Friday, April 29, 2016

Guess What We're Doing

     We've been talking about it for a few years now, B and I, ever since the last of the kids left home -- a year-and-a-half after her older son graduated from college and finally got a job and then an apartment.

     The house is too big for us. Four bedrooms. Three of them are empty. A big basement with a ping pong table we no longer use, shelves of old college books and high-school projects, piles of kids' sports equipment, and a room full of tools that I don't remember how to use.

     Then there's the yard. Almost an acre. I took care of it until the middle of last summer when I finally gave up and hired a company to spray and fertilize and a local guy to cut the grass. All that gets expensive. Honestly, we have paid off our mortgage (yes, we've been homeowners for over 30 years!). But there are the real-estate taxes. Of course I want to support education, our community and the development of our kids. But it gives me heart palpitations to write the check for the school tax. That bill alone slices off more than 10 percent of our annual income.

Not our house; our shed
     So we finally did it. We put our house on the market. We're going to move away from the area where I've lived for most of my life, the town where I've lived for the past nine years, where B has raised her kids and lived for over 25 years.

     Theoretically, we could probably afford to live in our old house for the rest of our lives. We could certainly continue to live here in town if we downsized to a smaller house, or relocated over to the big age-restricted development where people go from all around the county.

     We know a few people who live there. A couple of them are younger than we are. But we got talking to a woman at B's church last week. She told us how she had moved there with her husband after their kids left for college. They bought a condo, lived there for about three years, then got divorced and she moved to another condo in the next town over. She said she hated living in the age-restricted community. Yes, there were a few younger people there, even some kids, but the people she saw routinely walking along the sidewalks, or sitting in the dining room, were frail old women using walkers, sometimes dragging along even older, more debilitated men. It was all so depressing, she said. She had to move (and we wondered if it had something to do with her divorce).

    So no age-restricted community for us, at least not for now. If only we knew where we wanted to go.

     B and I have four kids between us, and they live in four different states. We have no grandchildren. So it's up to us to decide where we want to be. B wants to live somewhere near her favorite sister who is firmly settled in southeastern Pennsylvania (Amish country, although she's not Amish.) But her son who lives in South Carolina wants her to move down south. I'm leaning in that direction myself. I prefer warmer winters, which is why I go to Florida for a couple of weeks each January. But B is resistant. She claims she actually likes the cold weather and long winter days in the north. She doesn't like to drive in the snow. But she doesn't mind shoveling snow, and she likes how it gets dark early so you can go home and curl up in front of a fire, drinking hot tea and reading a book.

     She also likes the idea of living in a real town, where you can walk to the stores and the coffee shops. But every place in the South seems to involve driving around through traffic on four-lane roads. Besides, what would we have in common with someone from South Carolina? They like football, car racing and guns. We like libraries and theater and ... okay, B likes church and there are plenty of churches in South Carolina, and I like golf, and there are plenty of golf course in South Carolina. But still, would we fit in?

     So our latest idea? We're going to take a gap year -- like the kids do before college, or after college before they take their first real job. We're going to rent an apartment and travel around doing some touristy things and looking for our next place to settle.

     But the fact is, we've been coming up with new ideas about every ten minutes. So what we'll be thinking tomorrow is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, the back liftgate on our less-than-two-year-old Subaru Forester broke on us, and our local dealer is trying to welsh on the warranty, so we have something else to worry about . . . but that's another story.

     We know plenty of people who have bigger problems than we do. So save your sympathy and support for them. But still, could you take just a moment and wish us bit of luck for the next year?  Thanks!

31 comments:

Douglas said...

There's always room in Sebring.... I have taken to biking to the Y 3 days a week. Like you, I gave up on doing the lawn a long time ago (before we moved here), plenty of golf courses but winter means the area doubles its population and the restaurants and so on are crowded with "snowbirds." This is when the local merchants make their money to get through the lean summer months. lots to do and you can live close to town (though I don't) where you can walk to the library and restaurants. Just have to learn to tolerate the heat and the bugs.
You'll do fine wherever you live, make new friends and find lots to do. Enjoy your new freedom and keep on keepin' on... as they say.

DJan said...

I think you are doing just the right thing in taking a "gap year" and trying on some places for size. When we retired eight years ago, we moved from sunny Colorado to rainy and absolutely gorgeous Washington state. It was just the right move for us, but we intended to have a "gap year" too, and make forays out from this town to others, but this place is just right. Good luck and I look forward to hearing all about it over the next year or two. :-)

Cindi said...

Congratulations!
Take your time.
You'll figure it out.
Best of luck!
Can't wait to hear about all of your travels.

Mac n' Janet said...

My husband and I both have Master's Degrees, have traveled the world, retired from California to Georgia, the deep south. None of our friends are into pickup trucks, Nascar or football. Don't be too quick to put the south down.

Olga Hebert said...

I certainly understand the selling of a house that is too big--done that.
You might need the year to deal with the accumulated stuff. I am not particularly sentimental but I got out and out cold hearted about the contents of the house before the move.
Most of my Florida friends are from New England or Michigan, but they say the deep south actually ends along the Gainesville latitude. The same is true for my brother who lives in NC, although he had to more actively seek out a social group there. I think you are wise to take the time to consider where you want to be.

Linda said...

In 2004 I retired, we sold our home in Texas and moved to Hillsboro, Oregon. Best choice we could possibly have made. Do some research on Hillsboro. It's right outside Portland. Public transportation is great. Easy to get into Portland for a 'city fix.' I've read that golfing is a big attraction to Hillsboro. Check out Orenco Station, a community built since we've been here. Amazing to watch a planned town come into existence. My husband has many health issues and we couldn't be more pleased with the medical services here.

The climate is mild, seldom snows, need little air conditioning in summer. It does rain but not as much as rumor would have you believe. Rain feels different here. There's 'dry rain' or drizzle that does not interfere with your activities, and there's 'wet rain' when you need an umbrella. Days are short in the winter and I love that. If you work you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark but when you're retired that's not a problem.

You will not find a more beautiful area to live. Absolutely beautiful. Hillsboro is about half way between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains. Easy day trip both directions.

Although Oregon is considered one of the 'unchurched' states, there are plenty to choose from if that's your thing.

Stay out of retirement communities as long as possible. The secret of staying young is to live among people of all ages, particularly young people as long as possible.

Good luck in your search. We could not be happier with our choice. Texas to Oregon was a shocking move but perfect for us.

Barbara - said...

Well you know what I did, lol. But do look at besufort, sc. It's where I wanted to live before I decided to be near family. It's the not Hilton head of coastal sc.

Barbara - said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carole said...

I've often said that if we decide to move to another part of the country, I would want to rent there for at least a year, to make sure that it is someplace we could be happy. It's so different when you are on vacation, or even a snowbird 3 month stay; it doesn't give you the true feeling of what it would be like to live there year round.

This will give you time to assess the local people, the weather, and all the other things that you will realize are important to you in finding a permanent place to land.

Good luck, and happy trails!

Linda Myers said...

Well, good for you and B! Big decision.

We still spend seven months of the year in our Washington State home. At present, we have three other family members living on our property, but they'll probably all be gone by this time next year. It's beautiful here, but I get depressed in the winter. I'd love to downsize, but Art gets that hunted look when I bring it up. So, for now, we'll probably just extend the length of time we live in our little Tucson place. This year it was 4.75 months.

I think a gap year sounds really good.

Stephen Hayes said...

When the wife and I downsized I didn't mind moving into a townhouse and giving up all the yard work and exterior maintenance. I hope you find the perfect place for this next phase of your life.

Tom Sightings said...

Just for the record, it's not me, but B, who is anti-South. (We've been to Beaufort, SC, a cute little town, but not much there.) And while there sure do seem to be a lot of retired people in Oregon (some friends of ours moved there two years ago, and they love it too!) we are confirmed East Coasters, esp. since the four states where our children live are NY, NJ, NC and SC. Anyway, many thanks for all the well wishes!

gigihawaii said...

Good luck. I hope you decide on a place real soon. Renting an apartment does not appeal to me.

Though I miss the cultural attractions in New York City, where I lived for over 5 years, I enjoy Hawaii more because of my large extended family here.

Janette said...

Would you have enough from the sale of your primary residence to purchase two smaller places? I am helping a couple in the 70's find a place here as a "home base" for visiting their Northeastern family. They already have a downsized in NC. Seems like a perfect compromise to me.

Anonymous said...

We planned to move to Seattle in 1979 by then the cost of a home was two times more than the home we bought I Vancouver Washington we have been here ever since, the house paid off many years, tinier than our lovely home in coloroful Colorado..but no sunshine and always rain has made us yearn for blue skies and sunshine..We get it when we travel to eastern Washington and adore the coast with kindergarten friends known to me and my hubs since childhood, this is not heaven on earth one is lucky as hell to have a home and one's health and any money to enjoy them both..be appreciative you have money and health plus you will get lots of dough for your home something denied to many in our community and Washington and most of Oregon!

Tabor said...

We were in your situation about 10 years ago. We spent long weekends driving up and down the East coast looking for communities and properties. The farther we got from our grandchildren who are living withing 30 minutes of each other, the more I knew I would miss them and the three grandchildren. So, we moved to the southern part of our start on 4 acres in the woods and built a 4-bedroom house. Crazy, and yes, we WILL have to move again as we age..in our very early 70's we are surviving the yards and housework for now.

Anonymous said...

Heading to SC in 3 months. Try the Clemson area. Lots of retired people , culture, beautiful scenery and friendly people!

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! YAY! Congratulations on making the big move to Rightsize!! While I doubt I was any part of the decision making, I am still a good cheerleader! And I so believe in taking a gap year. Don't make any decision to quickly. You have LOTS of option and checking them out and seeing how they "fit" is a real key to happy rightsizing. If B doesn't like warm weather then I doubt you'd like it out this way, but if you ever do decide to check it out, let us know. I know Thom and I would enjoy swapping stories with you! I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next in your journey! ~Kathy

Celia said...

Sounds like a good plan. I sold my still mortgaged Seattle home and bought a smaller home in EA Washington near my kids for cash with the proceeds. Two years ago though I gave up on the yard work and upkeep and sold out and bought a condo. On the ground floor, and no yardwork. So far so good. It's tiny but has 2 bedrooms and you can walk to downtown from here. It may take some time but hope you find just what you need.

Pam said...

Tom, I cannot speak from experience (yet) but I think your and B's plan to take a gap year, rent, and explore possibilities, makes very good sense. My hub and I hope to do something similar when he retires. Best of luck selling your home and finding the right spot for yourself and B.

retirementreflections said...

A 'Gap Year" sounds like a fantastic idea! I look forward to reading about it. Good luck!
Donna
www.retirementreflections.com

Juhli said...

Congratulations and how exciting! You are a year ahead of us and we know our gap year (years?) will be spent living near my FIL to spend time with him in his final years. Even though we will have to drive a bit to see our children and any future grandchildren at least we will all be in the same state again.

Dick Klade said...

Looks as though you have a great plan, and your year should turn out to be a great adventure. Good luck, and happy landing!

Bob Lowry said...

Lots of feedback and ideas from your readers, Tom. Like others have noted, the gap year is an excellent idea and renting is the best, short term option.

Since you and B have somewhat different needs for a living situation, compromise will be the order of the day. Of course, if the climate you choose is a little too cold in the winter, you can still spend a few weeks in Florida in January.

priscilla said...

such big decisions! Maybe check out Tallahassee...it's a great town with lots of what you're looking for. Good luck.

Lynn Jeffers said...

I'll be interested to follow your voyage. I agree with the others that a gap year sounds like a fantastic idea. We didn't decide to downsize, but we decided not to build which would ultimately have been "up-sizing." Now it seems like the world is our oyster - and yours as well!

Jane said...

I moved to Charleston and have no regrets. No lie, summers are brutal, but I decided others managed and I could, too. My tip, after trying on a few places first, is to pay close attention to things that support daily living, such as transportation, civic resources, medical care, ease of shopping, etc.

olynjyn said...

My daughter lived in Asheville, NC and after getting married last November moved to Hickory, NC which is about an hour north of Charlotte. You can get more bang for your buck house-wise...you are close to Rte 81 for the drive to the Amish country and NY & NJ. It does snow in Hickory but it doesn't pile up and pretty much everyone stays off the roads because they don't know how to drive in it. So, you would have small town living, with ALL of the major box stores, close to a major airport, it is the furniture capital. The one thing that PA has going for it over NC is the state doesn't tax pensions and Social Security, so that might factor in favor of Amish country which is close to where I live in Harrisburg, PA. Be glad you are downsizing. We are in the midst of clearing out my parents home after my mom's passing in Feburary and it is a lot of work. I can't imagine what we would do if they had stayed on the farm and we had to deal with livestock and farm machinery in addition to a 4 bedroom farm house and all the grounds upkeep with large stretches of white fences, etc. If your kids are just starting out, that should be helpful with getting rid of your excess since they will be needing basics anyway. Good luck and can't wait to see what your decision will end up becoming.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

For me this is the most interesting post you've written. Oh what to do...I will be waiting to learn what you discover. I have no advice. David doesn't want to leave our home/house, however, someday that eventuality will catch up to us or me, as the odds are I will outlive him, although he's healthy as a 97 year old can be.
Yes, those "retirement" facilities are awful, full of sick older women, many of them demented. Connie's MIL eats alone in her room every night because she can't stand the dining room. A good reason to keep your body and mind as healthy as possible.

Sally Wessely said...

What a great idea - a gap year! We downsized nearly four years ago. In fact our former much larger house and yard went on the market four years ago yesterday. We made a big move for us by moving forty miles north to a larger town and a smaller house. Our home is a patio home near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs. Our location is perfect. We live in a quiet area that has great beauty. I'm not crazy about our little "village." It is a group of homes close together on small lots. The outside maintenance is taken care of by the Homeowners Association. I have very little space for gardening, and I don't like that. I do love the easy maintenance on the home and having all the living space I use on one level. We have a basement where my hubby hangs out, but I rarely go down there. We are fifteen minutes from major shopping, but we feel like we live in a small village. We are fifteen minutes from four hospitals. All in all, it is a good solution for us. There was a lot of compromise that went into our decision. I wanted more yard, my husband didn't. He won. ;) You will know it when you find what you both want. Enjoy the journey.

Anonymous said...

Check out Scottsdale, AZ - walkability/bikeability is great!