See Dealing with all their "stuff" | Working Hero | Part I: This Old House | Part II: Do I stay or do I go now? | Part III: Why is selling the house so hard? | Part IV: Sold

Doug goofing around during old house renovations
Doug goofing around during renovations of This Old House. (He was replacing the sills - the house was actually up on jacks.) Also see a video of The Working Man.

In my years of homeowning and landlording, I have endured 16 buying and selling transactions. Yet nothing has compared to trying to sell the home that Doug and I shared. For some reason, it is making me crazy. (Or maybe it is just tapping into my crazy base.)

Typically, selling a house sucks under any circumstances. If you want a decent price in a buyer's market, you need to fix it up, find a realtor, stage it, keep it immaculate 24/7 for showings, lose a bundle and then pay a fortune for closing costs. The icing on the Sucking Cake is the hassle of moving.

I mistakenly believed that the hard part would be deciding whether to stay or go.

Then came the work needed to get the house ready for the spring selling season. My goal was to appeal to what the realtor described as "today's buyer" - people seeking a house in move-in condition, no effort involved. They want to close in the morning and host a dinner party that evening.

But our house is a sprawling antique - 172 years old, with a huge barn, carriage shed, and four acres of gardens and lawn. Getting it ready involved day after day of grueling restoration and renovations. Fortunately, craftsman PS was by my side for the whole sweat and swearing-filled experience. We finished projects that were in progress or planned when Doug died, cramming a decade's worth of weekend work into into four months.

Part of preparation was clean-up - going through his "stuff" and mine, and trying to figure out what to keep, what to store, what to donate, and what to throw out. That triggered innumerable crying jags.

I followed traditional real estate advice and de-cluttered and de-personalized the house, enabling buyers to picture themselves in it. It certainly looks neat and lovely now. When my sister saw the photos, she gushed, "Don't you wish you had done this years ago!" My answer was a resounding NO. To me, it looks more like a museum than the cozy home it was. The house has been stripped of life. I erased us.

Then the house went on the market. I donned my Magical Thinking hat, envisioning a bidding war followed by a quick sale to wonderful people who would treasure the house as much as we did, and make good neighbors to my amazing 'hood.

Nothing of the sort ensued. Hopes have been repeatedly dashed. I spend hours each week tending the place for someone else. I cry every time I mow over the wildflowers that would not appeal to the average buyer. I cry every time the mower breaks. I have morphed into my realtor's worst nightmare. I am the Client from Hell, anxiously pestering and micromanaging the marketing process. Sleepless nights are spent tossing and turning over what to do next.

PS sees how I am suffering. He suggested that I drastically reduce the price to get rid of the place. But to me, "get rid of" applies cockroaches or trash. Not to our home. The first place I ever knew real love and joy. Where Doug sweated and strained. A place we tended together for decades.

I had no idea this process would be so emotionally charged or stressful. The place pulls at my heart, pulls me back to the past and what is lost. This whole process is like slowly sawing my arm off with a plastic knife.

I worry about what to do if the house doesn't sell. It is holding me back, keeping me straddling the past and the present, living in limbo.

And I worry about what to do if it does sell. I know it will be terribly hard to leave it - the last remnants of our life - behind.






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