highly sensitive moving

3 Things I Learned from Buying, Selling, and Moving as an HSP

2020 is the year that many people can share a common experience — change. Whether abrupt or slow-moving, change came for us all. For me, it meant working from home and cutting out a commute that consists of catching the Green Line and walking an extra 12 minutes to the West Loop office. After a few weeks of no return to the office in sight, I started asking myself: Why do I live here

When I was buying my first place, I made the mistake of thinking that I was meant to live by the city. Three years ago, I bought a condo in Oak Park, IL that I thought I’d be living here for at least five years or more. But the pandemic forced me to take time for self-discovery, and it wasn’t long until I realized city living just isn’t for me. When the company I work for went remote, there was no hesitation. My boyfriend and I decided to move near the ocean.

Within two weeks (maybe even less), my condo was up for sale with multiple offers. It had happened so fast that I didn’t have a chance to prepare myself emotionally. It led to a two months of stress, exhaustion, and anxiety. 

Last Monday, it sold. With a big breath in and a breath out, I’m able to reflect on how it all made me feel. Long story short — I’m glad it’s over. I started wondering if the process of buying, selling, and moving was more difficult for HSPs than others. To shine a light on this thought, here’s what I learned from selling and buying a condo, and preparing for a life-changing move out of state. 

1. Embrace the fact that the process is unpredictable 

My condo received several offers fast, but that didn’t mean we would be ready to move in 30 days. We had to think through what we would keep and get rid of, what repairs needed to be done, research storage and moving companies, decide on where we would live temporarily, and the list goes on. I had started a week before the listing even went up to think through all of this, but little did I realize that selling a house comes with a lot of stop and go signs. 

You know the feeling of frustration when you’re running late for work and you say to yourself, “Why am I hitting every stoplight on the way there!?” That’s how it feels — x10. To handle this process emotionally, I needed two things: patience and tolerance. When I got into the midst of it all, the sitting and waiting for news (good or bad) was too much for me to handle. Patience is not something I do very well, and the anxiety I felt didn’t allow an ounce of patience.

To help me navigate this stressful situation, I scheduled time with my therapist and the word she used was ‘tolerance.’ I had to learn to tolerate that things might not go my way and instead, embrace the process. Simply because — all of it was out of my control. The act of embracing the situation stuck more than trying so hard to be patient (which was putting a lot of pressure on me). 

2. Find an agent with great communication skills

As an HSP, I know that I tend to feel deeper than most. So when my stress levels got high during the contingency process, I needed an ally. I needed someone who could keep me stay grounded during the weeks of the unknown. Luckily, I had hired a friend from college as my agent. She made me feel comfortable by allowing me to text her whenever and ask for updates. I even asked her a couple of times, “How should I feel about this?” Because I had to make decisions during the process without letting my emotions take over. 

She later told me that ’empathy’ is something she values as an agent and that she, too, felt a lot of emotions when she was buying her first place. When I bought my condo, I regretted not doing enough research on agents and I ended up working with one that was not on my side. It still pains me to think about the things I let the agent get away with. 

In retrospect, I had put too much trust in my realtor when I was buying the place, and in the end, I felt taken advantage of as a first-time homebuyer. Buying, selling, and moving is one of the most stressful life events, so make sure you have people working with you that know a thing or two about empathy.

3. Getting rid of stuff is hard but doable

Since we were moving to another state, we decided to get rid of 80%, maybe even more, of our belongings. I didn’t think it would be hard to get rid of things, but when I had to make decisions on what needs to go and what gets packed, I felt as if I was holding on to too much.

I ended up selling furniture through Facebook Marketplace, donating 15 boxes to Goodwill, and got rid of junk. Between me and my boyfriend, we were able to pack everything that was left in a five-foot trailer with room to spare. Now that we’re both living somewhere temporarily, we’re living off of about 10 pieces of clothing, some bathroom toiletries, and electronics (e.g., Kindle, smartphone, laptop). To my surprise, it’s been really easy. During the moving process, evaluating your relationship with things might be something you’ll have to overcome.

For sentimental things, I was able to limit myself to one big box. Every time I move, I go through it and I always get rid of a couple more things (e.g., pictures of people I don’t even remember). I have family members, some late, that took the time to write beautiful messages on birthday and holiday cards that, of course, I wanted to keep. I took pictures of the cards and messages and uploaded all of them to Dropbox. A few did bring a tear to my eye, so I kept those. What I suggest is keep what moves you, digitize what you can, and get rid of memories that don’t serve you any longer.

Feeling unsettled?

Moving is just one life event out of many that can leave you feeling unsettled. To help you stay grounded, give journaling a try. The 14 Days of Self-Discovery helps you identify how and why you’re feeling certain emotions so you can take action on your life.