Jamie Allen

on Moving to a New City
Headhunter of Hundreds of Heads guides and author of How to Survive a Move

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Jamie Allen on Moving to a New City

Jamie Allen spent months interviewing hundreds of people from all walks of life in an effort to find the most interesting, entertaining and useful tips on moving. After all those comical and candid conversations, Allen compiled what is now a best-selling book called How to Survive a Move: by Hundreds of Happy People Who Did and Some Things to Avoid, From a Few People Who Haven’t Unpacked Yet. A former writer and editor for and now the chief headhunter for all the "Hundreds of Heads" guides, Allen has done all the expert reporting for your next move. Here, she explains that the key to a successful move is early planning.

What’s the “should’ve known better” hindsight moment that hits everyone after a move?

Time and again, the thing that we hear from people we interview is that it's never too early to go through all your stuff and determine what you want to keep and what’s junk. This is not a small project. You have more stuff than you think. You have stuff still packed in boxes from your last move. You need to go through everything. Throw out the worthless stuff, and devise a plan for the stuff you no longer want but you know is not worthless: perhaps have a yard sale, or donate to the Salvation Army or another organization. All of this takes planning, so get started!

Then you need to start thinking about the stuff you're keeping. How will you pack it all? Can you pack some of it now? What kind of system will you use to determine what's in all the boxes you will fill? How will you transport it?

Would you recommend having a “move plan?” If so, what should it include?

We’ve had people tell us that planning a move is like planning a wedding. You need to sit down with a calendar and figure out what needs to be done each month. Write down what you want to accomplish six months out, five months out, etc. Keep checking it to see that you're on track.

After hearing hundreds of stories about moving, do you think people recognize it as a milestone event in life or just an experience to get through?

Moving is the third most stressful event in a person's life, behind divorce and death. There is a wide range of emotions a person goes through, from wild excitement about the new adventure to extreme remorse over leaving a town, friends and family they know and love. It’s important to know that each person’s experience and responses to the experience are different. Just go with what you’re feeling. If you feel sad because you’re leaving behind a best friend, go visit that friend and cry about it. If you just can't wait to get to your new destination, make a list of all the fun things you’re going to do when you get there.

Given the significant emotional impact of a move, is there particular advice you would give to families or those moving with small children?

A move to a new city for children can be exciting and frightening all at the same time. We’ve had people tell us that to help deal with their child’s anxiety, they created “moving books” with them—sort of like a scrapbook that allows the child to collect pictures from where they’ve been and where they are going. If a child is old enough, encourage him or her to write down his or her feelings about the move. It always helps children to see where, exactly, they are headed. If you have the chance, take your child to their new home before you actually move in and let them walk around and imagine living there. It will help them picture their future and relieve extra anxiety. Further, if you can line up a play date with a child in the new location, this can give your child the benefit of a new friend to look forward to.

What is something everyone tries to avoid but always ends up happening in a move?

Things go wrong in a move. It’s unavoidable. Every moving plan, no matter how carefully choreographed, goes awry at some point. The successful mover possesses the ability to take these pitfalls in stride.

Despite how different moves are, is there a common move denominator that you’ve noticed? Any common mistakes?

It seems from the hundreds of interviews we’ve done that hardly anyone manages to unpack all his or her belongings once he or she gets to a new home. One person did tell us she put unpacked boxes in the center of the room and left them there until they were unpacked.

Another common mistake, and one that can be easily avoided: hiring movers that are not reputable. Before you hire a mover, make sure you have the total cost of the move in writing, with no hidden costs written in small print. Call the Better Business Bureau and look on the internet to check the background of the mover. If a business is known for stiffing customers or charging outrageous prices, you'll find out.

What are the quickest and easiest things people do to get adjusted to a new city?

Get to know people. Figure out where the grocery store, mechanic, pharmacist, etc., are located. Find favorite places (restaurants, parks, bars) to hang out.

What have people told you were the best things that they did that helped them adjust in their new city?

Most people tell us you need to give a new location at least a year, sometimes two years, before you really settle in and adjust to it. Once you've lived in a city for 30 days and you are unpacked, go out and see the town. Get to know it. Get to know the people. Don't make any rash judgments. You might hate the city at first, and you might very well love it after nine months.


What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?

There’s a line from the movie “Jaws” that I like. Chief Brody gets his first glimpse of the giant shark, and he says to the captain, “We're gonna need a bigger boat.” Applying that to moving or any other life obstacle, always plan for the worst-case scenario.

The best thing about change is...

... that it forces you to grow.

What is the best change you ever made?

I moved away from my family to a new city. It allowed me to meet completely different people, experience completely different things and start my own family.

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I think change itself is a boat, and sufficient it is in size and strength for its own purposes. What is important is how we work the sails, the rudder or oars.

Sometimes people 'ignore' change; missing that chance to grow. Yet, at another time they might wholeheartedly embrace it.

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Serenity n' joy,


How to Survive A Move: by Hundreds of Happy People Who Did and Some Things to Avoid, From a Few Who Haven't Unpacked Yet


If you are one of the forty million Americans who will move this year, you know the task can seem overwhelming. Now, there's help....