 10 strategies to make every stage of your move as easy as possible.
1. Look ahead
Research the place you're moving to before you give notice or accept that promotion. "Make sure you understand all the new costs and lifestyle that you're moving to," says Tim Verbic, director of business development and marketing for Royal LePage Corporate and Government Relocation Services. A $15,000 raise may not cover the rise in housing and living costs, for example, if you're moving from Halifax to Calgary. Ask your real estate agent to connect you with an agent in the new city to offer guidance on real estate values and an overall portrait of what the market is like there.
2. Rally the troops
"If you are in a family, you absolutely have to get buy-in from your spouse and children," says Verbic. "You need to work as a team." Give everyone lots of lead time to start thinking about the move and have the chance to voice any opinions and concerns. "If somebody is absolutely refusing the idea, the best way to get buy-in is to hear the concerns, honour the concerns and address them," says Posen. If your 15-year-old daughter is frantic at the thought of not seeing her friends, for example, offer the solution of inviting her friends to visit – hopefully not all at once. Plan a trip to the place you're relocating to ahead of the move, which can relieve a lot of anxiety, or subscribe to a local newspaper or magazine.
3. Give it time
Verbic says the minimum planning time for a move is 90 days, because there are a lot of things that you don't even think about, such as arranging temporary accommodation during the transition, but it can be done in less time. A move is more than transporting your valuables, says Verbic. Posen agrees the more lead time the better to visit the new city, say goodbye to friends and ease your way out of the place you're leaving.
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4. Seek financial help
Will your company help with any of the moving costs (ask about a mortgage interest subsidy if you're moving to a more expensive market) or even supply relocation services, which are often used as an added incentive? A survey by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council found that more than 90 per cent of the organizations surveyed have a formal relocation policy, but the survey also found a decrease – from 37 per cent to just 15 per cent – of organizations offering a lump sum allowance to cover moving costs. If you ask for a lump sum, go in with a realistic picture of the cost, says Verbic.
5. Set a budget
Your moving budget needs to cover everything from what experts refer to as the origin, such as closing costs, to the transition, such as restaurant meals while on the road, to the destination, such as updating official documents. The biggest item price-wise will be the movers, who charge by distance and weight, so it's a good time to purge your belongings. It's never too soon to book your moving company, says Verbic, who suggests calling three professional companies for quotes and references. He says the first question to ask is, Are you bonded and do you have proof of insurance? If the answer is no, keep looking. Start with a company affiliated with a major van line, such as Atlas, Allied, North American or United. Ask about storage, insurance on the items being moved, having your vehicle moved with your possessions, if necessary, and a guarantee for the delivery date. "Your entire life is in that truck," says Verbic. "You really want to make sure it gets there."
6. Consult a calendar
Moving during the summer may be easier because school's out and the housing season is at its best for buyers, but it's also the busiest time for movers, which will drive up the cost and means you need to book your move as soon as possible to secure the labour. Charlie Page moved to Toronto with her husband and two young daughters; they arrived in July and bought a house in October. "Moving during the summer is much better because everyone is out in the park," says Charlie. "It's easier to meet people and see what the neighbourhood is like."
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7. Pack strategically
Whether or not you decide to pack all your own belongings (doing so will save you money), there are a few boxes you need to pack yourself. "Picture camping out for a week," says Jacki McGowan, who has moved 14 times in the last 13 years. "You need clothing to last a week, bedding and items for the kitchen, such as a pot and basic cooking utensils. And don't forget curtains." Clearly mark these boxes with coloured labels or anything that will keep them separate from the rest of the boxes. When labelling your boxes, try to add more detail than just the room; for example, Kitchen Pots and Pans or Bedroom Sheets and Pillows.
8. Manage the stress
Moving is stressful because of a feeling of loss of control, says Posen. In a family move, there’s often one person who is not a big part of the decision, such as a child. Recognize that change is a process, not an event, and the adjustment period can take months. To help that process, maintain your and your family's routines, whether it's Friday night pizza, attending Rotary Club meetings or taking your dog for a hike on Saturdays. "Family rituals and traditions are portable," says Posen.
9. Keep your receipts
According to Canada Revenue Agency, you can deduct eligible moving expenses from income you earn at your new location. Your new home must be at least 40 kilometres closer to the new place of work. Eligible expenses include transportation and storage costs, travelling expenses and legal or notarial fees for the purchase of the new residence. For more information, visit www.cra-arc.gc.ca/menu-e.html; in Search the Site, key in "moving expenses."
10. Get out there
Your kids will make friends at school, but what about you? As exciting as a fresh start can be, there's also a dash of sadness in saying goodbye to friends and familiar surroundings – and a lot of anxiety. You're going to have to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to making friends, but don't go overboard, says Posen, who suggests starting in moderation by joining a club or volunteering and slowly becoming part of the new community. "The sooner you get over this bump, the better," says Jacki. "Be brave and embrace the new round of 'mom dating' to get yourself a new support network."
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Charlie Page: Planning Ahead
In the last 10 years, Charlie Page has lived in England, New Zealand and three cities in Canada. "Moving doesn't have to be stressful if it's organized right," says Charlie, 36. Her most recent move was from St-Lambert, Que., to Toronto in July 2007 with her husband, Louis Martin, who was relocating for professional reasons, and their two daughters, Amélie, 4, and Samara, 21 months. Charlie and her family had four months to plan the move, with the help of a relocation agency supplied by Louis' company.
Here are three strategies that helped smooth the road to their new home.
• They put their house in St-Lambert up for sale right away but chose to move before the house sold (the average selling time in St-Lambert is six months, compared with nine days in Toronto). Since they didn't want to buy before they sold, Louis' company offered to put everyone up in an executive suite close to his new office, but Charlie requested that they stay in a rented house in the neighbourhood in which they wanted to buy a house, so they could get to know the area, and keep their belongings in storage supplied by the moving company until they were ready to move.
• While Samara was too young to be concerned with the move, Amélie had her own questions about the process, so Charlie explained it to her by pointing out For Sale signs, building up her new school and reassuring her. "Amélie kept saying she was excited about moving to Toronto, and that was because she was feeding off my excitement," says Charlie.
• "The minute I got here I found a babysitter, so I could start my life, too, not just the kids'," she says. A babysitter meant she could continue to run for exercise, she and Louis could go out for dinner and she had time to get all their papers in order, such as changing her driver's licence, applying for a new health card and finding a French school for Amélie. If they had both been working outside the home during this time, Charlie says she would have negotiated for two weeks off to get settled.
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Jacki McGowan: Kids in tow
If you think packing is hard, imagine doing it when you're eight months pregnant and have a 19-month-old scurrying around your ankles. That's what Jacki McGowan, 33, went through when she and her husband, Colin, moved from Burnaby, B.C., to Whitehorse. While they were ready for a professional move – Jacki is a biochemist, and Colin is a researcher/fish hatchery manager – more than anything they wanted a nice little house in a smaller city for their daughter, Madeline, 3, and their son, Johah, now 16 months, who was born a week after they arrived in Whitehorse. Jacki and Colin had a month to plan their move and no support from a relocation agency. Here's what she learned.
• If you'll be working when you arrive at your destination, get your kids on day-care lists as soon as you commit to a new place. "You can check them out in detail once you get there, but at least you've optimized your position on the waiting lists," says Jacki.
• Press your current family doctor to hook you up with a GP and book your first appointment for you because doctors have an easier time getting new patients in than patients do. "And take all medical records with you, if you can." Ditto for your driving record from the provincial government as well as home and car insurance records.
• Hire a cleaning service to take care of the place you're leaving, whether it's rented or not. "It was the best $120 I spent in my life, because I walked out of that town house and didn't even sweep the floor," says Jacki.
Change your address
• Canada Post: go to www.canadapost.ca and click on Change My Address (you'll also find a thorough moving checklist in the same spot) or visit your local postal outlet.
• Canada Revenue Agency: call the Individual Income Tax Enquiries telephone service at 1-800-959-8281.
• Alert credit card companies, your bank, magazine subscriptions, etc., of your new address and send change-of-address cards to all your friends and family about a month before you move.
What parents want
If you're considering a move and can choose where to re-establish your family's roots, ask yourself how much thought you have given to those intangible benefits that make a neighbourhood a truly great place to raise a family. Vital Communities, Vital Support, a recent national survey of parents by Invest in Kids, shows that those unseen traits, such as friendly neighbours, as well as attitudes and beliefs, are just as important to Canadian parents as the tangible programs and services (the French immersion school two blocks away, the awesome park, etc.) that we often focus on when picking a new place to live.
The survey found that moms and dads want to be recognized, valued and supported in their role as parents by the community in which they live. We desire diverse and accepting neighbours who care about and help one another. Interestingly, the study's authors say: "What emerged from the very culturally diverse focus groups [was]…near complete agreement on what [parents] wanted and needed now. It mattered little whether they came from First Nations in Canada, Europe, Africa, South America or other places. For all parents, the similarities outweighed the differences."
- by Kathryn Dorrell
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