Empty Nester Downsize: The Ultimate Adventure

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As you may be aware, I am the ultimate advocate of adventures, the #findadventure promoter, the supporter of new ideas and the author of the Inevitablitlty of Change. It is now time that I take some of my own advice. But what if this change is something so big and life altering that life as you know it will never be the same? Oh yes, that big change is life in the Empty Nest. Our kids leave and go off to college and call other cities home. Helping them to gain independence and succeed as an adult was our goal, right? Some of us handle this life-change with ease and others need to work harder to succeed in this newly empty home.

I even went as far as creating stickers to inspire taking photos of a new adventure. Just recently, I embarked on a new adventure, a really big one.

The natural progression of the family is that the children grow to be adults and then create fulfilling lives of the their own. Their lives intersect and intertwine with their parents’, but the line isn’t linear any longer. The family dynamic is more like many spokes on a large wheel.

Empty Nester Downsize

My tale for today is actually NOT about my kids, it’s about us. Craig and I have made the mind blowing decision, to sell our house, downsize to a much smaller house and move away from the city we have raised our children. Whoa that’s a big one. There is one caveat, we are moving back to the area where Craig and I grew up, back to our families, back to a place that is familiar, yet has grown and changed with the times.

We spent our childhood and teen years in Arcadia, a lovely suburban town in Southern California. You may have never hear of this charming little city, home of the Santa Anita Race Track, Taco Lita (known for the legendary jumbo burrito) and the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens. Do you remember the show Fantasy Island from the 70’s? Do you recall when Tattoo and Mr Rourke stood in front of a darling Victorian cottage waiting to greet “Da Plane, Da Plane”? That familiar scene was filmed at the Arboreteum, very close to my childhood home.

Arcadia is nestled adjacent to another charming city called Pasadena. Our new home is located about 1.5 miles from downtown Pasadena and 1.5 miles from the legendary Rose Bowl and home of the spectacular Tournament of Roses New Year’s Day Parade. It’s a phenomenal place to live, with a trendy downtown and glorious views of the San Gabriel Mountains. We were very fortunate to find a 1937 Spanish Colonial home on a tree lined street just minutes from my parent’s house. It is only 20 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles, and 30 minutes from our son Nick at UCLA.

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Our new house comes complete with the original purple and black bathroom tile and some rather awful wall paper, but has lots of charming features as well. It will be adorable once we finish!

Since we became empty nesters three years ago, Craig and I have talked about downsizing to a smaller house with less overhead, less headaches. Our larger home takes a lot of time, effort and money and with Craig’s intense travel schedule and my busy blogger life, it has become too much to handle. Additionally, we no longer have the ties to the school district and to the youth sports teams as we did when the kids were at home.

We do have amazing friends, incredible weather, glorious beaches and wonderful memories from living here for 23 years. We could have chosen to downsize here in South Orange County, but there were extenuating circumstances that contributed to this monumental decision.

My Dad was diagnosed with cancer almost 2 years ago. As many of you know that is a very difficult call to receive. My Dad is my rock, nothing rattles him, he is strong and is fighting a great fight. We will most likely have years to enjoy his company, but why not be ten minutes away instead of ninety? Craig’s father passed away 15 years ago from pancreatic cancer and we had just one year from diagnosis to him passing away. It was ugly and awful. Absolutely the worst thing that had ever happened in our lives.

Fast forward to now, and Craig suggested this past January: “Why don’t we move up to Pasadena so we can live closer to your Dad and our families?” Our brothers, their kids, as well as our mothers will now live within 20 minutes of us. Perhaps we were quite selfish moving away from them 23 years ago.

We loved living in Laguna Niguel, a family oriented, beautiful beach city in South Orange County. Truly one of the prettiest places you will visit. With beach walking trails, miles of parks, great people and boasts three five-star hotels within just a few miles. This is where people come to vacation and we get to live here. Our friends here have been like family, incredibly supportive and raised their children right along side of us.

In June, we announced to the family that we would put the house on the market and move home. My Dad’s response? With a huge grin he said:”You made my life.” It makes the decision so simple. Of course we would make this choice and so would you.

These next few weeks will be hectic, stressful and at times fairly complicated. As it turns out, we will be renovating the house and need to find a temporary home. Some of you have already experienced downsizing and redecorating your homes and some of you may be just contemplating a housing change. Any advice and support is welcome!

Stay tuned for much more of this story filled with change, some drama and indeed adventure. I am always pontificating about how important “adventure” is – now I need to practice what I preach!

Have you downsized or moved since the nest has emptied out? Have you changed or remodeled your home?

Please keep us in your thoughts!

Suzanne

 

57 thoughts on “Empty Nester Downsize: The Ultimate Adventure”

  1. Wow, congratulations on your decision and imminent move. Your new home in Pasadena looks and sounds lovely! We’ve sold and moved across the country a few times and each time it was both exciting and scary. I love your Dad’s response and it sort of sums up the joys of moving closer to family.

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    • You hit the nail on the head. When we were contemplating this move, his answer was all I could think about! Thank you for your lovely comments.

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  2. The new house looks awesome…and this is going to be exciting. Hard too…I think change isn’t always graceful…but somehow you will make it that way. Can’t wait to see the bathroom tile!

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    • Thanks Kim. It is exciting and a new adventure, but change is not easy. It will be fun to chronicle the transformation of this house. It has such great “bones”. Thank you for the encouragement!

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  3. Oh, wow. Huge step! We have glanced on the topic….I mean, we are two people in a 5 bedroom 6000 sq ft house, but it is home. And there have been so many changes to try and adapt to in the last 4 or 5 years, we don’t want to take another one on. But it is on the backburner, simmering.

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    • Your house is way bigger than mine, but you also have had lots of challenges and do not need to add a move to the list! My husband is gone all the time and I don’t need to live here alone. Now I can use this time that I have more wisely. When I am not traveling, I can be closer to family.

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  4. Suzanne,

    I know that your many friends in Los Angeles County are as excited as I am to have you moving back ‘home’. I can’t wait to have you closer so that we can see each other more often.

    Looking forward to reading all about this next chapter in your life! Like Kathy Smith…I’m excited for you too!!!!

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  5. Hi Suzanne – as you know, we’ve downsized several times: first from two houses to one when we married, then to a townhouse, then radically when we moved to Kauai, and now to one suitcase each. You won’t regret this, particularly with your dad’s diagnosis. Each moment is precious. And it’s fun to have a project; the new house looks brimming with potential. Love Pasadena! Winner winner chicken dinner!

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    • Dear Betsy: Thank you so much for the kind and encouraging words! Although this is not easy, it is definitely the right decision. I love “Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner!”

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    • Yes Irene it is so true. As you get older your perspective changes and I tend to focus more on my parents instead of the kids. The kids are much more self sufficient.

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  6. Hi Suzanne. We did indeed downsize about 7 years ago and it has been great. Like you, I’ve returned to my roots. My parents are no longer here, but I feel comforted knowing that when they were alive they met and lived just miles from where we now live. The pace is slow and easy. The air and water are clean. It costs us less to live here. It’s all good. Best of luck in your next adventure.

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  7. Well, you know we never really never upsized–intentionally–and we’re so glad we didn’t. We’ve been in the same relatively modest, first house (after the obligatory no-kids-yet condo) for nearly 30 years–and just four blocks from my parents. After a couple of cosmetic renovations throughout and some exterior enhancements, we are loving it more than ever. Jon and I can’t wait to see your new place when it’s all finished. I LOVE the outside. It’s perfect! Bravo to you and Craig!

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    • Thank you Angela! Your parents are lucky to have had you so close for so long. Your newly renovated home looks amazing and most certainly perfect for two. It is additionally well suited for the occasional visit from your East Coast daughters! We look forward to sharing our project with you!

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  8. Oh Suzanne…Your making me home sick. I’m from Glendale, CA..Rossmoyne Area. Your new home looks lovely and being close to family and friends will be the best gift ever… for all of you! Wishing you many new adventures in your new home with family and friends!

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    • Thank you Lisa! Sorry to make you home sick – you are always welcome to visit! Thank you too for the kind and supportive comments! Did you receive your #findadventure sticker?

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  9. Congratulations on this huge step for you and Craig! I have such fond memories of going to Arcadia as a child, too bad Hinshaw’s is no longer there! : } Do you remember those huge cakes they would serve at their anniversary parties? Good luck on this new adventure in your life!

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  10. Congratulations on your new adventure – your new home has “curb appeal and it’s such fun to take off in a new direction! You might call us “extreme downsizers” since we spent the year from August 2011 through August 2012 selling everything and leasing our house before we took off traveling. This August we put our house on Padre Island up for sale and will actually close on it this week. This is an exciting way for both of us to wrap up 2014 and begin a new year!

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    • Anita: You are definitely “extreme” downsizes! I do admire your easy going spirit. You two should live a long and stress free life. I think you have the right idea! I love following your adventures!

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  11. We are in the midst of that conversation. We live in a big old Victorian from the 1800’s and every time we turn around, something is going wrong. It’s time, but the hardest part of making the decision is where to next? I envy that you and your husband have put that to rest. We are not even close, and it seems to take up a lot of my thought process.

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    • Alison: I think I have struck a nerve with a few midlife friend. Once we get the house renovated, we hope to have an easier lifestyle with not as much house “work” to do!

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  12. I love your new home! I am a big fan of quirky, big-on-charm older homes and the Spanish colonial style is such a wonderful representation of early S. California. I would love to see it, maybe the next time we meet up for dinner. What a wonderful gift to your dad and to the extended family. Sending you thoughts of grace and ease as you & Craig embark on this latest adventure.

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    • Oh Christina, thank you. This already has been a ridiculously stressful adventure. We hope the next phase will be more fun! We would love for you to come to Pasadena, especially before we get started.

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  13. Oh Suzanne, your new home looks absolutely beautiful! So happy for all of you. Wishing you many happy and healthy years in your new nest. <3

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  14. How exciting! Congratulations on the new house and selling the old one!
    As a child, I moved several times and each time felt like such a grand adventure that I have to admit, I am secretly looking forward to the day when we make the same monumental decision you have made.
    Best wishes with the move, packing and reno!
    Looking forward to hearing the story.

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    • Thank you Laura! It was an important and difficult decision, yet I feel so optimistic! My friends in Orange County are amazing and I know we won’t lose touch.

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  15. We spent the past summer downsizing (getting rid of things, selling our house, and moving into something smaller). It was a lot of work, but we are so happy we did it. We love our new place. There is something freeing in getting rid of all the clutter you don’t need. (We gave a lot of stuff away, but I also had fun selling things online.) We had been in the bigger house for almost twenty years and had good times. When friends or family asked us if we were feeling sad about leaving it, my husband and I both shook our heads No. It was time to move on. I’m sure you’ll be happy with your move.

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    • Donna: Thank you for the positive words of support. We are in the process of getting rid of what we don’t need. I sold the pool table on Craig’s list!

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  16. Hi Suzanne, I just wanted you to know I was very moved by your downsizing post on your blog. We recently downsized, although we still live in Laguna Niguel, and it was an agonizing decision. I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful decision you guys made and how much it must mean to your dad to have you living so close to them. My dad passed away a few years ago, but he was my rock, and I tried to spend lots of quality time with him before he passed. Your new home is going to be wonderful, and you will have all kinds of new adventures there! You guys will be missed even though we didn’t see each other much. Happy Holidays to all of you and all the best for your move:)
    Best,
    Raksha
    xo

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    • Thank you Raksha – As you know it was a difficult decision, but the right one. It sounds like you completely understand how spending time with our fathers is the right thing to do. I am sorry for your loss, but you did a great job with your time. We will miss you too, we have loved living here.
      Thank you for your kind comments and for your support of AdventuresofEmptyNesters. If you have a story you would like to share we would love to have you write a post. Best, Suzanne

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  17. Read your blog about downsizing. We did something similar after our 2 grown sons moved out. Left our 4 bedroom home in Laguna Niguel and moved to a 3 bedroom home in Vegas. Mother in law moved in with us (she has Alzheimer’s) since my father in law died of bone cancer several months ago. It’s a bit scary starting life again in a city where we don’t know anyone (unlike you), but sometimes it’s good to kick yourself in the pants and see what’s out there. So far, all we can say is “Viva Las Vegas!” Best of luck to you. Wishing you and your family a healthy 2015.

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    • Wow Kathleen – you have made a big change! How is it going? I love your comment: “Sometimes it’s good to kick yourself in the pants and see what’s out there.”

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