Moving Monday (on a Tuesday): House Hunting

You might think that if you moved every three years (or more) you’d eventually settle on a routine, a way to go through a certain repeatable process every time. Even I would think that! But every relocation is its own story. The details are different, and the dominoes that need to fall don’t always line up in the same order.

In our case, this summer, we are moving to a city about 4 hours away from our current home. Because of Covid, and military life, and our current landlord’s needs, we have to manage the details of this move ourselves instead of going through the Navy’s channels. The “dominoes” would be very different if we were moving cross-country, or overseas, or in the Navy’s timing and under its power.

Yesterday we made a one-day house-hunting trip to try to find a “final destination” so we can schedule movers and start planning what furniture we will keep/donate/need to purchase. FaceTime tours are great, but not the same as seeing in person whether the paint is fresh or the landscaping is overgrown or the bedrooms are tiny. We left home at 6 am, met the realtor at 10, saw 4 houses, and had made a decision in time to meet my aunt for lunch at noon. We were home for dinner.

Narrowing down.

That makes it sound easy. It isn’t. But we have learned to narrow down. When we start searching online databases, we have already narrowed down price, location, and number of bedrooms. Our ideal square footage is a flexible range. We can go smaller if the space is laid out right, and we can go bigger… but not too big, because we know in three years we’ll be doing this again. We don’t want to fill a house with furniture only to get rid of it all next time around.

When we arrive in our house-hunting location, we first drive through neighborhoods, and usually eliminate some of our list immediately. We cross off houses that clearly need an owner’s love, not a renter’s temporary interest. We look for neighborhoods where houses don’t all look the same but are cared-for, and we especially love to see people out walking, biking, jogging, doing yardwork… the activities of folks who enjoy where they live.

Wish lists and reality.

We learned a long time ago that wish lists are not always helpful. Maybe there are people out there who can make a wish list and expect to meet it in their Dream House. That’s not us. And it’s ok.

After our trip yesterday we realized that in almost every move we’ve made, we do our homework, we narrow down, we tour the houses on our “narrowed” list, and One House is clearly “it.”

(I should add: not that I’m superstitious… but… this morning we submitted applications for the house that was clearly The One from our trip yesterday. There is no guarantee that the application will be accepted and it’s entirely possible we’ll have to start from square one again, and that this One isn’t THE ONE. We’ll see.)

While we have never had our wish list fulfilled, we have also never had to agonize between options. We know that we don’t need a Dream House, just the right house for our family at the right time for our move. We are flexible enough to see potential in the One House that, for whatever reasons, seems to fit us best. The reasons are different with every move, because lots of things are different: our kids are older, our budget changes, our interests shift, we are more/less willing to commute to work or school. But somehow, whatever new needs our family brings to the search, that One House always seems to happen.

House hunting=life hunting.

What kind of life are we looking for?

Moving is hard, even when you’re ready to leave, even when you’re excited about where you’re going. It’s hard in some ways when you’re looking for a “forever home,” and in other ways when you know it’s “just for now.” Moving is a detail-demanding, tiring, practical process that has huge emotional implications. It’s impossible (for me, at least) to separate the process of moving house from the gut-punch of moving on.

The process of house hunting makes us look at our life as it is in this moment and as we envision it in the three years ahead. No family will have the same list of needs or wishes, but these questions always arise:

  • What are our real needs, and how will we be growing? Are we growing bigger and need space, or are we growing more selective and ready to simplify?
  • What have we learned from our years in this current One House? Have we developed new interests, or dropped some? Do we have space we never use, or items that never came out of storage?
  • What are we willing and able to let go, and what do we need and want to take with us? How do our things reflect who we are at this moment, and who we want to be in the next place?

These are the questions we’ll be asking ourselves (if our application is accepted and everything goes smoothly) as we look around at our current home, our current life, and dive in to the process of moving. Much will be let go. Much will be coming with us. And the home that’s waiting for us there–and the life we’ll build in it–will be an adventure. It always is.

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