While many of our friends have begun to leave downtown and move to the suburbs, Ben and I are doing the reverse. On Saturday, we are leaving our lovely suburban home—the one that Ben grew up in—and downsizing to a smaller townhome in downtown Milwaukee.
This move doesn’t come lightly, and it’s not one that I would have predicted when we bought our home from Ben’s parents four years ago. It is, however, a change that has been on my heart for some time, and I’m grateful that Ben is willing to give this change in lifestyle a chance.
I still look around our house and can’t believe how blessed I am to live under a roof that is more spacious than I ever imagined my first home would be. I have a generous kitchen and office, room for guests to come and stay, and as first-time homeowners, it’s also been an immeasurable help and comfort to be able to call up the prior homeowner (Ben’s dad) any time we have a question. We adore all of our neighbors who’ve known Ben from childhood too. We have much to treasure here.
At the same time, however, the last several years I’ve grown restless and come to feel out of place. I miss the city’s bustle, being able to walk to restaurants or coffee shops, and, as an extrovert who works from home, being alone in a house in the ’burbs all day isn’t the best fit for me either.
Ben and I have long been casual Zillow perusers. We’ve virtually toured dozens of houses and condos, but our intentions didn’t become serious until we spotted a unique townhouse in downtown Milwaukee. It combined many of the features we’ve come to love about a home—outdoor living space, attached garage—with those we envied about condo living—little-to-no yard work, zero snow blowing, and a location in the heart of downtown.
We made a list of pros and cons. Both lists had merit.
I don’t pride myself on being an intuitive person adept at reading the language of her heart, but it felt right. Sometimes you know things you can’t explain on paper. We put in an offer.
The timing of this move, including preparing and selling our current home, is (for lack of a more appropriate description) completely, categorically nuts.
One, Ben is still recovering from shoulder surgery and can only lift with one arm.
Two, I’m writing a cookbook. Very challenging when your kitchen needs to be either a) spotless for a showing or b) packed in boxes.
Three, immediately after our offer was accepted, I departed to St. Louis for a week of cookbook photography. We also were about to leave the country.
By God’s grace and hours of help from Ben’s parents, we got our house ready to put on the market in two weeks. It sold 48 hours later, just before we departed for Italy. I’ve never felt more relieved or grateful.
^^All set up for a full day of showings. Apparently the trick of baking a fresh batch of cookies immediately beforehand has some merit.
Grateful is a word that has been rolling through my mind a lot lately. I’m grateful for Ben and my years in our current home—dinners on the back porch, the start of Milwaukee Friendsgiving, adopting Teddy, learning that I could work for myself full time and succeed. Heck, I’ve developed the recipes for more than half a cookbook in our kitchen.
I’m also grateful for the years I wasn’t here. Ben looks at these walls and sees memories I never will—his mom spending hours helping him with homework at the kitchen table, his dad tending to every nick and crack to make sure it was fixed “the right way.”
And I’m grateful for the years in between. Ben first brought me here to meet his family and show me his hometown more than 10 years ago. I sit and eat waffles today at the same bar counter where his mom cooked them for us all those years ago.
This move is bittersweet.
On the material end, we are downsizing in a major way. I lost count of the number of times we’ve filled up my SUV for trips to Goodwill somewhere around 12. Some of the items feel good to lose, and I’m lighter afterwards. A clean closet is a satisfying thing.
Many, however, were harder to part with than I am proud to admit. I’ll miss my Christmas decorations (I’m keeping the tree but little else), I keep reaching for my stemless wineglass (we didn’t need two sets of glasses, so the stemless had to go), and I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I *might* own a few too many pairs of boots.
Our furniture is downsizing too. So far, we’ve sold our patio furniture, couch, three bookcases, a twin bed, a dining table and chairs, bar cabinets, a standing bar and stools, kitchen appliances, and my entire office set, and if you know anyone in the Milwaukee area in need of a queen bed, we have one looking for a home.
On the list of intangibles, it will be sad knowing we are the last Clarkes to live on the street after a 25-year run. Even though the best part of this house, the memories, don’t need four walls to hold them, there is something that makes those memories feel nearer at hand when you are standing in the same room where they were created.
We move on Saturday, and I would describe our state of packing as “behind.” My original vision for this post included a big stack of moving boxes, but it turns out that you need to fill a stack of boxes for that photo to happen. This one will have to do:
We closed on our new house last Friday, and I immediately rushed over with our fresh keys. The second I opened the door, it already felt like home.
^^Here’s me right after we bought our house, in my new, downsized, just-what-I-need-right-now kitchen.
The kitchen walls are no longer red (we’re repainting the house interior this week), but I have a feeling my smile will be just as wide when the walls are a cool, creamy gray.
I can’t say enough how much it means to me to be able to share pieces of my “real” life here. It has been QUITE the last two months, and I’m glad everything is in the open now.
^^Teddy’s first visit to the new house. He already loves watching the dogs and people who stroll past our front door.
I squeezed in a few extra recipes last week, all of which I’ll be sharing here soon. Keep following along for some serious fall YUM. I don’t want you to miss it!
For a look at our new place (including new paint colors!), be sure to follow me on Instagram (@wellplated). It’s a work in progress, but I’m excited to have you back in my new kitchen for the same old shenanigans.
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