On finding the thing you didn’t know you were looking for, and moving, and green gables

On finding the thing you didn’t know you were looking for, and moving, and green gables

Back in September I stumbled upon a really great purse at Costco. It was one of those catch-it-while-you-can flash designer sales they have sometimes; the price was low, it wouldn’t last long. It didn’t last long. Even though it was exactly what I wanted, I didn’t buy it, because I hadn’t gone to Costco that day with the intention of buying a purse. When I went back to buy it a few days later, every last handbag was gone.

(It was a plum Kate Spade, similar to this one, but for less than half that price.)

I thought a lot about that experience afterward, not because the purse was a crucial life decision, but because the process of decision making is important, and that experience prompted me to examine mine. I even drafted a blog post about it: when is an impulse buy not an impulse buy? My answer: when you find the perfect thing you didn’t even know you were looking for—whether it’s a person or a job or a purse or whatever—and you can snatch it up, do it. Or at least think about it. Don’t dismiss it outright because it wasn’t in your plan.

I never shared that post, because the timing never seemed right. (Also because I struggled with admitting deep thoughts about a pricy material good.)

*****     *****     *****

Will and I have known for a little while that we wanted to move neighborhoods. We just made a move a few years back; it’s been a good move. We really like our house. But we don’t think it’s the neighborhood—or the home—we want to spend the next twenty years in.

And so we’d been thinking. But we hadn’t been looking.

Maybe one day I’ll tell you the story about how a strange and improbable series of events led us to come this close to making an offer on a house my great-grandmother owned 70 years ago (although honestly, it sounds like the stuff of fiction, yes?). We weren’t in the market when we stumbled upon the (her) amazing house for sale; I knew my great-grandmother had owned a house on the street but it took a while (plus confirmation from my mom) for me to realize we were considering the very house my own mother had had many a delightful childhood sleepover in.

Long story short: we didn’t buy it.

But the experience made us realize that yeah, we were ready to make a move, not now, but in the next year or so. So we regrouped. We made lists. We had late-night conversations on the couch, glasses of wine in hand. We talked to our realtor, and decided to take it slow. We would start checking out what came on the market, so we could figure out what we wanted, and what it would cost, and be really smart and deliberate and thorough about it.

Long story short: we bought the first house we looked at.

*****     *****     *****

We went to see it right after Christmas. On the way out the door that morning, I told the kids, Dad and I are going to look at a house this morning, but we’re not buying it. We’re investigating. We’re just checking things out.

But then I walked in the door for the first time, and went Oh. Will arrived a few minutes later, and went Huh.

No house is perfect, right? But this one felt awfully close to perfect for our family.

*****     *****     *****

The moving truck comes today.

The important things: we’re closer to the library, and to coffee. And to work and school, but priorities. (Also: I didn’t realize it till our second or third visit, but the house has actual, factual green gables. I can’t make this stuff up.)

I’m intimidated by the blank canvas of a new-to-us house (where does the sofa go? the silverware? the library books?) but I think I’m ready.

I’d love to hear your moving advice, tips for settling in, advice on where to put the glasses and silverware and library books. Tell me everything I need to know in comments?

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62 comments

  1. Mary says:

    I have a hard time shopping unless I’m absolutely in love with an item I usually don’t buy right away. I walk away, leave the store, and think about the purchase. If I can’t live without it, I will go back to buy it. I’ve missed out on a lot of great deals because of my indecisive nature, and it looks like I’m not the only one. I can’t believe you almost purchased your great Grandmothers house! Good luck on the move, my moving tip is to label boxes, even boxes that don’t need to be labeled.

    • Katy Reeve says:

      My family moved over a year ago from a bustling city in England to a quiet country village and we couldn’t be happier. I found the move itself ok – lots of clearing out, labelling and happy memories. However it was the after move that took me by surprise, so much so that I had to write about it in a blog. I discovered that making sure you keep your family routines going and work out what it really important for each member of the family before you move kept us happy.

  2. Leslie Dupont says:

    Hi Anne, I envy you buying a home and it being the perfect one! My husband is active duty military so we have move around quite a bit. We leave our current home this summer, destination unknown. Hopefully, we’ll be finding out soon. We rent the home we live in now and our next duty station is the last. Moving is a hassle, but even our rental homes are a canvas to make into ours. We hope to be on the buying market in about 3-4 years to settle down permanently. Because we’re such frequent movers, it makes cleaning out all the unnecessary things pretty easy every few years. While moving, get rid of the things you no longer use. Donate them, have a garage sale or whatever you choose. You feel a little lighter knowing you’re not going into the next home with quite as much stuff! Good luck on your move and have fun making your new home yours!

  3. AMY REASONER says:

    We moved into a new house last Monday, and I’ve already moved the silverware once since unpacking it. So I have no tips.
    I realized, actually, as I was packing up my last house, that this was my first real adult move. My husband already owned a house when we got married, right after I graduated from college, so I just moved my clothes and a few dishes from my parents’ house to his house. And then we stayed there for nine years.
    So I have no advice. Best of luck to you!

  4. Sally says:

    I don’t have time to read all of the comments so I might be repeating advice already given. Coming from someone that has moved a bunch 6 times with 4 kids in the last 17 years, I made it a priority to get the kids life as close to normal as soon as possible. Whether that is setting up the play room, their bedroom or the place where everyone hangs out at the end of the day, just have a space for them without any boxes and where they can come to escape the unpacking. Also homes for things are not permanent. In one house the glasses might have been to the right of the sink but maybe in the new house it makes sense to store them closer to the dish washer to the left of the sink (true story: my husband was perplexed after our last move when I did this exact thing. He thought the glasses would always be to the right of the sink because that’s where they always had been in every other house. He just didn’t realize that in every other house it made it easier to have them there…now not ao much. In fact it would be really inconvenient.) Just be flexible and willing to change things till you find a happy place for everything

    • MissAndi says:

      Your glasses story is so funny. I similarly confounded my husband moves ago. To the left of the sink (where our glasses had resided every other time) was a wall. He came in the kitchen to get a glass of water and stood at the sink for some time before he finally asked where I put the glasses. It was pretty funny. Oh…. moving. 🙂

  5. MissAndi says:

    Congratulations!
    I so look forward to the day we move somewhere and put down roots. I’ve moved 22 times in my life (I’m 41). Most of those were across state lines but many were actually country to country. My husband of 11 years and I have moved 9 times to 3 different continents and 5 countries. It’s, um, a lot of moving… 🙂
    You’ve received some great advice here. I think my biggest piece of advice is to take a few deep breaths. Not everything has to be put away at once. I usually get the kitchen and bedrooms situated and then the bathrooms — all functional areas where people need to find things quickly. The one time I put things in random places in the kitchen promising myself it was “just to get it out of the way”, ended in disaster. I finally got around to rearranging the kitchen only to discover that every time I tried to find a particular pot, I had to visit several cabinets because my body was already conditioned to find the pot in the first spot. I always put my glasses next to my fridge or my sink and my dishes close to my dishwasher. That’s my motto.
    Then bedrooms — getting my kiddo set up is usually a pretty high priority. He doesn’t do well with change (poor kid!), and so we work hard to get his things put up. He helps now that he’s a little older and that’s a huge bonus for both him and us. It also gives him ownership. So, while I deal with the kitchen, my husband usually assists our son getting things put away.
    Once I’ve got kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms done (by that, I mean sleepable and sock-findable), I move onto our living areas. I usually go slow with these areas because I really want to live in a place for a bit before I start putting pictures on the wall. I want to get a feel for flow.
    I also put a box in the living room of “lost articles”. This is for items that got packed randomly and are necessary (TV remote, etc.), but the matching item is not yet out and set up.
    I also put a carry-on sized roller bag in the living room. This, I use for all the important papers that are coming in like cable guy paperwork, mail that’s being delivered, mover’s paperwork, etc. It’s bigger and bulkier than a collapsible folder, and everyone in my family knows exactly what it is. It’s a place to corral important paperwork that I don’t have a good place for yet. After about a week to two weeks, I’m generally unpacked enough to know where these items should live permanently.
    But really, I think the best piece of advice I ever received was, “Moving is horrible. But eventually it ends. Not everything must be done right away.”
    The other piece of advice I got which I really like is that if a box isn’t opened in a year, there’s a fairly decent chance you don’t need what’s in it. I put these boxes in my car and drive to Goodwill unopened. At Goodwill, I open the boxes and start tossing things into their bins one item at a time. I usually find one thing I’d been looking for (it’s usually a lost lid to a pot for some reason), but otherwise, everything goes to the charity to find a better home. If I unpack it at home, I end up trying to find a place for things I don’t need and don’t use. If I’m already at Goodwill, I tend to purge more things.
    Good luck and enjoy your new home!!

    • Sabrina says:

      Love the advice to take the boxes to Goodwill and then go through them! I’ve read of folks who took the first part of the advice and donated or tossed unopened boxes after a couple of moves only to realize later that they held important papers. But checking them at Goodwill? That’s great.

  6. Jeanine says:

    Good luck with your move! Hopefully, by the time you read this, you will have had a chance to relax in your tub, glass of wine in hand, and reflect back on a long day. I know you’ll need it! We just moved a few months ago so I have lots of advice:) Put the silverware as close to the table as possible. Put the glassware as close to the refrigerator as possible. Put the books as close to the places you read as possible. For me, that means that some books are in the family room and some are in my bedroom. I also keep a basket on top of my washing machine to store my library books (all except the one I’m reading), so I know where they are. You probably already know this, but the best organizational idea I’ve ever tried is hanging clear shoe bags on the inside of closet doors for things like gloves, hats, scarves, extension cords, batteries, etc. Also, if possible, store kitchen items that you don’t use often in a shallow cabinet/closet with shelves so that you can just open the doors and see everything. Keep these items nearby, but preferably not in the kitchen, so that you have only what you use on an almost daily basis where you need it. In other words, keep it simple so that you can find what you need daily and cut down on frustration. Hope you enjoy your new home!

  7. Jess says:

    My husband and I got married 4.5 years ago. Since then we have moved 6 times. I’m an organizer. I need everything in it’s place almost ASAP in order to be able to think straight. I hate having moving boxes just sitting around full of my stuff. So, I just start unpacking and placing things where it makes the most sense for the time being. But that doesn’t mean it has to stay there. In our newest home, I think I moved the living around three times before I was really satisfied (even though that also meant taking all the books off the bookshelf several times too). It’s a lot of work, more than some might deem necessary, but that just suites me better than leaving everything in boxes until I’ve settled the furniture 🙂

  8. Odette says:

    Great post. I have a story concerning not buying something on first look. When my husband and I were about to get engaged, I looked at engagement rings and told him which one was singing to me. He went to buy it, and it was GONE! So he picked out another and gave it to me around Christmas. When we went back to school in January, I learned that my roommate had also gotten engaged. WITH MY RING!!! Unfortunately, she got divorced about 5 years later, and my husband and I have been married for almost 41 years. Good/bad luck? Who knows!

  9. Holli Petersen says:

    I love your thoughts, Anne. We went through something similar.

    I’m majorly indecisive, especially about big purchases. A few years ago, our family of 5 was living in 800 sq. feet. It was AWFUL! We were house-hunting, but I just couldn’t commit. After a year of looking at houses, I thought we found our perfect home. It was beautiful, great neighborhood, had all our needs and many of our wants. It even HAD A LIBRARY with a FIREPLACE! I kid you not. It felt meant to be. Each time we toured the home, I would sit in the library and just dream of how amazing this home would be for our family (and my many books!)

    We started the process of buying the home, but… long story short… we made it to the inspections and realized it was a mistake. It looked great, but it wasn’t built great. The cost to get it up to code just wasn’t worth it. It hurt to walk away from that house, but it helped shape our priorities in an important way. After the heartbreak of that house, we agreed to look at a house we’d previously said we wouldn’t like (before seeing it). It was perfect and we LOVE living here. There isn’t a library, but some built-in bookcases in the living room suffice for now.

    My experience reminded me of what you went through. Sometimes we need to go through certain experiences before we have the clarity to make the right decision. 🙂

  10. Mary in Tennessee says:

    Best piece of moving advice I got in Chicago more than 25 years ago-
    Assemble everyone’s beds immediately. And having packed the sheets, comforter, pillows, in a clearly labeled box or in a bag in your car, make up the beds immediately.
    Even if you end up moving the bed to a different location in the room, this will begin to make the house feel like yours. And when it’s time to collapse in the bed at the end of the day, it will be ready

  11. Allison says:

    We impulse-bought a house seven months ago! Totally not in my or my husband’s nature, but it’s turned out great, and the stars happened to align just right so it could happen. We had moved to a neighborhood we love just a couple of years ago, but the house itself wasn’t working out great for our family. We weren’t actively looking for a home, but I occasionally like to peruse listings and came across a house just a few blocks away that looked perfect.

    We went to the open house, had two days to decide and put in an offer, and it was accepted a day after that. The market was crazy and there were seven other offers–fortunately, this meant that our house also went very fast. We basically found a house, sold ours, and moved within 6 weeks–without really planning to. It was crazy and stressful, but several times a week we look around and say how much we adore our new house, so luckily this impulse buy happened to work out–though I don’t really recommend our approach. I hope to never move again 🙂

    Sounds like you’re past the packing stage already, but I recommend labeling all boxes with bright labels (on the top and at least one side of the box–easy to see when you’re carrying it or if it’s stacked in a pile). Include the room where the box goes and a brief list of what’s in it. The list doesn’t have to include everything, but definitely list anything you could see yourself searching for in the coming days or weeks. It also helps with prioritizing what needs to be unpacked now and what can wait.

    If you can, map out (either mentally or write down) where all kitchen items will go before moving anything in. It’s one of the first rooms to set up, after the kids’ rooms, but the last room I ever want to rearrange.

    Keep toothbrushes, PJs, favorite pillows/stuffed animals, etc., handy, for when everyone collapses into bed that first night. 🙂 Happy moving!

  12. Amy says:

    It’s probably too late for this bit of advice: don’t throw anything away (or sell it in a yard sale, etc) until you’re settled in the new house and are *sure* you don’t need it there. I made the mistake of “consolidating” before my last move – got rid of all kinds of things I didn’t think I’d need in the new house, because I hadn’t used it in the old house, and I didn’t want to pack it or move it, blah, blah, blah. Turns out I could have used some of that stuff I got rid of, and the other stuff could have gone to the Goodwill here instead of the Goodwill there. Better to pack it and move it than to have to go buy it again.

  13. Leyla says:

    I don’t think I have wise things to say about moving, all I wanted to tell you was share pictures with us. But perhaps the one thing I could tell you is that moving is a chance to pack light, to get rid of the clutter; take what is essential.

  14. Shar says:

    We are military and move every 2 to 3 years (and twice after 3 months each). Best advice I can offer is to set your beds up first! Then at the end of the day when you are exhausted, you aren’t scrounging for a screw driver and trying to put beds together. Wish I was there to help, I am great at unpacking. We own a lot and I still have the house totally unpacked in 24 hours.

  15. Christine says:

    Hi Anne of Green Gables,
    I had a similar experience in that the house I was in before was fine, but the neighborhood had gotten a little iffy. I talked my realtor about just looking around to see what was out there in my price range, and after a few trials and tribulations, I finally ended up in what I hope is my forever home, and I could not be happier. A lot has happened since I moved in (needed a new heater, two trees had to be taken down and one just came down on its own, and water under the house), but I am in love with my house!
    The best advice I can give is to get the kitchen and then the kids settled first. After that, depending on the amount of time you have, just tackle a room at a time. Sometimes you have to live in the house for a little bit, even if it’s all in boxes, to understand it. You need to see it in all the different lights and all different times of day. And, as many others have said, don’t be afraid to change things around if you don’t like things where you initially put them. I’m still rearranging! Kids can be a great help too, depending on their ages of course.
    Most importantly, have fun! It seems like a hassle in the beginning, but as you explore your new neighborhood and meet new people (and go to the library!) you realize just how lucky you are. Embrace that!

  16. Katie says:

    Anne, congratulations on making the move, I am sure that you are all going to love the new place. If you read this in time– here is my advice. Clearly mark the box with the bedding when you pack them. Whatever you need for the first morning in the new house- write on the box– Open Me First! Each time we move, this saves me. I learned the hard way that sending children to sleep in sleeping bags in a new home is not the best thing when they are a little anxious about a new house. It does add to the sense of adventure, but it made for a long night that planning could have prevented. Enjoy! I have loved every home that was close to the library, school, work and most importantly coffee!

  17. Theresa says:

    How exciting. Moving is always a new adventure and it is funner if you look at it as an adventure. Unpacking always takes some time, so don’t get frustrated when a few weeks out, no a few months out, you haven’t yet decided where everything goes. It can be a brain taxing process trying to unpack everything. So just be patient and give yourself time to figure it all out. Have fun!

  18. Kelty says:

    What a great story! Congrats y’all! I have no advice as we are terrible at moving and hope not to do it again ever…well, at least not for a while, Lord willing. Hope y’all settle in quickly and thoroughly enjoy your green gables!! (how cool is that?!)

  19. Teresa says:

    We moved out of state about 18 months ago. My husband and I had a saying for all the “stuff” we just weren’t sure we wanted to move. “Thank it for it’s service and take it to the curb.” We were brutal, but it was so worth it. Thank goodness for The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. 😊

  20. Katherine says:

    My moving/unpacking advice is kind of counterintuitive, but don’t hang pictures right away. You’ll start out with furniture and a layout you think you want, but chances are you’ll rearrange at least once, and it’s a lot easier to do that without having to move all the decorative things too. Plus, you know, patching nail holes.

  21. Jaime says:

    One of the best moving tips I’ve gotten is to take the time to cook a favorite meal in the midst of the chaos. Even if it’s eaten on paper plates with disposable utensils, there is something about this partaking that makes the house seem much cozier and more familiar. Congrats on the new house!

  22. Kim says:

    How exciting…. the picture looks like your new neighborhood is sooo very inviting! We’ve thought about moving many times in the last couple of years but out neighborhood is what keeps here where we’ve lived for nearly 39 years!!! Our kids are now grown & we certainly could use more space when everyone is home. However after looking around we never quite have found the right new place! I feel the right place will eventually come along!!! Your story makes me feel so good…. when you find the right place… you just know!!! Thanks Anne!

  23. Miss Mary says:

    I’m so jealous! For the last two years I have felt the desire to find some place new, but all of our searching hasn’t worked out yet. Sometimes I think I’m being too picky, but then I hear someone else talk about how they fell in love with their home and it gives me hope. That’s how I felt about our current house. And it has been perfect. But our family has grown larger and I feel like it’s time for a new adventure!

  24. MelissaJoy says:

    Congratulations on your move! My advice is to remember yourself as a previous house dweller. Meaning: your natural rhythms and habits will resurface eventually. You’re not completely restarting. It may seem like it but it’s really just a happy disruption of all of your earthly possessions. It can definitely be intimidating to figure out which cupboards to stow your plates and glasses. This last move of ours I spent a few hours making pretty with our dishes and glasses. I even did a photo shoot to remind me of the progress. It was really soul nourishing and helped me chill out for the rest of the organizing phase of the move in. Remember…it’s phases, never really final 😊 Enjoy!

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