MOVING IN THE DARK — THE CHALLENGES OF CHANGING HOMES AS A BLIND WOMAN

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I’m staring down my third move in a year. And I’m not happy about it.

The place we’ve found is in the same neighbourhood, surprisingly affordable in the current market, accessible, and cozy. But it’s only been three and a half months since moving into our current home and I thought we’d be here for at least a few years. That was before our landlords announced their breakup… and you know the rest.

I think it’s fair to say I’m exhausted of moving, but it’s not only the practical aspects of packing boxes, changing addresses and reorganizing the new kitchen. My blindness adds an entirely different layer to the cake, and sadly for me, it’s not my Mama’s homemade chocolate one.

Orienting myself to a brand-new space is a long and tedious process. It requires lots of time, patience and mental energy, and not only on my part but that of the person helping me to adjust. It can take weeks, sometimes months, for me to feel truly independent and “at home” in my own home.

Phase One: Pack It Up!

Much to my husband’s chagrin, I don’t pack [or let him pack] until the very last minute. Whether it’s going on an overnight trip or moving to a new house, I put off the packing for as long as I can, often ending us up in a world of stress on the last morning.

My madness has a method, though. I don’t pack before I absolutely have to so that I don’t have to mentally “move out” of the house before I absolutely have to. If we packed weeks before moving, it wouldn’t feel like home anymore. I often say that I can get lost within an inch of my destination [searching the walls for an outlet is a nightmare], and this is so poignant in regards to the chaos that ensues with packing an entire house.

If something isn’t where it should be or where I last knew it to be, I feel incredibly helpless. Having to consistently ask where something is decreases the level of independence I know I have, and it only makes me feel like a burden. My home should be a place of safety for me, both physically, mentally, emotionally and for my disability.

Disabled people need to know that their home is theirs, accessible for their needs and as easy to navigate and live in as someone without a disability. Making myself a cup of coffee, preparing a meal and cleaning are all parts of maintaining the life that I want for myself, but if things are moved around without my knowledge, in boxes that take me minutes to rummage through, or things strewn on the floor that make my home unsafe to walk in, it’s no longer my “home” because it takes away the essentials of what turns a house into a home.

Packing is inevitable. But to mitigate the frustration that is also inevitable from the process, I leave packing to the last minute. While my home is still home, I want to enjoy it for as long as I can.

Phase Two: Time to Move It, Move It

The frustration and helplessness I feel during the packing part of the process takes much longer than many realize to dissipate. The day of the move brings with it new challenges, as I want to be useful in the heavy-lifting and physical act of moving. But I can’t.

By the time everything is packed, I’m at a complete loss. I stay out of the way, not because I can’t be of any help, but because I know that it’s often more efficient if I do. Considering the fact that I use my hands to guide me along walls, through doorways and locate landmarks such as handrails, if my hands are full with boxes, it’s dangerous for me to maneuver up and down stairs, around vehicles and in a new house which I haven’t had the chance to learn yet.

I stay in one place, often the couch, until even the couch has to go. Then, the part where I can be of use–unpacking–begins, but not without its own set of challenges.

Phase Three: Home Sweet Home [Almost]:

I start with the kitchen. I’ve moved so often that I have a system for organizing the food, dishes and appliances–cans are organized in alphabetical stacks, the utensil divider starts with knives on the left, spoons in the middle and forks on the right and similar ingredients like grains, sweeteners and coffee supplies all go in their individual cabinets. The trouble is: which one? I’ve lived in so many different homes over the last few years, and each time I move, my brain tries recreating a previous house’s layout. Before too long, it’s a jumble in my mind and I can’t remember where anything is.

It takes longer than many people realize for the feeling of being lost in my own home to dissipate. While all the boxes may be unpacked and things in their places, my brain is working overtime to adjust:

  • Where did I put the bowls? The cabinet left of the fridge… no wait, that was the last house.
  • How do I work the washing machine? We put tactile dots on it but I can’t remember which settings they mark.
  • Where are all the outlets?
  • How do I work the heater? The last one was a dial, but this one’s not accessible so I have to estimate the heat and what if I turn it too high?

It isn’t only blind people that can feel frustrated during a move. Everyone gets lost from time to time or can’t remember which drawer the mixing bowls are in. The difference is that a sighted person can open a cupboard or drawer, scan the contents in a few seconds and find that the object they’re seeking is in that cabinet or not, whereas I have to look at each item and examine every corner of the cabinet or drawer to determine if said object is there. If not, I have to repeat the process with the next, and the next…

It’s an exhausting process for my brain to learn that this is home, that we are safe here and that we will live here long enough to make learning everything worth it. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case. What was meant to be years was only 3.5 months, but I learned in that time that no matter how long I live in a particular house, I want it to be home.

And making it a home means putting in the effort, despite all the exhaustion, frustration, mental energy and questions, to learn what makes it home for me. And for me, that is being able to live within its walls independently and joyfully.

So, as much as I don’t want to move again for the third time in a year, I’ve had sufficient practice and am prepared for what it will involve. And for that, I’m thankful.

Do you enjoy moving? What’s the process like for you? Tell me in the comments.

6 Comments

  1. Lysanne and Shannon to the rescue! No couch surfing for you. We’re leaving this to the men and the girls are going out for coffee!

  2. Do I enjoy moving?

    Since I have not moved in 41 years the answer should now be obvious. We are still in the first house we bought in 1982. It has been our anchor spot through early marriage, raising three sons from boys to men, and now retirement. This house has seen countless family celebrations: confirmations, graduations, family reunions, a fiftieth wedding anniversary and even a marriage.

    Dogs have always been a part of this place. I will never forget you bringing Cricket back to his puppy home; the easy way he immediately slid through the pet door on the back porch. It was if he had done it a hundred times, because he did. And I will never forget how he pulled at your heart while you were here. Thank you for bringing him back to us. He will always have a home here.

    It will take you time to learn your new place. But time does not make a home.

    You have all you need to make your new place a home. Peace. Welcome home.

    1. 41 years, wow! That’s wonderful. I can only hope at this point to be in one place for 2 years…
      I’m so glad you both have Cricket and that he’s back home with his forever family. All my love to the whole family, humans and doggos!

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