The master plan called for selling the family home once the last kid was out of high school and off to college. We’d both be over 60 and ready for the next chapter.

You know the drill: buy a smaller place with fewer rooms to clean, less yard to keep, fewer things to go wrong. And think of all that extra money we’d have for traveling, a new car, simply enjoying life!

The more we planned the more our excitement grew. Netflix binges were soon abandoned for hours spent on Zillow and Redfin, searching for the perfect “forever home.”

Then my husband got cancer. Not just any cancer, mind you. The worst of the worst: pancreatic. I will save the awful details of that journey for a later time, but needless to say, the “master plan” required an overhaul by the time my daughter threw her mortarboard in the air that warm night in June.

Stuck

That was almost a year ago. I should have been getting the place ready to sell for at least six months before I finally buckled down and had it painted and refreshed, called the junk haulers (twice), and made what seemed like my 100th trip to the veterans’ center to donate the beautiful suits and crisp white shirts my husband loved so dearly. (I kept the second-hand tuxedo he wore when we were married, though; moth holes and all.)

Finally, it was ready. Gleaming, in fact. Ready to be photographed and showcased like a supermodel. And yet, I couldn’t do it. I called the financial planner endlessly, just to be sure I couldn’t stay a little longer. He said I could, but did I really want to keep spending so much on a house that no longer fit?

He had a point. I will never go a day without missing my husband, but I was grateful to have gotten to a stage where I could look forward to the future again, and laugh, and yes, enjoy life. So, what was I waiting for?

New Chapter

I sold it. As it turns out, escrow closed in the nick of time. I moved out four days before the state of California (where I live) was put on lockdown, and my offer on a new, much smaller house had been accepted.

The first few weeks were rough. I missed my “real” home, the neighbors, the proximity to old friends. It didn’t help that I was spending virtually every minute in this unfamiliar prison because of a global health crisis.

I resolved to stay the minimum amount of time necessary to recoup my moving expenses and sell the joint.

My daughter’s world tightened, too. She was forced to move back home – all her college classes taught online for the foreseeable future, no friends to see, no parties to attend.

Miserable and unmotivated, we moved boxes stuffed with non-essential dishes and assorted housewares to the side rather than unpack them. At a certain point they became invisible, more like an art installation than a nuisance we simply walked around.

Unexpected

Little by little, it got better. I can’t pinpoint how or when it happened, but I can now say without reservation that I like, maybe even love, my new home.

It’s far from perfect, of course. I sit in my home office overlooking a raggedy “garden” literally dying for care. There has been no landscaper to the rescue, no handyman over to fix the jiggly door handles and the cranky stove.

No steady stream of friends dropping by to offer decorating tips and potted plants. Turns out impromptu barbecues thrown to meet the neighbors are frowned upon during a pandemic.

The funny thing is, my daughter and I are getting along better than ever. She’s a pretty cool kid, not to mention a great unpacker and organizer, two in-demand skills here at the new place.

Needless to say, the dogs are over the moon to have two humans around constantly. They never bicker or complain about toast crumbs on the counter or laundry left in the dryer – they’re the only ones praying the lockdown lasts forever.

As for me, I’ve attended a few virtual cocktail parties with my old friends and gotten to know my new neighbors through socially distanced chats. I’m writing again and staring at that raggedy garden, breaking from this post now and again to Google “Gardening for Dummies” or search for YouTube University videos on DIY plumbing. It actually looks kind of fun.

Maybe the dogs are onto something.

Have you downsized your home or life lately? What are you doing to keep your spirits up during the lockdown? Please join the conversation!

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