I wouldn’t call myself the runaway bride of the real-estate world (yet), but I’ve moved around a lot. Strangely, this didn’t really start in my childhood: Between the time I was born and the time I moved out at age 20, I lived in only three homes, and they were all in the same city. I had to change schools only once, and overall, I had a pretty stable family life and core group of friends. But as soon as I flew the nest nine years ago, I’ve had this undying need to move around. Since then, I’ve moved 10 times, lived in three countries, had six roommates, and lived on my own in four different apartments.
Most of the homes I lived in were pretty great: I’ve lived beachfront in Australia, had an orange tree in my backyard (a seriously cool thing to have as a Canadian), and my own ensuite bathroom. I’ve also had my share of not-so-good living situations: a friendship turned sour, a landlord who wasn’t great at basic maintenance, and disagreeable neighbors. I’ve lived with a group of exchange students, a best friend (who I'm no longer friends with), and a woman I didn’t know very well who used our apartment as a pied-à-terre and was home approximately one day a month (hello, best of both worlds)! The point is, after of all these experiences, I have a pretty good idea of what I like and what I don’t.
While my move count might seem high to the average person, the truth is that I’m glad to have lived these experiences in my 20s. I’ve got moving strategies down to a science, and I appeased my intrinsic need to explore. But most importantly, I have also learned that I don’t want to sustain the nomad lifestyle into my 30s—I’m ready to grow my roots and stay put for a while. This is not to say that I want to stop traveling and exploring the world, but rather that I’ve rediscovered that having a core home to come back to is what makes going away worthwhile in the first place. Also, moving is not cheap—and neither is redecorating once a year. This shouldn’t be a top concern when you’re taking a first plunge into adulthood and happily living out of suitcases, but once you discover the bliss of a high-quality mattress or an investment sofa, there is no going back.
This is not a guide on perfecting the art of moving, but instead it’s an account of how I learned to lay down some roots, and how I went from loving a nomad lifestyle to embracing a sedentary lifestyle (as far as my home goes, at least). I've learned to love my space: It might not be perfect, but it's home. If you're ready to plant some seeds in your own town, here are my newfound tips.
I’ve been in my space for exactly one month, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t already scouring nearby buildings—starting with the one directly across the street from me. But it has a doorman and a rooftop deck and every kitchen is outfitted with a wine fridge and a Wolf range! Can you blame me? I know what you’re probably thinking—this isn’t a good start at staying put. Humor me.
While it’s nice to have #lifegoals and ambition, it’s important to draw a clear line between your wants and needs, and be realistic about expectations. More importantly, you need to be able to discern your own path and be happy with what you have. Sure, my bathroom is the size of a closet and my closet is the size of a fridge. But I worked hard to land my dream job in a city that I’m loving more and more every day. If that means I have to sleep five feet away from my kitchen sink for a couple of years, then so be it.
Moral of the story: If you look hard enough, there will always be nicer apartments and better deals on the market. Put down the StreetEasy app, and focus your energy elsewhere.
When I moved into my current studio apartment, my broker said something that resonated with me: “You could spend 10 million dollars on a house, and there will always be something that bothers you about it.” While I’m sure I can find many more things wrong with my studio than with any of the $10 million listings in my neighborhood, I need to learn to accept and live with the quirks of my place. Yes, there’s a sizzling pipe in my bathroom that has me a third-degree burn away from a trip to the emergency room, but my place also has windows on all three sides and is flooded with natural light.
When you’re about to sign a lease on a new place, it’s easy to imagine it as the best version it can be—what it will look like after you’ve rope-wrapped your hot pipe or Marie Kondo-ed your way to a clutter-free haven. Learn to see the positives about your own space rather than focusing on the negatives.
Moral of the story: Instead of getting frustrated about everything that isn’t working with your place, focus on how you can make it better. Your new place won’t be perfect either.
Some moves are inevitable—relocating to a new city, ending a toxic situation with a roommate, moving in with your S.O.—while others are not so necessary. If your prime motivation is to have a kitchen tap that doesn’t leak or a bigger closet, figure out how you can get that achieved without moving. Think about how much money you’ll save on movers, broker fees, and security deposits—shouldn’t you instead spend that money on a plumber, a 401K, or a freestanding clothing rack?
The first step in understanding why you want to move again is to identify whether your need to move actually stems from another issue—like the desire to change careers. Maybe you’re feeling stuck in other areas of your life and your automatic train of thought is to start fresh. If you’re someone who thrives by living new experiences, can you achieve peace of mind by planning a nice trip abroad?
Moral of the story: Pinpoint the areas of your life that need addressing before your lease comes up for renewal, and address those issues before making a move.
We live in a world of instant gratification, and that means we can be very quick to clean the slate and start anew. While there are some areas in our lives where this should apply, our homes shouldn’t be one of them. A home takes time to build, and even the best turnkey apartment will not immediately feel like your dream space. Take the time to familiarize with your place, and set yourself short-term and long-term goals for what you want it to look and feel like.
For every year you don’t move, give yourself a reward—a new sofa or a bedroom makeover, for example. The last time I moved, I tallied up my expenses to nearly $10,000 (granted, it was a big international move)—and that’s without purchasing anything for my new place. That’s a nice home makeover that was instead spent on a moving truck and broker fees.
Moral of the story: Be realistic about your moving costs, and take some time to visualize the amazing makeover you could give your existing space if you stayed in it for an extra year. Building the perfect home takes time.
Treat Yo' Self
One of the easiest ways to get yourself excited about your space again is to tackle a small weekend project around the house. One week, I potted a set of cactus and succulents. Another, I cleaned out my closet. It doesn't matter if it's big or small; taking the time to improve small things around the house beyond average weekly chores is a great way to get reinspired about your space (as opposed to fleeing it).
When you feel bored with the tops in your wardrobe, sometimes what you really need is to get a new pair of pants to give them a second life. Similarly, look at the areas in your home that need addressing, and see if there are any quick solutions to make it more functional or visually refreshed.
Moral of the story: The idea isn't to overwhelm your schedule with daunting DIY projects, but rather focus on quick fixes that can refresh your home in an hour or two.
Beyond material things, routines play a huge part in creating a home. Things as small as taking the time to eat breakfast or reading the paper in the morning can give you a newfound appreciation for your place beyond rushing out the door and grabbing a bagel. I personally found that taking time in the morning to drink a cup of warm water with lemon while reading the newspaper made me enjoy my apartment more. Similarly, cooking a meal at night or even getting acquainted with your local shops can spark a sense of community and appreciation for neighborhood life.
Just as many people do with New Year's resolutions, I’m guilty of attaching life changes to a move: When I get settled in my new place, I will cook more; get a housekeeper; go out to exercise; entertain more. Instead of putting these resolutions off, tackle them in your current space.
Moral of the story: Get to know the people working in your neighborhood go-tos: the barista, dry cleaner, bartender, nail artist. Get to know your neighbours—invite them over for a cocktail. The more ties you create around your immediate neighborhood, the less you’ll want to up and leave.
One of the things I love the most about my family’s country house is the fact that we all get together and spend quality time as a family: We cook, drink, and eat together; we play board games; we spend hours reading our books in the same room without having to say a word to each other. That’s what a home is about—it should be filled with people you love and memories you cherish.
If you live alone, creating those moments might require a little more creativity on your part: Invite friends over for a Sunday-night supper or after-work drinks; suggest brunch at your place instead of at a restaurant; and always say yes when your friends or family members ask to crash on your couch while visiting your city. You may be cramped for a few days, but the memories you create will live long past the temporary discomfort.
Moral of the story: People make a house a home. Fill your home with people, and you’ll feel much more rooted in your space.
Are you also plagued with chronic moving syndrome? What tricks did you implement to help you stay put?