Starting over. Again.

When I think about my Top Ten Least Favorite Things To Do, moving would make the list somewhere between “colonoscopy” and “ironing.” If ever there was motivator for simple living, it’s the act of packing up ALL of your things and then unpacking all of your things.

I’ve moved twice in the past ten years with an additional year-long jaunt in Germany, and through that process I’ve¬†seen¬†the result of decades of accumulation.

I’m not a hoarder, but there is little doubt I¬†have¬†more than I¬†need.

I’ve just celebrated a year in a new place (though I still have one foot in the other), and I thought it might be helpful to offer a few suggestions for meaningfully connecting to a new area.

1. Find a great realtor.

Because we wanted to learn our new hometown well before making an investment in a home, we started out by renting. The previous time we moved, we bought quickly. While that turned out fine, we hadn’t understood the downsides to the neighborhood we choose. We knew there was a better way.

There are a lot of realtors out there and sometimes it’s challenging to find a¬†good¬†one. In our case, a referral came by way of my husband’s work–we were bound by restrictions in a corporate relocation package. We happened to luck out with a fantastic realtor this time around, but I stumbled onto a wonderful way to vet potential realtors if your company doesn’t provide relocation benefits: the¬†Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) network¬†in your area. ¬†When you don’t know a soul in town, they’re able to connect you with a real estate professional you can¬†trust¬†(and¬†they can also provide sound recommendations for Investing, Insurance, Health Insurance and Tax Services).

2. Bloom where you’re planted

A few suggestions:

  • Volunteer. Whether in your children’s classrooms, church, or local sports programs, organizations are always in need of extra hands.
  • If you work full-time, network.¬†Join one of those civic groups that do good for your community. Attend your local Chamber of Commerce events. Don’t limit yourself to co-workers but connect with others outside your 9-5 doors.
  • If you’re an at-home mom or work virtually, network. Find a meaningful part-time job. Work with an organization whose mission aligns with your passions (think Race for the Cure, Salvation Army Bell Ringers, etc.).
  • Join a Bible study. A complete stranger invited me to a Bible study she leads (at a church I had no plans to attend) and I took her up on the offer because a) I didn’t know anyone, b) I had the time.¬†Well. I still don’t go to that church but a year later, I’ve just begun my¬†second¬†study there. I love discussing hard faith concepts with those who might have a different perspective, but this has also given me a small group of women I’ve gotten to know who can refer me to local doctors, dentists, dry cleaners, home repairmen and so much more.

3.  Read the local newspaper

While you can read online, I’l go one step further to suggest subscribing at least for six months. There’s little else that will more quickly bring you up to speed with local politics, community events, and what’s important in your area. Paper copies might also engage your children (comics, crossword, jumble) and seed an interest in something beyond People Magazine or Entertainment Tonight. ¬†Plus, if you’re a couponer, you can easily pay for your subscription with Sunday savings.

4.  Limit your time online

It’s human nature to follow the path of least resistance, but that’s not always the best. ¬†In an era when we can remain virtually connected regardless of where we live, it’s tempting to fall back on Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and/or [fill in your favorite] to fulfill your social needs.¬†Be careful.¬†If you’re only looking back at what you had, you’ll never be able to look forward and see the potential of your future.

For those of you with experience in starting over, share your ideas and recommendations for assuring a smoother transition. Or, if you find yourself in a new place and you’re struggling, let me know? Let’s think through this together and figure out simple ways to help you grow roots right where you are.

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26 Comments

  1. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    Oh girl. I hear you on the not-favorite-thing list. I moved 11 times in the first 8 years I was married (we’re on year 10 and have been in the same place for the last 2 1/2 years–woohoo!).

    For me, it never gets easier, but I have learned a lot along the way–like you said, bloom where you’re planted and dive into local stuff. Being intentional about goodbyes, letting myself be sad for a while, and being open to unexpected friendships also help. Every place has beauty, I just have be determined to find it :).

    • Robin Dance

      Oh my, Jenn‚Ķ11 moves?? I CAN’T IMAGINE! But‚Ķall the things you said are so true. I love it. Most of assimilation into a new place is attitude; there can be external factors that make it challenging, but it’s worth the effort, right? SO easy to sink and not swim, so I hope just talking about it encourages people in this position to just DO something :).

  2. Jenny from Mommin' It Up

    I’ve lived the same place forever, but I think #4 is brilliance anytime. Why stay home and stare at the computer when you could sit in a friend’s living room and stare into her face? Besides the realtor part, this is great advice for anyone just wanting to change up their life and broaden their horizons a bit.

    • Robin Dance

      I didn’t even think of it that way, Jenny, but you’re right! Path of least resistance rarely means it’s the best path :).

  3. Steph

    We’ve moved 5 times in the last 11 years. I’ve learned from experience that blooming where you’re planted is so necessary to survival. As an introvert, I’ve found I really have to push myself to get involved so I can start making friends and having a good attitude about wherever I am. But I’m still hoping our current home will be more long term. ūüôā

    • Robin Dance

      I’m crossing my fingers for you, Steph :). I’m a natural extravert so parts of this come easily; BUT‚ĶI still have to MAKE myself choose to walk out my door. Especially as the weather gets cooler, I like my cozy space. AND with no young children at home, it’s easy to stay put. Sooo, what I’m sharing here I’m preaching to myself even now.

  4. JessieLeigh

    I’m on my ninth state (with a few “within-state” moves thrown in there), and I truly, TRULY believe you can build roots anywhere. I have such wonderful, meaningful memories from the Midwest, the Midatlantic, and the South, even as I happily bloom here in New England. My advice is to embrace wherever you are– “bloom where you’re planted”, as you mentioned. Resist viewing past homes through the rose-colored glasses of misty nostalgia– no place is perfect! But any place can be home. ūüôā

    • Robin Dance

      JessieLeigh,

      How I love your last two sentences‚Ķthose’ll preach!

    • Sharon

      You’re so right, JessieLeigh. No place is perfect – every place we’ve lived has had things I’ve loved (or grown to love!) and things that are challenging.

  5. Laura

    Thank you for this! I am about a month and a half into our new home / new town / new section of the country. We’re pretty much unpacked, so now I am starting to think about how to belong here and how to make friends. These are great tips – thanks for sharing.

    • Robin Dance

      Laura!! Your comment makes me happy dance :). I was hoping it would serve someone well who was in this life circumstance right now :).

      I wish you well in your new hometown…keep us posted?

  6. ohAmanda

    I love this, Robin. We have lived in this house for 5+ years, the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere and I so agree with the jump-right-in, bloom-where-you’re-planted idea. We were going to a church 45m from our house and when we finally moved to a new church less than 3 minutes from our house, out world got so much smaller–in a good way! I saw the same people at my daughter’s ballet, at the chiropractor, at church, at school, etc. Less time in the car, more friends and neighbors!

    • Robin Dance

      ohAmanda,

      You touched on something that we learned painfully: going to church near your home. We attended a regional-drawing church for a lot of years and the people we seemed to meet were always so far from our home; it made fellowship that much harder (especially when you factor in activities of children!). We also had our kids in a regional school and their friends often lived 30-40 minutes away. There’s MUCH to be said about making choices like that close to home‚Ķit impacts your ability to connect regularly. GREAT point!

  7. Hillary @ KidsCommunicate

    So timely Robin, thank you! My husband and I packed up our family and heading to a new state this summer. We had little chance for goodbyes, and even less chance to settle on exactly what we were doing once we got here. Slowly everything is falling into place, but I miss my dear friends. I’ve had to reach out, make small talk, and trust that those friendships will slowly develop if I continue to put myself out there. Nothing like signing up to be “Room Mom” for my daughter’s kindergarten class to get involved and be forced to chat with folks! lol…

    • Robin Dance

      Hillary,

      It really does require YOU to be the one to take first steps, when all you want is ANYONE and EVERYONE else to reach out to YOU! I think people have lost that art in large measure :/.

      But‚Ķit really is great to meet people through your children while they’re young. We moved when my baby was 16 and I didn’t have that built in social network! Have fun on all those field trips and class parties!! ūüôā

  8. Magda

    I am moving this weekend! Excited but scared a little bit as well. Young children at home so hopefully transition won’t take long ūüôā

    • Robin Dance

      I wish you the best, Magda!

  9. Hannah

    Thanks… just what I needed.
    We’ve been in the process of an international move all year, just brought a house and celebrated our 1st anniversary.
    One piece of advice we were given was it takes about 6 months… and to look with the view that when your lonely, hate the new place, wish you could go back home… think, that in 6 months these feelings may be different.

    • Robin Dance

      Hannah‚Ķand even if they aren’t, keep making yourself walk out that door, find an Expat community (check out Meet-up; if you can’t find a group, create one!). Do you know the language? Will there be other Americans? (I’m assuming since you didn’t say otherwise.)

    • Alissa

      I think 6 months is about right if you move fairly frequently. But if you are moving from somewhere you’ve been a long time…6 months won’t cut it. When we made a “choice” move to a new state about 10 years ago, we were leaving behind 20+ years of friendships and community. We told ourselves were were giving the move TWO YEARS before deciding if we were going to stay or “move back home.” There’s no way we could replace 20 years of community within 6 months of a move. But after 2 years, we were starting to find our footing and after 7 years, we were devestated to be asked to move!

      The next move took us about a year to feel like we were making headway and 2.5 to really feel like this is home.

  10. Ann

    One thing that I found helpful when we moved was strategically using facebook to connect to my new community. I tried to friend people I met quickly. This really helped me learn a lot more about people (and they learned about me too!) and connect with other people I may not have met in person yet. It’s ended up being one of the easiest, most non-intimidating ways to develop friendships. The most important part of this strategy for me was changing many of my FB friends from our old community to “acquaintances”. That way my feed was filled with primarily people from my new community and it shifted my focus away from the past as you mentioned in #4.

    • Robin Dance

      Ann,

      Well, you’re just FB smart (I’m FB dumb). What a simple tweak to make it USEFUL for you! I think I’ll work on some of my friend lists now–thank you!

  11. Sharon

    This is a great list. We’ve moved 13 times in the 18 years we’ve been married. The last couple have been the hardest with a family of 7. It’s easy to isolate yourself until you’re miserable – and I know that sometimes it’s hard to be the new one again, but it is so important to step out and take those chances to connect with people.

    • Robin Dance

      Sharon,

      In this day and time, it IS easy to hide out at home. I know. At times I’ve done it :/.

      You make a good point–we need to be willing to risk rejection! But I’ve found people are more open than we imagine, and they’re thrilled someone else is reaching out.

      And wow‚Ķthat’s a LOT of moving. I wish you well and that you remember what you know :).

  12. Rebecca

    The two things I would recommend in addition to this list are to 1) identify a local restaurant to love shortly after arriving in town & 2) find the local library. My husband and I always try to find the restaurant that will become “ours”. It takes testing locations until I you find “the one” but while you’re unpacking it gives you a great reason to get out of the house and explore your new town.The library is a great place, in addition to a place of worship, to connect with community events, people, and local history.

    • Robin Dance

      Oh, I **like** these ideas, Rebecca :). It gives you goals and then provides ongoing benefit. Thanks for adding them to the list!

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