Moving Pains

I am having a little bit of seller’s remorse. I’m having a little bit of buyer’s

remorse. I know that’s perfectly typical when you sell or buy a house, and I’m
trying to keep that in mind as I navigate these difficult emotions.

At first I was caught up in the excitement of finding our new home, so it wasn’t until I started really working hard to get our current home ready to put on the market that I began feeling a little stressed.

The first issues I had, actually, were panicky feelings about the damage we’ve done to this house over the years. The dinged walls, stains on the carpets, places where the kids took a Sharpie to a cupboard door or a pen to the window casing – those all became magnified in my head and seemed like total deal-breakers. The remembrances of septic tank alarms in the middle of the night and standing water in the backyard after weeks of solid rain – those things seemed insurmountable.

And then the listing agent came through the house with her critical eye and tucked all of my favorite things away.   Down came my electric tea kettle – stashed in the cupboard.  I had to pack the fragile blown Easter eggs the girls made one year in school for fear they would break if I simply put them in a drawer and the agent was certain they ought not to be on display.

“It shouldn’t look like you live here.  It should look like someone lives here – someone generic and random, not you. No personal photos. No personalized towels or jewelry, toothbrushes on the counters or worn blankies on the kids’ beds.”

I feel like I live in a model home. And not in a good way.

One day before the Open House, the agent was here with a rag and some cabinet cleaner wiping down all of my kitchen cabinets and scrubbing the wooden pillars on the deck back to white.  She mopped the dog prints off of the front door and asked if we had any touch-up paint for a few spots where the kids had missed the keyhole in their rush to get inside.

She assured me this is what she does with all of her clients and that I shouldn’t feel bad about her nit-picking.

She told me the house looks beautiful and it will show well.

And still, I feel like I am only visiting this place.  This lovely house that has been my home for over ten years.  This place we moved to before Lola was born. The only house she has ever known.

After a busy weekend of showing the house and nine families coming through for Sunday’s Open House, I collapsed in a lawn chair in the backyard yesterday for a few quiet minutes and looked around.

The beds are full of fresh barkdust – still red and cedar-scented.  The flowers the girls and I planted to add some color are all standing tall in their pots, glorious after a few days of warm sunshine.  The deck and front walk are newly pressure-washed and look lighter and fresher than I’ve ever seen them, and the outdoor kitchen is staged to look like Bubba’s heading around the corner with some thick steaks to lay on the BBQ.  This place is gorgeous. This place is home.

Why am I leaving?

I closed my eyes and picture the new house, warm and inviting with hardwoods and sturdy radiators in every room.  The magnolia tree in the front yard was blooming the last time I was there and sunlight was streaming through the leaded glass windows.

I forced myself to think back to last Thursday night when I had to pick Eve up from cross-country in the rain.  Lola and I reluctantly climbed into the car at 4:15 for the trek across the lake and a few minutes later I realized this was likely to be a long journey.  It took us the full 45 minutes to reach Eve’s school to pick her up at 5:00 and the first thing she said when she got in the car, her ponytail dripping steadily into the hood of her sweatshirt, was, “I’m starving!”

We drove back across the lake in the now-rush-hour traffic in the rain and arrived home after 6:00.

This is why I’m leaving.

The new house is 10 minutes’ drive from the school.  I could have been there and back inside

of a half an hour and Eve could have been warm and dry with her belly full by 6pm. 

But I still asked myself, “Am I doing the right thing?’

Of course it is an entirely moot point at this juncture.  We have bought the other house. Closed the deal.  Shelled out the money and the check has been cashed.

Besides that, it’s not “I,” it’s “we.” Bubba signed those papers, too. He looked at the house and fell in love, too. He agreed that moving across the lake was the right thing to do, too.

But I am still compelled to ask, and so I did.

Fortunately, I was able to recall asking myself the same question when we bought this house. And frequently over the years as we were forced to install an expensive sump pump and repair the septic tank and grieve over cats lost to coyotes who roamed the neighborhood, I had occasion to ask again.

As I sat there in the backyard looking back at the beautiful house we live in, I felt good. Ultimately, questions, concerns and all, we took this place and made it in to a home.  We put our O’Driscoll stamp

on it – expanding the outdoor living areas to fit the way we live and interact with friends and family and using every inch of space to enjoy our lives together.  In the end, I feel good that we will all grieve as we move on, that we are all so attached to this place where Lola took her first steps and Eve taught herself to ride a bike, this home where Bubba and I have played a million games of Scrabble and eaten
some of the most delicious meals of our lives.  We have spent evenings shooting baskets with the girls and wicked winters huddled inside near the fireplace when the power went out. We have cleaned up vomit at midnight and laughed until we nearly peed ourselves here.  We have barbecued with neighbors and walked their children to the bus stop and received dinners made with love when Bubba was recovering from surgery.  The girls have gone from making sandcastles and mud pies in the back yard to skateboarding and painting each other’s nails on the deck.  We came in to this place a family of
three with a cat and are leaving as a family of four with a dog, a cat, two hamsters and a fish, richer for our experiences, older and wiser, and ready to move forward to whatever adventures await us next. 

These thoughts gave me hope that no matter where we end up, we will manage to make a home for ourselves that reflects who we are as a family and as individuals.  And while the stage may be different and we may wish we could take some parts of this place with us, it will be exciting to create new spaces where we can live and laugh and play together.  This house, this home, holds a special place in all of our hearts and it will be hard to not be here anymore. It will be difficult to say good-bye.  But like Bubba says, “Once you’ve made a decision, it’s the right one,” and so we will look forward to making our newhouse in the city a home for us as we feel the bittersweet sadness that comes with saying good-bye to this one.

14 replies
  1. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I can imagine that these feelings are normal and familiar ones for those who make such a big change in their lives. I know I've read over and over that "moving" is one of the top most stressful things one can do — not a bad stress, but stressful all the same. You know that. I imagine, too, once you've done it, you'll find much happiness in your new digs!

  2. brenda
    brenda says:

    When I left my Victorian home in England and settled here in San Francisco, I went from a big sprawling house with lots of rooms, character overload and into a ranch style house typical of the area. I howled. I know why we moved from the UK back to the states, but still miss my house on Hatherly Road. Part of us is still there..

  3. Carrie Wilson Link
    Carrie Wilson Link says:

    Such normal feelings. Touch every last one of them with gentle awareness. (I am sometimes at my kids' school three times in one day. You will kiss yourself every time you make the drive next year.)

  4. Peggy Strack
    Peggy Strack says:

    When I moved out of my last house, my sons also moved into apartments of their own in different cities. It was like I was leaving a life behind…very emotional. A house is so much more than a roof over a family. It is so full of memories. Don't forget to pack them when you leave.

  5. Victoria
    Victoria says:

    I experienced an unexpected emotion when we eventually sold our house to a relocation company–anger. (Yes, I know we are blessed to have sold it at all in this market.) What was wrong with everyone that they couldn't see the potential in this home? We'd been happy there, why wouldn't they? Thanks for sharing this well-written piece.

  6. Alicia D
    Alicia D says:

    i can really relate to this post. We moved our family twice and it really bittersweet. I have difficulty with change in general and get very sentimental. But, each time we moved it was better. it will be all good, you'll see 🙂 good luck with all things moving… it is very stressful 🙁

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    This post made me smile and cry. We've done so much growing up in your home too. Thank you for sharing it with us, we'll miss your old home like you but it's people that make a home, not buildings and you will all make your new Seattle pad a wonderful, warm and welcoming place. Thank you for the picture – 'our' babies xxx

  8. Unknown
    Unknown says:

    What a beautiful reflection you've given us here – thank you. When we contemplate moving (& downsizing), we realize that – for us, for now – the time isn't yet right. When it is right, we'll do it. I like Bubba's approach: no regrets, but that doesn't mean you won't miss some of the wonderful blessings of that particular time in your lives, enjoyed in that particular place. New blessings await you.

  9. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    Hi Kario!

    Ironically, this is the second post I've read tonight about moving! It is so hard to give up the memories that are encased in the homes we live in.

    Many years ago, I dreamed of living just about anywhere other than the house I had. I hated it. It was an ugly, boring ranch style in a rundown crummy neighborhood. My husband had bought the house with his brother as an investment. When we married, I never intended to stay in this drab house . . . but we did.

    Over the years we've raised the girls (it's the only house they ever lived in until college) and I've slowly made changes, added my antique furniture (which should look out of place, but doesn't) and discovered that even when we could finally afford to sell, and buy something different, we chose to stay.

    Why?? Because it isn't the house, it's the people inside it. It's the scratches, and half painted rooms, and mess that is ours, the place reeks of memories.

    That's what you'll have in your new house . . . it's the people you love who make it home. It sounds so lovely, and from what you've written, the time seems right.

    Best wishes for a quick sale so you can get on with the business of living your dreams!

  10. Miss Devylish
    Miss Devylish says:

    I'm selfish to be thrilled you'll only be blocks from me. BLOCKS! Where I can watch the girls grow more often, grab coffee w/ you during my work day even, come over for one of Bubba's lovely bbq's or a glass of wine w/ you in the summer. If my basement floods? Yup – I'm coming over. Just saying. But the point is YOU will make the new house your home and it'll feel like that for all of us who walk in it because you're there. I love you. xo (Did I mention I'm excited?! OMG!)

  11. says:

    Go ahead and grieve, get it all out.

    AND….you're gonna love your new house. I'm so excited for you! xo

  12. Annie
    Annie says:

    Having been a realtor in Seattle for 15 years I cringed when I read that your agent went around the house wiping and buffing, basically depersonalizing it for random people to envision themselves and their furnishings in your home. Sad to say, I did the same. I can understand how it is hard to say goodbye to a place filled with so many wonderful memories. Without fail, sellers fall madly in love with their old house as they fix it up for sale. Just know that you are going to feel the same way about your new place. The commute alone is worth the change! It is going to be a great new adventure!

    You asked on my post if I am still in Seattle. Unfortunately I am in L.A. now. BUT…If I was still there I'd be meeting you on a soccer field and sharing a few laughs. Good luck with the new house. It's going to be wonderful!

  13. Dee
    Dee says:

    Dear Kari, . . . I so agree with all you've expressed in this posting. I, too, am in the midst of moving although the house hasn't sold yet (I just put it on the market two weeks ago) and I don't have a home to go to.

    The emotions are running wild within me as I so enjoy the convenience of this home–and its walls painted sea-foam green and its attached garage and its garbage disposal. And yet all this can probably be replicated in Minnesota.

    In my mind, I have moved. Now I just need the Holy Oneness of All Creation to create the perfect buyer here in MIssouri and the perfect home for me up in Minnesota.

    All shall be well . . . for both of us.



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