Sense of Place

Relocation is a big part of many retirement transitions and it was part of my retirement vision. While our new home is downsized (from 4 bed, 4.5 bath to a 2 bed, 2.5 bath), it is still 3 stories and actually has more steps leading into it (8 steps up to the front porch). It is definitely not an age-in-place type of accommodation, nor does it lend itself to becoming one. It is not a condo; we still have yard work to do.  It is not in Florida; it is not closer to (or farther from) family. It is about 6 miles from our previous home.  So many have asked: Why did I need to move?

I needed to move for non-retirement reasons.   Our old house had me mentally shackled. It was purchased at a very different (and difficult) time of our life for very different lifestyle requirements. While I learned to appreciate living there with its big rooms, random-width wood floors, and coved ceilings, the kitchen never felt comfortable for me to cook in, so I’ve gotten out of the habit of cooking. Even with 10 rooms, there was no space in it that I felt was really mine. The house in total never felt like it was mine. It didn’t give me a sense of place.

I’m not usually a touchy-feely kind of person; I’m an engineer by training and analytical by nature. But the new house has a welcoming feel. We’ve created attic offices for each of us. We are sorting though things and are attempting to keep things that we really need/want/love to have in our space.  We are making it ours.

I’ve also been asked do I have a sense of loss moving away from the house we lived in for 16 years, the longest house in our married life and almost the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere.  While I will miss the neighbors (especially being close to C&A and their kids), I know I will not miss the house itself. While it does have a few design features I will miss (master bathroom, screened in porch, country sink), I will not miss the busy street, the almost impossible to manage hilly side yard, or the old plumbing.

I am looking forward to beginning a new stage of life in our new space, where I do feel a sense of place.   And the stained glass windows, bigger kitchen, and front porch on a quiet street all help.

Do you have a sense of place where you live?

Picture Credit: Tim Doyle, Africa Safari 2017

22 thoughts on “Sense of Place

  1. We moved to a new house one month before I retired (not a recommended strategy, by the way) even though we liked our old house. We put a new kitchen in that house and did a lot of work to make it our own. It was in a pretty, tree-filled, quiet neighborhood. It’s where we raised our four kids and we lived there for 23 years. However, it did not have what we wanted in a retirement home. I wanted a big space for what is primarily a wood shop, because I had so looked forward to being able to spend more concentrated time on that craft because I never had the time while I was working. My wife also needed a big sewing room because of her quilting obsession. We also wanted a place where we could fit everyone if they all came home together. So, we did the opposite of what many retirees did and UPSIZED, but we love our new house too. We gutted the kitchen here too and reconfigured the master bedroom. We also cut a door through the foundation into the 2nd garage that became my shop to make it easy to get in there without going outside. My wife now has a sewing room and a place for her long-arm quilting machine and we have plenty of space for our family. It took a couple of years for it to REALLY feel like home, but now it’s like we’ve been here forever. We couldn’t be happier with our home than we are here.

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    1. You are not the only person I know who upsized in retirement. Isn’t it wonderful when you can both know what you want/need in retirement location and then be able to implement it? I’m (slowly) learning to heed my own wants/needs and ignore others expectations/ shoulds. In this case, I know this is the right thing for us right now.

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  2. I know exactly how you feel, Pat, and I applaud your bias for action to make it happen as a marker for the beginning of your retirement.

    I have never liked this house we live in – or the neighbourhood. It was supposed to be temporary for 5 or 6 years max – but we’re still here 25 years later. This summer I finally told my husband I had enough. It’s time to move on.

    He isn’t on side yet, and with our oldest son getting married next year, I have to park this ‘project’ for a while … but I will resurrect this. I feel ‘stalled’ here, and I’m ready to move and start a new chapter in a place that feels more like ‘home’.

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    1. I understand completely – I felt shackled, unable to live freely. I can tell you that moving is not easy when one person wants it more than the other. I was the driver in our move as well. What helped for us was getting clear on what was absolutely needed for both of us in the new house… I called it our must-have design criteria. He got a bigger garage for his toys, an easier yard to maintain, and a basement work area. Yes, we looked at the garage and basement first in every house we entered! That helped him feel like the new space was for him as well. Enjoy the focus on a wedding. You can always armchair explore to get a sense of what’s out there – Zillow has great filters in their search engine.

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      1. I’m using the same approach with Husband. Whenever he complains about something, I comment that we’ll put it on the must-have list for the new house. Sooner or later he’s going to come to the conclusion we need to move, and he’ll believe it was his idea 😉

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  3. I applaud you, Pat, for finding a place that feels “right” in your heart. We did just the opposite – decided to stay put because it was more “right” than building a new home. I think it’s all about finding the place that gives you a warm, cozy feeling – or as we did, changing your current place to get that feel you’re looking for…even if this isn’t the final one! ~ Lynn

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    1. I know of a number of folks who are staying put as well. And others who went the condo route or moved to a different part of the country. There are many options in this next stage for where to live and finding what is right for you is individual – like many other things in this next stage! It’s just surprising, once again, how so many people assume they know what you should be doing!

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  4. First of all, congratulations on your new home. I hope that you will be very happy there.

    I love the location of my home–great neighbors and close to extended family, my place of employment, and a beautiful parkway for walking and running–but I don’t have a particular attachment or aversion to the house itself. Interestingly, I’d never really thought about it before. I’ve lived there quite comfortably for almost 20 years now, but before me, my husband lived there with his ex-wife. It’s strange to think that perhaps I’ve never really taken mental or emotional ownership of it in all this time. It’s actually a little disconcerting. You’ve given me something to think about.

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    1. An interesting phrase – mental and emotional ownership. When we were considering “buying” my MILs home years ago, I knew that I would never achieve emotional ownership – my SILs would always view it as their home and would not be happy if I made major changes, which I would have wanted to do for updating. I never realized that I didn’t have true emotional ownership of the house we ended up buying, maybe because we had to buy something based totally on needs, not wants. We couldn’t take time to find the right, but had to settle for the best available. This time, we found something that was right – that had every design criteria.

      And I think you do have some emotional connection – not to the house, but to the location. And many realtors will say… location, location, location! 🙂

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  5. What you are talking about is so interesting and the concept of sense of place is a leisure theory related to geography known as “great places.” The first is our home which should be our sanctuary and provide satisfaction. The second is our vocational or work space and the third is the places we spend our leisure time which can also include places like restaurants where we gather. I’ve been in the same small house for almost 30 years and as my hubby and I experience the empty nest and move toward complete retirement, we just plan to stay put. Your post is provocative and demonstrates the times we live in now, where big homes are overrated as we move deeper into our life span.

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    1. Never heard that theory… very intriguing. What happens when you lose your second space?

      I’ve always said I wanted to be Norm from Cheers…. have a space where everybody knew my name. I thought that would be my third space (someday) and it was actually something on my bucket list! It didn’t occur to me until I was retiring that everybody-know-your-name space was my work space. One of my roles required that knowledge and they struggled to find someone to replace me because no-one else at my “level” knew that breadth of people (nor wanted to do the work required to learn that many people).

      So my second space was lost, and I never really had a third. Maybe that’s why the first became so important a need to resolve. And maybe I need to start thinking about my third space. But I still wonder, does the leisure theory address the loss of your second space? Where could I learn more?

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  6. I just finished writing a story about our house. We absolutely love our house which is an old farmhouse from the 1850’s with two major additions added. In the nineties, we decided we wanted to move to the country and found this place after months of looking. From the moment we moved in we had a feeling of being right at home. Even though It is too big for us really, we are enjoying it for as long as we are able to maintain it. Glad you found a place that gives you such a feeling of peace.

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    1. As I’ve commented below, this house still has 9 rooms… which most folks would say is too big for just the 2 of us. But it’s right for us now. And like you, we will enjoy it while we are able to maintain it … and walk up & down three flights of stairs!

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    1. The new house actually has 9 rooms – hah! The downsizing comes with all the rooms being smaller and less bathrooms. We got his/her office attics here that we didn’t have before. They are truly attic spaces also – with the temperatures dropping to freezing up here, we’re discussing space heaters. Oh well, it is smaller and definitely less bathrooms to clean!

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  7. I applaud you for moving out of a house that no longer fit your needs to a new home that fits perfectly for now. Too many people think that they need to move into their ‘forever home’ right at the beginning of their retirement. You (very effectively) illustrate that that is no longer the case! Great post!

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  8. I feel an enormous sense of place where I live, Pat. I knew it was my home from the very second I saw it – despite the snow and ice that was obscuring much of the land.
    I commend you for having the courage to move when you knew your home wasn’t right for you. Doing so at this point in your retirement transition seems to me to be one of the very best things you could do for yourself – giving you an appealing fresh start to the activities and pleasures of this stage of your life.

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    1. Having just seen your studio, I think I’d feel a sense of place in your home myself! Now I need to focus on that fresh start… similar to your intentional art. Stop talking and start doing!

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  9. I feel very fortunate that we live in a house and neighborhood with a great “sense of place.” I don’t blame you at all for wanting to leave a house that never really felt like home to you. Hopefully those 3+ stories will keep you in great shape and you’ll continue to enjoy the welcoming feeling and workable kitchen for years to come.

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