When a Home Becomes a House

“It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.”  ─ Author Unknown

In the past nine months, both my mom and dad passed away. My brother, sisters, and I will miss the laughter and love that made their house a home.

Now we are left with the daunting task of dismantling the house and getting it ready to sell. This is not an easy thing to do. What do you do with all the belongings? How do you share the work when brother and sisters are spread across the country and there’s only so much time when everyone is together as a family? When is it the right time to choose special items that carry sentimental value for each of the siblings and grandchildren? Sometimes when you think you’re doing the right thing, life throws you curve balls that smack you in the noggin. And let me tell you, there are lots of things in my parents’ house to smack you in the noggin!

There are treasures stored in every conceivable place throughout the house – drawers, closets, cabinets, trunks, dressers, attic, and garage. For once I was happy that my parents chose to retire in Florida. They had no basement to squirrel away more things.

My mom and dad saved everything from the time each of us was born. We found baby cards, birthday cards, graduation cards, Christmas cards, and report cards. There were suits, jackets, dresses, Easter hats, baby shoes, and family linens. There were drawings from grade school, papers we did in high school and college, newspaper articles about our achievements, and a ton of unorganized family photos. There were numerous ceramic Christmas trees made by my mom, old ornaments, and boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations. And still there was more. Along with all of this came a few mouse droppings and a dead cockroach or two!    

As I made my way from one box to another, one word came to mind as I thought of my own house, PURGE! I can remember a conversation I had with my dad as we sat in his office, cleaning out some old papers last year. His exact words were, “Someday, you’re going to have to get rid of all this.” I wish someday didn’t have to come so soon for many reasons.

Before leaving, I looked around. I still have memories of my parents in that house, and there are still things that have sentimental value that need to be taken care of, but it feels empty without my parents there. It’s no longer a home. It’s just a house with things in it. A home is a place where you feel love wrapping its arms around you as soon as you walk through the front door. It’s the hugs, kisses, and smiles that are shared by the special people who live there. Those people don’t live there anymore. It’s time to let someone else make my parents’ house a home.

Some of my favorite books about houses:

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1978), The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster (Michael Di Capua Books, 2005), The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2008)

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2 Comments on “When a Home Becomes a House”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Cathy, I can closely relate to the pain, suffering, and clutter. I am so sorry for your losses and I know we will hold on to the memories with or without the things.


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