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How to deal with pre-move limbo

A new year calls for new adventures, right?

I’ve taken a longer-than-expected holiday break from the blog as we’ve been entertaining visitors and getting our homeschool up and rolling again.

Oh yes, and also-

Preparing for the next move.

It’s that time of year when military folks due for a summer PCS (and perhaps non-military folks due for a job change) start to get a little restless. The holidays are over, the kids are back at school, the resolutions are made, the house is ready for an overhaul…and the shadow of the upcoming move is visible on the horizon.

You know it’s coming, but you still know so little about it.

It’s impending but not yet imminent.

And that’s a little scary.

I like to call this stage “pre-move limbo.” It’s the point at which we know we have to make some big decisions, but we don’t yet have all the information we need to make them. We know we need to be preparing for a change, but we aren’t completely sure what we’re preparing for.

So what exactly are you supposed to do?

Here’s some do’s and don’ts from someone who’s gone through pre-move limbo a lot…in fact, more times than I’ve played actual limbo.

What to do during pre-move limbo

DO Declutter. A lot.

It really never hurts to declutter. No matter how briefly you’ve lived somewhere, I promise you’ve accumulated things you no longer need. Take advantage of this time—before you’re bound to a specific timeline—and declutter as thoroughly and as thoughtfully as you can.

If the thought of Marie-Kondoing your entire house has you in sweats, rest assured that every bit counts. Start by cleaning out your purse. Then move on to your closet. Then the bookshelf. And so on. Then get that stuff into the car and out of your life!

What an amazing gift you’ll be giving your future self by shedding your excess belongings now…things you won’t have to pack, or unpack, or ever worry about again. Declutter, and enjoy the lightness.

(If you’ve decluttered all you can and still have time on your hands, now might be a good time to start or update a home inventory.)

DO build and strengthen portable routines.

Pre-move limbo can feel really unstable. That’s why it’s a great time to focus on family routines that aren’t subject to change by location. This might be yours or the kids’ bedtime routines, a weekly family night, or something as simple as Sunday morning cuddles.

Find things you’re confident you can keep doing after the move, and really lean into them. Simple as they may be, little family routines add up to build a sense of stability your family will be craving through all the changes that come with a move.

DO allow yourself to dream a little.

Ok, I’m still on the fence about this one a bit. But I’ve decided a little dreaming about the future is okay and maybe even healthy. It can be fun to look forward to the advantages of your possible next home. Maybe more natural beauty, proximity to family and friends, or access to great food.

Just make sure, until you’re out of the limbo stage, not to let dreams turn into plans. It could lead to lots of letdowns later on. And if you’re pretty clear on what the possibilities are, try to make a list of positives for each one. You can come back to these if you’re feeling disappointed later.

DO keep lines of communication super open with your spouse.

Make a habit of keeping each other updated on anything move-related that happens each day. If the move is related to your spouse’s work, don’t be afraid to ask them for updates. Just like you, they probably have a lot on their mind right now. So it’s easy for them to forget what they have or haven’t told you. Lately my husband and I have been having some type of “move-update” discussion nearly every day!

One thing I’ve appreciated is his making the effort to ask me periodically how I’m feeling about it all. And I do the same for him. This little habit pays huge dividends when it comes to approaching our next move as a team.

DO find a healthy way to process your feelings.

Exercise, journaling, long drives, listening to music, cleaning at turbo speed (OK I’ve never been able to do that but if you can, power to you!) can all be great ways to sift through your own thoughts and feelings about the move. Because you probably have a lot of them!

Be sure to make your self-care a priority during this time, and choose things that will actually make you feel better. Even if the anxiety of still not knowing makes you want to down a whole pan of fudgy brownies, aim to make good choices for yourself. Most of the time, a nice cup of tea will do the job just as well.

When feeling anxious, take the time to address any lingering questions and uncertainties one by one. Write down the things you just don’t have answers to yet. Make a big giant list of questions. Later you can come back and tackle each one as you gain information and build confidence about your move.

Addressing your own feelings and concerns now is one of the best investments you can make in your family’s health through this move. Not only will it help you be more present, but it will help you be better equipped to walk your children through the exact same process as more information becomes available to them.

DO keep the kids generally updated on what you know about the move and how it might impact them.

Things like “We know we’ll be moving in the next 4 months. We’ll let you know when we find out where. In the meantime, here are some things we can do to be ready.” Or perhaps: “Is there anything you’d like to do in [current town] before we move in the spring? Let’s see if we can make it happen.”

DO practice acceptance in your spiritual life.

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of prayer and meditation during a time of waiting. Whether you are religious or not, preparing yourself spiritually will help you to feel grounded when things finally start rolling into motion for your move. During this time we find ourselves praying for wisdom in our decisions, for the right doors to open in the job hunt, and for our interests to align with what’s meant for our family. We are at peace knowing that we aren’t running from our destiny, but are open to what lies in store for us.

What NOT to do during pre-move limbo

DON’T go overboard on research.

I struggle with this so much that I finally had to start enforcing Internet-free weekends to give myself time to recover from my self-inflicted information overload. While a bit of background knowledge can be helpful, diving in too deep on a location before you have any solid plans can simply end up sucking your time and energy. If you need to know certain things about an area in order to decide whether to apply for a job or put an offer on a house, go for it. But make sure you’re not putting the cart before the horse.

DON’T let yourself get derailed by things that are out of your control.

This can be hard when you are getting ready to move for a spouse’s job. Every little up and down of their work situation can start to make you feel as if the ground is disappearing from under your feet. It may feel like there is so much that’s out of your hands. But if you look, you can always find ways to practice agency. Focus on the things you can do something about, like decluttering, routines, self-care, and creative work. That, along with actively choosing to accept the things out of your control, can go a long way toward developing resilience…and whatever that oily stuff is that keeps water off a duck’s back. You and I can learn to be the ducks, friends. And speaking of friends…

DON’T back off from your current-location friends.

Even if you have been ghosted due to a move in the past, you still need friends. Don’t assume anything about how they will deal with your move. It’s true that some people will want to move on. But others might be willing to put in the work that a long-distance friendship requires. If you are also willing, ask a friend if they would be up for becoming a pen pal. And be prepared to do your part to stay in touch. If not, then just make sure you’re friended on Facebook and enjoy the remaining time you have together. Friends can still be friends, even after years apart. Find ways to end your time on a sweet note, and trust that someday you may have the chance to pick up right where you left off.

DON’T become attached to one possibility.

This is hard, I know! But not as hard as the disappointment you’ll feel if your preferred situation doesn’t work out. I find it helpful to list at least three pros and cons of the different possibilities, even if the final decision is out of our hands. It helps me stay grounded knowing that every possibility is a good one if we view it in the right way.

DON’T give your children a play-by-play of the changing details.

Whatever whiplash you might experience due to changed plans will be tripled for your kids, which will make your job much harder than it needs to be. Try not to get their hopes up by going into detail about a specific location if there’s still a chance it will change.

DON’T take your anxiety out on your spouse or kids.

Because they’ve got enough of their own worries to deal with. Learn to recognize when mulling over things is getting you down. Then combat it with a healthy dose of grace, both for yourself and your family members. Accept that communication is not always going to be perfect. You are all human, after all.

And finally, remember: this too shall pass.

Like all things in life, the uncertainty of pre-move limbo will eventually come to an end. The military orders or the job offer or the right house will come. In the meantime, you have so much more you can do than just “hurry up and wait.” And every positive step you take now will make your eventual move that much easier.

Keep calm and stay rooted my friends.

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