For more than three years, Kristyn Ivey thought about moving to Chicago from her condo in Alexandria, but always hesitated. It took a “life-changing” book to finally get her to take the leap.

Kristyn picked up a copy of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, a book by Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo. With the KonMari method, you consider each item in your life, asking yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If not, get rid of it.

By the time Kristyn finished decluttering, she’d pocketed $600 from a yard sale and another $300 from returned clothing with tags still attached that she’d found in her closet.

“Once you start going through things and focusing only on which items spark joy, that tells you a lot about yourself,” said Kristyn, who unearthed books she’d forgotten about that rekindled her passion for organizing and design.

Once Kristyn set her intention, synchronicity stepped in. For example, people from Kristyn’s social media and business networks contacted her out of the blue about interior design.

Kristyn Ivey in Chicago

Naysayers warned of Chicago’s harsh winters and high crime rate. Kristyn worried she’d have trouble making friends. She ignored those fears and secured an apartment through a rental search company in Chicago. Then in May, she paid a company $800 to transport her car and boarded a plane to her new home.

“With only the things that spark joy coming with me to Chicago, I was free from the typical concerns associated with a move,” said Kristyn. “I made better decisions when managing my possessions and the direction of my life.”

After decluttering and getting rid of worn and bulky furniture, Kristyn was able to consolidate her life into two U-Haul pods.

“I kept about 50 percent of what I had originally,” she said.

In Chicago, Kristyn kept her job as a government contractor but also launched For the Love of Tidy, a business offering KonMari tidying lessons. She’s easily met plenty of new friends at a free office-sharing space in her neighborhood.

“I was kind of afraid of being an entrepreneur and being my own boss because that didn’t sound like something I was able to manage,” said Kristyn. “Until I made that jump, that type of inspiration was nowhere in my life.”

Kristyn’s Advice: I spent way too much time contemplating the move and even virtual apartment hunting. The timing is never right or perfect. Just do it.

“I Could Reinvent Myself”

When Cristina Maccora’s husband Arthur got transferred from Naples, Italy, to Shreveport, LA two years ago, she left behind friends and relatives and a high-pressure career as an IT specialist.

At the time, Cristina and her family could easily fly one hour from Naples to visit her parents in Sicily. Moving to the U.S. would put an end to those frequent visits. She was also concerned about her dad, who was in his 80s, and her 11-year-old daughter who’d always attended Italian schools. Shaking up her life at 43 years old was daunting.

“It isn’t easy to start over in a new country when you are mid-age. I really did not want to start over again,” said Cristina.

The she realized that she could leave behind a stressful job with long hours and find a new career that allowed more family time.

“I wanted to leave that behind and start something more flexible,” said Cristina. “I got very excited. I had a brand new future ahead and I could become anybody I wanted to be. I could reinvent myself.”

Cristina Maccora

Six months after arriving in Shreveport, Cristina moved with her husband and daughter to Prince William County, Woodbridge, in Northern Virginia, where Cristina became a licensed real estate agent. Now her schedule allows her to spend more time with her family.

Still, Cristina’s move presented a few challenges. When her father passed away her first year in the U.S., Cristina wasn’t able to attend the funeral. At times, she says, clients hesitate to warm up to a her.

“When you’re seen as a foreigner, It takes a little bit more to gain their trust,” she said.

The greatest cultural challenge for Cristina was understanding the concept of “personal space,” which she says doesn’t exist in Italy.

“We are very invasive in our relationships,” she said. “I am more physical and might touch your arm when I’m talking. People here have a personal space bubble, and it takes a while for them to open up.”

Cristina’s advice: I encourage people to move to other countries. It’s so enriching. Reinventing yourself is great. It makes you a better person.

Pursuing a Dream

When Kathleen Lisson moved with her husband Arun from Troy, NY, to San Diego two years ago for his dream job, she turned the shake-up into an opportunity to pursue her own dreams.

Kathleen had worked in public affairs for the New York state legislature for 15 years.

“You can imagine how entrenched I was at that point,” she said.

Initially, Kathleen was against the move. She liked her job, had lots of friends and even enjoyed a good snowfall. Then one morning on a long-distance run, she envisioned a chance to transform her life.

“Instead of working my way up in politics again, I could work this into a second career,” said Kathleen. “Why not take steps to achieve my dream?”

Arun’s new company paid for the move, and once in San Diego, Kathleen’s plan took shape.

Kathleen enrolled in massage school and now owns Solace Massage and Mindfulness, where she specializes in lymphatic drainage massage for post-plastic surgery swelling and discomfort.

“I get to help people look beautiful,” she said.

Kathleen and her husband, Arun
Kathleen and her husband, Arun

Kathleen quickly adapted to San Diego’s healthier lifestyle, eating salads and nutritional food instead of New York comfort foods like pizza and pastas. San Diego’s temperate climate allows her to run year-round and enjoy late-night bonfires on the beach. Making the move was still a challenge.

“I was really scared about it. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t fit in. Inside, I was still a New Yorker,” said Kathleen, who struggled at first to adapt to the laid-back Southern California style.

“One of the biggest challenges was being able to fit in, waking up and feeling like I belong in a place, like I’m not a visitor or in college. Now I’m actually becoming a San Diegan,” Kathleen said.

When she gets a hankering for snow, she and Arun drive a few hours to Idyllwild or Mammoth.

Kathleen has no regrets about moving.

“I feel like I’m healthier here, happier. I loved my job but there is something deeper that is happier in your soul when you’re actually working toward a dream,” she said.

Kathleen’s advice: Figure out what you want to change, what you value and what you want to let go. Figure out how to keep your friends and stuff you love about your former city.