Downsizing With a Purpose


August 17, 2019

It was a Tuesday in June when the husband sent the text. It included a picture of a letter from strangers asking if we’d consider selling our house. I flashed back to two years ago, on the day my daughter left for college, when I started telling everyone I know that I was now ready to move.

Now, with this letter in our mailbox, the universe was providing exactly what I had said I wanted. Yes, it was another case of “be careful what you wish for.” The couple that knocked on our door was a mirror image of our life 18 years ago when we moved to Rochester. They had two small, adorable children and endless possibilities stretching out ahead of them. I grew to love our house in the Pittsford cornfield. It’s where we raised our own adorable, now grown, children. Life threw so much at us: from business ups and downs to the loss of friends and loved ones, to celebrations of joyous occasions with friends old and new. Most important, we had great neighbors and the comfort of being in one place for a good long time. 

But then we were empty-nesters. These last few years, the house felt really big. And we were gone from the house way more than we were there. Our children were continuing their path to independence and spending less time there as well. We weren’t the only ones in our neighborhood to get that letter from the couple, but we were the only ones who decided to take the leap. Typically when people sell their houses, it’s planned. They move for a job, because of a life event, or because they just want a change. All good reasons. But we felt the inertia that sets in from being in the same place for such a long time.

A house is like that old science experiment where things expand into the available space. So while I had been thinking about a move like this for two years, life was busy and downsizing seemed like an insurmountable project. I can now report that there’s no better kick in the pants than a really short deadline. Suddenly we needed to find a place to live, downsize our 37 years as a couple and somehow move in six weeks. It didn’t help that, according to some sources, Rochester is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. 

Eventually we found a place completely different from the cornfield: downtown Rochester. So for a time, while we live as renters, the Suburban Outlaw is going to be the (Sub)Urban Outlaw. The husband and I get to live like young marrieds in a place half the size and with at least half our stuff. But before we go, we’re also committing to “downsizing with a purpose.” We plan to donate a portion of the proceeds from our estate sale to two of our favorite local charities, Center for Youth and Young Women’s College Prep. It’s one way to help deal with the deeply emotional feelings of leaving the home where we raised our children. Mary Miller of Ellie Palmer Associates, who is managing the estate sale, understands the upheaval of the process we’re going through. She says, “I advise families who are downsizing to take the time to reflect, celebrate and to enjoy the things you are taking with you and the things you are letting go.”

As I reflect on our time in the cornfield and all I’m leaving behind and taking with me, I can’t help but feel grateful for all this community has given me. And I’m excited for our story to continue from a new place and new perspective. We can’t wait to see what happens next.

As first published in the Democrat + Chronicle and on the USA Today Network.