When We Sold Our Home of 24 Years

Our house is sold, and we’ve bought another.

In the next 30 days I will need to pack, sort, store and toss 24 years of living. Fortunately I’ve always been a good tosser-outer, so much of the work has been done already.

But still.

There are baby toys that I’ve saved for my children’s (future) children. There are boxes of letters, cards, scrapbooks and yearbooks. There are thousands of photographs, many of them scanned to my computer or saved on a disc – but how can I possibly throw away those original prints, faded and curling at the edges?

There’s my wedding dress, carefully packed away almost 26 years ago. I will say goodbye to it.

There are trophies and mementos. There are delicate, fragile things that came to me from my grandmother when she died. There are too many pieces of costume jewelry. There are hundreds of books. There are dozens of cookbooks – and I rarely cook anymore. There are paint samples and saved receipts. There are mixing bowls, cookie sheets galore, an abundance of Pyrex baking pans, 13” x 9”. There are 2 sets of stainless flatware, 12 place settings each. There are 2 sets of everyday dishes, one set of fine China, 2 sets of 12 place settings of sterling silver flatware, dozens of cloth napkins and at least 10 tablecloths.

We are selling our formal dining room set, so the tablecloths have to go. The problem is, no one wants a formal dining room anymore. But we are hopeful someone will want it.

We are selling a lot of things. Chairs and lamps and a big leather ottoman where we put our feet up at night while we watch TV. Bookshelves and crystal bowls, throw pillows and antique sconces, lovely and delicate and far too formal for our new home near the beach. A California King brown velvet tufted headboard that, 10 years ago, was perfect. Now it’s just not.

Our table and chairs where we ate thousands of meals with our children when they were growing up – it has to go, because the chairs are uncomfortable and the wood is too dark. I imagine that table holds all the words we ever said to each other, mingled with Pledge and spilled spaghetti sauce.

We are unloading and brightening. The colors will be lighter, our possessions fewer, our home smaller. But even as we are lightening up, we are expanding our lives – a new place, a new lifestyle, a new point of view. By downsizing we are increasing everything except square footage and stuff.

I am not feeling sad – yet. The excitement and busyness of buying a new home and all that goes with it are keeping me from thinking about the fact that this house will, in just a few short weeks, no longer be our home. My children, all grown up, are having a harder time than I am. For them this is the place they have always called home, always come back to. I know they’ll love our new house, too – but it will never be their home in the same way.

And it will never be our home, in the same way, my husband and me. In our new home, we will be on our own in a way we haven’t ever been. We’ll create a new normal, with new memories of midlife. My husband will sit on the front porch and wave at the neighbors as they walk by, our dog next to him. I will join him, sometimes. But not always.

Instead of getting in our car every time we want to go somewhere or do something, we can walk a few blocks and there are restaurants, the bank, boutiques, friends. Why this makes me so happy I’m not sure, but it does.

A half a block and across the street the other way is the ocean. That makes me happy too.

We will let so much go in the next few weeks – sold or stored or recycled or donated – but we are making room for so much new. And we need new. Because even at midlife, there’s the desire for change, for different, for excitement, for challenge. Those are the things that keep us on our toes, keep us feeling energized and hopeful and alive.

Click here to read part 1.

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51 Comments

  • Sharon, I love your writing that, characteristically, is filled with optimism and excitement about the future. Perfect time to make a change and I look forward to following along through your posts. Best of luck!! (MD)

  • I feel so much in this. Change is hard..it just is…but you seem to handling it with grace.

    • Sharon Greenthal

      I’ve always been change-resistent, but in the past few years I’ve (ahem) changed my attitude.

  • chris odonnell

    How appropriate that your post arrived this morning.

    We are being re-located across the country. I am getting rid of pre-school “red” paintings (that child is 26 years old and thinks I’m crazy for even HAVING this!) and everything that went between for 4 kids from pre-school “red” to high school diploma. on the KEEP list: report cards, class pictures, diplomas and a few “special” pieces I just can get rid of. How can I throw out an autobiography written by an 8 year old (now 18) who thought the coolest thing to happen in his life was that his grandfather got new knees!

    I haven’t been good, over the past 30 years, getting rid of things. So I’m doing it now.

    I have about 12 weeks to get this place ready to leave. And I won’t know where the new place will be until we find it.

    People ask me if I’m excited. My reply: I don’t know yet. I have too much to do. Ask me in October!

    • Sharon Greenthal

      It sounds like our lives are parallel right now! Moving across the country is way bigger than across town – but the purging is just as difficult.

  • Helene Cohen Bludman

    I am so happy for you, Sharon. What an exciting new chapter yet to be written. Your new “hood” sounds absolutely wonderful.

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Thanks Helene – it’s a pretty great place – maybe someday you can come for a visit!

  • I am so happy for you, Sharon, and excited at the same time. A new chapter that I know you will make as wonderful as your last one.

    I hope we are fortunate to sell (did I just say that?) our home. We listed it last May but the market is terrible here and getting worse and worse by the day. We took it off the market and are now re-listing it with a new broker. We shall see. Our home is custom and not everyone wants a ranch here. And woods instead of a pool.

    Good luck to you and Peter. When my parents moved from our beloved house after dad’s stroke I was sad like your kids. Now I rarely think of the house. I’m sure your busy kids will follow suit.

    Big hugs. I could use your throwing out talents here. I saved the same things you mentioned. How do you throw out your child’s first pair of shoes????

  • Wow, you certainly have accumulated a lot of baking equipment and dinnerware! I’m guessing that that will be a lot easier to part with than some of the other items.

    I can also relate to your children’s emotions as I still remember how I felt when my parents moved from the family home – even though I had moved out several years previously. The new house was somewhere I visited them, but it was THEIR new home, part of the next chapter in THEIR life – just as YOURS will be. And it sounds fab 🙂

  • I am so excited for you as you enter this new chapter. When we left Ireland to move to Vancouver, Canada two years ago we pretty much ditched, sold or gave away all our posessions. It was liberating beyond words. The interesting thing is that now, two years later, we can’t even remember most of the posessions we got rid of. A great reminder that actually our memories aren’t tied up in stuff. Our memories of previous chapters of our lives are in our memories, minds and hearts forever. Enjoy this special time. .

    • Sharon Greenthal

      So true. Some of my family are surprised I’m selling our dining room table where we had so many gatherings, but I’m ready for new gatherings at a different kind of table! I am looking forward to making new memories.

  • You’re so right–we always need and want “new” and I have no doubt you’ll find plenty of it in this new chapter of your lives. Congratulations!

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Thanks Carol! I will be remodeling my kitchen and will be wishing for terrazzo countertops like yours 🙂

  • Wishing you all the best Sharon. A walkable beach neighborhood sounds perfect for a midlife couple!

  • I’m so excited for you! Your new place sounds great!
    Downsizing is thrilling and sad at the same time.We’ve downsized once, but not enough. I’m anxious to do it again and really find our spot.
    Good luck selling your stuff! That part can be hilarious, as people come to look, then criticize your stuff! Whtat’s up with that?

  • Sharon, lots of luck in your future days and years as you transition from house on market to house sold to packing to moving to settling in to the new home and environment. . I can tell that you will relish and treasure every step of the process….I look forward to more of your writing on this topic.

    I love the words and language you use to describe the experience. I am going through similar feelings as my mother (age 85 1/2 poo poo poo!) is sorting out, throwing out, packing up and getting ready to move out of the house that we grew up, that she lived in for 53 years (moved there when I was 2 from an apartment). My father recently passed away, and well….. all this needs its own post by me… mine and my siblings’ feelings about it all with me 3,000 miles away from her- even as I have already been out of the house for 35 years.

    So your post and the previous one about your house on the market really resonated with me. You’re a lot younger than my mom….but the feelings are all there on both sides of the fence. The parents and children.

    Thanks for always putting out the most relevant (and often tear-jerking) posts.

    Miriam

    • Sharon Greenthal

      I remember when my grandparents moved out of their house – I felt so betrayed by them! But it was not about me, or anyone else – it was what they wanted. Now I understand – and I think my kids do, too.

  • Beautiful, wistful yet hopeful piece of writing…I love that you have such beautiful memories and are excited about the ones you are yet to make. It will be a while before we are at this point – although I’m 47, my youngest ones (ages 14, 10, and 7) are making me feel like I’m still at the 30’s point of my life. (Wish my body felt the same…)

    Thanks for sharing…

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Yes, you have a while – so much fun to look forward to. And I hear you about your body feeling as young as your mind – I can’t believe I’m not still 25!

  • I feel your confusion. Ben and I did this 10 years ago. It upset the kids more then us. But- they have adjusted. Physical moves empower us. They force change. They open up your world. The being able to walk to restaurants ain’t bad either! Hahahaa

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Yes, forcing change is exactly what we’re looking for. We are happy together – now we want to find more happiness outside of ourselves.

  • I am taking your post as a good luck charm. We put our house on the market today — officially, it went on the multi-listing system today. We too are looking forward to moving to a neighborhood where we can walk to stores, restaurants, library. A more active life–less car-oriented–than suburbia. Now all we have to do is find a buyer: first for the house, then for most of the furnishings in it–and least what’s left after I went on a bag-a-day purge for a month.
    best of luck on the move.

    • Sharon Greenthal

      We are living parallel lives at the moment! Good luck to you – it’s a stressful and angst-filled process, but now the fun starts.

  • Oh Congratulations Sharon! I know letting go of our stuff can be quite daunting but trust me the “lightness” you will feel once it is gone will be so-o-o worth it!!! And I’m excited you found a GREAT place to live that lets you walk and enjoy things “right where you are” without having to drive to it. That too is such an amazing gift that I’m sure the developers of suburbia never really considered. I’ll bet before long you will wonder why you ever hesitated! I am so looking forward to ready your posts about your new life. ~Kathy

  • Sharon,

    I went through this two years ago–almost to a sentence–lighter colors included. Life moves on.
    The only thing I learned is to toss slowly. i had little time and now and again miss and wish for
    some of the things I gave away. Wishing you the best. Beth

  • judy williamson

    Think of Henry David Thoreau. (I don’t, very often, or EVER) BUT, when he moved to Walden Pond
    he took nothing with him and missed none of it! The point was what he learned about himself, society
    and the world, in general….without all the clutter.What he concluded was, ‘the masses of men leave lives
    of quiet desperation”. So now you and Peter are free to be, and you are living on a much larger pond than
    he was. I love you Sha and am so happy for both of you.

    with love, always

  • I’ve been through many moves myself, but never one where I’ve lived in a home for so long – still, I can understand what an emotional time this must be. Your new situation sounds wonderful – I’m excited for you as you move forward into a new phase of your life. All the best!

  • Since my son was born (almost 21 years ago!) we’ve moved seven times! As of Monday, we made an offer on a new (to us) home that was accepted. But despite all the previous moves….even the last one where I got rid of 90% of the baby clothes I had kept (what? They were ADORABLE!), I still seem to have just SO MUCH stuff to sift through.

    But I get where you are coming from…this new house will be just ours…although the son will be with us for at least another year or so. And I feel the need to lighten things up. Both literally and figuratively. Beautiful piece. And much luck to you as you move into this new phase.

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Thank you so much Gigi. The lightening up is one of the things I most look forward to – lots of whites, creams, pale blues…relaxing!

  • I love this,Sharon…I can feel your excitement! My sister is taking the stuff that was our parents and grandparents and I’m selling most everything else. Fresh start indeed. Did you notice how home sales include ‘walkability’ ratings now? That’s what I want too! What does one do with old wedding dress? Your phrase about the dining room table was my favorite! Oh so many memories there! Your kids will be excited soon for you soon! Great post!

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Good luck to you on your move too, Joan. My kids will love it once they adjust – it’s a great location for them, too – they can walk to restaurants (and bars) and have as much fun as they like!

  • I went through this when my husband and I retired into a fifthwheel to travel around the country. I went from a traditional Victorian house into 400 sq. ft on wheels. At this point we had been married for 21 years and had a lot of stuff. I let my brothers have free reign of my furniture – they had had just gotten married. We had one hell of a yard sale, I gave anything of family sentimental value to my brothers to hold.

    The 21 years worth of photos? This was pre-digital, well – I went through them all. I picked out the the best of them and then I did toss them. No one wanted them and what was I going to do with them. I put the ones I wanted in albums.

    I had 500 cookbooks. Yes, you read that correctly. I kept something like 10 of them and gave away or sold the others. (I am back in a house and I have 200 cookbooks. It’s a disease. I do cook though….)

    Once you get going it’s easier than you think to let it all go. Congratulations and good luck in your new home.

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Thank you. The photos will be a challenge, I have to admit. I may have to store them for a while and then make decisions later on.

  • It’s tough, it’s exhausting – but in the end, downsizing is liberating! Sounds like you are already starting to see it. I couldn’t part with the photos – I’m still afraid that a Y2K-type thing’s going to happen. 😉 -Veronica

  • Sharon, I’m so excited for you and your hubby. Congrats on selling your house. Your new one sounds fantastic. I moved four years ago and gave and threw away tons of stuff. Yet there are still boxes in my garage that I have yet to open. Have to do another cleanse soon. Enjoy!

  • Sounds like you are already figuring out the the pain is short lived and the change will be totally worth it! Good luck with the new house it sounds amazing!

  • Mazel tov Sharon! Enjoy your new home and adventure!

  • Karen

    Sharon, I thank you for your blog. I found you by googling “how can I leave the house I raised my kids in”. We have 3 weeks left in the home we raised our 3 kids in. We have sold our home, and are retiring in a year. Our kids are grown and the large home and pool is wasted on my husband and I, it was time to sell. I am ready to leave but the packing and every day trip down memory lane is so hard. Every school paper of my kids I come across, photo, beanie baby, etc, makes the process of leaving so much harder.

    We are putting our things in storage and moving to an apartment. We are thinking about doing a lot of traveling before settling down and buying another place. I think for me that makes it hard, where is home?

    For me leaving my home means facing old age, this time of my life is over. How are you looking beyond that and staying so positive?

    You inspire me, please keep writing. I am looking to you for answers. 🙂

  • I can so relate. I’m moving in a year and I’m already nostalgic. You put into words exactly how I feel about every nook and cranny of my home. We’ve been in our house 13 years — I can’t imagine 24. That’s such a huge part of life, almost a quarter century. The good news is you have great memories in your old place and a lovely place to start new ones.

  • Selling the house where you lived in for 24 years is really hard and definitely brings a lot of memories… My parents also sold their house and I know how bad my mother was feeling! They are now living in a small house in the country and they are so happy! I wish you all the best! Thanks for sharing you story! Greets!

  • I know how it feels to move away from the house where you were living so many years. I am also moving house and I feel very nostalgic about the place we are leaving. The boxes that I have to pack are really many and I can’t stop packing! Thanks for the post! Your positivism made me feel so much better! Greets!

  • Chris O'Donnell

    My husband & I moved from our home of 30 years across the country. I was in charge of “purging” and it was often really hard. Somethings I’m now regretting, some things I packed I’m now saying “why did I keep that?” We’ll be moving again in 5 months, firom a rental to a “we own it”.

    I remember when my parents downsized from their home of 40 years and my mother saying “your father can make anyplace home, as long has he has a place to hang his hat, a hot dinner and his favorite chair. I’m having a much harder time” what I’ve come to realize it that “home” is wherever you are with the person/people you love.

    So yes, I am home.

    • Sharon Greenthal

      I agree with you – people make a home, things enhance it. I feel like I could go anyplace with my husband and be happy (for the most part) but it would be sad for me to be far from my kids, who I am fortunate to have living nearby.

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