Downsizing and Moving

“Change is hard”

Photo by Greg Burke

That silly old bear is right. I love Maine to the depth of the ocean, deep in my soul. So how could I consider leaving this beautiful state? Well, maybe life wasn’t meant to be lived in just one place. My husband of 32 years and I vowed to raise our kids in Kennebunkport when we moved to “Vacationland” in 1993. Now that our children are grown and long gone from our home . . . it’s time for a change, a pivot, a new chapter in our life story. But it isn’t easy.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” says Winnie the Pooh.

Here are a few things I have learned about transitioning, lightening your load, and brightening your future.

Step 1. Purge, baby, purge. Keep only that which you truly need. It’s cathartic, and yes, it’s laborious. When everything you possess has memories attached, it is emotional to let go of “stuff.” However, if you have lost a parent and had to liquidate on their behalf, and many of you have been there, you know it is better to sort your own belongings versus leaving your kids a monumental pile. Downsizing when you are healthy and well is probably one of the greatest gifts you can give your grown kids. So, I use the Golden Rule of cleaning out: If I haven’t used it in a year or two, let it go. Recycle, sell, donate. Less truly is more. Like weight loss, you don’t miss it once it’s gone.

Step 2. Scan those photos. This photo-archiving was my COVID quarantine project, to scan 4,000 pictures.  (I thought it would outlast the virus—no such luck). Technology and time are on your side to toss old photo albums, and scan only the “keepers”—keepsake photos. Label them by year and name. Prepare to be amazed at how big boxes, books, and a bounty of precious memories will fit on a tiny external hard drive—your life on a flash drive. I made copies for both kids. They don’t know how lucky they are. Digital copies sure beat 40 dusty musty albums.

Step 3. Find a place that makes you happy, that feels familiar but foreign, that engages you. Greg and I spent a year researching and visiting communities along the south eastern coast. We found many seaside towns charming—both Beauforts, in North and South Carolina; Charleston; Hilton Head; all the way south to Stuart and Delray—but not quite the right fit for us. Arriving in St. Augustine, we both got a warm, welcome feeling. We loved the architecture, the beaches, and boating, knowing there’s more to explore.

Photo by Greg Burke

Step 5. Make new friends, keep the old. Relocating doesn’t mean leaving behind the friendships you have curated. Quite the contrary, you gain greater appreciation for those relationships, and you make a pact to make the effort to keep in touch with today’s social media, to invite, and to visit. We will return to Maine in summers, yes, for those prime months, and other times, too. Making new friends will be different during a pandemic, but haven’t we all learned that you can be social from a social distance?

Step 6. Retrain your brain. A pivot busts you out of your habits and brings new challenges and opportunities, as you learn a brand new environment.

Step 7. Make your own mantra. Life’s big changes can be overwhelming. I find my mantras help me keep perspective, keep me positive, like “don’t grow old, go bold,” “life is not a dress rehearsal,”  “the best is yet to come,” and a favorite, “once you stop—you stop,” which a 90-year-old gal told me waiting for first chair at Sugarloaf.

Step 8. Make every step, every encounter matter. There are no guarantees in life. So, every day needs to count, and counting your blessings is key. I am grateful that we can travel and move (while we can), make a new chapter, and carry with us all the love and laughter we have enjoyed along the way. Lots more in store . . . 

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Heather Burke

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