Selling My House is Breaking My Heart
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 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 for 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.
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!
House Selling Poll
Have you had to sell the house you raised your children in?
© 2013 Karen Hellier