Nesting Anew

One month plus four days ago my husband of almost 60 years and I moved from our beloved Happy-Ever-After home that we  built to a dear Cottage in a wonderful full service Richmond Retirement Community. It was a difficult decision, a harder task to downsize from 4700 square feet to 2100 square feet, a daunting challenge to make radical decisions as to what to keep, what to try to sell, and what to donate. We did it. We are glad. It was like giving birth to triplets without anesthesia!

The entire process began more than a year ago when we engaged a firm of professional downsizers and organizers called Minima to help us. This was the single smartest choice we ever made. Several all-day sessions during the summer of 2016 with three or four fabulous young women resulted in Phase One of sifting and sorting through closets, drawers, cupboards, attics and the cluttered “black hole” of our basement. Although we had only lived in our home since 2005, we managed to fill it to the brim with treasures galore. I do not believe I am an avid collector, but I must confess to possessing an eye that admires pretty things.

I remember my older sister’s visit several years ago as she scrutinized our living room. “Oh boy, Joy…I don’t envy you when you and John move to a smaller house.” I blew off that statement, and said, “But that won’t happen for a long time.” We all practice denial. We think we are young forever, and we tell ourselves, “Oh, no need to think about this now.” Yes, that is what John and I said, for a long time.

Then, in the summer of 2012 he contracted Sepsis from a tick bite which nearly killed him. Next he had a knee replacement, and his scoliosis gradually worsened. He had some nasty falls. He turned eighty, and we both realized that it was time to put our names on the list for our chosen Retirement facility.  We did this two years ago, thinking that we could always refuse a place if and when we weren’t ready.  AND, having been a caretaker for my elderly mother, who staunchly remained in her house until she died at age 94, we did not want to leave our far-flung children with the enervating responsibility of our well-being, or of having a large house full of stuff to dispose of when we die.

In early January, just when I thought we could relax and celebrate John’s recovery from back surgery, the call came that a Cottage was available. We accepted. We had the chance to “make it our own” with a fresh look. After six stressful months, we moved, and although I call it “The Move from Hell” it happened and we survived, thanks to generous help from willing volunteers and family.

Talking to friends and hearing their reasons as to why they “will never move or downsize” resonates. It is a topic to contemplate and understand. There is no one formula for all older people to follow, because everyone is afforded their own choices. Circumstances vary, needs differ. That is the truth, and the reality of leading our lives by our own blueprints.

A few thoughts: perhaps some Seniors do not consider a move because their nearby children have agreed to care for them. Perhaps they can afford to hire independent nursing help if, God Forbid, poor health besets them. Perhaps the thought of letting go of treasured possessions is painful. Perhaps they enjoy the security of living in familiar surroundings…of a neighborhood that feels cozy like a warm blanket, of a routine that suits their needs. Who knows. But my sense is that some older people reject moving and downsizing because they are afraid of admitting they are growing older, and may one day require assisted living. Once again, this is pure conjecture. My husband and I have no family in our area… so we are especially sensitive to managing our older age.

(It is important to mention that in today’s world, more people are living longer, and many GOOD retirement facilities are being built to accommodate different pocket books. Within a few miles of our place are two other sanctioned options. Each one provides independent living as well as medical assistance.)

Although excuses for not downsizing are manifold, it seems important to recognize underlying reasons for not making a change. It is not easy. And it is heart-wrenching. It requires an enormous amount of energy and commitment. People like us are lucky. Having survived a dozen corporate moves, my husband and I were well versed in upheaval and relocating. We knew “how to do it.” Our four children learned to adapt. They had no choice. We told them that each move was an “adventure.” Each move was an exciting opportunity for new experiences, new friends and new vistas. Corporate moves were healthy because now we are better equipped to accept change. We learned that new opportunities await. We learn, we grow, and hopefully we become more interesting people.

As I mentioned earlier, this was our toughest move. Why?  Our beautiful home did not sell the first day. Rather it was on the market for over two months, which felt longer as I became joined at the hip with the vacuum, never knowing when a call would come to show the house. Trying to find antique dealers to take beloved “Brown” furniture, which few Milennials want anymore, deciding what would fit into the cottage without creating a “used furniture show room” effect, purging yet again closets, etc, etc, had to happen along with keeping house immaculate. My sweet husband was a great cheerleader, but physically he could do very little. Each day we told ourselves our decision was right. Too much house, too much commitment to it, too little time to embrace our blessings. Funny how life seems to reveal itself: how we know the time is right to make a change. Better to do it while you can, rather than procrastinate. As I said to our family and many friends, “I would not want to be one day older going through this move!”

After one month, stress has miraculously vanished. The day of the Closing on our old home, I literally kissed the front door “goodbye,” and said, “Thank you for the marvelous, happy years you gave us. May the new owners to be as delighted to live here as we were.” We have not looked back, or mourned our old house. We love our cozy cottage. We love the simplicity of caring for it, with cleaning help once each week. We love the meals that are provided for us, if we choose. We love the pull cords in each room in case we need medical help. We like our new neighbors: kindly folks who bond quickly because of our common beliefs that we made the right decision to move. We love the opportunity to reclaim our lives. We love knowing that we have given ourselves and our children a lasting gift. They may be stacked up on air mattresses when they come to visit, but they do not care. They know we are content. They do not need to worry about our future well-being. Their aging (but always fun) parents/grandparents have successfully NESTED ANEW!

Top photo: Bigstock

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, Learn. To read other parts of her series on downsizing, click on the story links below.

Where You Should Live After Retiring

Accepting Change and the Need to Downsize

The Ultimate Move – Accepting with Grace

Sitting on an Egg…

The Joys and Woes of Selling a House

About Joy Nevin (75 Articles)
Joy Nevin was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, attended Connecticut College for Women for two years until she married John Nevin in 1957. Four children later, with twelve corporate moves in 20 years, the family learned flexibility. In 1990, with a nearly empty nest, Joy and John moved to Richmond, Virginia where they put down roots. Now in her eighties, Joy is the author of “Get Moving: A Joyful Search to Meet and Embrace Life Transitions” (2002) and “Joy of Retirement: Live, Love and Learn” (2015). Since 2016 she has written numerous articles for Woman Around Town on downsizing, moving to a retirement facility and her current series, Octo Observations. She is also a proud Grammy of nine, great grandmother of two…..AND forever grateful to Charlene Giannetti for supporting her passion for writing!