A few months ago, Amy and I sold our Minneapolis home of six years and made our way across the country to Phoenix, Arizona. The temperature here averages around 110 degrees Fahrenheit on most days. Although it’s a dry heat, it makes extended outdoor time difficult. It’s been a hot, busy summer and the time seems to be flying by.
It’s been quite different from what we were used to after more than a decade in the midwest.
Over Labor Day weekend, we were back in Minneapolis for a good friend’s wedding. The weather was a crisp 70 degrees or so, with beautiful sun and clouds throughout. It’s that temperature where you can walk around comfortably indefinitely without needing to take cover from the sun.
So that’s exactly what we did one morning. We drove from the hotel over to our old neighborhood in southeast Minneapolis and split a breakfast burrito at one of our favorite little café spots. We parked the car and started walking towards our old home, about six long blocks down the avenue.
This house was special to us. It’s the home where I started this website, where we lived for the earliest years of our marriage, where we brought home our dog, Rocky, for the first time. Over the years, it housed family and friends, provided space for a multitude of projects, and was a roof over our heads.
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It was a big decision to sell this house at the time we did.
It was comfortable, affordable, and we knew it thoroughly inside and out. I knew that I was going to miss it and the different quirks about it. On that final day, when we drove away in a moving truck with all of our worldly possessions, it felt surreal. It was an uncomfortable feeling to know that we probably wouldn’t ever go back inside that house again.
But now, the feeling has mostly settled, and it certainly felt real—especially as our walk took us directly in front of our old house.
It looked about the same as we left it, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia standing there. Rocky tugged on his leash towards the front lawn, probably wanting to dash into the backyard for a good run.
After a moment’s pause, we made our way down to the neighborhood park and sat on a shaded bench to, well… take everything in.
A little while later, Amy asked, “What do you miss about the house?”
Sitting there in the pinnacle of Minneapolis weather perfection, I had a hard time answering the question. Sure, there were things I missed: having a lush, green backyard for Rocky to freely run around in, being within walking distance to restaurants we liked, and the lovely neighbors we had.
But the actual house, I struggled to come up with precisely what it was that I missed. There were so many great memories in the house, many which we have pictures from as well.
After a long pause, I realized what it was that I missed.
What I missed was the idea of “having” the thing. When it came to the actual house, it was the idea of not owning or having access to it anymore that struck a chord.
Why? Well, because I had access to it previously. I associated the house itself with a lot of the positive memories and chapters of life that happened there.
As long as we can hold those memories in our photos, stories, and minds, we’ll still have them. We still have the marriage, the now three-year-old little dog that came home with us at 10 pm on a freezing January night, the things we created, the friendships we built, and the memories we shared.
But maybe the reason letting go can be so frightening is because we’ve been conditioned to believe certain things that aren’t true. That when we let go, we’ve lost both the thing and the experiences it helped us create. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been cultured to overvalue simply owning things. We’ve been taught to put much of our self-worth into the brands we buy, the home we have, the car we drive, and so on.
We can benefit from learning to view the ownership of things differently.
Instead of viewing things as a fortress we build upon throughout our lives, we can see them as vines we swing from as we make our way through.
Not unlike Tarzan swinging through the jungle.
As we make our way through the jungle of our lives (stick with me here), each vine carries us through a phase, a particular journey, or challenge. We can appreciate that vine for all it gave us. But at specific points, we may need to let go of that vine to extend and reach out for the next one—the one that might carry us further along our way. Without letting go of the vine we’re on, it would be nearly impossible to move to the next.
Additionally, we could be trying to hold on to too many vines.
If we never let go of anything, our efforts are rendered useless by multiple anchor points. It doesn’t matter how much we swing our legs to build momentum if we’re holding on to too many vines. When you let go, it not only allows you to move forward but often offers more.
It might even allow another human to benefit from it and forge their path through the jungle as well. Especially in the case of the little house we sold in southeast Minneapolis.
Not everything we need to let go of is quite so romantic in practice.
There will be some things that are easier to let go of than others, but we can change our perspective on the matter as we move throughout life. Don’t feel pressured to let go of something that serves you now, and serves the life you want to live going forward—especially something as big as a home.
However, as we move through different phases and transitions to pursue whatever a life well lived means to us, a subtle shift in mindset can make all the difference.
Here are some helpful questions when considering if it’s time to let go:
1 / Does it suit your needs now?
2 / What about it will you miss the most? Can you still have different but similar experiences without it?
3 / Will having it help you get where you want to go next? What about not having it?
4 / What possibilities might open in the space it currently occupies?
While we’re unsure what selling our Minneapolis house will bring, we know that growth opportunities will come from it. When it came to what we valued the most, it wasn’t the house. What we really valued were the memories we had in it with each other, family, and friends. And those things, we’ll be taking along with us.