Whether it’s across town or across the country, moving to a new home is a big change! Not only that, but the process of moving is often stressful and overwhelming.
Many people struggle with the challenges of moving, but this process can present extra challenges for autistic people.
First and foremost is the matter of change. There are lot of things that change when you move. Not only is your whole living space different, but you now drive different roads and shop at different stores. Depending on the scope of your move, it may involve leaving behind people you care about.
Basically, moving is a time of a lot of change all at once.
On top of this, there is also a lot of work that goes into moving. Packing up everything can prove to be more difficult than it first appears. Often, there are phone calls that have to be made to arrange utilities.
Moving is really tough.
So, I’m here to offer up my tips for making the moving process easier to handle.
Over the past ten years, I’ve moved more than ten times, and, with all that practice, I’ve picked up some tricks for making the whole process easier.
Some of the following advice is based on things that have helped me while others are things that I wish I had done.
So, without further ado, I present tips and tricks for surviving a move as an autistic person:
Tip One: Start Packing Now!
“But I’ve still got a month until I move!”
Start packing anyway! Packing is one of those things that we’re often really bad at planning for. It’s easy to think “eh, it won’t take me that long!” Wrong. However long you think it will take you to pack, it’s going to take longer. Somehow your belongings will begin to multiply so that your packing never seems to make a difference.
Start by packing up non-essentials. This is the time to pack up the creepy old doll your grandma got you that will never be displayed for fear of releasing the darkness within, but you can’t get rid of it for sentimental reasons so it lives in a box hidden away in your closet, nearly forgotten. Pack it up.
Go through that stuff in the attic and decide what you want to keep and pack it up so it’s ready when it’s time to move.
Packing a little bit at a time will make the whole process easier to tackle and will help you avoid a day or two of haphazardly throwing things in boxes as you suddenly realize you’re about to move and nothing is ready.
Tip Two: Plan Your Packing
Living in a space that is in a perpetual state of being partially packed can be really, really stressful. Planning how you will pack can help prevent your current residence from falling into a state of chaos.
Before you being packing, decide on a place to store packed boxes that you’re not going to have to look at on a regular basis. Being confronted by boxes constantly can make things a whole lot worse. Having the boxes out of sight can make it easier to actually relax during downtime
Tip Three: Designate a Place of Stasis/Safe Space
Right now, it may feel like absolutely everything is changing. As moving day gets closer, your home is likely to change more and more as the remaining things are packed away. It can be hard to center yourself and collect yourself when you don’t have anywhere that feels familiar.
Designate a place of stasis. This is a space that is going to remain unchanged for as long as possible. Your bedroom is probably the most desirable space to have remain constant, but it’s important to consider how much packing will be involved and whether or not it’s feasible to leave that space until the end. You can also have the space remain mostly the same but start packing up things that won’t affect the feel of the room (like the random stuff that always collects at the bottom of closets).
Tip Four: Get Rid of Anything You Don’t Use/Have a Reason to Keep
First, if things have sentimental value to you or makes you happy, that is reason enough to keep them. Things don’t need to have practical uses to be worth keeping (looking at you, shelf of Harry Potter collectibles from my childhood <3).
But, for everything else, weed through your belongings with a realistic eye. If you haven’t used it in the past year, are you really going to use it?
When it comes to clothes, I’ve found it helpful to wait until I need to laundry and then go through whatever is left in my closet.
Look through the clothes that haven’t been worn since at least the last time you did laundry. Now, try to get rid of the voice that tells you you’re totally going to wear that one thing….at some point. Try to realistically consider if you’re actually going to wear these things.
I know that I often end up with clothes that I got because I really liked how they looked but once I actually got them home and tried to wear them for more than a few minutes I found that they were uncomfortable in some way, or not even necessarily uncomfortable but it doesn’t feel good either. And, I’ll tell myself that I’m totally going to wear X, I just haven’t yet because…reasons,
I think I feel pressure to add more variety to my clothes because it’s not “normal” to wear the same things over and over again.
But, you know what? I don’t care anymore! I’ll wear the same small collection of clothes over and over again because they are comfy.
Why should I pressure myself to wear things that make me uncomfortable just because some people think it’s weird that I wear the same clothes a lot?
So, I’ve gotten better at getting rid of the clothes that, when I’m honest with myself, I’m probably not going to actually wear.
Sorting through your belongings to get rid of the things you don’t need Before you pack means that you won’t waste time packing, moving, and unpacking things that you’re never going to use.
Tip Five: Label everything!
One thing I did for my most recent move that was actually really helpful was that I bought a pack of mini sticky notes in different colors and assigned each color to a room.
Once I finished packing a box, I added a sticky note that matched the color of the room the box should end up in. This makes it a lot easier to get boxes into the right spots come moving day.
On top of this, write on the outside of the boxes what’s inside. If you limited in time or energy, simply write on each box a general description of what’s inside (i.e. “kitchen stuff”, “clothes”, “linens”, etc.)
If you have the time and energy to do so, I strongly recommend also making a more specific list of what’s in each box. These lists can be as specific or general as you want to make them, knowing that more detail will make it easier to find things later on.
Unpacking often lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and, until you’re fully unpacked, you’re going to find yourself searching for something that you never thought you’d need right away and now have no idea where it is…
So label everything to help you future self find the things you need.
Tip Six: Pack an Essentials Bag
As it gets close to moving day, designate a bag or box for your essentials. The day(s) of moving is often chaotic and it’s easy to lose track of things as you pack up a moving truck or load up your car. Having a bag that has all the important things you will need your first night and morning in your new place can mean the difference between being able to finally lay down and rest versus having to spend the next hour digging through different boxes until you are able to find your phone cord which somehow ended up in a box of baking goods.
Some things to consider adding to your essentials bag:
- At least two complete sets of clothes
- Basic toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant)
- Charges for all of your devices when they’re not in use
- Any medications you may take, including rescue meds, even if you don’t usually need them (hopefully you won’t, but not having them accessible is tempting fate)
- Some stim toys or a comfort object
- Anything else that you will definitely need within the first day or two of moving
Keep this bag somewhere that is easy to access and keep close track of it on the big day. I would suggest keeping it in your car if possible on the day of the move so that it doesn’t get buried under boxes as you move all your stuff into your new place.
Tip Seven: Ask for Help Before You Need It
I know that many of us tend to have difficulty asking for help, even when we know we need it.
However, you’re going through something big right now! It’s ok, and expected, for you to ask for help!
Having trouble figuring out how to get started packing because it’s all just so overwhelming that you shutdown when you try to tackle it? Ask a friend to come keep you company while you pack. Sometimes just having someone there with you to talk to can help things seem less overwhelming.
Instead of trying to move that piece of furniture that you can, probably, technically, maybe move by yourself, reach out to one of your strong friends or family members and see if they can lend a hand
Do you foresee certain difficulties for yourself as it gets closer to moving day? Reach out to your support network before things get bad. Work with them to figure out things that may help alleviate difficulties you are likely to face
Tip Eight: Learn About Your New Home Before the Move
Depending on the circumstances of your move, what you are able to learn about your new home prior to your move will vary.
Moving to a new town/city? Explore the area with Google Street view so it will feel more familiar
Moving somewhere nearby? Use Google maps to figure out the what are going to be the fastest ways to get to work or to the store. Familiarize yourself with roads so you’ll have an easier time remembering how to get around when you move.
Figure out what grocery store you’ll go to.
Look up things to do in the area.
If you’re going to a new place and it’s feasible, take a trip to your future home just to wander around a bit.
Do what you can to start familiarizing yourself with where you’re going to be living to help ease some of the change you’ll have to deal with.
Tip Nine: Be Kind to Yourself
Moving is a big change. Not only that, but the actual process of moving, like packing and unpacking everything, is exhausting and stressful. Give yourself time to rest. Drink extra water. Get some sunlight. Do things that recharge you. Prioritize self-care, especially when it’s hard, that’s usually when you need it more than ever.
I hope these tips help make your moving process easier. Wishing you abundant spoons so you may accomplish all that you need to.
Have you picked up any of your own tips for making the moving process easier? Leave a comment below to help your fellow autistic people navigate this process.