by BRUCE STAMBAUGH
My wife and I sat at the dining room table, extended as far as possible to accommodate the small party of ex-Ohioans. We all had a lot in common, having moved from Ohio to the Harrisonburg area for the same reason. We wanted to be close to our grandchildren.
My wife and I moved from Ohio to the Shenandoah Valley in early May 2017. At ages 13, 11 and 8, they all participate in school, church and community activities here we just didn’t want to miss. We’ve enjoyed soccer and baseball games, piano and violin concerts, hiking and so much more.
In the process, we’ve run into several other couples that have moved to The Valley for the exact same reason. Their grandchildren live here, too. We have enjoyed getting to know these folks who have moved from many different states. We have also been reacquainted with others we had known previously in Ohio.
In the course of our conversations with these grandparent replants, I noticed a common theme. Downsizing to make the move caused a lot of angst. My wife and I could relate.
The house we purchased near Harrisonburg in Rockingham County was 700 square feet smaller than our Ohio home. Plus, this retirement ranch had no basement, no attic for storage and no outside garden shed for lawn tools. Items we had hung onto for 46 years of marriage and 30 years each in public education would have to go. But which ones?
Items we had hung onto for 46 years of marriage would have to go. But which ones?
We knew the answer to that leading question. We listened to both our hearts and our minds as to what would make the cut to come to Virginia. Though we had only moved twice in all those years together, a more recent tradition my wife and I began each winter helped us prioritize our possessions.
For the last four winters, Neva and I have spent most of January and February in northern Florida. We rented a condo on Amelia Island northeast of Jacksonville. It wasn’t always balmy there, but it wasn’t as cold as Ohio either. The condo was two-thirds smaller than our house. So we had to pack wisely. We shared one clothes closet and had insufficient storage. We only took essentials, with clothing being the bulk of what we packed. We planned to dress in layers with the changeable weather. That concept worked well for us, given the variety of weather and activities we have experienced over those few winters.
There was a lesson to be learned in that seasonal exercise. We applied it to our move. Why did I need all of those dress shirts? Moving to Virginia meant I would be retired from my second career in marketing and public relations. I could do with fewer shirts, dress pants and the rest. Our entire wardrobe was significantly reduced. With both of us in the same mindset, our closet spaces in Rockingham would suffice.
Of course, we couldn’t fit all of our furniture into our new house either. This became problematic since my wife and I owned a house full of antiques, mostly family heirlooms and pieces that had more personal value than functionality. We had to make hard choices. We used our cell phones to photograph pieces we decided not to take. We texted the photos to family and friends we thought might have an interest in them. The ones that weren’t claimed were either sold at garage sales or donated to a local thrift store where Neva had volunteered for many years.
We also used photography for personal items we knew we couldn’t take but didn’t want to forget. So memorable school items, for example, that sat in file cabinets were captured digitally and physically discarded. Much of that sorting was done while watching college basketball’s March Madness.
The overall downsizing hit home when I determined my cherished 1970 Chevy Malibu coupe had to go. I had helped the original owner buy it brand new. Sure I had tears when I had to say goodbye. It had to be done. You can’t squeeze three cars into a two-car garage.
Despite all of that, there was another element to downsizing that caught me by surprise. My life was also downsized. Other than my free-lance writing, I no longer had to work. Once we knew the timeline for moving, I quit my two part-time jobs and resigned as an elected township trustee. I loved my work, but it was time to move on.
Our new emphasis in life would be family first. And that’s just what has happened. Both our daughter and son-in-law run hectic schedules with work and volunteering in the community. Our Ohio son gave us his blessing as well for this phase. We will also travel frequently back to Ohio. This downsizing move has opened our lives to new adventures, new friends, new life purpose and new routines. And we couldn’t be happier.
BRUCE STAMBAUGH is a retired educator who moved in 2017 to Rockingham County with his wife, Neva. He is a freelance writer and writes a column for a weekly newspaper in Millersburg, Ohio. Bruce blogs at brucestambaugh.com.