What does it mean to really move out?

Most of us have long ago moved out of our parents’ house. We pay our own rent or mortgage, we chose our own internet and cable plan when we had first moved in, and we get to buy any ridiculous groceries we desire without judgement or criticism.

Good for us. Nevertheless, it may be a good idea to ask ourselves – “Did we REALLY move out of our childhood home?”

Again, we may set our own bed time and have our own liquor cabinet, but let’s be honest—there are some ways in which we have never moved out. 

For those of us who were lucky to have supportive and warm parents, and even for those of us who weren’t, not-fully moving out has been a way to remain close to what is familiar to us in an unknown universe.

At the same time, it may have very well also meant that we are still following some rules of a house we no longer live in, and are interfering with our chance to create new rules and find new ways of being for ourselves.

Consider the following. If your parents always made sure you finished your homework before you were permitted to watch TV, do you still find yourself not allowing yourself certain things because others have not yet been completed? Or vice versa—do you perhaps unconsciously rebel against those patterns and watch so much TV that you never finish any tasks and harm any chance of progress towards your goals?

Many patterns such as no-TV-before-homework-is-done have created structure and healthy frame of work—both essential abilities of delaying gratification in favor of meaningful experiences and accomplishments. At the same time, they may have also become a bit oppressive at some moments in your current life. For example, when spontaneity of spirit and flight of creativity are in order, you won’t let yourself engage with them because you haven’t finished that report or because you haven’t completed your daily 10,000 steps. If this sounds at all familiar, it may be time to consider moving out.

If you had the opposite experience and your home life was chaotic and your parents haven’t provided consistent structure or care, you may still live in a way that disinvites any self-care into your current home, mind and body. Is it time to move out? To be your own parent and make sure you keep your doctors’ appointments, finish your presentations on time, go to sleep at a reasonable hour, and eat your veggies.

More ways in which we still live at our parents’ home

Another possible experience that may have stayed with you is your parents pinching pennies to make sure your family had the means to survive the following month. If you still torture yourself over ordering an extra appetizer at your birthday dinner over those memories, it may be time to move out. Again, their frugality and meticulousness were necessary for your family 20 years ago, and it’s admirable that they had been able to stretch what they had to provide for your needs. However, if you currently own a home, have skills and talent that have supplied you with steady income for the past two decades, and you still feel pain every time you buy something you don’t need, it may be time to move out.

Lastly, it may be that your parents were regularly reacting to every less-than-perfect final score with less-than-celebration, regardless of the process. In that case, consider that you might be disallowing yourself to celebrate your process and by that, may miss the sweet and sour taste of the means on your way to the end. It may be time to move out, and allow yourself to sink into anything imperfect occurring at this moment and see what comes up.

Some first stops on your road out

First, think of the ways in which you personally have potentially not yet moved out. The cliché that awareness is the first step has become a cliché for a reason. It’s because it’s true. Really and honestly take the time to notice where you are still holding on to rules that you had not participated in writing and habits that have become so familiar that you don’t even know you’re doing them anymore. It’s important because any change or adjustment you may wish to make should be based on an honest understanding and honoring of those rules and habits which found a home inside of you.

Second, have a conversation with yourself over coffee, dinner or drinks and talk about things that you wish to have more in your life. For example, if you need more structure, say that and look up ways to create more structure in your world. If you realize that you are too reserved and do not let yourself be vulnerable because you were not taught that, explore with a good friend or a therapist what your fears are around being vulnerable. Or if you notice that you are afraid of feeling passionate about your dream of acting because you were taught that passion and dreams do not have space in your world, then take a chance today and allow yourself to feel your passion and to explore your attraction to performance. Then, sign up for an improvisation class before your internalized doubt can interfere with that.

Third, realize that moving out takes time. While you are packing, there are things that take longer than others to let go of, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the process. If you need to take a break, take it. Then, go back into that room and look around again, and take note of what is no longer yours here in this house. What doesn’t have room in your new space. Allow the pain and fear of regret to be there with you; packing wouldn’t be complete without them. You may be taking them with you too, because it’s part of the process. As is excitement and hope and vision.

You can still visit

It doesn’t mean you can’t visit. You may find that your feeling of home and everything you’ve been taught about life, love, doubt and creativity from your caregivers remains with you even though you are working toward creating your own values around these matters. And that’s wonderful. 

It also doesn’t mean that it would be as easy and quick as when you had originally and physically moved out. However, you may discover ways of being inside of you that are yours alone, that would allow more freedom and spontaneity and joy in your world.

You may also find out that there are things of which it is particularly hard to let go. Those patterns of thought and behavior that have followed you for so long, that help you feel close to home, that worked in some ways for you. In some ways, though, they no longer do. In yet some additional ways, they really really no longer do.

In that case, just go back to that first time you packed your sheets and books and CDs, and with fear and excitement in your heart, set out on your own road. 

You could do it then, you can do it again.



Eva received her Psy.D. degree from the California Institute of Integral Studies. She embraces considerations from mostly a relational orientation, along with implementation of psychodynamic, Time-Limited Dynamic Therapy, and behavioral concepts. Eva is specifically interested in utilizing her clients’ stories of transitional periods and their perception of self (their personal myths) – as a vehicle to discover new possibilities for thought and action.