Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Moving house: a plethora of change management analogies

We have just moved house, and the whole way through the (painful) process, I was constantly reminded of my day job - not necessarily the things that I do, but the things that my clients do that mean that they need someone like me to come in and do my thang. All the following notwithstanding, I love my new house (even if it doesn't boast a back garden like Janet's - did you only post those photos on your Facebook page, Janet?)

In no particular order...

In the build up to the move, there was the whole business of selling one house and buying another. We had realised that our home was no longer fit for purpose, so we went on a hunt for a new one. We prequalified the available products/houses based on spec and then went and had a look at a few likely candidates. We didn't go for the first one we liked.

We dealt with mountains of red tape, and spent an awful lot of money on this that and the other small thing that needed to be taken care of.

The relationships with the other parties varied: our buyers were difficult, cantankerous and obstructive. They dragged their heels and kept us guessing. They were rude to the estate agents. Our seller was lovely. The house was the first one his wife and he had bought together when they married straight out of university. They had designed the extensions themselves. Both their children had known no other home. It was hard for them to let go, which we understood perfectly, having gone through that ourselves with our first house in Cape Town. He came personally to hand over the keys, rather than letting the estate agents handle it, and he introduced us to the neighbours.

There were submerged hiccups:

  • We couldn't figure out how to open one of the kitchen cupboards until my husband discovered a hidden safety catch of a type unfamiliar to us
  • Here and there, there are issues that need our attention - mostly decorative, but one or two structural
  • The fit isn't perfect - I don't have enough cupboard space in the kitchen, and our large 3 seater sofa won't fit through the door into the house (it's been relegated to the garage... an almost new, expensive leather sofa... sigh!)
We're going to need to make a few additional purchases to adapt to the new environment:
  • We don't have enough curtains
  • There isn't a place suitable for our current bookshelves, which means we now have to decide whether to buy new ones or have custom-built shelves installed (perhaps I should get the Downes in!)
  • Our elder son has been unable to switch schools so close to the end of this, the last year of his compulsory education (a big exam year), so we have had to find him lodgings in the town we have just left. I am NOT happy about that :o( I would prefer to find him a lift with a commuter, but we have had no responses to our appeal
  • The dining room table in our last house was built in, and bar counter height, which means we have no table and a host of chairs of the wrong height
On the day of the move, our buyers wanted to take delivery of the keys before we had even had a chance to empty the house of our belongings. They became quite threatening.

We still haven't figured out how to control the boiler so that we have hot water and heating when we need it and none when we don't

We are surrounded by boxes. We often face the knowledge that an item needed right now is "here, somewhere" but the schlepp of having to unpack several boxes to find it is more than we have the stomach for, so we either go without or, in extreme cases, go out an buy a new one.

The estate agent who sold our house phoned today to ask me for the code for the burglar alarm. When I saw his number displayed on my phone's screen, my belly flip-flopped. I had thought the whole process was behind us. It was a minor query, but it reminded me that there is always at least one last thing.

The whole process cost us more than we had anticipated. We expected to be slightly to the good after equity on the last house was paid out. We are not. We are slightly to the bad, in fact.

I have been strongly tempted to simply opt for take-aways and heat-and-eats, so that we can focus on unpacking boxes, but our younger son suffers from anxiety, so we need things to develop a feel of life-as-usual as quickly as possible. This has meant being disciplined about dealing with slightly unfamiliar surroundings and being prepared for things to take slightly longer than usual.

Since we sold our house in Cape Town 10 years ago, we have moved house 7 times. We have noticed that, each time, we seem to plan less and just fly by the seat of our pants. This is because we know by now what things need to be done, and we simply do them as the situation arises. We don't spend hours sweating over the prep - we just get on with it. However, when we were new to the whole business, we definitely needed some guidance from those who had been through it before. We drew up a checklist of the things that needed to be thought about and resolved, so that we could minimise the things that got overlooked.

Oh, and on the subject of our new home town, I can't pass up the opportunity to link to this site about the history of the town. Contrast that with this. I know which one I prefer!

Just to finish, I would like to make one point unrelated to learning, knowledge and/or change management:

One evening a couple of weeks back, I was sitting with a group of people, when someone remarked that I looked tired and stressed. I was about to trot out the cliche that moving house is supposedly as stressful as losing a loved one. Unusually for me, I engaged brain before opening mouth, and I remembered just in time that the young man sitting next to me had lost his mother just days before. I looked at this grieving lad and got a healthy dose of perspective: Moving house, on a par with the death of a loved one? No, it flipping isn't!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the new house!
I’m just reading this and shaking my head…the people issues, the stuff issues, the business issues, the emotions. The perspective. Thanks for that last one especially.

Anonymous said...

@Janet Thanks. We're hoping that this will be the last move for a while, now!

I have just this minute returned from the funeral of the woman whose death ahs crept into my posts s few times over the last week or so, and I would like to reaffirm that the loss of a loved one is way worse than moving house. At least with moving house, you know that the stress and the upheaval is temporary. When you lose a loved one, they're gone for good, no matter how much you wish you could wake up from the bad dream.

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Anonymous said...

@Rina Thanks. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first comment from you on this blog. Welcome to the conversation - glad to have you along!

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