Lately, I’ve been taking notice when I see articles and blog posts about selling the family home, or downsizing, or re-evaluating the next chapter, etc. Some take on a bittersweet tone, while others have a roll-up-your-sleeves and get on with it approach. Most conversations I have with people my age inevitably get around to the subjects of retirement, changing gears, making adjustments–and there are always more questions than answers. I hate stuff like that. Just when you think you have things narrowed down to Plan A or Plan B, the rest of the alphabet presents itself proposing other options. It’s been the story of my life: unexpected deviations from The Plan, unintended consequences, and things that seem to work themselves out even when the best laid plans have gone astray. The Game of Life turned out to be good preparation for actual life.
The idea of moving to a smaller house–one that doesn’t require so much maintenance–leaves me filled with conflicting emotions. We moved into this house as a family of four in 1984. By 1986, we were a family of five. And in 1991, the place burned to the ground. We rebuilt in the same spot, and as project manager of the rebuilding I had a hand in every element that went into the new house.
Now, over twenty years later, our three kids are grown up and married. with families of their own. The house that once felt so big can no longer accommodate our growing crowd on those too-rare occasions when we all get together.
Just thinking about packing up and moving leaves me with feelings of dread (and denial at the inevitability of it), but a big change also carries with it a certain air of excitement. I’m just not sure I’m ready to make that change quite yet. Mostly, I shove those thoughts to the back of my mind and carry on, maybe cleaning out a drawer here and there, getting rid of some files every now and again, and occasionally sorting through a closet and piling up clothes to give away. All mere drops in the bucket. The larger tasks loom large and seem overwhelming.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, though. I recently packed up an entire house and it didn’t take long at all. In fact, it was incredibly easy to do. No lingering over sentimental items: which to keep, which to give or throw away–not a problem. And I was able to do it all myself, stress-free. This house has a lot of history: it had been handed down from one generation to another. But the time had come to move on. Some other family would get to enjoy this charming place, and I only hope the next generation will get as much pleasure out of decorating and fixing it up as we did.
There’s something about an empty house, no matter how long you’ve had it, that is kind of sad. All the rooms, once full of furniture and doodads, gathered from who knows where–some hand-made treasures, small and precious: a teapot, a birdcage, dishes, quilts–too many things to mention. Yes, an empty house, no matter how small, can stir up all kinds of memories.