Sandra Justice Hall December 16, 2019
Once upon a time, at the age of 61, we decided to adopt.
This was not a delayed mid-life crisis, but it was a decision to adopt a
new hometown and to downsize. We were pursuing another dream—to
live on the water. In 2006, we purchased a modest ranch home on Lake
Ontario in the town of Huron, NY. We enjoyed it as a getaway for three
years, but the constant upkeep of two homes became too much. Gradually,
we decided to sell our beloved Victorian home and move full time to the
In 2008 and 2009, we completed several projects to improve the
resale value of our home. We refinished the last of the bedroom floors, had
rooms painted, updated lighting, and tiled the upstairs bathroom. (I am an
avid watcher of HGTV). We began seriously sorting through the basement,
the attic and the second floor of the garage/barn. We had raised two
children here and had planned to live in this home forever. We were, after
all, only the third owners of a 130-year-old historic home. There were 27
years of stuff hidden away in this Victorian.
In Dec. 2009, we decided to list the house. We figured with this
economy and the fact we were trying to sell an old Victorian; the house
would not sell for 3-4 years. Wrong! It sold in three weeks!
We were very emotionally invested in our Victorian house. It is the
house I always wanted. When we moved in, our son was 6, our daughter
was 3, so, essentially, it is the only home they remember. The house had
good bones, but every year of our 27 years there, we made one or more
major improvements per year. And, we quickly learned, that an estimate
for work in an old home would cost 50% more, because there were always
After our projects were finished, we realized we were tired of the
upkeep. My husband and I both have health issues and something as
simple as washing the windows outside required two men and a step
ladder. I could no longer drag in a ladder to take down and wash the lace
curtains. It became apparent to us that, instead of owning the house, the
house was owning us.
During the two and a half months from agreeing to a purchase price
to actually depositing ourselves in our new home, I realized something I
wish I had learned earlier—Memories are moveable. We had a wonderful
time raising our children in our old home, celebrating birthdays, holidays,
and graduations. We still own these memories!
As I write this in July 2010, the boxes are mostly unpacked, and I
have time to reflect. I hear the gurgle of waves lapping the shore and the
screech of gulls. Occasionally, a bald eagle swoops into the lake to fish, a
hummingbird graces my window box, and wild turkeys cackle and strut
past my deck. I will not pretend that the weeks of intense packing,
deciding what to sell and what to take were easy, but I do wish to share
some of our experience.
The process of deciding what to sell and what to give away and what
to take was, at first, anxiety laden. Because the ranch was much smaller,
and mostly furnished already, there was little we could take. Surprisingly,
the process of deciding what to do with stuff got easier. It helped, that our
daughter had a large apartment an hour away, and she wanted the dining
room set and a bedroom set. I even gave her my china, silver, and crystal—
wedding gifts I thought I’d never part with. I did not give her everything,
but I did not have room for fancy china, and I was tired of setting a fancy
table. I have a nice set of stainless-steel flatware that serves nicely for all
occasions and goes into the dishwasher.
Our realtor reminded me of a consignment shop that would sell items
the buyer did not want. The shop even came and picked up the items—one
less thing to worry about! Do not dwell on the amount you get for each
item. Typically, the seller gets 50% of the sale. It was worth it to us to
have the items picked up and I deposited the money received into an
account to purchase items needed for the lake house.
I gave some items to friends. What I did not expect was that the
process of giving things away, recycling them, or donating them got easier.
As a retired English teacher, I was sure I could never part with any of my
forty-five years of books. But I knew I had to. A colleague helped me sort
them, sold some for me, and donated boxes of books to the local library. He
who is a new teacher, to take a box. I created piles for friends. When I
actually started to unpack the boxes of books I brought, I still had to give
more away. A new neighbor, an avid reader, now gets books from me that I
am sure she will like. All I ask, is that she pass them on to another friend.
I did buy one of those electronic books before we moved–I was
intrigued by the concept of storing many books in the space of one. I don’t
mind reading on this electronic marvel and, since I belong to two book
clubs and a writing group, Kindle fits the space.
Since we knew the home we were moving to, it was fairly easy to
reimagine certain furniture pieces we wanted to keep in the new space. We
found that the stuff we were determined to keep was not necessarily the
most “valuable.” My “hope chest” is a rough (almost primitive) piece of
pine my husband’s grandfather had in his attic. Each side is constructed of
a solid board of pine. It has a patched bullet hole in the top. (We told the
kids a tall tale about the bullet hole). It is the first piece of furniture we
ever refinished. It now makes a window seat looking out over the lake.
Near the chest/window seat, we brought our first kitchen table and chairs.
It is solid oak and the chairs are still sturdy. My mother-in-law had been
using it in the basement to fold laundry. My husband-to-be and his brother
had carved their initials into the top. Days before our wedding, we were
still hand sanding, staining and varnishing that table.
Without question, we brought Great-Grandma Stanton’s marble top
table, and I am using her worn library table to hold my computer. I always
wanted a writing desk that looks out on the water.
We also brought the antique dry sink I used as a changing table for
both of my kids. It was then covered with seven layers of paint and had
been dug out of my in-law’s attic. However, it may be a valuable antique as
it has mahogany trim and black tear drop handles, but it is its emotional
value that carries the weight with me.
On a high shelf in my kitchen sits an old, rococo china clock that has
been in my father’s family for more than a century. It was sitting in my
dad’s basement forever. I had clock works put in and it sat proudly on our
mantle in our Victorian for fifteen years. It may look odd in my simple
kitchen now, but every hour it faithfully chimes reassurance.
It is comforting to see and hear these familiar things in their new
setting. And, as they say, life is more relaxed at the lake. This simple
house does not own us, although I my write my name in the
dust occasionally to remind myself that we do own it!