Staying Sane in the Midst of Change

My husband and I are making and anticipating many changes in our lives as we de-clutter, purge, clean, and organize our house for sale.  Staying sane in the midst of daily decisions sometimes seems a challenge!

Preparing a house for sale takes its toll, both physically and mentally.  Should we toss this chair or might we list it on kijiji?  Will these bookcases work in a new place?  How many throw cushions do we need? Are there yet more boxes to take to the cottage basement for storage? Do we need to rent a storage locker or should we just throw out or donate unwanted furniture?

Disruption rules daily life.  We’ve needed good coping strategies to manage health and sanity — as well as our relationship!

Physical Challenges

Keep exercising. It’s easy to rationalize that exercise at the gym or the pool isn’t essential when moving furniture, packing heavy items, and lifting boxes.  Such heavy work already gives a workout for arm, shoulder, back, and leg muscles.

Taking a break for aqua fit, yoga, or weight training takes time away from the work we’re doing yet it provides relaxation plus the benefit of socialization with gym buddies.   When there is simply no time to go to the gym, just taking a walk outdoors provides a welcome change of pace.

Get help. Some of the furniture that will leave the house before listing is just too heavy for two of us to manage.  We’re hiring help for a few hours to get it to a storage locker.

Mental Challenges

Change thinking. The decision to sell our house involved careful thought about options for maintaining an independent lifestyle as we grew older.  This decision represents forward thinking about a better quality of life.

After making this decision, I’ve stopped thinking about our current house as ‘home’. Cognitive behavioural therapists believe that changing thought patterns assists with changing feelings and controlling actions. This is tricky and involves conscious reminders when nostalgia hits.

Preserve happy memories. Last fall, I took numerous pictures of our yard and garden.  I’ve also taken a photos of favourite rooms before the de-cluttering and purging. Memorabilia lingers on shelves, in closets and on bedroom dressers waiting to be assessed, tossed or packed for future use.

Focus on the future.  Words from the last page of Margaret Atwood’s most recent book, The Heart Goes Last,  come to mind when I feel myself clinging too tightly to the past and the life I’ve enjoyed here.  About thought patterns, the heroine is told “Nothing is ever settled…… Every day is different.  Isn’t it better to do something because you’ve decided to?  Rather than because you have to?”

Relationship Challenges

We reached the decision to move with mutual agreeement.  Regardless, on some days, nostalgia and exhaustion sets in.  My usual reaction is grouchiness while my husband reacts with stoicism and silence.

After nearly 50 years of marriage we know when to ignore, when to encourage, and when to laugh it off. We also remind each other that facing the memories and setting aside the past is another phase of aging.

Soon enough we will have a new normal. This is a choice we have made rather than waiting for some event to require it.

Keeping a vision of a streamlined, smaller lifestyle means a future with more time for fun and less time spent on the responsibilities of a big house and garden.

This vision helps both of us remember that we’ve chosen to make this big change in our lives and not have health or incapacity due to aging cause the decision. Writing about the decision, discussing it with each other, with family, and with friends,  reinforces the plan.

Staying sane in the midst of change means adapting, adjusting and moving onward and not clinging to something that’s over.


6 Replies to “Staying Sane in the Midst of Change”

  1. Jeanette,
    What you are your husband are doing is very difficult! It’s no surprise that you find yourself grouchy at times, while he shuts everything out and keeps silent. You are going through an extensive grieving process, and you’re doing it not because you HAVE to, but because you know it’s best for your future. That it is your choice to do it really doesn’t make the emotional process any easier. I’ve moved about every ten years in my adult life, and each move was a great loss: so many memories, leaving friends behind, changing all my habits including where to drive for groceries, medical care, and spiritual sustenance. It’s a HUGE job to move house. I encourage you to not be concerned about staying sane–go a little crazy! Have a good bottle of wine at the weekend. Take yourselves out for a meal to celebrate all the big and little steps you take each day in the journey toward your new home. I applaud your preparation for a future with fewer responsibilities and more time to enjoy each day.


    1. Thank you for the insight into our emotional journey. You are correct in labelling moving house as grieving. Regardless of that our decision was made of free will, and that we look forward to a new lifestyle, there is significant loss. Your comment helps me feel less guilty about taking a break or having a special bottle of wine on the weekend. We’re know that we’re on the home stretch as the listing goes live at the end of this month!

  2. All good advice in this post Jeanette, especially taking the photos! You are solving the problems of your retirement before they arise!

    1. I do feel that this is a positive phase of retirement. I’ve watched others leave their beloved homes. What encourages me is seeing them once they have moved — they have new energy. As they start a new life, possibilities previous unknown arise. I hope that happens for me!

  3. My husband and I have had the opportunity to do just what you are doing. It was difficult to go through but when we finished and moved on we felt like butterflies. There will be freedom, a freshness, new, clean, joy and anticipation. You will be open to whatever comes next. The only thing we regretted was keeping what we had put into storage. When we went back and opened the door we found we weren’t the same people anymore. On to the next chapter.

    1. Your words encourage me to take more drastic steps with the purging. On some days I find myself clinging to the past and keeping things that will likely clutter my life and hold me back. I know there will be a second phase to the purging once our house is sold and we decide what furniture is worth the cost of moving it!

I welcome feedback and will reply to your comments!

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