Moving your family into a new home changes your life
February 20, 2002
My cousin, who lives in Connecticut, sent me an e-mail recently with this missive in regard to our pending move: “I hope it goes as smoothly as those things can go, and that you find what you’re looking for in your new house in the woods.”
Whenever words sting, it’s a red flag for me to take a closer look. What bothers me about her hope that I find what I’m looking for? I suppose people in my life, even dearly loved relatives, generally figure that I should have already figured out what I want in life. Is it not OK to change direction in your early forties?
I’ll admit that having built three houses in the past 10 years is a little excessive. The truth is, we’ve built five houses, but two were rentals, and maybe she’s only vaguely heard about those other building projects.
Maybe her comment has more to do with an assumption that our house wasn’t good enough D that we wanted something better, something more.
We did go for acreage and a view this time. We did go for more privacy. But we also downsized. My husband and I took a look around ourselves a few years ago, and realized that the large house and yard were not really what we wanted in life. We wanted something simpler; something less costly to heat and keep clean.
I think of our new house as sitting on a sunny ridge top, rather than being in the woods. It looks out over the forest. In Connecticut, they call the forest, “the woods.”
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We have not moved to a spot that your average family would think to build a house. In fact, my cousin who lives in a quaint suburb outside New York City has trouble comprehending our life here in the mountains. She likes her convenient walk to downtown where she can hop on a train and ride into the city. I now live in what she may consider a crazy location, up a half-mile gravel road which climbs a steep hillside via five switchbacks. My children’s walk to the bus stop is two miles from our front door. My cousin’s children walk a few blocks to school.
And there are more inconveniences than just a steep dirt driveway. We did not build an attached garage, so life will be less convenient when unloading groceries, especially during a snow storm.
Building a house is a long drawn-out process that in my opinion takes a lot of patience and perseverance. Moving is just plain exhausting.
My husband and I have reminded each other throughout the past year that our goal in building another house was to enjoy the journey, and not put too much emphasis on the destination. This actually was advice we had gotten from a friend, and it became our mantra whenever a problem would come up: “Oh, the hardwood floor guys need a whole extra week with no other workers allowed on site?” “No problem. We are simply enjoying the journey.”
Packing and moving while trying to keep up with our children’s schedules caused me some stress last week, until my husband reminded me, “Remember, we are trying to enjoy this.” “Oh yeah, I forgot.”
Once I let go of what a pain moving is, I discovered that it’s a great purging experience. Because we’ve gone from a larger to a smaller house, we just couldn’t take everything with us. Each item we owned was carefully considered before it was either packed, given away, or thrown out. You would not believe how much stuff we did not take with us. My husband pulled up to the Hospice Thrift Store with a truckload of stuff one day last week. After he unloaded all the boxes they apparently turned their sandwich-board sign around to read “Not taking donations at this time.” We have another truckload to deliver as soon as their sign again reads, “Donations accepted Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.”
I haven’t answered my cousin’s e-mail yet, but I’ve decided that when I do respond, instead of being defensive, I think I will tell her something that I may not have ever shared with her before. The truth for me is that I found what I was looking for a long time ago, over 20 years ago in fact, when I first pulled into this town.
Truckee is a great place to live. I absolutely love my life here, no matter what house I am living in.
Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.