New calendar, new goals, new year, and even a new coat are all part of my new start in 2015. I have so many hopes for 2015. Brooks and I are learning the ukulele together and we’ve already put the C chord to use with Old MacDonald Had A Farm. A crew of guys is working underneath my house this week so that when I sell it this summer the inspector will marvel at the pretty crawl space. My 2014 sales statistics are complete and I have a clean spreadsheet waiting to be filled. Stephanie even cooked a pot of soup Monday so that we would have home-cooked food to eat this week as part of our ever present wish to eat home-cooked food more often. I love this time of year and all its new beginnings.
So often I see people sell and buy a home to restart their life. Maybe the couple quarreled in their old house and the new house will have a larger kitchen and more storage so that they can no longer fight about clutter. Maybe they found it too hard to break bad habits in their old home and are hoping to keep an entirely different schedule without their old vices in a new home. Other times they don’t like how heavy they are and so they trade all the time spent commuting for a home closer to work that will give them more time to cycle and kayak. Other times I’ve seen people pick up and move across the country for a mass overhaul of their life. And so many times I have seen someone sell a home so that they can get a family member or roommate out of their lives without having an awkward conversation about why that person needs to move out and get their own place.
It is true that a new location can help you change. Maybe you forget to unpack a coffee pot and realize that you don’t need it by the time you find it. Or maybe your new neighborhood has a swimming pool and you’ve lost ten pounds without realizing that you have been exercising. With intention many habits can be left behind in your old home. A few days ago I heard a story on Morning Edition called “What Heroin Addiction Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits.” It was about how addicted soldiers returning from Vietnam were treated for heroin addiction before coming home. They were followed and their rates of relapse were just five percent in the first year. When the results were announced people didn’t believe the study had been conducted correctly because the success rate was unbelievable compared to standard rehabilitation and relapse rates in the US. They were found to be true. The reason for this program’s success for veterans was the location change. The addiction had taken place in an exotic environment. So all of the location triggers were gone when the soldiers came home.
That said, it takes attention to break habits in a new location. If you move so that you and your family will talk and engage with each other more but you bring your smartphones, video games, and all other screens into the new house, then you may sit in silence in a new living room. When we move this year I hope to leave behind all my messes and any extra stuff that will just lead us down the path of a messy new house. What we have now are two sentimental only children who have been given many precious things and a love for “precious things.” So far I’m only one trip to Goodwill down. My intention is to shed 1,000 items before the move. I keep telling myself that we won’t need it all where we’re going and thinking of craft supplies and old books I already know could be donated. That still hasn’t led to the daily discarding I had imagined in the final days of December. I’m hoping this impending move will lead to massive change, but I do know it’s just a hope at this point.
As useful as change can be, there are limits to how far this can go. The people who move are the same people they were, even with fresh curtains and that nice new paint smell. I woke up on New Year’s with the same awful cold I had the day before. And sometimes I find out that a couple has separated after the last move didn’t lead to all the change they expected. Sometimes you miss the old patterns you had in your old house, too. When Stephanie and I moved from our first house to our second we realized we couldn’t talk in one voice and be heard all over the house. We felt so far apart. Change can have unintended consequences and it doesn’t always go as far as you want. That said, I’m always hopeful that every year and every fresh start will be better than the last.
Here’s to a new year with all of its new beginnings. I hope 2015 brings you all the change you had hoped!
Here is a link to the Morning Edition story: What Heroin Addiction Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits