Packing Up My Former Home Changed the Way I Saw New Beginnings

Sometimes you need to say goodbye to embark on a new chapter.

Westend61/ Getty Images
Westend61/ Getty Images

For me, moving has always been a bittersweet experience. There’s the excitement that comes from planning how to decorate a new living space. The frustration of trying to cram all the kitchen accessories into three cardboard boxes — yes, even the barely-used garlic press and lemon juicer — when geometry has never been my forte. Saying goodbye can be hard, too. When my parents dropped me off at Emory University freshman year, I was torn between consoling my tearful younger brothers and the steady drumbeat of anticipation for dorm life.

My most memorable move though, took place just two years ago. When my husband and I met in 2009, I owned a townhouse and he moved in 18 months later. While it served us well for years, the space felt more like mine than ours. The time felt right to buy our first home together in December 2015 and we decided to build a free-standing house in a new subdivision. The builder promised it would be complete by June 2016, which turned out to be as reliable as a presidential election poll or a weather forecast without doppler radar. After a dozen move-in date delays and construction mishaps, we closed on the new house on December 23, 2016. I remember that date well, because of the race to get utilities installed and furniture delivered before the world paused for Christmas. And just about everything that could go wrong, did.

The house wasn’t fully ready, with a shoddy interior paint job and dirty floors. Bizarrely executed tile work in all the showers that would have to be completely pulled down and replaced. But time was up. We already sold the townhouse and needed to move out. Hubby and I decided to divide and conquer the process. I carted over carloads of our clothes and small housewares, serving as the on-the-ground person to let installers into our home while he waited for the movers to appear at the old homestead. And waited. And waited. The first moving crew never bothered to show up or call.  A second crew was dispatched and finally 10 hours after the appointed time, started loading things up. They arrived short a mover, causing my husband to pitch in just to get the job done by midnight. Meanwhile, the mattress company that absolutely promised to deliver our set on time started calling with delay notices before cancelling completely that night. Exhausted and frustrated, we ended up hastily putting our old bed together in the guest room between a sea of boxes. After looking so forward to being in our new home, it felt like a big letdown.

I went back to the townhouse the next day to finish cleaning up before the new owner took possession. After ensuring every room was spic and span, I leaned against the kitchen counter and felt a wave of sadness. It was time to say goodbye. So, speaking out loud, I thanked the townhouse for helping me bring friends and family together for dinner parties, holiday celebrations and many special moments. I shared how happy it made me to fall in love there with the right guy and have him move in too. I expressed my appreciation for the support and comfort it provided as I changed my career and life over the course of nearly nine years. Putting my arms in the air, I gave the townhouse a virtual hug and wished the new owner as much happiness as it brought me before departing a final time.

After that goodbye, I somehow felt complete. Drove back to the new home and saw it with fresh eyes. Yes, a lot of work needed to be done to bring it up to speed. But I thought about the many happy memories my husband and I would create for years to come in this new place we built together. With my heart lighter, it was time to unpack the moving boxes and fully say hello.

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