Why Moving is So Hard, Really

Why Moving is So Hard, Really

Moving is a triathlon of physical, mental, and emotional challenges, with the emotional transition being the hardest part, involving personal evolution, letting go, and embracing new beginnings. Yet we move to discover our new selves.


Many simplify: “moving sucks.” While sometimes true, this isn't helpful. Sure, making a home is hard enough. Yet moving into a home is hard in its own way.

If we can really understand why moving is so damn hard, we might then have a chance of better preparing ourselves, and alleviating some of moving's pain.

Why, then, is moving so damn hard?

The Triathlon of Moving

To start, moving is a triathlon – physical, mental, and emotional. Yet it’s unlike triathlons in that the activities are not separated into distinct parts. We must juggle all three parts at once. 

The Physical Toll: Moving your stuff with your body is grueling. It’s a clumsy dance with a bed frame. A seemingly endless puzzle of wrestling fragile, large objects through or around scratch-prone doors, corners, stairs, and hallways. It’s not only awkward but also injury prone.

The Mental Marathon: Even if you’re hiring help, you will be orchestrating a complex multi-part process – finding and securing a new space, moving the things you want from your old space to your new space, and preparing the hand off of your old space.

The Emotional Odyssey: Moving homes is both relocation and emotional transition – departing one phase of life and entering another. We must confront the loss of our past space and the life it witnessed. We then embrace our new space, with hope for the journey to come. 

I’d offer that while the physical and mental aspects of moving are hard, what makes moving so damn hard is the emotional transition. Not least because it is often below awareness or for other good reasons, unaddressed.

So in the next section, I'll unpack why moving's emotional transition is hard.

Personal Evolution is Moving’s Context

Just to start, the context of moves are often deeply personal and significant. Processing this may be the last thing we have time for. So we must navigate the aforementioned triathlon all in the midst of making sense of what the larger transition means to us. 

We move to grow. We move: out of our parents house, towards an educational or job opportunity, into a home with a new partner or child, away from a loss that reshapes our needs. Each new space offers the potential of life-altering meaning.

Hardship and necessity – financial needs or health and accessibility needs – are reasons we move. While this kind of move holds special stress, it also offers the hope that we might be free of former burdens – of the risk of falling down stairs, or of declaring bankruptcy.

Sometimes, moving itself may be the result of deeply personal changes. Our new self simply does not feel at home in our old space. And so we seek a new expression.

The Art of Letting Go 

“Hard” does not quite capture the challenge of letting go. Loss is painful. The more we love someone or something, the more that is at stake. Moreover, humans, by nature, are risk averse – loss pains us more than is rational. Yet loss is a necessary part of moving.

Moving mirrors an archetypal human journey – from today’s safety into the unknown. There is no guarantee you can return and so no guarantee you can recover the safety you left. 

In life’s largest transitions, by definition you cannot know again the safety of the old home. Instead, you must forge a new kind of safety and a new kind of home. This means that you must irreversibly let go of your old home. 

Once, when moving to a new home, I mistakenly briefly “kept” my old space, hoping that I might revisit the comfort I held so dear. I had met my wife in our small cottage, and I thought we might revisit the space to renew our love as a respite from the chaos of our first child.  

I quickly found this hope was a false mirage. The comfort we needed when coming together was not the comfort we needed when starting a family. For one thing, I sorely underestimated how much time we’d have with a newborn. 

More importantly, I hadn’t accounted for the fact that we carried comfort and renewal within us, and that this comfort and renewal could take on a new forms. We found new rituals. And this gave me the peace to let go of the old space. More often than not, we don’t have this option.

Then again, not having the option may be its own gift. One of my favorite events, Burning Man, builds a place dedicated to loss that is then burned to the ground. The sacred place, destined to burn, symbolizes the finality of goodbye. When we burn the bridge, we must walk into the future.

Embracing the Hope of Tomorrow

Loss enables a kind of freedom. Each move also offers an opportunity to redefine ourselves. You may choose, again, who you will become. This time without some of the former constraints. So it is with moving.

This also makes each choice of what to keep meaningful. An item you pack is a memory that remains vital to your story. While exciting, this means many emotionally-laden decisions. What do we keep? What do we release? We may confront hidden attachments and unspoken fears.

Each move is also a step into the unknown. Even if we’re moving just down the street, some portion of our new life remains unknown. This uncertainty warrants fear, though it contains something vital: hope.

Moves mark new beginnings and teem with potential. A move often offers a fresh canvas, which is both exciting and unknown. Will I find a new community I can call my own? Will I stay in touch with dear friends? Will I find balance in the face of my new opportunity? Will I meet someone who will change the course of my life?  

Moving disrupts our routines and may challenge our identities. Then precisely because they do so, moves offer a chance to build new ones. We can shape new habits and patterns more aligned with who we aspire to become.

We Move to Transform

Moving is not just relocation, it's a journey of self-discovery. Each move invites us to sift through our past, and choose what shapes our future. In our new space, we lay foundations for a life that reflects our current selves. 

Moving is a human experience in that we choose to embrace life's only constant: change. Change itself hints at our own impermanence. The mere fact that we choose to embrace change willingly underscores the resilience and adaptability that makes us human. 

Yes, moving is hard. So may it be essential to become more fully ourselves, and to transform. Consider your own move. What does it mean? What must you let go of? What do you hope for? What chapter are you writing now?

If sharing will help you reflect, I’d love to hear about your move at [email protected].


Geoff Abraham

Co-founder & President of Spoken

Geoff is the co-founder and President of Spoken. He is a Dad. He holds a BA from UT Austin (Plan II) and an MBA from Stanford. Geoff has built several successful businesses, including a bicycle taxi business in San Francisco which he ran for 10 years with his wife, Mimosa. He is an executive coach, and he actively invests in seed-stage startups via The Explorer Fund.

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