- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Attention garage-sale fans: The moving season has begun.
For the next two months, families planning major moves will be cleaning out closets, filling up trash cans and holding yard sales to get rid of excess household goods before the moving vans roll up.
Summer is prime time for families to move because it avoids the need to change schools during the year. Nearly half of all moves occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to the American Moving and Storage Association, the trade group for the moving industry.
Geri and Rick Moran are learning the routine. The Sterling, Va., couple have been winnowing through their belongings for weeks in preparation for two moves they are making this summer.
The first is to a town house in Sterling, a temporary dwelling they will occupy while they wait for construction to be finished on a new house in the Cascades development in Loudoun County. They hope to move into their new house in August before school begins for their two daughters.
"It seems like months since we've been getting packed for this move," Mrs. Moran says. "It's a lot of work."

Helping children adjust

The Morans were lucky to be able to control the timing of their move so it wouldn't require a change in schools midway through the year. Child psychologists say such disruptions can be difficult for some children, especially adolescents, to manage.
"If you can possibly not disrupt the school year, that is the best thing to do," says Michael Shahnasarian, a Tampa, Fla.-based psychologist who works with companies involved in corporate relocations. "That's not always the case. And so then you have to make the best of it."
Adolescents have the most difficult time making moves, Mr. Shahnasarian says. Sometimes the consequences can be tragic. He cites the case of a recent teen murder-suicide in Tampa in which one of the ill-fated lovers was scheduled to move away with his family.
"Teens are in a phase where everything is overaggrandized and anxieties can rage out of control," he says. "At a time in life when they're dealing with conforming, they have to learn new rules. It can be very difficult for them to have a shift in social situations."
Parents can help mitigate fears by involving teens in the decision-making process. One helpful step is to arrange for an older child to visit the new school and meet other students, he says, adding that most schools allow such visits.
"It helps the child see what it might be like and can go a long way to taking away the anxiety of moving," he says.

A moving experience

Some psychologists say parents can cause problems by worrying too much about the negative consequences of moving. Children pick up on the anxiety and start fretting that the move will be a bad thing.
"Families can look at it as an adventure, and it can be a great opportunity for the family to work together as a team," says Thomas T. Olkowski, a psychologist based in Denver who has done research on the impact of moving on children.
"If everyone has tasks and responsibilities, they feel part of the move," he says. "Then when they get to the new community, they can work together exploring the neighborhood, stores and shopping centers."
This is the approach that Sheryl Hause used when she moved with her husband, Peter, and four children to Loudoun County four years ago from Dunkirk, Md. The family scheduled the move on Labor Day weekend so the older children could start school right away.
"We went to a picnic at the beginning of the school year and made friends with a new family that we are still in touch with," Mrs. Hause says. It also helped to explain the reason for the move Mr. Hause had taken a job in Herndon that would have required a long commute if the family hadn't moved.
The Hauses did not stay long in their new location; a year later, they returned to Dunkirk because Mr. Hause had taken a job in the District. Early this year, he joined a company in Reston so the family may be making another move.
This is the kind of mobility that makes some people think the Washington area is a place where people don't stay in one place for very long. Washington has earned the reputation of being a place of great transience because every four to eight years, there is a high-profile influx and exodus when a new president takes office.

Debunking the myth

A close look at the data shows that the transient label is a misnomer, says Larry Long, a demographer with the Housing and Household Statistics Division of the U.S. Census Bureau. The region is no more transient than other large metropolitan areas where burgeoning economic development is pushing geographic boundaries into outlying suburbs, he says.
"In the past, the D.C. area did have a tendency to have a slight rate of turnover that was above the norm, but not by much," Mr. Long says. That has changed in recent years. Now the turnover is comparable to that of other cities that are in a growth mode.
"Typically, areas that are growing tend to attract people from many locations and then send them somewhere else," he says. "But D.C. is no more transient than other areas that are growing. It's a myth that keeps getting promulgated."
Census data show that most moves, like the ones the Morans are making, are local. Nearly two-thirds (63.7 percent) of people who moved between 1997 and 1998 stayed within the same county, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Only 15 percent of moves were from one state to another and 2.8 percent from abroad.
The data also show that the U.S. population is tending to stay put longer than it did in the 1950s and '60s, when things were hopping.
"It's very hard to say why mobility has declined," Mr. Long says. He speculates that the aging of the baby-boom generation and a higher number of homeowners may be partly responsible.

Stress points

It doesn't matter to Steve Zupan what the data show. All he knows is that from now until August, his phone is going to be ringing relentlessly with queries from Washingtonians who are on the move.
"We're so busy right now it's the nature of the beast," says Mr. Zupan, business manager of Smoother Movers, the Sterling-based company that is handling the move for the Morans. He says business picks up in the summer when schools get out and becomes particularly intense in the fall, when college students leave home.
"People really get stressed out around moves and I understand it," he says.
He appreciates the orderly approach the Morans are taking with their move. It makes the work go more smoothly and minimizes the chances of mistakes.
The Morans began planning early this year once they had decided to sell the house where they had lived for nearly a decade. They did an initial round of organizing and eliminating unneeded items before putting the house on the market.
Then came a garage sale and donations to charity. So when the moving van pulled up a few weeks ago, they were ready to go.
"Look at me, Mommy, I'm rolling away," says Geneva, as she scoots around on a wooden platform with wheels that belongs to the moving company. The 5-year-old is excited about the move; she turns handstands in the empty living room once filled with couches, chairs and lamps.
She spots a stuffed elephant in a trash bag that will be carted off to the new house. "Can't I play with this now, please?" she asks.
"No," Mom says, "We need to keep this packed so we don't lose it."
Mrs. Moran is unperturbed amid the commotion and her daughter's excitement as bookcases and bureaus are hauled out of the house. She has a keen sense of organization and gives the movers clear-cut directions about where to put the furniture when unloading it at the town house.
"We're trying to make it as quick and easy as possible for you," she tells the four men who maneuver around the work for Sterling Van Lines.
Meanwhile, Geneva inspects her empty bedroom her home since birth. At the new house, she and her sister, Benita, 7, will share a room as an experiment.
"It may not last," Mr. Moran says. "Benita is very organized, and Geneva, well, she's not, at least not yet."
Geneva is eager for the family to move into the new house.
"My mom promised that we could get a dog," she says. "That's the best part about moving."

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