High rise heartbreak

dirtboy58January 17, 2011

Well. Fifteen years and three children later, we're empty nesters. Wife & I decided to downsize and move closer to her job and live more intelligently. Our house with a pond and native habitat is on the market. We're living in a small one bedroom highrise apartment downtown. I am heartsick over leaving all the trees and shrubs and wildlife behind. I'm so concerned the new owners won't appreciate the habitat and will even kill the little garden snakes that come along. But we don't need the four bedrooms and higher utility bills. What to do? Anyone in this forum relate to this and have any ideas? Trying to be strong and do the right thing. It's a bit easier now with snow on the ground and everything dormant, but come spring I may go insane.

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Do what makes YOU happy in life.
If you loved your home, move back.
You can learn all kinds of ways to cut down on expenses, besides, it's your turn now.
Enjoy life and be happy.
Move back, you know you want to.
You only go around once.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 1:17AM
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City life isn't for everyone. Only you can determine if it is for you or not.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 9:20AM
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That condo will never grow trees & birds.

I'd move back.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 12:08PM
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There are a lot of options in between

4 bedrooms with a pond and habitat
one bedroom city highrise.

Sound like you need to choose one in the middle....

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 12:14PM
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Those kids that have moved out will someday have kids of their own and will come home for visits. The house will be filled once again.
In the mean time have you thought about renting a room or two out to visiting business men that want something more homey than a hotel room? The extra money could make staying put a better deal.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 2:43PM
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Buy a small house closer in to the city center. Or buy a townhouse with a small yard.

Once you move out of your current house, it's no longer your house. Look forward! Life's too short to spend it looking out the rear view window.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 2:51PM
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I'd urge you to seriously reconsider. My husband and I sold our beloved first home after we lived there for thirteen years. We did tons of improvement to the house and I put in lots of gardens where none had existed previosly. We adored that house. This was three and a half years ago, and I have regret to this day. Once your house sells, there's no going back. Quite honestly, I was surprised at the intensity and duration of my grieving for our old home. It wasn't until about half a year ago that I started really feeling affection toward the home we have now. I hear so much sadness in your post, also.

"We don't need the four bedrooms and higher utility bills."
Can you afford them? Not all decision should be based upon purely practical/financial things.

Or, as someone else wisely counseled, there's a large space between your on-the-market home and a city high rise. Please consider some other options.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 3:28PM
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Wow. I really appreciate all of you for responding. All of you bring good thoughts. We started with a sterile backyard in '97 and now trees and shrubs at their maturity; almost like leaving all my children behind. Several people have commented that our yard is something they didn't expect to see for our somewhat homogeneous suburb. The birds planted everything else over the years those are my favorites.

Living in an apt in the concrete jungle makes me appreciate the green spaces even more. I sometimes took it for granted. Our situation is also temporary. Perhaps as some of you said we can find something in between, maybe something not too strictly controlled by an HOA :) I've heard that it feels good to give one of your favorite things away. If a family with young children move into our home, perhaps they'll come to appreciate what we've spent years planting. Over the years my wife has tried to understand my preoccupation with our yard, (incl the birds, bees, bugs and snakes), but it does tear at the very core of who I am. Thank you again to all of you! Paul

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 6:18PM
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We too had a country home with a large pond, woods and trees. Big garden, animals and a barn. But the children were grown and my husband mowed acres of grass that no one played on.
We sold to a family with three children, riding toys, and lots of energy for fishing and swimming, tree fort building, kite flying and all that. We moved to an apartment in a small town. We miss the land, the trees, the pond and the animals but not the work. We see the new owners (family) and enjoy knowing that the land is alive with family again. When our children come to visit we explore the parks, beaches and festivals in town. We don't mow grass. I have a spot in the community garden, I get dirty there. Life is about change - enjoy your memories while making new ones. You will feel better when your old place has new owners and you know it is being loved anew.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 8:52PM
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Thanks kts2

The flipside is no yard work and allowing a young family enjoy our hard work. You mentioned community garden. What a great idea. I just found out that Denver has an urban garden volunteer program. Since we're in the heart of the city, I will definitely look into that. Sounds like a win win. I am overwhelmed with a new feeling purpose and hope!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 9:07PM
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Though we haven't been in our home as long as you, I can understand what you're going through. I've put a TON of work and care into the landscaping around our home, and I worry that the new owners won't appreciate it or care for it as I have.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 10:27AM
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I feel your pain. Before I married DH, I had a little house in a little town...bought a "piece of coal", but with hard work and a lot of joy, I turned it into a "jewel". People called it "the doll house". I sold that house when I married and then it was sold again and now it looks like a dump!!!! I cry everytime I go by it and wish I were back there.

Maybe you can turn one bedroom into an office, and have a couple of guest rooms for when the kids come home, but if you can afford the house, I'd stay there. It sounds like you have so much pain when you think about leaving it...so don't if you don't have to. Once it sells, you can't go back...and I'd hate to see what happened to mine, happen to yours...it sounds beautiful and peaceful compared to a high-rise in a big city.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 6:47PM
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Wow, this tugs at my heart-strings. We are in a similar situation.

We sold our home this past March. We lived there for 39 years. An acre of property where we planted every shrub, tree, flowerbeds, walkways, etc. Every spring was breathtaking as we watched our Cherry Trees, Dogwoods, Magnolias, Azaleas, etc. bloom. Remembered planting each one as a tiny tree. We always had dogs, wildlife and kids so never used chemicals or any toxics. We composted and grew everything organically.

We loved our property, its views and beauty. A few days before closing, NY got hit with a terrible ice/snow storm. In the, almost 40 years living there, we lost trees, shrubs, a total mess. We had a huge, 150ft Norway Spruce, which lost all its enormous branches from 2/3 down. It looked like a cell tower. Cost us a fortune to hire tree people to clean up the property the day of the closing. Snow was so deep, the lawn had to be snowplowed to get men and trucks in. A large Maple got pulled up from its roots and landed on the roof of our next-door neighbor.

We had moved to our rental a week before the closing and couldn't get to our house to see damage until the day of closing. The highways were closed due to fallen trees. Our old neighbors kept calling giving us reports of what was going on.

I always said our trees were angry we left! Now our property looks different, with the loss of those large trees. We sold to a young couple with two little children. They haven't changed anything, that we can see (we drive by every now and then and visit neighbors to peek).

We miss our home. It has been a difficult year. I keep feeling like I want to go home. I feel so displaced. We need to find 'roots' somewhere soon.

We are looking for a new place but know we need something big enough for our children and grandchildren to visit and stay over. So 4 bedrooms are a must. But we are looking at Townhouses (we're renting one now) that are single family owned. We don't want to deal with HOA's. We need a small yard but don't want to mow or plow anymore. We have 6 months left on our lease and still have no idea where to move. We love our area but taxes are too high (one reason we sold).

Wish you lots of luck. Keep us informed but take your time with whatever you decide.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Hi Jane,

Thank you for your posting. When I read about the damage of your trees it just broke my heart. That must have been so awful to see. As long as we remain "on the fence" I go back and sit on the back patio looking out over our work. Even in the dead of winter there are sounds of birds in the bushes. This was such a great sanctuary. Every spring brought new anticipation of a newly discovered seedling breaking through the leaf mulch wondering what it would become. I would spend hours outside. And I just realized that's what I did as a child. I don't believe there is anything more fulfilling than creating a habitat and watching nature arrive.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2011 at 2:40PM
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We are planning to do the same thing. Sell our 4 bed/4 bath and move downtown into something much smaller. The primary goal for us is to greatly reduce my husbands commute from the 50 minutes on a good day to 2 hours on a bad day to less than 15 minutes in rush hour for the last 5 or 10 years of his career. We also would like less to take care of.

I have spent the last year converting my flower beds over to shrubs for ease of maintenance for the next owner. For dirt time downtown I plan to volunteer at the botanic gardens and perhaps find a community garden or just work my way through the multitude of parks, small and large in Atlanta. This is only an intermediate stop it is not for the entire second half of our lives. Hopefully I won't feel as at a loss as some are expressing.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 9:56AM
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Boy, can I relate to your plight. My husband died very young leaving me with a 4 bd home and 1/2 acre in the woods to care for (no kids at home though). It was a financial struggle, as was learning to run the power equipment necessary to maintain this place. I bought an easier to start mower and chainsaw, and found my soul in the garden. I hauled and shoveled and wheelbarrowed uphill yards and yards of topsoil, bark and compost. I dug and moved and chopped until I had it how I wanted it (which lasts for the better part of a year until it needs to be done again). It is now a bird sanctuary, with critters galore; my prized visitors are a family of wild red foxes who clean up under the birdfeeders each day.

One of the things I did that helped tremendously to justify living in a large home alone was take in boarders. Only one at a time; I live near a college, so it was easy to find students. I never advertised and was always able to find someone who was a friend of a friend or the child of someones friend or?? Always loved them all, made some life long younger friends. Some of them loved helping in the garden. I could leave and travel and know someone would fill the birdfeeders and keep the gardens watered, the cats fed, etc. I've also rented to government workers who commute home on the weekends and only want a weekday sleeping spot. Perfect!!

Just an idea...I never thought I'd want to share my home with strangers, but depending on your set-up, it might be something to consider.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 2:36PM
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We have kept our large home so that our kids can come home and stay here, especially once they marry and have kids of their own. We live in a temperate climate, and so we can just shut off rooms rather than air condition or heat the whole house. We bought this house so long ago, and prices have appreciated so much since then, that we could not ever find a remotely local smaller place for the same price we paid for this place, which is nearing being paid off. I value having my kids and their families visit all together at the holidays or whenever they wish, and so we have kept the house and bought larger/extra beds for their bedrooms.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 4:11PM
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It sounds like you miss your house but maybe your wife doesn't? You moved to be closer to her job, was it a really long commute before? Does she like living in the city?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 7:02PM
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Yes happyladi, you are correct. She never really liked the house and she's not an outdoor garden type (is this Green Acres all over again??). She loves the city. I love nature. Total opposites. She paid the price w/a long commute and loneliness in our house, not it's my turn. We did have disagreements in the past about how much time I'd spend with the yard. She'd stay in the house and I wanted to be out. I'm certain that she feels I probably value my passion higher than her. She doesn't have any hobbies and doesn't like to be alone and doesn't understand how I'm okay going on a hike or spending time alone (Ha, maybe we should have figured this out before we got hitched). I know that's not good. We had a long discussion last night and we both were in tears at times. It can't be either/or, I know there's a middle ground in this. Am I to become a hermit in old age? Either that or just insanity. Sorry to vent. I'm sure some of you have "been there, done that". Thanks for being a friend and understanding. Paul

    Bookmark   January 24, 2011 at 3:43PM
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Yes, that's what I picked up from your post. Are you retired? How about finding a smaller house that is close to the city but still has a small yard for you to putter in and fix up?

You mentioned she never liked the house, was it because it was too much for her to care for with her long commute and job? Maybe if you promise (and follow through) to really pitch in and do your share of the housework, cooking, and cleaning she would be happy to move to a smaller house near the city.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2011 at 4:30PM
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I think you both need lots of time to find a solution that's win/win ; there has to be a location that will please you both. In the meantime, try to find positive things about being in the heart of the city.

I wanted to leave beautiful grounds and live in the city: DH was not so sure,
but I promised him we would occasionally spend weekends in the country if he needed it. Possiby, you both could take road trips to the countryside in order to get grounded with nature again.

There are times in a mariage when it's the other one's turn to get what they want, not always easy but sometimes necessary, it seems that's what is happening to you. Good luck in all this.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 6:51AM
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Think of your future grandkids! They will love your house. My parents moved to a condo and it was difficult to visit when I had young children. There was no where for them to play outside.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 9:21AM
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Do keep in mind that there are lots of different types of condos. I moved into a condo-ed 100 year old house (3 units) in the middle of an urban area. We've got a tidy small garden that anyone one of the three of us can choose to work on at any time. We hire out lawn service and snow removal. So there's plenty of ability to tinker and beautify without any obligation to do so. This is my kind of gardening!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 9:23AM
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Paul, we moved from our suburban Denver home to Lowry and then to Longmont. We wanted to downsize after the last kid moved out and I am so glad we did. BUT I have to have green space; my husband would love to live in a condo in LowDo, but not me. Lowry had the best of both worlds, a cute little "town" center and still close to downtown Denver. We rented a duplex in Lowry (2nd and Quebec) that used to be junior officer's quarters. We loved it there because we had a yard in back that we could do anything with and all the greenspace around the house and in the front was taken care of by the homeownere's association. My point is that you can find middle ground. But you have to let go of the old house.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 2:05PM
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beachlily z9a

Oh my, good to listen to Denver people talk. I grew up there! Like the OP, I gotta have my hands in the dirt (or sand as it were)! I'm retired in FL and love creating a beautiful oasis in the backyard. However, that oasis is only 80 ft long and 35 ft wide. Husband would be happy with a zero lot home as long as it has a 4 car garage. Well, we have a big three car garage, nice compact home, small yard. He even has gotten interested in the daylilies I grow, but only when they are in bloom!

Please try to find a good compromise. Living in a highrise is my definition of he!! Sounds like it's yours too!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 9:30AM
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Dirtboy, you can take the boy out of the garden but no matter how hard you try, you will never get that garden out of the boy.

Marriage takes compromise, obviously, but I agree with many of the previous posters that there must be a solution less rash than both of you living in a hi-rise urban condo. We had to downsize in 2009 -- no choice (the Economy struck hard) but what we disovered was that our cost-of-living could be reduced enormously by shrinking the size and fanciness of the dwelling, while keeping a decent amount of land. I was the sole gardener in the family, and loved what I had put into the place where we lived (the cherry I planted from a whip, and where I photographed my daughter every spring, growing older and more lovely against that cloud-pink background), the collector plants and passalong iris and the special things given to me by people I cherished. I knew the name -- common, botanical, and cultivar -- of every growing thing in that landscape and had a deeply emotional relationship to the life forms that had taken root there or were just passing through. However, we both hated the craziness of our HOA, huge taxes, maintenance costs, etc., and our daughter had grown and gone. We found a small, older house -- less than half the size -- but with a good-sized lot, in a small, cheap town. Our property taxes went from $6000 to slightly over $200 (not a typo), very necessary with our reduced incomes, and when we finally sold the big house we were able to grade this lot and start gardening in earnest. It is wonderful to be starting anew with a bare canvas -- even my DH pitching in this time. I know without a doubt I would have shrivelled up and DIED if I had been denied some little piece of soil to poke in. When life fouls up there is nothing more restorative than being outside tending and caring for and coaxing things into life. Especially now that spring is on its way (it is, right?). Think about looking for a smaller place closer to your wife's job (although I realize that in popular cities like Denver these close-in n'hoods can be high-priced...)but which still has some ground to commune with when the cultivating bug grabs you. Like everyone else said -- Life is Short. Hold on to what makes you happy!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 5:52PM
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Hi Shenandoah. Thank you so much for your note. When I read about how you knew the names of each plant and how you had a deep emotional relationship with your plants, I totally lost it. That's exactly how I feel about our living things, some of which I found in the wild and transplanted into our yard. For instance, the incredible joy that I felt when after ten years of late spring freezes, our eastern hackberry had berries...finally! The first hummer came in our fifth year. That was huge for me. When the trumpet vine went to seed (I've NEVER seen that before!) I was amazed. After so many years, I love to find the mystery plants that show up by themselves.

I'd love to find a small house with a plot of land, but I'm afraid my DW loves the security/ammenities that come with this high rise. When you said "shrivelled up and die", that describes it perfectly. I feel like a bug trapped indoors. Paul

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 6:45PM
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I have just experienced this..last Summer we sold our house with my beautiful huge garden where I had planted over 100 shrubs and tons of perennials and had a nice potager. It was a garden to attract birds and pollinating insects. My garden was in Garden Tours and the local newspaper made an article on it. We sold because my partner and I separated.
I can't believe working so hard and leaving all this for strangers to enjoy if they don't start hacking down everything because it's too much work. Actually my beautiful garden was a drawback for a lot of visitors when our house was on the market: too much work.

Now I moved 1200km away, different zone 3B here (I was in 5A). I'm in the mountains (I was by the ocean). My backyard is tiny, the soil is very rocky and I have a lot of shade. Last night I was out with the dogs in my so very small backyard and decided I will try to make the best with what I have comes Summer.
Maybe this appartment living for you could be temporarily. If you have a sunny apartment with a balcony, you can cultivate inside a lot of house plants, and keep some on the balcony, grow herbs in pots. I had an elderly friend who was an amazing 'apartment gardener', when I was visiting him I was always amazed with his small apartment filled with flowery plants.
I learned that nothing is forever, you could see your situation as temporarily living in a highrise...like I see mine as temporarily living in the mountains...


    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 8:07AM
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I was so moved by your note. My heart sank when I read what you'd left behind. That must have been so painful. I would spend hours watching things grow, the insects on our flowers, snakes bathing in the sun, and birds fly from tree to tree and think "I'm in heaven". For a long time I felt alone in my love of this. I think the best thing about gardenweb is that we get validation and empathy from those who share in our passion. There's a large part of me that hopes our house doesn't sell. If I could I'd give our home a big hug and say thank you. :/ Paul

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 1:18PM
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Not sure how I feel about this, but as part of my therapy I will put the link to the article for your amusement/insight. Thanks! Paul

Here is a link that might be useful: IF YOU LOVE NATURE, MOVE TO THE CITY

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 11:24AM
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