Moving house is classed as one of the most stressful life events.
We can easily think why this is so. The packing, sorting, organising, cleaning, shifting and lifting is enough to exhaust anyone. Even paying professionals to pack, clean, shift and lift doesn’t take away from the sorting and reorganisation that comes with repositioning possessions into a new space. Life must go on – we must still dress, clean our teeth, eat, and sleep. Even when we’ve lost the toothpaste, can’t find a clean pair of jeans, the fridge is empty and the bed… well, heaven knows where the pillows are let alone a nice fresh pair of sheets.
But it’s more than that. The practicalities can be overwhelming, but the emotional impact is what strikes to the heart.
Shifting house is shifting home. Home is our safe place, our refuge, our warmth, our sanctuary. It is the place we create to buffer us from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and ridiculous outside events. Inside our homes we’re in control. More or less! We can choose what to surround ourselves with, and usually, with whom to share our living space.
Moving can be profoundly unsettling. It can evoke grief and regret. It’s hard to leave the site of memories. It can equally be liberating, and an escape from untoward circumstance.
It’s always life-changing.
Where you live is where you wake up. It’s where you go to sleep. It’s where you harbour your dreams, your intimate hopes and hurts, where you nurture your body and soul.
Moving somewhere new means a new angle of the sun, a new aspect to your kitchen sink. Everything changes.
And so we maintain continuity by having the same things in the new space. Like the worn old teddy which has accompanied me through decades and across oceans – linking my present to my past, a reminder of babyhood in an African country.
Or we continue the same rituals, infusing familiarity into the unfamiliar. Eating our favourite muesli from the same breakfast bowl; filling the hot water bottle before bedtime in the new room.
Sometimes we want a clean break and throw everything out. Starting new can breathe fresh air into stuckness. Moving gives us this opportunity. It’s a catalyst for alteration.
Moving house means moving on. It means letting go. It means embracing change. Oh dear – not that again! Time and again we come up against that most fundamental life lesson – and our resistance to it. The difficult truth of impermanence.
But embrace I will. In two weeks I leave the place I’ve lived longest in my life. Sixteen and a half years. I entered a young woman seeking light and space. My flat became my eyrie, high as a treehouse, between the mountain and the sea. My sanctuary, my studio, my sacred space. My name was never on the title deed, but it belonged to me.
From the top of my steps on a clear night the hills ring round, strung with the fairylights of a thousand homes. At dawn light seeps in through the sea window’s rippled glass and beams toward my bed. The mountain rises westwards, shadowing the garden at sunset.
Here I’ve loved, lost, loved again, wept, sickened, revived, delighted, created, mourned, laughed, and loved some more. Family and friends have shared the loved space, the one which also oppressed me in winters with its dark and cold. I’ve ascended and descended those stairs at least 50,000 times. I slipped only once.
Already the flat is becoming empty as I strip the space of art and furniture. A garage sale will see to the items I need to relinquish.
This ending echoes the beginning… the bare walls adorned only with scraps of poems.
What will remain is the light. And I like to imagine my spirit remaining somehow in those walls, still loving the movement of the sun, the glimpses of sea and shore, the wide view of sky and cloud through the kitchen window. Somewhere in that high eyrie, overlooking the green garden where my first guinea pigs frolicked and popcorned and were buried under flowers.
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
– TS Eliot, The Four Quartets