The Ins and Outs of Us Downsizing
When you are of a certain age the word “downsizing” becomes a regular part of your vocabulary. My husband and I have been slinging it around for the last several years. Staying home during COVID motivated us to take the first step and begin what we refer to as “The Purge”. First, you must understand, Steve and I are not hoarders, we are actually neat freaks. I used to tell people that we had a couple of children, but they moved out when they were toddlers because of our stringent rules on leaving toys lying around. Seriously, not many people can live with people like us.
That said, no matter how OCD you are, you can’t help but accumulate more stuff than you ever could want or need if you stay in your home for more than a decade. We’ve been in our house for three decades. So from March 2020 through February 2021, we gave away, sold, shredded, burned, discarded, and donated a plethora of stuff. Then with the housing market high and the interest rates low, we decided it was time to put a For Sale by Owner sign in the yard. However, I’ve watched just enough HGTV to know that I still had too much clutter. The next day I took down all of the photographs, the watercolor painting of our cat, and anything that indicated sentimental human beings lived in the place. Within 24 hours the house was no longer a home, but it was ready for sale.
I created an excel spreadsheet with tabs indicating what we would take to the apartment in Ohio we’d signed a lease on, take to our retirement home in Hilton Head, or sell. There was also a list of items along with names of friends and family who at one time while visiting they made a comment that they liked it. I volunteered the antique fire extinguisher to a distant cousin who had been a volunteer firefighter, a wind chime made of grandma’s spoons was scooped up by another cousin, ceramic fruit Peg had commented on went to Peg whether she wanted them or not.
My poor sister was saddled with three loads of furniture and photo albums from our parents (who were borderline hoarders) because she actually did have children that should have things from their grandparents (of course, they won’t want said things, but now that’s sis’s problem when she is downsizing). An antique dealer made me a deal on my antique furniture (he got the deal, I didn’t). Nieces and children of friends who are moving out of their parent’s homes came by and “shopped”. My husband loaded a U-Haul and drove it to South Carolina.
On our way back from dropping off the moving van in Savannah, Georgia we sold our home in Ohio. The good news is the buyers want 80% of the furniture that is left. My sister-in-law’s-neighbors-daughter-in-law wants 10% of the remaining 20%, but somehow the math doesn’t add up because I still had a house that was about 50% full so I held a two-day moving sale. Even then, the AmVets truck was full when they pulled out.
In the midst of “The Purge” I came across this plaque that hung just inside our front door of our childhood home.
“My house is small,
No mansion for a millionaire.
But there is room for love
And there is room for friends
And that’s all I care.”
At 900 square feet and lifelong friends met on that street, no truer words have been spoken.
When Steve and I bought our place on Old Farm Drive – three times larger than the homes either of us grew up in – we felt like millionaires. But it wasn’t just the size that made us feel wealthy, it was the neighbors we met over the thirty plus years – some that have moved on, some that have sadly passed on. It was the Mother’s Day brunches, the Father’s Day grill outs, the Christmas Eve-Eve celebrations, the summer parties and the small intimate backyard gatherings we hosted that made us feel like Moira and Johnny Rose before they lost it all.
Steve was the one who wanted to move back in 1990. I could have stayed in our quaint little ranch on the West Side forever. I’m not a transient person, but he bribed me with the promise of getting a cat. So we did what very few West-Siders do, we crossed Vine Street and moved to the East Side. It was like relocating to another country. I didn’t even speak the language. But shortly thereafter, a sweet little calico kitten named Ali found her way here and all was well.
We began to fill the rooms with furniture, put color on the walls, and made our new house our own. Over the years Old Farm Drive served as an animal shelter, a party hall, gym, soup kitchen, corner office and even a nursing home when parents lived with us or Steve and I convalesced from colds, backaches, heart-aches, heart failure, cancer and COVID. The four walls sheltered us from many a storm, both hypothetical and from Mother Nature. It wouldn’t be nearly as hard to leave if Steve hadn’t created such a lovely oasis. Oh how I’ll miss eating dinner on the patio listening to the trickle of the fountain! I’ll miss seeing the daffodils blooming in the woods from my office window. I’ll miss the chirping of crickets on warm summer night. I’ll miss the predawn, faraway sound of a train from the bottom of the hill. I’ll miss the beauty of nature just outside our back door – deer, hawks, cardinals, turtles, squirrels, chipmunks, field mice and rabbits. I’ll even miss the moles or occasional snake (but I know Steve won’t miss those). I’ll miss the front grass with stripes that rival Great American Ballpark.
But it’s not a yard or dwelling that makes a home. It’s the neighbors and the neighborhood. I can’t imagine how many steps I’ve logged on my Fitbit over 31 years traipsing through the adjoining subdivisions but I know the time is right to follow a new path.
Steve keeps telling me it’s just a house. But to me it’s been so much more.
As I walk through the now-vacant rooms I wonder how something so empty can make my heart so heavy?
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I walked through the front door wondering how something so empty could make my heart so full?