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10 Life Hacks That Take the Stress out of Moving to a New City

Moving to a new city, especially for the first time, can be stressful, overwhelming, and lonely. These tips can help ease the transition into your new home and still keep you in touch with the loved ones you're leaving behind.

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Start preparing early

You will think you have all the time in the world before the moving trucks get to your door. You don’t. You will want to procrastinate on sorting and packing in an attempt to make this life transition seem less real. You will regret it. Follow this week-by-week moving day countdown to make sure you stay on schedule and have everything prepared for the big day. When you’re prepared, you stress less and free up mental capacity to focus on the new adventure ahead of you.

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Ask for free boxes

An easy way to cut moving costs is to use cardboard boxes you can get for free. Go to grocery stores, bookstores, liquor stores, and even Starbucks and see if they have extra boxes—ones that close on all sides or at least have a top—you could take off their hands. The size of the boxes can determine what goes into each one, but don’t overstuff the contents. Otherwise, you risk damaging your possessions. These helpful packing hacks will also ensure you pack wisely. Gathering these boxes is another thing you should do far in advance of your move, so you’re guaranteed to have enough to store your stuff.

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Track down people that you know

This sounds like a given, unless you’re moving to a city where you literally know no one. Talk to people who know about your move and ask if they have any connections in your new city, even if it’s a friend of a friend of a friend. Studies show that having friends makes you happier and healthier, two qualities that are especially important to have when you’re transplanted to a new city. Your new friends-by-way-of-other-friends will also make excellent tour guides and honest critics of the city and its culture. Ask them questions before you move, and then set a date to meet them in person soon after you arrive.

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Have a proper send-off

As in, a party with your favorite foods and drinks that you get to enjoy with your favorite people. If you follow these party-planning tips, people will even think you hired your own planner. Whatever you do, don’t call it a goodbye party. Sure, you won’t live a quick drive away from your friends anymore, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never see them again. Instead, use this as a way to celebrate the good times you’ve had with them. Call it the launch party for a new chapter in your life.

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Request fan mail

Either at your send-off party or on social media (or both), ask friends and family to send you letters, photos, and care packages in the mail once you get settled in. Not quick emails or texts, but genuine physical letters that require a stamp. As a matter of personal security, don’t put your new address online, along with these posts you should never make on social media. Have people message you privately for that info. Getting mail is a simple way to put smile on your face during a time when you feel homesick and lonely. Display these letters around your room or office as a reminder that you’re loved and missed.

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Save a digital map on your phone

The way you talk can be a dead giveaway that you’re new in town, especially when these polarizing regional sayings come into play. Another tipoff is how you navigate your way through the city. If you use a guidebook or—gasp—a physical map, people will automatically categorize you as a tourist or a recent transplant. Shady characters will only see you as a target. Keep yourself safe (and avoid getting lost) by taking a screenshot of a map and saving it on your phone. Google Maps will be your first best friend in any new city you move to.

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Do a test-run to work

Arriving early and prepared to your new job is a must, as are these other things you should always do on your first day at a new job. Do a trial run to the office—all the way there and back, no skimping—so you know exactly where you’re going and about how long it will take you. Remember to leave extra time for rush hour. Traffic on a weekend will be a lot different from the traffic on a Monday morning.

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Get the heck out of your apartment

Once you’re finally unpacked, you may be tempted to stay in your room, surrounded by things that remind you of home, with only intentions of leaving to go to work and buy food. When this happens, remember these words: You. Need. To. Get. Out. It’s the only way you’ll get comfortable with your new city. Feeling lonely and homesick is perfectly normal. Not being proactive in getting out of that funk is unhealthy. These little ways to connect with others are a step in the right direction toward breaking out of your shell.

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Befriend a bartender

Or a barista. Or a waiter. Anyone in the service industry knows more secrets than you think—and not just about what’s good on the menu. Chatting up a bartender is the only socially acceptable time you can converse with a stranger about practically anything without feeling inherently awkward. They can give you insider info on cool hangouts only the locals know about, or you can complain to them about your awful commute. They’ll be forced to listen because they physically can’t leave. And if you become a regular, you may even get the occasional free drink.

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Go easy on yourself

Moving is hard. Adjusting is harder. If it takes you a couple weeks to get out and explore, don’t stress. Taking things at your own pace will make the experience easier and more enjoyable for you. Focus on boosting your self-confidence about the move and the changes going on in your life before branching out. Everything that follows will be all the more rewarding for it.