At the end of last week, many of our neighbors gathered for some socializing before the lighting of a huge fir tree that sits adjacent to the neighborhood clubhouse. A committee, led by Leah and Sarah among others had worked hard to organize the event. They encouraged everyone to attend and bring a favorite appetizer to enjoy with wassail and hot cocoa. It was a grand time.
Toward the end of the social hour, Leah introduced a young student from the University who would lead everyone in carols before lighting the great tree. At that point, we assembled outside, sang three or four carols before counting down…five, four, three, two, one whereupon David inserted a plug into a socket and voila, the lights appeared on cue to a burst of applause. Several minutes later, our student led the carolers through the neighborhood to sing to those unable to attend the event.
When the tree lights came on, I found myself thinking about the differences in our life now and the way it was a little over four years ago when we made the decision to downsize. In many ways, the differences are profound. As readers of this website are aware, I began Easin’ Along as way of highlighting an active retirement. My blog was never intended as an advice column for retirees—there of plenty of those out there and a few excellent ones are listed in the sidebar of this page. Nevertheless, if downsizing is a future consideration, I thought that, as our student leads us through the streets, I might lead readers through some of the changes that have made our decision so rewarding. Pictures of our tree lighting ceremony are interspersed throughout.
Our previous home was unquestionably our dream home. We had carved out a homesite in the middle of eleven acres of hardwood forest that overlooked the Tennessee River. The word picturesque doesn’t describe the setting. Our view stretched for over a mile both upriver and down. For most of the summer months, the sunset was directly in from of us. We had a dock for our boat and a barn for the big boy toys. Just as importantly, whenever I needed an attitude adjustment, I could lose myself while taking a walk in the woods where solitude reigned. Flowers and flowering shrubs grew everywhere, and neighbors were not seen. The decision to leave this paradise was not easily made.
As lovely as our home was, I must be honest and admit that it was also an expensive place to live. My work as a homebuilder had slowed considerably during the recession and Helen (adorable wife) and I wanted to avoid our home becoming a drain on our hard-earned resources as retirement loomed. Therefore, cost became factor number in the decision process.
Factor number two became clear when we looked around the house. You can find a lot of places to store stuff in a large home. In forty-plus years of marriage, we had not only accumulated our precious treasures, but we had also wound up with much of Helen’s mother’s precious treasures. We were literally living in a comfortable warehouse and our children wanted none of it. Something had to be done.
In discussing our future, we both agreed that if retirement was approaching, we wanted it to be an active one. As a military retiree, we had the option for low-cost lodging all over the world and the lure of extensive travel was strong. Being away from our home for more than a week at a time was difficult, especially with five animals in our household.
Finally, we had our health to consider. Moving was not going to be easy and would be growing more difficult as time went by. Our children were living in far-away places with no promise of returning to live permanently. Neither of us wanted to burden them with the process of cleaning out attics, basements, and closets of unwanted items. We had to get this done while we had the energy to do it.
There were other factors, but these were the major ones. Once the decision was made, and the wheels set in motion, we moved steadily forward although it required almost a year from the time we started until we finally moved into our new home…and we needed every minute.
Moving out of our home required three long days, four storage PODS, back-breaking labor, and hundreds of decisions. About the time we closed on our house, my mother had moved also, and we could live in her former home while we remodeled our new one. This stroke of good fortune also allowed us to prepare and stage our accumulated and unwanted stuff for a three-day garage sale. This was the most liberating event I have ever encountered. It was also astonishing because I couldn’t believe what people were willing to spend good money on. Oh, well, one man’s junk really is someone else’s treasure.
Five months after the sale and our remodeling completed, we moved into a new neighborhood joining eighty new neighbors. Helen waded right in and soon made many friends. Not as socially inclined, it took me a bit longer to get used to having others close by. I adjusted, however, and warmed up to our new surroundings quickly.
We’ve now been in our home for four years and the experience has been a very rewarding. We’ve made great friends and are convinced that our decision to downsize was made at the right time. With church, family, friends, and shopping close by, we love the convenience. Our expenses for mowing, maintenance, taxes, and insurance have been reduced significantly. We love having a pool that someone else cleans. We can leave our home on short notice and stay away for extended periods when we choose. The neighborhood association is active and has strong leadership. Helen helps decorate for holidays and I produce the neighborhood newsletter each month–activities we both enjoy very much. Yes, we’re very glad that we have that move behind us.
We also have Christmas trees to light and carols to sing so, let’s party…and continue Easin’ Along.
Falalalalah-la, la, la, lah!
If you have thoughts about downsizing or comments about your experiences with the process, please share them in the comments section below.