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Selling My House is Breaking My Heart

Updated on June 15, 2017
Karen Hellier profile image

Karen Hellier is a freelance writer and eBay entrepreneur. She happily lives in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and her dog.

My house in Connecticut
My house in Connecticut | Source

For a few months now, I have been cleaning out my old house in preparation for moving. I will be putting this house on the market to sell within the month. I have lived in this house for 25 years now. This was the house that my first husband and I bought just before we got married. When we bought it, we imagined what it would be like to live in this neighborhood and raise our children here. The neighbors were wonderful. Many were older people from Poland that settled in this neighborhood and had raised their children here together. But there were also many young, newly married couples that moved into the neighborhood when we did. This was the house who's breezeway windows I decorated for each season, even before we had kids. When our first child was born, a son, this is the house we took him home to. I can still remember getting out of the car and holding him while our two golden retrievers sniffed him all over, finally giving him their approval with wagging tails.

This is the House...

This is the house I started a home daycare in when my son was six months old. This is the house that the fenced in backyard saw many Little Tykes toys come and go. And summer wading pools, bubbles being blown and a tire swing were all encompassed within the backyard limits. This is the house that we brought our twin daughters to after we left the hospital. This is the house that saw pirate and princess birthday parties. This is the neighborhood that saw an annual kid's 4th of July parade, and the house that held outside parties after said parade. This is the driveway that saw so many chalk drawings that were washed away by spring and summer rains. And this is the driveway that held the rain puddles the kids and I jumped in after every summer shower. This is the driveway which held the ramps when my son learned to skateboard. This is the house that hosted an annual Christmas caroling party for neighborhood children and parents each year. And this is the house that offered cut out Christmas cookies and hot chocolate after each round of Christmas carols to the now elderly Polish neighbors who loved to see the children each Friday before Christmas, for 12 years. This is the house to which Santa came each December 24th, and filled the stockings and left oodles of presents under the tree for three young children whose eyes lit up at the sight each morning of December 25th. This is the yard which held hidden Easter eggs for the annual Easter Egg hunt. This is the house that after the divorce, I struggled to keep so that my children could remain in the home they had grown up in.


This house holds so many memories for my family. This house was a home, and it is where I learned to love my children unconditionally. I have been very sad while cleaning the house of all the belongings a family of five accumulate over a twenty-five year period. I am very sentimental, and as I have gone through everyone's belongings, I have made separate piles for each family member to take with them. Imagine my surprise when my three children told me they don't want most of it. They have all accused me of being overly sentimental. I don't understand why they don't want the first teddy bear they ever got. Or why they don't want the two most adorable little baby girl dresses that I had saved. Going through all these things has been traumatic for me, and I put it off for a very long time. But it has been more traumatic for me to see that my children don't want to keep these things to remember their childhood. People tell me that the best way to get it done is to just throw everything out. No one seems to understand that although I have a wonderful opportunity to move on to the next chapter of my life with my wonderful second husband, leaving the old house, and all the memories that came with it, is very hard. But recently, I found a kindred spirit.

Father and Son by Darrel Sifford

I just finished the book, "Father and Son" by Darrell Sifford. It tells of his struggles in the late 1970s to divorce his wife and leave her with their two sons. During one of the chapters, he includes a story from a man named Leon Katz whose children had grown up and left home, and he and his wife were moving into a smaller home. Although his story has nothing to do with divorce, he clearly understands my pain. Here are some excerpts from the book that tell that man's story:

" Katz and his wife Irene now lived alone in their four-bed-room home in the suburbs, where they had lived since the children were tiny. It was too much house for them now, so they bought a unit in a condominium...But they couldn't take everything with them, they agreed, and they began the process of deciding what to leave behind....What would they do with all the mementos from their children's growing up years - the letters written from summer camps, the model airplanes, the autographed baseballs, the glove, and bats...Katz said he and his wife "offered these things to the children, but they didn't share our emotionalism about them." I asked Jack ( the son) about the airplane models...and he said, "just throw them away." He took the furniture and things that he could use in his own apartment, but he took nothing to which we had attached memories...They decided to have a garage sale...the next day, a rainy Sunday, Katz and his wife cleaned their house of what was left over from the sale. Among the leftovers...some books from which they had read bedtime stories to their children, records, models...and memories from times forever gone...They loaded their memories into trash bags and carried them one at a time through the rain and placed them next to the curb, the burial of twenty years...."We were drenched with sadness and water. Each trip to the curb was like a funeral procession without music. I wondered if it was too late to turn back, to stop, to reclaim our memories and our house and a part of our lives that meant so much to us. But it was too late. The house was sold, empty of children and furniture."

This man, Leon Katz, has explained almost exactly how I feel. Each time I am in the house, packing up things to take, things to donate and things to throw away, I feel like I am preparing for a funeral. And it makes me very sad inside. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 2012, I was at the house to pick up a few things for the holidays, and the memories that flooded my mind and heart of all the past years of Christmases with my children brought tears to my eyes, and a few escaped and made their way down my cheeks. I could hear the laughter of the children as they decorated the Christmas tree with me, and remembered the joy of each of the ornaments. I remembered the excitement as the kids wrapped their gifts for each other and put them under the Christmas tree. I remembered how late I always stayed up on Christmas Eve wrapping their gifts and filling the stockings. And I looked at the now empty areas on the floor where the couches used to be. The couches where each Christmas morning, my three children would each find one unwrapped gift from Santa Claus with their name on it and would come running into the room Christmas morning to see what it was. I felt a bit silly as I wiped away the stray tears. But shut and locked the door behind me, leaving behind those memories.

My friends and family don't really understand. And my now grown children, like Leon Katz's children, have told me to "throw it all away."I am glad at least I have found a kindred spirit in Leon Katz who has experienced the same pain and knows how I feel. I do know that I have a new home and new life to move ahead to, but saying goodbye to the old life, and the memories of a house that was a home for 25 years is a very sad event in my life.

Update, April 2013:

I have started to become emotionally detached from my house. I have been at the house almost every day, cleaning up, sorting, throwing out and deciding what to keep and what to donate, and also what to sell on eBay. I just got an appraisal on it, but owe a lot more than the house is worth. At this point, I just want to finish cleaning it out and getting it on the market. I have a real estate agent who is meeting me at the house tomorrow to take pictures and am hoping to get it on the market within days. The movers are coming to my house next week to move my personal treasures out of it. It will hopefully be approved as a short sale. I am ready to move on. I just hope and pray it sells fast, but am not all that hopeful in this market. I desperately need closure so am trying to be optimistic and hope for the best.

Update, 12/2013:

The house was on the market for 3.5 months. In that time there was one open house, and over 50 showings which my agent just couldn't believe because that's an amazing number for the market today in my geographical area. At the end of July, we had a signed contract, and the closing happened on 10/31/2013. On the day of the closing, my real estate agent texted me to tell me it was done and I no longer owned the house, or the head aches. I went into the Ladies room at work to read the text. After I read it, I cried...from a combination of both sadness AND relief. I am moving on to the next stage of my life, but I will always carry the memories of that house with me.

Copyright by Karen Hellier, 2013

If you want to know more about short sales here's a book you will find very helpful!

The kitchen in my house.
The kitchen in my house. | Source
Sunset from the backyard of my house.
Sunset from the backyard of my house. | Source
A hawk in a tree in the backyard.
A hawk in a tree in the backyard. | Source
About 1/2 a mile up the road is a peaceful stream that I used to walk all our dogs to         ( we've had 5 different dogs while living here)
About 1/2 a mile up the road is a peaceful stream that I used to walk all our dogs to ( we've had 5 different dogs while living here) | Source

House Selling Poll

Have you had to sell the house you raised your children in?

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I think this tends to be harder on women than men, but that is just a guess on my part. I have only lived in one house that long, the house I grew up in. I was there for 24 years and it was hard to move out and see it sold, but since then I haven't had any emotional attachment to any of the fourteen houses I have lived in.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia


      I didn't have any trouble moving out of the house I grew up in. This one has hit me hard. Fourteen houses? Wow, you must have moved often. Maybe if I had, moving from this one wouldn't be so hard! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Mommymay profile image

      Heather May 4 years ago from Ohio

      This one made me sad:( I am raising 5 children now and while I am not "attached" to our home...I am attached to the memories we are making. My parents moved around a lot when I was a child so I really don't get too attached to the shell that we live in but being a child and raising one are two different things. Every wall is a memory. I guess that while the shell is hard to leave, you have to remember what it gave you while you were in it. If I am this sad thinking about this now...I will be a mess is 24 years! Thanks for the gentle reminder to cherish the moments.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      A quarter of a century is a long time...I really felt for you as I read this carefully through, and I totally get--as a human being, never mind the fact that I'm a man--what you are experiencing. Grief and loss accompany us to far more events than just the memorial service. As an excellent writer who pens what she lives, it is certainly understandable why you linger over the teddy bears, little girl dresses, and colored chalk etchings that are now only visible in your mind. We writers have a responsibility to chronicle what others walk away from...because, inevitably, and in similar fashion, they will be moved to return in the not so distant future (because time truly is, like us, so very infinitesimally insignificant to the Artist of the bigger picture) and linger then as you do now. The children who appear to think nothing of the items you soulfully ponder will someday have such bittersweet and loving memories of a mother who never wasted a single moment attaching sentiment to life itself.

      I feel you, Karen...


    • duffsmom profile image

      P. Thorpe Christiansen 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      I have not had to sell a family home, but in going through things that define my life and give me wonderful and bittersweet memories, I have found, like you, that my wonderful children are not interested in these keepsakes.

      It boggles my mind that they do not feel the same kinship and fondness for these items that have so defined my life and love of raising them. I do believe one day they will change their minds and at that point it will be too late.

      When my mother died, I was 15 and at the age of 17 or so I went through a lot of things that were kept when she died and I threw them all out! I regret that so much to this day. What is important to us as young adults is not what is important to us as older folks. It is a bittersweet lesson for all of us.

      I wish you happiness and great adventure in your new life.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia


      Thank you so much for your good wishes. I guess that's the way it is with young people. I am saving some of the things they told me to throw away so eventually I can make a scrapbook for each of them. I am so sorry your mom died when you were so young. That must have been hard for you.

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

      Funny how kids don't think the same way, though at one time, they loved whatever it is! My kids tell me to get rid of something, and they don't live with me anymore!

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

      Karen: Here's an idea for you. Get a digital camera and photograph every single thing that holds memories for you. Save them to a flash drive, and when you become sad, look at the photos! Don't be upset with your kids, their response was a normal one...after all, these are your memories, not theirs. We all go through similar situations in life, but the secret is to look ahead. The past is gone, and we really only have today, so don't ruin today trying to recapture what was. I wish you the very best in your new life...just think, now you can create brand new memories!

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia


      Thanks for commiserating with me! I don't know why kids don't care about this stuff. I do remember feeling the same way about my mom's antiques when I was growing up. I have a new found respect for them now though.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia


      Thanks for the idea. Many of these items were things that at one time meant a lot to my kids. I think you are right, I just need to move on with this new stage of my life. It will be better when I am done cleaning out the house. Since I feel the need to go through everything, it seems like it's taking forever.

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

      As an RVer, I've learned that you don't need all of those "thing" to fact, you live better without them! Once you finish the task of slimming down, you will feel more free than you ever have before, so chin's going to get better!

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia


      Yes, you are probably right. It's just that I am in the middle of mucking through it all, and remembering all the fun times I had with my children in this home. I think I am too sentimental for my own good! :0)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      I feel your pain, Karen. Even though I am not moving, I am trying to reduce the stuff that is in my house. My daughter too has no interest in some of the momentos that I saved for her. I have to keep reminding myself that she doesn't remember the outfits she wore as a baby, only I do. Even though she wore them, they are my memories, not hers.

    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 4 years ago from South of France

      Moving's always horrible isn't it, but when your house is so full of memories it's doubly tough. I do hope it goes well, and wish you all the best in your new home.

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile image

      Stephanie Launiu 4 years ago from Hawai'i

      Wishing you all the best during the next chapter in your life. I, too, am sentimental about "things" including houses and mementos. We sold our house a few years ago and that was painful for me to leave those walls behind, but I learned that the memories were joyous because of the people in my life. I have a daughter and five sons, and none of them are really sentimental like me. So I've had to get creative with the stuff I had saved for them that they didn't want. Framing their childhood artwork and putting it up on our walls was a conversation starter and eventually they took it home with them. Giving a favorite stuffed animal to a grandchild (This was your daddy's when he was a little boy), using baby clothes as doll clothes, and sewing Tshirts into a quilt are just a few of the ways I've managed to sneak my sentimentality into my kids' lives. Don't forget to take pictures of your "old" house. I promise...before long you'll smile every time you look at them. I also took cuttings of some of the plants and flowers in my yard. They're growing where we live now. Aloha, Stephanie

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I personally am very sentimental, also, and I don't understand the kids not wanting their first teddy bear, baby dresses, etc . . . . I don't understand the mindset of having to throw everything out. I would keep the sentimental items until the kids are older and they might mean something to them--or to you. I keep way too much stuff, I know, but I don't see any reason to get rid of those items that mean a lot. So I can relate to your pain at letting go. I do with you the best in your new adventure!

      I'm only in my second house as an adult (besides apartments), and I still have an attachment to the first little house I bought. It was where I grew up as an adult--a little doll house. When I moved to a larger house for my pets and me, I couldn't let the house go, so I'm renting it out now. LOL! I am horrible at letting go!!

      Nice hub. Very sweet!

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      Hi Karen, I was very touched by your Hub, and it is beautifully written. Many years ago when my now deceased husband and I left South Africa, we left everything behind. Ever since, I have had no attachment to homes or things, but I can empathise with you, because I remember how absolutely devastating that was. I have also heard many people talk about how their children do not care about inheriting any of the things they treasure, like dinnerware, etc. If I were you, I would probably keep a few of the items that are so valuable to you, and think of your grandchildren. The pendulum might swing again, and then you would be glad!

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 4 years ago from Great Britain

      Oh Karen I have pressed every button except funny.

      This was all so close to my heart. My daughter behaved exactly as your children did.

      It´s a different generation says my husband.

      That didn´t stop me from shedding tears while reading your wonderful hub.

      You expressed your feelings so well. Beautifully written.

      I am only happy that you have a new life to start building and these new events will fill your mind.

      Some of us just will always be sentimental, I guess. I still have my daughters 1st school report and all the rosettes she won for dressage events. I was shocked that her love of horses didn´t mean she would grab them with both hands.

      I wish you well in your new life.

      Take care, Dim.

    • JimTxMiller profile image

      Jim Miller 4 years ago from Wichita Falls, Texas

      Bittersweet and beautifully written. Often the hardest part of moving forward is letting go.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks Jim!

      You are right. I am sure once I get everything cleaned out and the house is on the market, I will feel much better about it all. Thanks for your comment.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      Yes, that's true. A lot of these things bring back memories for me, but not for the kids. Or maybe sweeter ones for me than they were for the kids. I should have reduced the things in my house a few times over the years. As you can see I am not very good at that!

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks Riviera Rose. This is the first time I have moved as an adult. And because its mixed in with memories my children and I shared, it does make it extra hard.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      Hawaiian Scribe,

      You gave me a great idea while I was reading this. I will keep some of my children's baby clothes and put them on some of the bears in my teddy bear collection. That way I can keep them with me but they will also serve a purpose. Thanks so much. And who knows, my kids may want them someday. I don't have any grandchildren yet, but I may put aside one of 2 things for the future. Great ideas in your respo0nse, thanks so much.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      Victoria Lynn,

      You and I are kindred spirits in the keeping too much stuff department! Nice to know I am not alone there. That is so sweet about not being able to let your first house go so renting it. Sounds like something I might do. reading this made me feel better. Thank you for responding!

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia


      You are right. I would feel so bad if I threw something away and then had a grandchild that would have loved it. I don't know what it is about kids no wanting things though. Maybe they have to grow a bit older to become more sentimental? It is good that you are able to detach yourself from homes and material things. Maybe after this move I will get to that point. I doubt it though. I am just far too sentimental. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      Dim Flaxenwick,

      Thanks for all your button pushing for this hub! I do appreciate it. And I can tell that you really understood where I am coming from. I appreciate that because not everyone does. Thanks for the good wishes on the new life. I just need to close this chapter that involved this previous house so I can move on. Wish I wasn't so darn sentimental but that does make me who I am so I guess I won't argue with that too much. Thanks for stopping by.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      Oh, Karen. I've been there and I know how you feel. It is really hard to let go of the memories.

      I have moved quite a few times over the years, from state to state and even to different countries. I always kept the important 'kid things', sometimes in storage.

      When we moved the last time, off the grid and into a much smaller house, I was disappointed by my older children's haste in telling me to throw things out. Of course I haven't thrown everything out. I still have lots of boxes of things, and lots of photos etc.

      My eldest surprised me a few weeks ago when she asked me if I still had any of her baby clothes. Give me a break. She was a baby over 30 years ago. I have photos of her in her baby clothes, but I passed the actual clothing on to other mothers a long time ago or used them when her sisters were little.

      I shake my head now, thinking that the day is going to come when your children also regret being quick to tell you to throw things away. I have kept my children's school reports and art work from when they were young plus their favourite books and a few of their favourite toys. I suspect when they have kids of their own they will be very happy to have them.

      Of course, I might be wrong. Time will tell.

      Good luck to you. Voted up and awesome!

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia


      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I don't have room to keep all that much, but did keep some things I think will someday be important to them. I am also a scrapbook maker and have kept a lot of the paperwork and art work and of course many pictures to make scrapbooks for them at some point. I hope they will appreciate them, and if not, their kids probably will. Thanks for reading and commenting. It's so nice to connect with other mothers who feel the same as I do.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      I hope it sells fast for you, Karen. And for a price that will help.

      Despite being in a much smaller house now, I'm actually really happy with our new little piece of paradise. I'd like a few more dollars in the bank, but if I wasn't so busy enjoying my new lifestyle I probably would have addressed that issue by now.

      Plenty of time to turn my mind to working again in the future. Right now I am very much enjoying my husband's company and setting up our new home off the grid, getting the vegetable gardens and orchard sorted, building a fire bunker ... all the crazy and not so crazy things I was too busy to properly undertake before.

      I wish the best for you and your second husband. It's wonderful that you found a man willing to care and share as you make the transition to the next stage of your life. :)

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia


      Well, good for you. Congratulations with finding your piece of paradise. Life's too short to not take advantage of spending time with those we love. Thanks on the house wishes. There have been many showings, and some murmurs of interest. I keep praying for a quick sale but it's not in my hands!

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 3 years ago from Georgia

      There is an update about how things have progressed with the house in the past 3.5 months...see above!

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