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.
In this case, not only did I empty the house and pack everything up, I also handed it back to its rightful owner. The transaction only took a moment, but it packed an emotional punch. Younger children would be enjoying the house and making their own history within its walls. My granddaughter, at nearly seven years old, has outgrown playing with it.
I gave the house back to the friend who loaned it to me. Now, the young children in her life will get to fill these rooms with the stuff I packed up.
It’s all here: the furniture,the dishes,the little stove, the beds, and, of course, the family. And it all fit into a single container.
When the time comes, the next step will be infinitely more complicated. I’m not kidding myself here. But packing up this little house got me thinking a little more seriously about how it might feel to move on one day. I think of it as a baby step.
But for now, our house is a very, very, very nice house. . .
Your thoughts on an empty house really resonated for me, as did this entire piece. Very evocative of my own experiences. Moving. Thank you for putting the words out there so beautifully.
Thanks, Carol. I appreciate your comments. When does the easy part start??
Yes Risa, I suppose the emotions are the greatest challenge in any major move. I have dealt with those concerning our present house, now it’s just the many physical challenges like constant knee pain!
Hi Risa. I have moved tons of times since becoming an adult and while some moves have been more difficult than others I always try to leave a place better than I found it. (sounds like you’ve certainly done that with your home.) I’ve also done something similar to what you did with your grand-daughters play house–put my thoughts on the people who will be living and enjoying the home in the future. It seems to take the sting off from leaving a home when I know that it will go for that purpose. But there’s no rush is there? ~Kathy
Kathy, no–not a big rush. We have at least two years to make a plan! Thanks for your thoughts. Much appreciated!