Taking the Pain Out of Moving

If there’s one thing in life I’ve perfected, it is the art of moving. I’ve moved…a lot. I’ve moved house all totaled a little over 30 times. It started fresh out of the womb. Not long after I was born, there was a major earthquake in LA, damaging the Hollywood garden apartment building my parents inhabited. They then decided to move to Orange County. We moved 5 times before I was 11 years old and I think it’s not a stretch to conclude that all those moves indelibly imprinted me.

My teenage years were stable, boring even, in middle-class Huntington Beach. It was one pleasant valley Sunday after another and I dreamed of roaming free. So straight out of high school, I hit the road and didn’t look back. But while I wanted to travel, I also wanted to get to know different regions and towns, learn what made locals tick, so I would set down roots for 6 months to a year or more before moving on (is it any wonder I majored in cultural anthropology in college?).

Over the course of my life, I’ve moved crosstown, from state-to-state, cross country and abroad. In all my moves I have learned some things and I’d like to share the benefit of my experience with you (Note: the following tips are for people on a budget. If you’re independently wealthy, move right along. There’s nothing to see here).

1. PARE DOWN – Even though I’ve moved a lot, it was oftentimes incredibly stressful. But I can tell you in a word the one thing that will always make it more stressful and that is STUFF. I’m talking about furniture, TVs, desks, washer/dryers, books, etc. The more stuff you have to pack, the more stressful and expensive your move will be. If your move is within town, go ahead and take all your stuff. But if you’re moving out of the city/state/country now is the time to ruthlessly cull your possessions. And be brutal. Sell off your couch, your TV, even if they are newer. Because you will either have to pay to have these items shipped to you or you’ll have to ship/bring them yourself and either way, it’s not worth it. Shipping/moving vans are costly and the more miles away you move the less worth it is to bring items that can be easily replaced in your new town. Think about what is meaningful to you and hard to replace. Bring that original Picasso but sell the microwave. Now’s the time to hold a garage sale or sell stuff through Craigslist or Nextdoor. Pare down to the bare essentials for living and that which is irreplaceable (this goes for cars, too!)

2. DON’T LET THE MOVE DESTROY YOU – Obviously, the more time you have to plan and prepare for your move, the better. But if you’re pressed for time, remember to take care of yourself! It’s easy for a move to be all-consuming, to spend every waking moment fretting about the details. Unless you’re under the gun and have to move immediately – which is a whole different ball game – try to relegate working on your move to certain times of the day, for your sanity’s sake. If you’re working full time, then give moving prep an hour or two a day and then LET IT GO. By scheduling the time when you work on moving plans and prep, you free your mind and body for your present life. You can’t worry about it all day, every day. You need moments of recreation and decompression.

3. MAP EXERCISE – In the event that you have to move but are unsure as to where to go, here is one helpful way of thinking about where to move. Print up a map of the general area, then X out all the places you know for sure you don’t want to live, or can’t live in (parkland, lakes, etc.). Next, research the places that are left. Check out real estate listings, climate forecasts and Niche.com for demographics, crime info and reviews. Watch YouTube videos of the area. As a result of your research, you’ll then wind up crossing more places off the map. When you narrow it down to a handful of places, then take a trip out there. Your list will then get whittled down further once you’ve experienced them in person. When you’re down to the top 2 or 3 then you go actually stay in those places for a few days, to get a taste of what life is like there. Try to act less like a tourist and more like a resident. Go to the post office, the grocery store. Take a walk or jog around the neighborhood at the same time of day when you normally would at home. Remember that while you may love it now you may not love it at the height of summer or the depths of winter. In my experience, it takes at least a full year to get to know a community, to understand the rhythms of the seasons. But most of us don’t have that much time for moving prep. So next…

4. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS –  Repeat after me – “there’s no perfect place.” Try not to succumb to tunnel vision and idealize a place through rose-colored glasses so much so that you forget to look at the big picture. You’re not going to turn into a different person just because you move into the house of your dreams. Wherever you go, there you are. We all have our criteria –  affordability, safety, access to shops and malls, proximity to job to lessen a commute, etc. The chances you’ll find a place that ticks off every single one of your boxes is slim to none. Not to sound cynical, but really, people, there’s no perfect place. Trust me on this one. You can move into a fabulous historic villa in Tuscany and find you have a bat problem. There’s no perfect place! You might move into that charming cottage by the lake you’ve dreamt of your whole life only to have your face eaten off by mosquitos every July. There’s no perfect place! You might purchase a house near the river only to have it swell and overflow its banks next year, causing you to evacuate. There’s no perfect place! You might move into that cute Hollywood bungalow only to have your neighbor across the street install a 10 foot “Putin 2020” sign across his garage door replete with blinking red lights. There’s no perfect place!

OK, so that about does it. I really can’t stress enough how much paring down household items will relieve the stress of the move and bring down the costs. But if you absolutely can’t bring yourself to cull, then may I suggest a storage unit?



Downtown Los Angeles viewed from Torrance. Photo by A. La Canfora

Funny, Isn’t It? A Poem…

How you endured drunk parents reeling
and a broken playground elbow.
A gas shortage, a drought.
Friends coming and going.
A living room apartment flood.
Then a house move or two or three.
You survived 1980’s Orange County.
Reebok shoes and shoulder pads,
John Hughes films and Duran Duran.
You went to college like a good girl.
Arrived on time for lectures
even when hungover.
You ate spinach salad
instead of pizza.
You quit cigarettes
to prolong your life.
You met a man
and fell in love.
You showered daily and exercised
on days when you didn’t want to.
You moved to London
and got married.
You returned to California
and divorced.
You said goodbye as you watched
your father die.
You survived car accidents
and bouts of flu,
and sunburns,
a night in the hands
of a serial rapist.
You played guitar to
intoxicated crowds.
You danced at weddings,
volunteered for the Red Cross.
In Lost River, West Virginia,
yellow jackets stung your arm.
In Washington, D.C.,
you received a diagnosis.
In Big Bear you shivered through
a mountain blizzard.
In Vegas you throbbed from
the desert heat.
You worked your day job
until your nerves were frayed.
You quit and leapt state boundary
lines in search of a better life.
You got it, found peace
in coastal L.A.
Only to one day
find your very life threatened
by the careless, tossed-off
words of your country’s leader.
Funny, isn’t it?
-Angel La Canfora

My Mosaic History

In 2007, I was living in Charlottesville, Virginia and developed a hankering to explore a new artistic outlet of some kind. While walking through a Michael’s craft store, I spotted a DIY mosaic candle kit, purchased it, took it home, worked on it and was immediately hooked. Bells and whistles sounded in my brain. Ding ding ding! We had a winner!
I proceeded to buy books on how to mosaic and to amass different kinds of glass tiles. My first pieces done without a kit were clunky, awkward mirrors. Using handmade Italian glass called smalti, I made my 1st real fine art work, an image of a lighthouse. I found it impossible, backbreaking, exacting work. I got 3/4’s of the way through and felt so frustrated with it that I shelved it for 6 months and went back to working on mirrors. I told my then-husband that I thought it was bad and was going to chuck it, but he talked me into finishing it. So I completed it and wound up selling it a couple years later for around several hundred dollars. A vocation was born.

My 1st fine art mosaic, “Pigeon Point Lighthouse.”

For the next 6 years, mosaic art became my main pursuit and passion. I enjoyed the glass; love lots of bold, exuberant color in my pieces.
In 2009 I began exhibiting around Charlottesville. During that time I went through a cordial divorce then moved back to my native SoCal in 2010. While living in my hometown of Huntington Beach, California, I continued pursuing mosaic art full-time. I exhibited in a number of art walks, street festivals, restaurants and in an exhibition at the Huntington Beach Art Center.
Finding the rent too darn high and wanting to stretch out my savings, I moved to the SoCal mountain town of Big Bear Lake, California the following year. I’d vacationed there many times over the course of my life and wanted to see if I had it in me to live there full-time, to be a real mountain woman. I leased a rustic, hundred-year old, 2 bedroom cabin on the outskirts of town and turned one of the rooms into a studio. There, at 7000 feet, I hoped the peace and quiet and idyllic surroundings would spur me on to artistic excellence. Instead, I crashed and burned. Gosh, but you wouldn’t believe how much work is involved in maintaining an old cabin in the woods, especially one with no garbage disposal, no central heating, no dishwasher, no washing machine, etc. From having to keep the fireplace going non-stop after the snows came to having to shovel it around the perimeter of the house to having to strain for breath at that altitude to schlepping laundry back and forth to the laundromat to blah blah blah…I had nothing left over to make art! And I was lonely. Many of the homes nearby me sat vacant most of the time, were vacation rentals, mainly occupied on weekends. Most shopkeepers in town lived “off the hill,” as they’d say, down in San Bernardino. Needless to say, I got very little done, mosaic-wise, in the year that I lived in Big Bear. I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t working out, I didn’t have what it took to be a mountain woman, at least not by myself in that old house. So I pulled up stakes and moved to Henderson, Nevada, to thaw out.
There in Henderson, I had a ridiculously ginormous walk-in closet, 1/ 2 of which I converted into a studio. I managed to pump out a few mosaics and get back into exhibiting for awhile. But something was wrong. I was feeling uninspired. My ideas had dried up. The work I was turning out was meh at best. I figured, “why fight it?” and got a full-time office job instead. I spent the next four years on mosaic hiatus, turning my artistic sights towards photographing the Nevada desert, publishing my poetry and performing the odd gig now and again in Las Vegas.
In June of 2016, personal circumstances forced me to leave lovely Nevada and move in with my mom in her house in Torrance, California. With her blessing, I converted the old pool room into a studio. Having a nice, big dedicated space in which to cut glass inspired me once again. I’d also inherited boxes and boxes of beautiful stained-glass from my late grandma, herself a stained-glass artist. Ideas started burbling up. The passion rekindled. I’m back in the mosaic game once again.
It’s important to me to love what I do. I feel that it shows in my work if the heart isn’t there. Art is about emotion. And if there’s no emotion there behind it, then it becomes disingenuous and lackluster. I’m not interested in phoning it in, in anything I do in my life.
You can see my work for yourself over at my Etsy shop or my Facebook fan page.

“Blooms” Stained-glass mosaic by Angel La Canfora