Selling a house, packing a home

Tomorrow the movers come. I’m not quite ready. And by not quite, I mean I have a few days’ worth of work left to do. Somehow I’ll power through, just like I’ve done for past moves. There’s an adrenaline born of sheer panic that kicks in, and suddenly the stacks begin to disappear into boxes. I’m more ready than it appears to the eye. But still, there’s a lot to accomplish in the next 24 hours.

The good thing is: this is an Alaska move. That means: the things I’m shipping out go to Seattle by barge, and by sheer good luck I chose to have the movers come on the day the barge comes through town for pick up. I’m missing tomorrow’s barge. But that’s a good thing. Because that means that the bulk of my shipment will go down to the container at the barge line yard, but I’ll have access to it and can add the boxes that I’m not quite done with later tomorrow, or even Friday.

Friday is D day, because that’s the last day we have the use of the house. So I have to be done by 4:00 on Friday.

And it’s good to have a deadline…otherwise, this could stretch out for another week, or even longer.

The definition of moving is: one big decision, followed by a million little ones.

I think I’ve looked at everything I own. Twice. Maybe three times. If I have to make another decision about what to do with anything, it may be the end of me. I think there are only so many decisions in a person, and I’ve surely reached my limit with this move.

I’m doing another multi-sort…store, sell, donate, trash, keep with me. I have different areas of the house designated for each stack, and as I progress, some of the stacks have diminished. The sell/donate/trash area is almost done. I have a couple of things being picked up at the last minute, but most of those items are dispersed.

The things to store are in decent shape, although I have a few hours left for the final touches.

The things I’m keeping with me for the in-between are the ones that are causing me a little angst…I think I have more than I can fit in my car. I could be in a wee bit of trouble.

Fortunately I have friends in town I can ask to hold a box or two, or ten, until I can get back to pick up. Initially I’m just going about 15 miles to another community. This is a soft landing, a temporary apartment that we can use while we sort out the long term plan.

While I do my last emptying of this drawer and that cupboard, I wipe down, and clean, and think.

Just when I’m all ready to do this, I get a lump in my throat, and the simple act of wiping down my kitchen range makes me weepy.

It’s been a home, and a good one.

It’s been a source of some conflict. Rob never wanted this house, and I did, and it’s been a source of angst between us. No doubt about that.

And yet, it’s been home too, a grand old lady, born in 1920, standing proud almost a century later. A comfortable nest in a rainy spot, it’s seen us through family holidays, quiet nights of talking, movie nights of laughter, teary nights of conflict. It’s been home the past almost-six years.

It’s taught me the value of good bones of an old structure, and the reality that the gracious and sturdy character of craftsman building are worth having, if you can get them.

I’m not particularly excited to hand it over to the buyers. They’re getting it with a low offer, born of my need to sell and a constellation of issues that made even a low offer palatable. But still, they seem difficult and cheap, and I have to admit, I feel a bit of a grudge handing over my home to people that don’t seem worthy.

Now that’s judgmental, isn’t it?

They’re probably lovely. I just feel irritated that they seem to disrespect this old house with their low offer and their difficult demeanor during the buying process. But it’s done, and now it’s time for me to dredge up some graciousness and present the house and the keys with a generous spirit.

That’s what I think the house deserves. Silly, I know. Houses are things, albeit big things. They don’t feel, or know, or think.

Do they?

I know that truth with my head, but tell that to my heart.

I wipe down surfaces and want to present it with its best foot forward. Because that’s what I think is due the house, never mind the buyers. I’m doing this because this is a lovely old place, and it deserves to be handed over in good style.

Silly, I know. But somehow I feel that leaving it in its best shape honors the house, and the way I’ve felt about it. And it’s the right thing to do, so I’m doing it.

I’ve had a fire sale to get out of town. It’s so expensive to ship out of state I’ve sold almost all the furniture and a lot of the household stuff I’ve accumulated. I’m leaving Alaska with eight small pieces of furniture and a lot of boxes. And that’s it. No appliances, no dining or living room or bedroom furniture. Just sold it all and waiting to see what “next” looks like.

Some minutes I feel I’m resetting, embarking on a great adventure. And the next minute I wonder where my mind has gone. Only time will tell which is the version of the story that’s true.

I know one thing…there’s nothing like moving and paying for it yourself to make you evaluate everything you own. And though I’ve said goodbye to some things I loved, I feel lighter, and free-er, and the flicker of excitement because I don’t know what the next chapter looks like.

I hope I’m brave enough and old enough for this adventure! At 54, I ought to be old enough for anything. But I’ll admit, changing the pattern without much of a plan in place, other than the temporary apartment, is a bit drastic, even for me. I hope I don’t get lost in the big world.

I hope my house will be in good hands, and will have a long life, looking out over the Tongass Narrows, watching the cruise ships come and go each season, and the float planes and other sea-going traffic buzzing round.

There’s a part of me that wants to say: RIP. But that hardly seems appropriate, much less gracious. I’m leaving the house, but it’s not going anywhere.

So I’ll just say: goodbye, 1320 Water Street. You were a good place to land.

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12 thoughts on “Selling a house, packing a home

  1. You’ve taken me back in time when we moved from Alaska -different circumstances, different emotions. But enough similarities… I really enjoyed your post and feeling like I was there with you in the kitchen weeping by the range. Change is challenging. I wish you and Rob a wonderful new beginning on your next adventure.

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    • Thank you Denise! We’re in between homes and will be for a while…taking our time to make the next decision. In the meantime we’re fortunate to have a temporary apartment, work, family to visit, and time out to think about what we want.
      You are so right…challenging! But I think it was time to shake life up a bit, and this will be a good reset. Thanks for the good wishes! ~ Sheila

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  2. I love this post. The feelings you shared brought tears to my eyes. I love the way you embrace your landing spots and how you have allowed all of your homes to become a part of your life, knowing if walls could talk they would have stories to tell.
    Yes, the gracious and sturdy character of craftsman building are worth having, and that is exactly what you have in YOU. It’s taken time, lots of time. And patience. Lots of that too. Not just a little of faith. And hope. And all finished with love. You are His beautiful workmanship, His finest treasure. He will protect you as you move forward.

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    • Thank you Ann, for your encouraging and uplifting words. You’re always a positive voice in my head!

      Well, if I know what it means to make a home, I had some wonderful mentors…family, and some great friends, you being one of the best teachers in the art of making a house a home. I trace many of my interests back to you and your talent, craft, and art. From one nester to another, home is where the heart is! ~ Sheila

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  3. I feel your heart thoughts…and what a natural …good way…to feel about a place we loved…I finally got over my Mom selling our home that my Dad built from the floors to the rafters with his two hands…
    I have seen the new owner loving it as my Dad did…and making it beautiful…I’ve only moved from an apartment to our first home…to our home we have now…but, I’ve had the itch to move for over 2 years now…It’s good getting some perspective from you…
    and NOW I will quit boring you…My mind is rambling!

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    • Marilyn, I can only imagine seeing your family home go into new hands. My mom is still in the house I grew up in. Glad the owners cherish it as your dad did.

      Here’s hoping that if you move you’ll find it a great adventure. Moving is a lot of work, but energizing too. I always think it’s a chance to refresh a lot of things in life, at least as far as physical space. Still, I’m glad the worst is behind me. Cleaning out is always more work than setting up a new space. And we’re taking some time before choosing the next permanent home, so for a while we’ll be living a very minimalist and temporary lifestyle, apartment dwellers! ~ Sheila

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  4. Goodbyes and hellos… for you and the new owners. When we sold our old house and bought the new house, my husband and I both thought times were better when transactions were sealed with a handshake and the spoken word was rock solid. The house selling and buying process is so impersonal anymore. Our buyers wanted possession day of and I was only willing to let go a week later. We compromised at 2 days after closing. While at the closing, we had to wait for some last minute document. Face to face with the buyers, we struck up a conversation. Come to find out, the buyer was always told to take possession day of because the seller may trash the house once they no longer owned it. I wanted a week because I knew someone that moved out and then had to move back in because the deal fell through at the closing. After meeting the new owners and liking the new owners (wasn’t my first impression through the process and we sold at a loss time), I no longer think of it as my home and marvel at the good changes they have made. Things my husband would have never done because he is too practical for the “pretty stuff.” Sometimes we let go to embrace the fresh start. But we can always come back to the sweet memories. A wonderful post!

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    • Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you were able to feel better about your buyers after meeting them. We closed in separate locations so didn’t meet at the closing. Like you, I’ve heard stories of closings that fell through at the last minute, and I definitely wanted to wait until the closing was done to move out, or to sell any furniture. I can hardly imagine anyone trashing a house after selling it…seems like it would open an immediate law suit. But I guess things like that happen in this day and age. I’m just so glad to be done, although it was bitter sweet to say goodbye. Still, I think it was for the best. We’re ready for a new chapter. Exciting to look forward to, now that the hardest step is behind us!

      Funny how the heart moves from space to space with the physical moves. I know what you mean…we’ve driven by houses we used to own…interesting to view them after the sense of possession has evaporated. I always feel happy to see a former home in good hands.
      ~ Sheila

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  5. I am not surprised your gentle soul would give your sweet old house one last wipe down of love & care – that’s just your style to be reverent and respectful. And I don’t blame you for holding a bit of a grudge towards the new owners who seem flippant about it – let’s hope they move in and sing her praises daily, realizing what a gem they found in this house and the lovely homeowner who let it go below market value.

    I’m excited for your future ~ and your posts have made me look around and evaluate the “stuff,” too – so thank you!!

    MJ

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    • Thank you MJ! I appreciate your kind words. I’m sure my attitude has been impacted by the way the sale came about. However, I remind myself that no one forced us to accept the offer. Just one of those things, I guess.

      Thanks for your good wishes for our future. We haven’t quite sorted out what that will look like, but that’s ok…taking some time in our clinic-provided apartment to think and plan and do some dreaming. Good stuff!

      My best advice regarding “stuff”….it’s inevitable that it builds up…even when I think I’m weeding out and donating on a regular basis, I’m still overwhelmed. Do yourself a favor and pretend to move, even if you’re not…I think a move is about the only way to really clean out! ~ Sheila

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  6. Such a poignant post, Sheila. I can understand your thoughts (I’ve even been sentimental about saying goodbye to a CAR).
    Hopefully the new owners will love the house and take good care of it.
    And, I know you’ll be just fine with what the future holds for you!

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    • Thank you Dianna! Yes, I’m sentimental about pretty much everything, so I perfectly understand how you would feel sad saying goodbye to a car!

      We don’t know yet what our plans are…just taking some time out to decide what comes next. But I’m going to enjoy this phase too…nice to be in between for a while! ~ Sheila

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