It's official! The moving truck pulled up last Friday morning and by 8 pm the crew of five strong men had finally finished the heavy lifting (BTW - I highly recommend "Big Family Movers" who never once complained about the amount of boxes or the GIRTH of my antiques AND came in UNDER their bid price. Who does that, especially in Piedmont?)
Now the work of unloading begins . . . By midnight, I finally called "uncle" and headed for an overdue bath.
That's when things got really interesting . . .
"Aunt Julie! THERE'S WATER COMING THROUGH THE KITCHEN CEILING!" my niece shouted.
We'd bought a "fixer" so we knew going in that the systems weren't exactly up to par, but silly me, I'd failed to realize that the tub was just 'decorative' and that the plumbing wasn't hooked up correctly. (Up to par? How about SUB-PAR!) Unfortunately, when I drained the bath water, it found its way through the light below and onto the kitchen floor (OR what's a bucket for?)
By Sunday, after the washing machine had flooded the basement, the fuses had blown repeatedly, and my teenage son has disavowed me, I'd begun to doubt our decision to move. (Yes, there's a "BIG PICTURE" plan here, but the short term doesn't look very promising.)
I'm loathe to admit it, but what, exactly, have we done !? Leaving Shangri-La and a home we loved for yet another major restoration project? "Breathe," "pray," and "EAT CHOCOLATE " was the timely advice from most of my good friends and colleagues. (Have I said "thank you" BTW? I really appreciate your support.)
In between hyperventilating, I have to remember that here's what we HAVE done:
In short, we are planning for our future.
Ahhh yes, that's why we did it - for sound financial reasons that should serve us well for years to come . . . even if the present day seems daunting.
As for the remodel? It's going to be a massive mess, terribly inconvenient, HELL to live through, and will no doubt, run WELL over budget. So what else is new? It's also going to be very exciting; a chance to put our stamp on yet another home and garden.
As I explained to my unhappy son, "It's either a total POS or it's an opportunity. The choice is yours."
OR as I have often reminded my clients, "These are the problems the rest of the world aspires to!" (It's time to take my own advice.)
Our previous home is now in the hands of an extremely capable, younger family who have the energy to keep up with a large property, while we concentrate on restoring the very neglected house and much smaller yard we have just acquired. It's a cycle Cliff and I understand well and one we appreciate.
In the meantime, I'm remembering a quote I love (unfortunately I don't know who said it): "Life consists of two kinds of experiences: those that are great and those that make GREAT ANTECDOTES!"
I'm clearly in an "anecdote" phase. How lucky am I? (Pretty darn lucky.) "Eat, pray love," and then, give gratitude. If nothing else, I'll have great copy for upcoming Perspectives!
Although we closed escrow on our new house on April Fool's Day (let's hope that doesn't turn out to be predictive) the buyers on our side very generously agreed to let us stay in our current home until the end of the school year. With that day looming ahead of us, I have begun to pack in earnest. Literally, there are boxes everywhere.
Like most homeowners who have lived in their properties more than just a few years, I have accumulated more "stuff" than I probably should have . . . and so have my kids . . . and so has my husband . . .
Truth be told, their collections center around sports equipment, while mine consists primarily of white Stoneware picked up at the Alameda Flea Market over the last decade. For better or worse, we are a culture of consumers. As I pack, I'm asking myself, "Do I really need to move all of these things to the new house?" (Not really.)
The closets are the worst offenders; "storage" being a double edged sword. From experience I can tell you that the more storage space a home has, the more likely a homeowner is to FILL IT! (And then some.) Today I found a juicer that, even as we bought it, I knew would quickly find its way to a forgotten shelf. (I was right.) Next up? The home office. "
How long do I really need to hold onto those old tax records?" I asked our CPA. "
Forever," Ron advised me. (I don't think he was kidding.)
Okay folks, but how about those vinyl records? We don't even own a turntable any more (and haven't for years.) Warning Will Robinson, don't look. One glance at that "Saturday Night Fever" album and I was immediately transported back to my junior year in high school - and down Nostalgia Lane . . . "Ah, ah, ah, ah, Stayin' alive, stayin' alive . . . Ah, ah, ah, I'm staaaaying alive."(But just barely; moving is exhausting!)
I'm at the crossroads between hanging on or letting go . . . ("How deep is your love, is your love, is your love? I really need to know . . .")
I've come to believe that life is little more than a series of transitions. How well we respond to these life changes, decides how graceful or tortured the journey becomes.
Those trophies your kids received just for participating?
Old skis and snow boards the family has outgrown?
The 40 baseball caps that never get worn?(Yes, I'm talking to you Cliff. You know you only wear the same three faded caps anyway.)
Get rid of them already!
This goes for worn-out shoes, scratched pots and pans, costume jewelry, hand-me-downs, costumes, coats, mismatched pillow cases, pairless socks, broken furniture, outdated Christmas cards, flattened handbags, crusty luggage, threadbare linens, belts, books, T-shirts, games, cds, videos, ELECTRONICS, cords, mismatched glassware, chipped dishes, etc., etc., etc. - until you are down to only those items you really cherish and use. (Your children will thank you when it comes time to clean out and sell the "family" home.)
DO pack up a box of your kids' art work (I'm not completely heartless) but don't keep it all. We'll trust that your kids were all "Picassos" in the making. (See box to the left.) Then donate all those lovely "things" to someone in need. (Hey, none of this "stuff" is going with us when we finally leave this earth and little of it is "heirloom" worthy, trust me.) Think of your donations as recycling, content in the knowledge that someone else can actually put those underutilized items to better use right now (like a juicer!) So do your part and get packing. Won't it feel better to simplify your life?
(Yes, it will.) BTW - you don't necessarily have to wait for a move to purge and organize. An annual spring cleaning will do the job nicely and when, and IF, you finally downsize, you'll be grateful that there is less to pack. This ain't no "Ja, ja, ja Jive Talkin" (Maybe I'll just keep that album for old time's sake.) You'll thank me for this advice one day. Go ahead, let go. (Hey Readers, any response to this email should really be in the form of a BEE GEE'S song, don't you think? There's a Mulberry's latte in it for those of your feeling creative or musical! "Boogie Fever.")
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.