I’ve written a couple of times in this retirement blog about the benefits of de-cluttering or simplifying my retirement life. I’ve been at it again although not quite in the way I’d planned. We sold our cottage in Pateley Bridge earlier this year. In this case we had no choice, it was a hard-nosed financial decision but it had the additional benefit of making our retirement less demanding and so selling was, in itself, quite liberating. I know some people find their retirement a little empty, dull even, but this was not the case for us, with four properties to move between on a regular basis the whole thing was a bit exhausting.
Having felt the benefits of selling one house we decided to repeat the exercise by selling another one. In this case it was the house my mother left me, what we ironically call the Derbyshire cottage or even the ancestral pile. Needless to say both of these descriptors made the place sound much grander than it actually is. It’s a simple, three-bedroom terrace house. But when it didn’t sell initially we decided we would take it off the market and revive it because it was in a sad state.
We modernised the house to some extent – central heating, shower, new sink, cooker etc. in kitchen. We didn’t spend a lot of money on it and, more to the point, we did it how we liked it not, in estate agent speak, as a blank canvas upon which prospective buyers would be able to imagine their own furniture and bits and bobs. That, I believe, is the theory. We did it so well, at least to our eyes, that we didn’t then want to sell it, we really liked being in the house again (see image above of dining room and three images at end, two of living room and one of study which used to be my bedroom). This is strange given it was a house I’d left fifty years ago to go to college and never return, and hated. Funny old world.
However, in that spirit of simplifying our lives that I mentioned earlier, we decided it had to go. The decision was impetuous to say the least, we left without any tidying up (I had taken all my old diaries to the house and left them open on my desk and the estate agent had to tell people not to read them, my fault I said for leaving them there) because it was only on the drive back up the M1 that the decision was made and I didn’t want to go back again having made the decision to sell.
So then, as you do when you’ve made a tricky decision, you start to look for reasons to support that decision. The parking drives me bonkers, the garden is far too big, walking the dogs isn’t as easy as at home. To be honest none of these negatives were really negative and when we did put the house up for sale all the thoughts I’ve been having about my roots and the possible appeal of life coming full circle, that kind of thing, kept popping up to throw doubt in my mind.
Mrs Summerhouse helpfully ducked out of any responsibility for the decision, as she repeatedly told me, it’s your house and no amount of me responding, no, it’s ours, made any difference to her mind-set. Everything else is ‘ours’, so I think this is just a convenient excuse although if I’d sold it and then regretted it she may have realised, no make that, would have realised, she would probably get it in the neck. And yes, I know this makes me sound like a bad person you may make your own judgement here, you’ve probably read enough of these blogs to make a judgement for or against.
Anyway to cut to the chase, the house has been on the market for 12 weeks and the only offer I had was on the first day at £15K less than the asking price. I turned it down, too little, too soon. If that offer had come at the end of the twelve weeks, well the house would probably have been sold by now and here’s the thing, after our last visit (the first one for those 12 weeks with me trying to keep away in order to make the break-up less painful) we both decided we really liked the house and what we had done to it. And so, in a sense, we fell in love with the house all over again. I know that sounds a bit soppy but there it is.
The decision to take the house off the market was aided and abetted when the second part of the selling plan (to buy a small apartment in Derby city centre) kind of fell through. On the same day we paid out first visit to the ancestral pile we took a look around Derby city centre and a couple of flats from the outside and decided we didn’t like it at all and couldn’t see any sense in selling one perfectly nice house, admittedly too big, and buying a little shoe box in an area where the dogs would have to be on the lead rather than running free as is their definite preference.
So, in that one visit, our grand plans to simplify our lives fell apart and we began to construct a rationale as to why we should keep the house. Ha. This included finding a reasonable local i.e. within walking distance, pub which did food all day and let dogs in. We paid our first visit there on our third day and it was fine, not brilliant but good enough to go into the ‘points-in-favour’ column of keeping the house. We’ll see how it goes and review the situation next spring.
In the meantime our lives are going to be quite full of moving around. To compensate for the lack of simplifying our lives on the road we looked closer to home, our main home in fact and decided to do some clearing out. Most of the clearing out related to old work materials, mine and Mrs SH’s – all my training handouts, overheads, articles, folders, plastic envelopes as well as silly souvenirs (bus tickets, city tourist maps, old football programmes – no, actually I put those back as indeed I did a lot of stuff that I just couldn’t bring myself to throw out) that we’d kept for years, God or whoever, knows why.
It wasn’t a totally cathartic exercise a) because it was ridiculously hard and b) so much went back, but we did free up some space, so some life de-cluttering did take place. At the end of an interesting week our footprint on this planet was at least a little lighter, true not in the manner we had hoped a few weeks ago, but a nod in the right direction. Retirement continues to throw up the challenges and we rise to some and fall short on others.