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Same old

May 25, 2010

Closing and locking the back door just now, I startled an enormous raccoon, who was carefully prising the metal lid from one of my garbage cans. He jumped down in a hurry, then lope-waddled down the driveway and across the street. Tomorrow is garbage day–the raccoons must have a regular beat. I replaced the lid as firmly as I could, then locked up and went inside.

Not once have I been alone with the kids (or even alone without them) in this big old house and felt spooked. I’ve never been afraid to go down in the basement when a fuse blows, or freaked out by the wind or the inevitable nighttime creakings. Once, when I’d gone up early to read in bed, the sound of my quiet philosopher tenant letting herself in made my heart pound a little, but even that was okay. Point is, I’m not afraid to live here by myself. I’ve even made my peace with what was the marital bedroom. I sleep well again, finally. I bring in the wood and make the fires and wash the windows and plant the windowboxes and sweep the porch and cope with all the chores. I grill. And so on.

But oh god, I want to move so badly. I was certain I’d take the house off the market this coming weekend–end of May, instead of end of June–because I couldn’t see any other way to stop obsessing about it. And then today I slouched around in a funk, furious at myself for self-indulgently moping. I could not, however, stop. I want to move–to get rid of crap, to put my books in new bookcases, to gaze out different windows at different things. I want a small house again. The place is semi-trashed after two days of no-one-is-coming-to-see-it insouciance; because I did not spend forty-five minutes whirling from floor to floor like a cleaning dervish, there’s some degree of disarray in every room. Which is fine, except that I’m sick of all the rooms. I can hardly blame the people who’ve been through the place and left without looking back. I wouldn’t buy this fucking house, either.

I can’t take it off the market yet. I’ve got to wait a month, at least. Something might happen. “All it takes is that ONE RIGHT PERSON,” I’ve been told. I’ve also been told, time and again, “When you’re meant to move, someplace wonderful will come along.” The last five people to say that are dead, by the way–I strangled them with my bare hands and buried them in our spacious, wonderful yard (great for families with small children! Magnificent trees! Potential for add-ons! A truly rare find!)

My friends hate me now because all I do is bitch about the house. For my part, I hate my ex-husband, because this is (beyond all doubt) completely his fault. He’s quite cheerful and smug these days, and the kids are full of happy plans. They even walked my boyfriend’s daughters past the cottage the other day, on their way into town to buy pizza and candy. My boyfriend’s kids came home all excited, saying how much THEY liked the cute little house with the flowers and the fence, and how they hoped I’d move in, so that they could visit too. I twisted the dishtowel I was holding rather forcefully, smiled, and said nothing.

I’ll be okay in a day or two. I’ll skip town as much as possible till summer comes, then hunker down and make the best of it. I’ll call the realtor tomorrow, ask if I should lower the price a bit, on the off chance that someone’s wavering. And then, my friends, it’s chicken time. I’ve got a hammock left over from a long-ago sojourn in Mexico–I’ll find a spot for it near the coop, so I can laze about and watch my biddies. I’ll throw away whatever I feel like throwing away, hold a garage sale when my ex-husband goes to Greece, pocket the profits. I’ll live. And next year I’ll try again. This fall I’ll get another tenant, one who’s willing to tend the chickens when I’m gone. I’ll start having dinner parties again, big ones. I’ll paint the third floor bathroom, which I’ve meant to do since we moved in. I’ll be fine. And when that one perfect buyer walks through the front door, and it’s the right time–the time I’m really MEANT to move, I mean, because all of this is part of some inscrutable cosmic plan–something wonderful will come along. I’m reasonably certain of it.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie permalink
    May 25, 2010 11:44 pm

    I don’t know if anyone has warned you about chickens yet but…chickens! They are mean, murderous bastards! My parents have a…brood? bunch? of chickens, and they must currently be separated into three separate living groups. This is because any time one chicken has a weakness, the others will peck at that weakness until the weak one dies. And this is when they are not being murdered by neighborhood dogs and coyotes!

    …the eggs are SO GOOD, though.

  2. Kim permalink
    May 26, 2010 12:14 am

    Hi there,

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented, so first of all, thank you for sharing yourself and your story. I found you through Alexa’s blog.

    I hope this question/observation isn’t unwelcome. It’s just that it seems like chickens are not going to cut it, in terms of providing the real change that you need, and that they will create more problems if you do get the chance to move. Is there any way you could decide to take a bigger loss and get the heck out? So if it isn’t that very cottage – maybe there will be something else that will provide relief. I’m sorry if I’m forgetting some critical details here. But I just basically aNted you to put off the chickens, wonderful though they can be, because you seem so very unhappy in the house.

    So sorry if I’m way off base! I wish you the very best. : )

  3. Kim permalink
    May 26, 2010 12:16 am

    …just basically *wanted to encourage* you to put off the chickens…

    Sorry for the typos!

  4. May 26, 2010 2:20 am

    I’m your commenter who lives in Hawai’i and read about your uncle and still feels sad about that accident.

    Okay. I have chickens. Six chickens who roam around and do their own thing and lay 5-6 eggs each day. They are not murderous or bad in any way. We have had zero problems. They are all hens and all came from the same place, where they were in a coop together. I don’t know if that makes a difference or not.

    They are fun to watch. I actually pulled up a lawn chair when we first got them and sat and enjoyed them like a show. Very relaxing to watch.

    There is something soothing in their simple daily routine — up at dawn, scratching around on the ground, first over here, then over there, digging for bugs. Off to lay an egg. Back looking for more bugs. As the sun starts thinking about setting, they’re over by the coop having some chicken feed and then hopping up on their bamboo posts to roost. That’s it.

    They are totally low maintenance. If you have predators, make sure you wander out and close their coop around dinner time, and then you’ll need to let them out in the morning. Throw some pine shavings in there from time to time, and scoop out the old ones once every so often. Fill their feed and water things once a day. I give ours some oyster shell and grit (from the feed store) — and I just fill that trough thing with some a couple times a month. I’m sure I spend less than 5 minutes a day on chicken maintenance, and they are fat and happy and so am I. Well, I’m not that fat, thankfully. But I am happy with my chickens.

    As long as you have a plan re: your chickens when you move (You can take them with you? You can give them to a friend? Sell them on Craigslist, which is where we got ours?), I say go for it! I absolutely love having chickens. I wrote about the chickens here.

    We consistently have a dozen eggs every two days now, which I love, because I always have plenty and can bring a carton of fresh, organic, free-range eggs as a gift when I see a friend. People love it .

    It sounds like you would enjoy having them, as I do. And anything, ANYTHING, you want to know about chickens can be found at

  5. May 26, 2010 4:00 am

    Maybe its time for a new realtor as well as a new price?

  6. May 26, 2010 7:31 am

    Oh, yes. It will be so. I know how being stuck in a place can weigh on you – moving on physically is potently symbolic.
    You’ll get there, as per the cosmic plan.

  7. May 26, 2010 3:47 pm

    Unless you are willing to really drop the price, I’m not sure it will make much difference. I come from a real estate family, so I’ve been around this kind of thinking a loooooong time. I know all the tricks. It’s not really noteworthy to buyers if you drop the price by 10K. Not enough of a difference to make anyone stand up and notice, and 10K is certainly not going to make a buyer suddenly be able to afford a loan and mortgage payments. Unless you are willing to do 40-50K, I’m thinking you see what you get through the end of June, pull it off and re-list it (new agent? Check ones that spend a lot of their own $$ marketing your house, and strongly consider staging it) at a very competitive price in the fall. If you want to email me to talk about it, feel free.

    And I am advocating what the last commenter said on the last post about matching your ex’s smugness (the nerve!) with some passive aggressiveness of your own. Hide all the stuff you think he might want to borrow – store it all in your trunk! and then plead ignorance and possibly suggest he’s already borrowed it and not returned it and that he should look around his own house instead.

    • Camille permalink
      May 26, 2010 4:35 pm

      @Julie–“store it all in your trunk! and then plead ignorance and possibly suggest he’s already borrowed it and not returned it and that he should look around his own house instead”

      This is brilliant!!!

      I’m so impressed that you haven’t shot him yet because I would be completely irate wasting any time trying to find something and going nuts wondering where the hell I put it only to find to find that my EX(!!!) came into my home and took it!

  8. Celeste permalink
    May 26, 2010 7:34 pm

    I like the idea of a new realtor and staging better than I do chickens. I don’t think the chickens will do as much for your happiness as moving on will. I think you would enjoy the chickens more fully someplace else, when you know you’re staying. There are coping mechanisms, and then there are delaying tactics.

    Awesome idea about hiding your stuff. I’m snarky enough to start gift-wrapping household items and tell him it’s so he can have even more pleasure out the stuff he is getting from your house. But you probably don’t want to be like me!

  9. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    May 26, 2010 8:11 pm

    Well, the chickens would be shared with a couple of other families. And when I move, I will rent–so perhaps the landlords will not endorse having chickens on their property?

    Julie–tell me, do people typically look at houses on Memorial Day weekend? I’m tempted to leave the place a shambles.

  10. May 26, 2010 8:42 pm

    No. They don’t. Most realtors don’t even work this weekend and open house traffic is slow. Anyone who really wants to see your house can do so the following week.

    Also you should know that chickens would probably not do much for your resale value and might put off some buyers. You should try to make your house look as simple as possible – no photos out (except on the wall) and clear off all surfaces. You want the buyers to imagine their stuff in your house, not try to see past all your stuff.

    Trash the house for the weekend. Doubtful anyone will be stopping by.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 26, 2010 8:52 pm

      I’ve had the photos stashed since the house first went on the market last spring…and cleared all surfaces. And so on. Hide the shampoo, hide the coffee maker, hide the laundry in the car. The difference between cleaning a house for yourself and cleaning a house for potential buyers is tremendous. Toys hidden. Closets emptied. Superfluous everything gone.

      We sold two houses–one for cash, one to a friend without even listing it–back in the good old days. Back then all you had to do was whisper your intentions and people would start throwing suitcases of money at you. This, by contrast, has been a total shock.

      When I found the dream cottage? I lowered the already low price by 40K. Thought people would jump. They didn’t.

      And the poor realtor is HORRIFIED by the potential chickens.

  11. May 26, 2010 9:07 pm

    Hahahaha. That is funny. Poor realtor, who has probably sunk a good chunk of change into your property and is waiting for pay day as well. Sounds to me like you’ve done all you can do. And yes, I know all about cleaning a house to sell it – sold 3 myself and it is AWFUL. Give yourself a break. If you want to have fun, I say start boxing up some random stuff you think your ex might want to take on his next pilfering run and label it “Spare tampons” and put it in the garage.

  12. notreally permalink
    May 27, 2010 8:28 am

    It’s enough to make one check the house’s insurance policy.

  13. May 27, 2010 8:50 am

    I’ve only ever sold one house, but I totally credit the pumpkin pie I baked the morning of our open house. People walked in and wanted to curl up on the couch and talk about their sweet, dead grandmothers. In a good way.

  14. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    May 27, 2010 9:43 am

    I tried that with gingerbread.

    It’s just a very odd time. People who had plenty of money and could have bought ANY house in my town–found fault with every single one. Yet they were “desperate” to move–had to, because of job changes–and so rented a place for six months.

    According to the realtors, they’re showing hundreds of houses to everyone–and still no one can decide. Meanwhile, more houses go on the market…it’s that famous psychological experiment with the types of jam in the grocery store–if three types are available for sample and sale, people buy many more jars of jam than if there are twelve types available for sample and sale. Humans are peculiar. Too many choices, and we become paralyzed.

    Compare this to the mass stampede a decade ago, where people went nuts trying to outbid one another…another example of weird mass psychology.

  15. Melissa permalink
    May 27, 2010 4:15 pm

    Have you buried a statue of St. Joseph in the yard yet? Google it. My sister-in-law did this when desperate. Their house did soon sell. It can’t hurt.

  16. Jemy permalink
    May 30, 2010 11:09 am

    I don’t know if you considered it, but would it be a bad idea to rent out your house and you rent something that costs less? Then you can essentially use the difference as income or maintenance or whatever. Plus the discount of lower heating bills, etc etc

    That has always been my back up plan for our big old house. If worse comes to worse, rent it out for bigger bucks than a smaller place I would rent.

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