"How we react to works of art depends on who we are, where we are standing and when we encounter them." -- Margaret MacMillan, "War: How Conflict Shaped Us"

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Perils of Downsizing

     Right now I am sitting in an empty house, all alone in our new community, with only our dog for company. I have nothing to do but clean out the basement, change burned-out lightbulbs, fix broken hardware, and go out to our new yard to pull weeds or clip back some long-neglected trees and bushes.

     I remember my sister telling me, after she moved from Portland to Phoenix a little over ten years ago: "I am never moving again!"

Our living room, with dog bed
     Now I know what she's talking about.

     Am I looking for sympathy? No. Am I having regrets? No. We planned this move, and have been preparing for it for ... literally, years. Last summer we sold our family home. We moved into a one-bedroom condo and spent the past year looking for a new place to live. And now we have found it: a little house with a small yard, with a sidewalk out front and a ten-minute stroll down a tree-lined street into a cute town in Bucks County, Pa. Our taxes are lower; the utility bills are lower; even the restaurants seem less expensive.

     I am simply reminding anyone (and myself) who is considering a downsize that there will be times when the going gets a little difficult. It's a lot of work to sell your old house and buy a new one. It's even more work to pack up dozens of boxes of dishes and clothes and books and pictures and the millions of other things you never even knew you had sitting in some remote corner of your house.

     There will be times when you will likely be uncomfortable. You might have to live in a motel for a period of time between moves. You might have to put up with the dust and dirt of any renovations you're making. I, personally, have been living with the smell of fresh paint for the past week. Yes, the walls look nice now; but I am getting real sick of living with paint fumes that linger despite every window in the house hanging wide open.

My new chair!
     You might also have to spend some time in your new house (as I am) with virtually no furniture. I have a bed. I have a small desk with a desk chair, and I brought my laptop with me. Other than that, my new house is empty.

     The place echoes with no carpets on the floor. Even though the weather has been nice, the house seems cold with no furniture in it. And that desk chair kept getting harder and harder, each day, until last night I saw some canvas deck chairs "on sale" outside of the Acme supermarket. So now I have a new blue deck chair that's marginally more comfortable than the torture chair I've been sitting in.

     Right now B is back at our old place. She has all the furniture, which sounds like she has it pretty good. But I talked to her last night. She'd spent the day packing boxes -- she counted them up for me, over the phone, and added up a dozen boxes she'd piled up against our old living room wall.

Our guest room. Doesn't it look inviting?!?
     Our mover is coming in two weeks. That's when she will be done packing, and I'm supposed to have the new place ready to receive our furniture -- furniture that we cannot for the life of us visualize fitting into this new house. (I say "new house." It's new to us, but it was built almost 60 years ago.)

      As far as I know, my sister is still sticking to her resolution to never move again. We'll see what happens with our move, when everything settles out. But whatever happens, I'm beginning to think that both B and I will be crying: "I am never moving again!"


Olga said...

I certainly understand that sentiment although I am thinking one day I will this two story town house impractical so I might have another move left in me.

tahoegirl.blog said...

Haha! Hey it looks very minimalistic! You're very in vogue.
We've been in our tiny house 22 years and heck, I'm still saying, "I'm never moving again".I guess our last move 22 years ago was enough for me!

Juhli said...

Hang in there as it will get better! We are 2 months in our new house and community and just starting to feel that it is home.

Jeanette Lewis said...

We down-sized (a bit) last year and moved to another community. It was a lot of WORK to get the house ready to sell, find another house, move, and settle in. A year later, we are beginning to feel that we are part of a new community and that life is in again in balance. In the past two or three months, it has begun to feel like home.
Moving is stressful yet there is excitement in developing new rituals and exploring a new community.
However, I'm with your sister -- I'm not planning another move!

stephen Hayes said...

I know that our current residence won't be our last, probably due to all the stairs, but I sure don't look forward to the prospect of moving again.

Janette said...

Our next move will feature a huge estate sale two weeks before.

Linda Myers said...

I know we have to do it. Someetime. Not looking forward to deciding what to do with most everything we won't need.

In the winter we live simply, in 620 square feet with not too much stuff, in Tucson. I wish I could click my heels together three times and be done with the summer place.

Anonymous said...

I think moving is one of the most stressful things on the planet.
Right after we sold our Rhode Island vacation beach house (from listing to closing in 30 days) shortly thereafter my husband suffered a heart event. It was life threatening for sure. When the doc asked what caused it, all we could think about was the downsizing and the moving, the packing up of all the furniture, the movers, the brokers, yada. yada. yada.
Then, the stress from moving (and downsizing even more) into our Florida vacation condo didn't sit well with my heart either! So be forewarned.
The fact now that both my husband and myself are on lifesaving heart medication makes a person wonder? Was it all worth it? At our age, no!
So because of all of the above, DH and I have not put our main residence up for sale because we think if we do, we're gonna die. That may sound bizarre and humorous, but the thought alone of downsizing, decluttering, donating, hauling, yada, yada, yada makes my heart have palpitations from just visualizing the forthcoming stress.
Go figure.
I never would have thought about any of this in the planning stage.
It just wasn't a factor.
Now, it is.
Just be careful Tom. Take it easy. Take your time. You and B will get there and finalize your move and get settled in.
As for us.....we're done.
I'm amazed we got as far as we already did.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! I'm not a mom myself so I can't speak from personal experience but I can say that it's like childbirth...if you only focus on the pain you'll never do it again. But hopefully, the end result (and a lot of the process) is worth it. Plus, I tend to think that so many of us spend FAR too much time just trying to get comfortable as we age rather than challenging ourselves to keep learning and evolving. Downsizing, or rightsizing as I like to call it, is full of rewards but yeah, it can get a bit uncomfortable at times. Still, I would never go back! ~Kathy

retirementreflections said...

I remember well the sentiment of never wanting to move again. It does get better...and usually fairly quickly. I love the photos...and am glad that your dog is there to keep you company! Good luck with the rest of your move.

Barb said...

Ah yes, I remember it well. I also remember styaing in an aparmet in germany for six full weeks waiting for our stuff with nothing but our suitcases, and saying to myself "Stuff gets a bad name, I need my (clothes, books, sewing machine you name it_."

Mary said...

Lovely hardwood floors! In a year or less, you will feel all settled in and love it! I moved a year ago after several years from the death of my husband and I love my new home. Yes I remember the selling and buying and changing banks, closing out services, opening new ones, new car and home insurance, packing etc. etc. and yes I will NEVER move again. I'm 70 and live alone, plus there's no reason to move again.
The next move is the crematorium because I'm not going to a nursing home!😊😊

DJan said...

Love those beautiful hardwood floors. It does look at little spartan, though. When we moved from Colorado, my hubby came first and only had a table for his laptop and a chair, similar to your setup. We sure did downsize, and now, nine years later, I look around at all we've accumulated and shake my head in amazement. :-)

Jane said...

About 10 years ago, I moved from NY to SC and said never again. Last year, I moved from my townhouse to a single story home a few miles down the road. What I learned was in the last 10 years, my ability to tolerate stress, my physical limits and fretting have worsened. Yikes, hope I don't do that again anytime soon.

Madeline Kasian said...

We moved 3 times as we got retirement figured out.Moving is hard. But-- it comes, and goes, and then you are where you want to be!! Your new home looks so warm and lovely. I don't WANT to move again, but if it happens in the future,Well,I have a lot of experience.With each move I get rid of more,haul a lot less, and learn how to refresh my decor ! Soon as your belongings and your spouse arrive, you'll be busy getting settled and we'll look forward to posts about your new adventures.

Madeline Kasian said...

We moved 3 times as we got retirement figured out.Moving is hard. But-- it comes, and goes, and then you are where you want to be!! Your new home looks so warm and lovely. I don't WANT to move again, but if it happens in the future,Well,I have a lot of experience.With each move I get rid of more,haul a lot less, and learn how to refresh my decor ! Soon as your belongings and your spouse arrive, you'll be busy getting settled and we'll look forward to posts about your new adventures.

Tabor said...

I have moved at least 18 times in my life...counting from birth through college and a flood, etc. It made me stronger.

Still the Lucky Few said...

The new (old) house looks like it has potential. I like the paint colors—you have chosen well. It's actually a good position to be in, starting over, in a new place, with years of living in front of you. In a few weeks, you will be on top of the world!

Tom said...

I guess this is not news -- we all know that moving is hard on both body and soul. Well, the dog and I are muddling through, and besides, I decided enough was enough and took today off to play golf.

joared said...

My daughter is in the midst of doing pretty much what you're doing -- selling her house of several decades residence, moving into an apt for a year before seeking a more permanent residence, but she's a couple decades or so from retirement. Your account of your wife packing is familiar, as is the separation and my husband who spent a couple weeks on a mattress on the floor in an empty house when we moved from the Midwest to the southwest. I don't envy you the process, but there is an exciting element to the prospect of your new life once you're settled. That first night when packing is finished, you relax in your surroundings will be exquisite.

Jeanie A said...

I have been following your downsizing experience with great interest as we are in the process of eliminating "stuff" and doing house repairs with the hope of putting it on the market in July. It's been a huge job. The more stuff we eliminate, the lighter I feel. Our plan is to move to Florida. Since it is a major climate and lifestyle change for us (currently living in Upstate NY) I plan to keep a very minimalist lifestyle when we move as we are only committing to one year to start. If we decide that Florida isn't our permanent place, I want to have as few possessions to move as possible. One question that I'm curious about, did you experience any sadness at selling the family home? Even though we have been planning this for years, I'm wondering how it feels when the house actually sells. Your new home looks great and I'm sure it will feel cozy and wonderful when you unpack.

Laura Lee Carter said...

Been there. Done that. NEVER DOING IT AGAIN! Next time I'm going out feet first!

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

We downsized into my 97 year old mother's house to assist her. We are going through one box at a time and deciding what stays, what goes and what gets stored for the future. Not easy.

Dr Sock said...

We are in the process of preparing to move as well. We already have bought a house in our new community and take possession of it at the end of the month. Meanwhile, we are still trying to sell our current house. This interim time of waiting and fretting is so stressful. We need to plan our move, but won't know the timing until our house sells. And then there will be all the stress of the move itself, a distance of more than 1000 miles. At least our new house is move-in ready, so we get to skip the step of painting, renovating, etc.


Barbara said...

I'm looking forward to all the settling in stories.