Every Square Inch
By Elisa Morgan
We'd already reviewed the upstairs and the main floor when I opened the door to the basement and led my new friend down to the final rooms in my home. She was there to help me remove pieces from each room in preparation for selling my home.
Selling my home?! My haven for the past twenty years? The place God had provided in a season of upheaval? The house where we'd raised our family, decorated for holidays, shoveled and mowed, built blanket forts, planted flowerbeds, washed dishes and clothes and done "life" with our neighbors? Sell it?
My husband and I had been praying about downsizing. Now that it was just the two of us, living in a home large enough for a large family seemed silly - even unwise and wasteful. Then - BOOM! - one day we made an offer on a townhome, it was accepted and - stunned into reality - we realized we needed to sell our home.
As I descended the stairs, my heart thunked against my soul. I felt the house breathing in and out to make room for my emotions. This sensation was not new. Over two decades it had seemingly heaved in and out, expanding and shrinking to meet the ongoing and ever-changing needs of our family.
Upstairs I'd shared with my new friend about how God had met me in a dream before we ever moved in. Jesus, in a denim shirt and hard hat, tour-guided me through the scaffolded rooms, pausing at adjacent ones and saying, "This room is for your daughter. And this room is for her baby." Some weeks later, I'd discover this pronouncement was more than too much pepperoni before bed as indeed, my teenage daughter revealed herself to be pregnant. Our family moved into the home and lived together with her newborn - for that season - two families under one roof.
Some years later, my daughter and grandson would leave, now attached to a new husband and father. Their family would grow by another son - and several dogs. My son would come and go, with and without his dog who would eventually stay while he left on his own. Another dog would come to be mine as well. Then another. A daughter-in-law joined our son for dinners and visits - and a new dog of their own. A nephew, a friend in need, a young woman launching out on her own - various loved ones would dwell in our basement for moments of respite.
Reaching the basement level, I told my new friend the story of how the multiple doors separating the rooms downstairs had once been splayed open to accommodate nearly a hundred dinner guests when a precious coworker had needed to back out of hosting a gathering due to an unexpected health crisis and I'd said I'd do it. That night was like Jesus multiplying the fish and the loaves to provide seats and comfort for all.
I opened the storage room doors and took in the remaining boxes of memories, treasured leftovers from our last-summer purge. Someone had known that work was needed to be done in advance.
Tears welled and my friend touched my shoulder, offering, "Elisa, you have lived in every square inch of this home. And you have lived well in every square inch. You wasted nothing."
Her words were a balm to my being.
In the past few weeks I've sorted through closets, cabinets and cubbies for what goes with me and what goes away for sale or gifting. I filled an entire recycle bin with radio scripts, files of illustrations and articles on leadership and nonprofit management that I have no need for today. My eyes take in decorative items, handed down from my family or snagged from sales over the years and I consider: What will fit? What will match? What matters? What doesn't matter? What does someone else want? What can I forget? What do I love? I'm surprised at how few items really hold my heart.
I scour discount designer stores for new barstools for our smaller kitchen island. I find grey smooth-leather modern-lined seats and tuck them in my husband's SUV. I decide to get a new glass top for our old iron table. Larger than the one we currently have so we can fit more family members around it. Larger for a smaller space. I select a paint color, decide where the dog beds will go, wrestle with whether to take a king or queen for the new guest room that will now double as my office.
My son and daughter-in-law happily adopt certain favorite furniture pieces. I am grateful that I can "visit" my china hutch, my nightstands and an antique chest at their home. My daughter and son-in-law, less attached to the "stuff" of our family, eagerly offer to post for online sale those items no one wants. Piles for donation grow in our garage.
As I relinquish some of my well-loved possessions in the process of downsizing, I realize that this is a voluntary move. I have time to process this change - a natural disaster, or debt-disaster, or other tragedy has not snatched everything from my arms without warning.
I have a peace.
It's not without grief, this state of well-being. I grieve and say goodbye to a home - and a life - that I no longer need nor am called to. But I know that I will take with me many well-lived lessons into my new smaller space. Every square inch.
Elisa Morgan is an author and speaker and the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her latest book is The Prayer Coin. Her other books include The Beauty of Broken, Hello, Beauty Full, and She Did What She Could. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.