Brand building through storytelling

The old and the restless: on the move again

“I just read your article on downsizing,” said my friend Karen. “Are you loving that funky loft?”

Every middle-aged woman I knew had been posing pretty much the same question. I must be feeling so much lighter, they’d all exclaimed. Younger, even. My pals had cast me as the mellow-minded queen of a charmingly minimalist domain to which, after a budget-blowing infatuation with a 2500-square-foot condo brimful of laden custom cabinets, I had at long last come home.

“Actually, we’re moving,” I told Karen. “We’ve decided we need a bigger place.” She did her best to arrange her face, but an errant eyebrow betrayed her astonishment that I, who only yesterday extolled the psychic rewards of less, should once again be a sucker for more.

My husband calls us the old and the restless. While other couples our age are kicking back in the same family rooms where their kids once scribbled on the walls (and picturing themselves in a chic downtown pad, once they summon the resolve to empty the basement), we’re booking movers for the second time in three years. “And how did you hear about our company?” chirped the receptionist. She might as well have asked Woody Guthrie how he heard about Route 66. I’ve seen that company’s logo on so many dented boxes, I know it better than the Golden Arches.

We somehow managed to last 14 years in our first house but sometime in midlife we got the urge for going: nine years in house number two, five years in the cushy condo, less than three years in a charmingly bohemian loft which, despite its 11-foot ceilings and bathroom walls hand-painted by an artist, was ultimately not quiteus. We’ve been working in rented office space around the corner and at heart we’re home-office people. Yet I sometimes wonder, as I contemplate my latest moving checklist (gather boxes, prune bookshelves, replace business cards, notify the world of our new address), how many more times I must repeat all this drudgery before I’m in the ground or, more appropriately, blowing in the wind.

Are we dismantling our domestic life because we don’t own or want a boat to escape on, like our friends Bruce and Annie? Because we wouldn’t dream of giving up our creature comforts to build wells in Africa, as some people do for a spiritual reboot? Or is it just that, baby boomers to the core, we think there’s something better out there and feel compelled to make it ours? Right now the only thing I know for sure is that I’m meeting at the new place tomorrow with a designer and a contractor who will put a cost, in both time and money, on creating that better place. And then I’ll be torn between dismay at the number and lust for the vision in my head.

As I said, we’re upsizing. Or, as my husband prefers to say, “semi-re-upsizing.” “Semi” because it’s not quite as big as the condo we had lined from end to end with custom built-ins. “Re” because we’ve been down this road before and learned, among other things that you have to leave your pricey built-ins behind—perhaps a lot sooner than you think. It’s been barely three years since I vowed, with a perfectly straight face, “No more wasting money on built-ins! Take me to IKEA!” Yet here we are, the almost-owners of a home with alcoves perfectly shaped for custom bookcases, and not a bookcase to our name (the ones in the loft are built-in). I can get by perfectly well without a balcony, a barbecue or one of those fancy-dancy washers that all but fold your clothes and tuck a lavender sachet between the layers. But without a place for books I’m currently reading, contemplating reading or exultantly happy to have read, I start to come unmoored.

How quickly I forget! To move is to pull apart the lovingly selected trappings that make my home different from anyone else’s—to box them, bag them, schlep them by the armload or drop them in a bin at Goodwill (which I now visit more often than most folks visit Starbucks). To discover that my place in the world consists of fragments cleared out within days or even hours to make room for someone else’s. And then to reassemble home piece by piece: my favourite vintage Ontario cheddar in the fridge, our hand-woven carpet on the living room floor (soft pink and green, shades that complement our paintings), a Mad Men disc on the coffee table, ready for commercial-free viewing. We’ll curl up side by side on the vintage 70s sofa where my mother and I once talked the hours away, and know that we are home.

Click here to read “Stuff happens,” my downsizing story, which recently appeared in More.  




Posted by Rona

Leave a Reply

Stay up-to-date with Rona.

To see what’s on my mind these days, friend me on Facebook.

Miss my old site?

Visit the archive to find your favorite blog posts and Chatelaine editorials or browse my published articles. Sorry, I’m not blogging anymore.