Home is where the heart is

green and tan winter outfit

green coat

snow heart

[Dress and boots: both Zara, circa 2011 // Jacket: La Redoute, 2012 // Giant snow heart: c/o Terry]

So, our house is probably going on the market soon. I’m not sure quite how soon, but … soon. Too soon for my liking, because folks? I am FREAKING THE HELL OUT right now. Like, lying awake at night worrying, and  waking up thinking, “OMG, WHAT ARE WE DOING?” – that kind of freaking out. It’s no fun at all, let me tell you.

Oh, don’t get me wrong: I want to move. I’ve wanted to move for years now. I’ve said it so many times it really doesn’t need to be repeated, but I’m going to do it anyway: this house is small. And cramped. And just generally uncomfortable, in lots of different ways, really. When we bought it, we saw it very much as a “starter home” –  we assumed it would be a decent first step on the property ladder, and that we’d only live in it for a couple of years before moving on. Onwards and upwards.

We didn’t anticipate that Terry would need a kidney transplant, of course. Or that we’d both end up leaving our well-paid jobs and starting our own business because of it. But that was what happened: Terry’s diagnosis came almost exactly a year after we bought the place, and after that, moving home was the last thing we wanted to think about.

Now we’re not just thinking about it: we’re on the brink of actually DOING IT, and as I said I want to move. I’m excited about the big life change we possibly have ahead of us. I’m downright delirious at the prospect of having some much-needed space. I’m looking forward to having our friends over, and not feeling like I have to constantly apologise for the house, or have them all spend the evening rotating in and out of different rooms because if we all tried to sit in the living room we’d probably set a new world record. I’m ready for this. It’s time.

But.

You knew there had to be a “but”, didn’t you?

I’m a ridiculously sentimental type of person. I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was a child, my mum had a hard time getting me to throw out old toothbrushes and things like that, because I felt that they’d become a part of the “family” and I just couldn’t bear the thought of them, all lonely and forlorn, sitting in the bottom of a landfill site somewhere. It broke my heart.

These days I’m not quite that bad. In fact, when it comes to clearing out junk, I can be downright ruthless when I have to be: I’m more of a neat-freak than a hoarder, and I’d rather have the place organised than be afraid to open cupboard doors for fear of being suffocated by an avalanche of old toothbrushes and God knows what else.

But I cannot STAND to leave places. I just can’t. I am the kind of person who cries when she checks out of hotels. My family know not to speak to me for the first ten minutes after we drive away from any of the holiday homes we stay in, because I’ll be sitting there sobbing. (And also because I will snap their heads off if they ask why. Sorry, folks.) I just can’t get over the fact that I’ve lived somewhere, been happy, created memories there… and that I will never, ever see that place again. It destroys me.

That’s why my phone is full of photos like this:

step up

It’s the step up (NO WAY!) into the bathroom of the hotel room I stayed in in San Francisco. I would (naturally) trip over that step several times a day, and then one day, right before we left, it occurred to me that I would never, ever lay eyes on that step again. Not ever. Suddenly it became tremendously important that I document it, so that I could, you know, remember it forever. ( Also on my phone: a random selection of hotel room toilets, curtains, and other assorted items that are of no importance whatsoever, but which I just could not BEAR to leave behind.)

Then, last week I was cleaning the kitchen. I opened up one of the cabinet doors to start wiping it down, and all of sudden I realised that one day someone else would be doing this. (Or at least, I hope so. I mean, I don’t want to sell my house to people who never clean…) In fact, one day someone else will live here. They will cook in my kitchen, and sleep in the room I spent all of those nights lying awake worrying in. They will walk on the floors Terry almost broke his back laying, and they will warm their towels on that radiator which had a brief, but important role, on this very blog. They will live here, and I will not: not ever again.

How will I stand it? How will I cope with the leaving, and the letting-go that’s about to be required of me? How will I walk out of that familiar front door knowing that I will never, ever be coming back to this house that’s so full of memories, and which has been the setting for such a large, important part of my life? This is the first house I ever owned. It’s the house I lived in when I got married, and it’s the house we came home to that dreadful day when Terry was first diagnosed with kidney failure. This is the house whose floors I paced during all those operations, and hospital stays, and through a hundred sleepless nights. It’s the house we brought Rubin home to, as a puppy, and it’s the only house he’s ever known. It’s the house I have spent literally YEARS dreaming of leaving… but now that I (probably) am, the very thought of it is absolutely breaking my heart.

So how will I stand it? I honestly don’t know. I keep waking up in the night and thinking, “Nope, I can’t do it. I just can’t.” But of course, I can, and I will. “We can’t stay here forever,” Terry said, when I burdened him with all of this emotion earlier this week, and I know he’s right. It’s time to move on, and all I can do now is to try to be grateful for this little house of ours, and to enjoy the last few months (or however long it ends up being) I spend in  it. I will take lots of photos of random windows and wonky tiles, and that weird mark on the bedroom wall that we never quite figured out. Or bothered to remove. I will try to make myself be OK with the leaving, and the never-coming-back.

I just don’t know how, yet.

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25 Comments

  • Nuria Corbi says:

    I can so identify with that. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels like that about places then!
    Good luck with the move, you’ll be fine x

    • Amber says:

      I’m glad too – I always feel like a complete freak for feeling like this! For the last few weeks I’ve been saying stuff to Terry like, “Are you not sad to think you’ll never open that cupboard door again?” and he’s just like, “Er, no, Amber, you’re crazy…”

  • Erin H says:

    I’m exactly the same. Probably part of why I’ve nested my rental house over six years (this May) and haven’t bought my own place! ;)

    • Amber says:

      See, I would have exactly the same issue with a rental, though (God, I’m even the same with hotels and holiday homes I’m in for a week!) – it’s not the fact that I OWN it, it’s just the fact that I’ve lived in it!

  • Hey Amber, gorgeous photos as usual. Just think of all the new memories you, Terry and Rubin will make in your new house. Just because you’re leaving a place it won’t erase all those memories for you, they’ll stay in your heart. Also think of having a walk-in shoe room! You could also get a few more Rubin’s to help fill all that space aswell! Exciting times.

  • Sandy says:

    Just think of the potential new neighbours you might get if you stay!

    My mum moved recently from her house she’d been in since the mid 90s (and I returned to when I left uni in Sheffield) to a small flat. I thought I was fine and it’s best for her but when going past her old house on the bus I felt all tearful! I did at that point still have keys so I could’ve popped in, new owners might not have liked it though.

    And if I ever think of moving from my current home (been in it for 17 years this Oct) I lament that somone else will get my fitted wardrobes! LOL!

  • Amber, you just wrote my story. Knowing it’s time to move on, and agonizing about moving on all at the same time. It’s horrible, and people, dare I say normal people, who don’t do it have no real understanding of us. We sold our home back in 2004, and it almost made me physically ill. The irony is we didn’t actually have to, but I knew we had to. You get that, right? And now, like Erin, I’ve been stuck in a rental home for many years, in part because I don’t want to get attached to another house…but of course, I’m attached to this place even though I don’t admit it. If you find a way out of this thought pattern, please let me know.

    Love your photos today. Truly a ‘If you have lemons, make lemonade moment!’

    Sue xo

    • Amber says:

      Oh gosh, Sue, it’s so great to hear from people who actually GET this! And yes, I totally relate to everything you’ve said… I know that staying here wouldn’t actually make me happy, because we’ve long-since outgrown the place (and we don’t really like the area, either): it’s definitely time to move on, it’s just SO HARD. And I feel kinda stupid to admit how hard it is, but as excited as I am to hopefully find somewhere we love (Ironically, I’ve never “loved” this house!) it really is heartbreaking to think I’ll never see it again. If it was at all possible, I would actually keep it and rent it out, but that’s not going to be possible, unfortunately, so I’ll just have to tough it out. After all of this angst, it’ll now probably take forever to sell, and I’ll be just desperate to get rid of the place!

  • Minda says:

    I so understand! We live 8 blocks from our old condo and, even though we love our much bigger and prettier house, I still will drive by the condo and sigh expressively. So much happened there. We brought our first baby home there. It was our first real home and it is part of my heart. Which, I suppose, is just a sign that we lived well there. That’s something to celebrate! Of course, I also judge the new owners for their questionable lighting and paint choices….

    • Amber says:

      HA! As much as I’m dreading leaving, I think it would be even worse to come back, or even drive by, and see new people here! I regularly have nightmares in which I decide to break into one of the houses I’ve lived in in the past, and then walk around being absolutely horrified by the fact that OTHER PEOPLE! Are in my house! It must be so much worse if you still live nearby!

  • Kristin says:

    That jacket color is gorgeous! Love it.

    – KW
    http://musthaveboxes.com

  • myra says:

    Hey Amber, I like the new reply box so I don’t need to put my contact details in :)
    As someone who moved a lot for a few years and has been settled in one house for 27 years I have forgotten how stressful it is, and I think you will too once you have made the move. It is exciting to have a new home, where you will have new marks and wonky tiles, but I think it will be a house you love unlike your current home – and that is the word that makes it difficult – it is your home with all those emotional ties, where you watched time passing and where you and Terry grew together. But the new house will be better so I hope you can keep that in mind when you are packing up, closing the door for the last time and walking down the path you built for the last time. As you go think ahead and live in the present moment with all your memories xx

  • Siel says:

    Haha I can so relate to this! When I left my first student room to move to another one after one year, I almost had to tear up when closing the door. And I didn’t even like that place!
    Also, we once visited my grandparents’ house again years after they’d moved out (my mum had to contact the people who live there now for some reason), so weird to see that house again, and everything those people changed about it!

  • Erika says:

    It was so easy to move when we rented. I would get bored of the places we lived in after about 6-12 months and we would usually find something a little nicer to upgrade to. That was before we moved 1000 miles away, and now I just don’t want to leave anywhere, ever! The memories are kind of hard to get past, but there are many new ones to come. It is good that you are preparing yourself, hopefully that will make it a little easier. I hope you absolutely LOVE your soon-to-be new house, cause that will definitely help also.

  • Trea says:

    My next move is into our self build so I cannot wait!! But I HATE moving house the stress is unreal. But it’s so worth it in the end. Loving that snow heart!

  • I understand what you are going through Amber. I hate moving.

  • Stacey says:

    I’m the same way, and for me, leaving rentals was not any easier than leaving the house that I grew up in. When we sold the house that I grew up in, it was heartbreaking. I was ready to leave it and the town, but still to know that I lived there, had my teenage dramas there, had all my friends there, etc. and now it was somebody else’s was horrible. The main thing that made it better was the family that bought that house had 4 young kids. I couldn’t stand to think of what was my home going to a older family – it needed young blood in it.

    I lived in a rental for 6 years, and cried like a baby when moving out of it. Even a rental that I only lived in for 3 months, when I moved out, I walked around from room to room telling it goodbye. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, but it was my home!

    I hope your house sells soon! Because if you are anything like me, you will start to resent the people that come to look at your house and don’t buy it. Or even worse – look through it and make disparaging comments. It feels like they’re insulting your child.

    • Amber says:

      I’m glad it’s not just me – my only experience with renting was at university, but it always upset me so much to have to leave: then again, like I said, I will cry when I leave a holiday home I’ve rented for three weeks, so it doesn’t have anything to do with owning the place for me, it’s just the idea of not ever seeing something again that’s been important to me, even for a little while.

      The agent we’re planning to use insists on always accompanying any viewers, so the plan is for me to take Rubin for a walk or whatever any time that happens. I know I wouldn’t deal well with the comments from people (And I know my shoe wall means a lot of them would probably be personal comments, too, directed at the kind of person – i.e. yours truly – who would buy aaaaalllll those shoes), or the sight of them poking through my stuff: I will make myself scarce when that happens!

  • Kate says:

    Oh wow, I’m praying for you! Letting go and leaving behind can be so hard, especially when you are a sensitive person. Just keep rolling with the punches. You are very creative (I can tell from these photos, such a cute idea) and obviously are resilient………… You will always take that creativity and resilience everywhere you go, no matter what is behind you. Keep your head up, girl. And your eyes forward!

  • Laura says:

    I’ve been just the same with silly things like throwing out toothbrushes. I even *ahem* say goodbye (in my head) to the supermarket trolley when I put it back in the trolley bay. Oh dear.

  • Laura says:

    Hee, excellent.
    We are so very special…

  • @bootedupcom says:

    Shoeperwoman from yesterdays post. Worth a click just to see what she has worn with her tan Zara boots. Tres chic. http://t.co/K23y1YvfIg

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