The Joys and Woes of Selling a House

Retirement has milestone events. The first is the day the family breadwinner(s) packs up the office, and heads home to a life away from the hub bub of corporate or professional life. That is a jolt, as I witnessed when my husband retired in 1998. It took a few years for him and for me to come to grips with his not having a secretary, a staff, a schedule or anyone except himself or me to do his bidding. But we survived and have thrived happily for many years.

Nearly two years ago we put our name on the list of a lovely Richmond retirement facility, with the intention that one day we would be well advised to transition from our spacious home to a cottage. All our needs would be met: home maintenance, sixty meals per month, 24 hour on-call medical help, and long term care, should the need arise for either of us. We felt we had taken the ultimate step to save ourselves and our far flung family of four adult children the worry of caring for us as we grew significantly older and older. With that in mind, we resumed our normal lives.

Suddenly, one morning in early January of this year, the phone rang. The Marketing Manager of Cedarfield announced that a three bedroom (with a sunroom) cottage had become available, and would we please come look. We did, we accepted, and we started the application process. We passed the physical, mental and financial requirements…whew!! How funny to wake up at 5 a.m. and practice counting backwards from 100 by sevens!! One of my Cedarfield pals had gently whispered that “mathematical exercise” was part of the fitness test. It wasn’t, but at least we were well prepared.

Now, as a beautiful early spring descends on Richmond, our Happy Ever After ’til the Retirement Home house is (gulp) For Sale. This is a MAJOR milestone! What do homeowners do when they are transitioning to a place less than half the size of their residence? They work like crazy! They plan ahead, they make decisions, they decide which furniture needs to be sold, they clean closets, drawers, attics, basements and donate, donate, donate. Thanks to hiring a local professional downsizing team last summer, we were well on our way to preparing for the move. And until our realtor brought in the “STAGER” our attics were mostly clutter-free. Now “unnecessary” furniture is stored upstairs, so as to present a pristine, easy access, attractive image to any potential home buyer. Thanks to the muscles and brawn of our younger son and his wonderful wife and family who came to help us one weekend, our mission was accomplished.

Lest you wonder, this prep for “House for Sale” is therapeutic. I wrote earlier about coming to grips with meeting a “Stager.” Hard to hear some of her suggestions, but honestly, since we have removed excess furniture, collectibles from table tops, we are wondering why we didn’t do this earlier. It is also a critical exercise in “letting go.” As one of our daughters said recently, “Mom, home will always be where you and dad are.” Yes, we will create new memories and have new adventures.

Last Friday our beloved house officially went “on the market.” Lovely exterior and interior online pictures show us with our best foot forward, and each day I become OCD about keeping every inch of our home immaculate. Although my husband and I are seasoned movers, having had a dozen the first twenty years of his corporate life, we were mere “kids.” Our recovery powers were marvelous…now we stagger into bed at night… grateful for the opportunity not to move another muscle.

So far there have been no nibbles. So far we get our hopes up each time someone wants to see our house. Neither of us is sleeping well. But, we are optimistic by nature, and hopeful that such an incredible property as this will attract attention and the perfect buyer. Our family, friends and neighbors are supportive and encouraging. Each day the phone rings and someone says, “Any bids? Your house is gorgeous!”

The Joys of selling a house are probably the act of ridding one’s self of excess: of giving away or selling items that may help someone else, of finding treasures that were hidden away….such as a bag crammed full of love-letters written to each other when my husband and I were in college. “Don’t throw those away,” say our kids…”They are history.”

Another Joy is becoming better organized: of picking up as we go along, and of a normally UN-fastidious husband realizing how he can make his wife’s tasks easier. We have always been a good team while raising children and managing our life together, but now we work in tandem to prepare our house for each “Show and Tell.” Loved John’s comment last week, when he said, “I really don’t remember doing all this before. Why?” “Because,” said I, “you were either working or on the golf course, honey.” Did I mention that we moved 12 times the first twenty years of our marriage…..with four children, and this last move will be #15??

To talk about the woes of this final transition seems negative, but they do exist. I admit that this move feels like an emotional ride on an amusement park roller coaster. One day I feel excited, the next day apprehensive and a tad sad. The major one for me is realizing that we have reached the age when we can no longer deny aging. John is about to turn 82, and a few weeks ago I began clinging fiercely to 79! We “are young no mo!” And we need to be in a smaller space, with far less upkeep, zero stairs, meals, maintenance and medical people available at the pull of a cord. Like so many older people we adore our home, with its memories, its comforts and its routine. We love seeing the change of seasons in our yard. We love the bursting blooms of forsythia bushes, daffodils, and cherry trees. We love the familiarity of our neighborhood…we love to curl up at night in front of the den fireplace and watch TV. We love to feel cozy. But we can do that again at Cedarfield. Before long it, too, will feel like “home.”

When the right people discover this perfectly marvelous house and offer a contract, we will celebrate our freedom from so much “stuff” and embark upon the next chapter of life, with renewed optimism, grace and peace. Our overarching rejoinder is to remind ourselves daily of our many blessings: to wake up each morning with gratitude that we are still on the planet, that we have a glorious family and wonderful friends, and that we are happily married for nearly sixty years. As one of my closest friends recently said, “Moving to a retirement facility is the best gift you can give yourselves and your children.” Deep in my bones, I know Sally is right. Time to embrace another chapter of life!

Stay tuned for the next chapter!

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.

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!