Rituals for leaving a house you don't want to leave?
January 14, 2020 10:13 AM   Subscribe

My good pal is shortly moving out of a house she has loved, in a place she has loved, for a bunch of sad reasons. What's a good way to say goodbye to the house?

Sad things happened to a close friend: layoff + extended unemployment; the end of a long-term relationship; financial crisis; geographic issues; being left with literally zero genetic family. Now she is forced to sell her beloved home and leave the city where she has been super happy and found a real sense of community. (That part is totally nonnegotiable because reasons; no suggestions needed.)

She is very sad about a lot of things, but one biggie is leaving this specific house, which she has loved and which she thought would be her forever home. How can she ritualize or memorialize leaving it? We both thought of "take a lot of photos" as an obvious way, but is there more? Will entertain all suggestions that aren't crazy expensive. She has no money but I am willing to spend something to make this happen.

Caveat: the home is in a desirable place and may be sold quickly and without ever being formally on the market, so there never may be beautiful photos taken by the real estate agent, or beautiful staging done. So the home itself is in a bit of disarray and may stay that way -- full of moving boxes, etc. And I live in a different state.
posted by BlahLaLa to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When we moved out of our first house, the real estate agent had a local artist do a color sketch of the front of the house and framed it for us. It was above-and-beyond service from the agent, and a really neat keepsake of the house we'd put so much of ourselves into.
posted by notsnot at 10:24 AM on January 14, 2020 [19 favorites]

Best answer: If you can, leave a photograph or keepsake hidden somewhere.
posted by theora55 at 10:26 AM on January 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry your friend is going through a rough time.

She might find Mari Kondo's ritual of thanking a home for sheltering its inhabitants and being, well, a home, helpful. It's in nearly every ep of Tidying Up With Mari Kondo, if she doesn't want to bother with the book.
posted by Tamanna at 10:27 AM on January 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I really love house portraits. This illustrator does incredibly warm and loving illustrations of homes for clients. I would guess her rates are probably too reasonable.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 10:29 AM on January 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

If the house has even the smallest yard, perhaps taking a little bit of the soil or a clipping of a favorite plant and putting it in a special vial as a keepsake? Or some of the house's water? There are people who can make that kind of thing into jewelry.
posted by yhlee at 10:30 AM on January 14, 2020 [9 favorites]

It's a bit silly, but burrying a memorium deep underground in the yard would appeal to me. (You can get an engraved piece of marble from a funerary supplier for around $20 online.)

Planting a reasonably mature tree is another idea.

Best wishes and sympathy to your friend.
posted by eotvos at 10:30 AM on January 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If she'll have space for outdoor plants at the new place, taking a cutting from the garden can be a nice living memento (I did this when cleaning out a grandparent's house). Success will vary with the plant, but rooting hormone is pretty cheap and instructions for specific varieties are readily available online.
posted by veery at 10:31 AM on January 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I may in this position soon, so I've been thinking a lot about this. When I moved in years ago, my stepkids were still really young. One day when the drywall in the living room was open, we each signed and dated the framing planks, wrote little messages to the future, and tacked up a couple pictures before we sealed it all up. I'm happy knowing that's in there, and I expect I'll be hiding other little love notes to the house to tuck around like messages in bottles.

I also want to have a big potluck with all my neighbors. They'll take pictures, too, I hope. It's so much better to have photos of the house filled with life.

Are there any plants your friend can dig up from her yard to take along to the next destination? It's a living link having my mom's and grandma's irises growing in my yard, and they'll be coming with me (although I'll leave some for others to enjoy).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:31 AM on January 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

When I had to sell a much loved house, I put together a history of the house for the new owners. Now my house was 150 years old & over my years living there I'd gathered photos of it over the decades as well as photos before & after the renovations I had done. Leaving copies of those photos along with all the information I'd gathered for the new owners made me feel more like I was passing on a place I'd loved to some other people to love and it would look after them & make them happy as it had made me happy instead of feeling like i was abandoning it.

My mother loved gardening & always took cuttings from plants when she moved, she had a flowering bush in her last house when she passed away that she could trace back to the garden of the very first house she rented in Australia 50 years earlier.

My sympathies to your friend, I know how much it can suck.
posted by wwax at 10:33 AM on January 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

This is kind of silly but in the uk and Ireland houses often have names, and the names are usually put out on a sign... sometimes people take these signs with them when they move (for sentimental reasons) maybe help her name her house NOW, a name that embodies the house, why she loves it, where it is, the house’s personality... and have it put on a placard so she can bring it to her next place?
posted by catspajammies at 10:37 AM on January 14, 2020

When my parents moved out of a house we had lived in for many years, they had a large basket of dried flowers in the front hallway from various graduations, anniversaries, etc. I was shocked at how much better I felt when I took a few flowers, burned them, then scattered the ashes in the yard. It was reassuring to know that part of my family’s history would stay with the house for good. Maybe if there is a way to leave part of her story with the house, that will help?
posted by corey flood at 10:41 AM on January 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When we were moving from my childhood home, I took a bunch of photos FROM the house, looking out onto the street and the neighborhood. They're just random candid shots, but they meant a lot to me afterward. It's a view that you see every single day and then never again...Looking at them brought me right back to my old front steps (where the photos were taken from).

When I moved from another place, I brought potted plants from the old house and I still treasure them. Of course, that has the problem that the plants might die. But still, bringing a living thing from the old house to the new one is nice.
posted by rue72 at 10:46 AM on January 14, 2020 [18 favorites]

Best answer: I'm facing a similar leave-taking and am grateful for the video walk-throughs I've informally made for friends in the past few years where I walk from the front door throughout the house and show each room, as it is, no prepping. I've had different reasons for making them each time but it's already comforting to me to know I'll be able to look back on them after we've left this place.
posted by annathea at 10:55 AM on January 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Cleaning the house really well when she moves out? It works both from a seeing-all-the-intimate-details side and from a closure/fresh-start-for-new-owners side.

+1 verbally thanking the house, perhaps including thanking different rooms / areas / features.
posted by momus_window at 11:08 AM on January 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

If it were me in your pal's situation - I would be afraid of being bitter, and turning the loss of "my" house to resentment towards the future owners. That resentment wouldn't do the new folks any harm as I'll be long gone - but it would do harm to me through feelings of jealousy.

So I like the idea of a two-parter - one thing for me as a memento, and one gift to the new people, to start their possession from a place of generosity and good will.

The house we live in had basically one owner before us for 50 years - they turned the house from a tiny cottage to a 3 bedroom house with random additions, etc. They raised a large family and the street corner has a name of the family on it as a memorial.

I went to the city hall and made copies of all of the building permits issued - it was great to see the history of the house, from permits type-written on index cards back in the 1920's, to more modern multi-part laster printed documents. If your pal doesn't have a house history or a lot of money to make a welcoming gift- the city hall could make one for for just the cost of copying all the permits and putting them in an envelope.

After we had been in our house for a couple years, an older woman showed up, introduced herself as a daughter of the previous owners, and told me some secrets about what was her childhood home like how they would sneak out of a bedroom window onto a low roof. A couple of weeks later she left an envelope with copies of photos of the renovation where they added bedrooms. It was really nice.
posted by sol at 11:10 AM on January 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

Our house has a piece of trim that someone used as a kids' height chart, but with the adults' heights mixed in too. If I were moving out under similar circumstances, I would definitely add mine.

Another thought: the previous owners put together a nice packet of helpful information for us. It really felt like they were handing the house and its care off, rather than just conducting a business transaction. It seemed like the sort of thing where preparing it could give one a sense of sad closure.
posted by teremala at 11:11 AM on January 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

In 2017, my partner and I gave up the NYC apartment that had been in his family for 50 years, and that we had lived in together for 10 years. It was the most difficult decision of my partner's life. The apartment was going to be gut renovated when we left, so we were able to take out every single fixture/light/hardware that we wanted. That probably isn't feasible for your friend, but she could swap out meaningful pieces before she puts it up on the market.

We took the mirrored door off a vintage medicine cabinet, and it now hangs in our living room foyer. A wooden radiator cover from my partner's childhood bedroom is now a bench on our front porch. I incorporated the vintage glass and chrome towel bars we took into my bathroom renovation in the new house. They are literal touchstones for that apartment, and we really love seeing them everyday.
posted by kimdog at 11:20 AM on January 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

When we were moving from my childhood home, I took a bunch of photos FROM the house, looking out onto the street and the neighborhood.

A childhood friend of mine painted a picture for me of the view from my childhood bedroom—I keep it in my bedroom wherever I live. I love to sit and just look at it.
posted by sallybrown at 11:31 AM on January 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When I went through something similar, I wrote my initials on the wall in a place that no one would see without knowing where to look, and was unlikely to be painted over.
posted by Mchelly at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

+1 to a video walkthrough. It could be hosted (someone holding the camera, home owner walking through and pointing out details/memories) or not (homeowner holding the camera and talking or not as the moment suits)

But it makes sense to me to show the house in motion and give context to how all the rooms connect together.
posted by itesser at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

When we moved into our house, we discovered that the little boy who lived here had written "This was Mike's room" in small print in the lower corner of his bedroom closet. Seventeen years later, I still haven't had the heart to paint over it. I may add my name to it when we eventually leave here.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:34 PM on January 14, 2020 [9 favorites]

On the day our family moved out of our long-time beloved house, we took an hour or so and shared memories from each space/ room.. as we walked through etc.
posted by mrmarley at 12:50 PM on January 14, 2020

Sweetie Darling I did this in a house I loved.
posted by freethefeet at 3:16 PM on January 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

We will close on the sale of our first house in two days. We moved out already and tonight we went over to say goodbye. We wrote a note to the new owners on the wall in the crawlspace (we are the fourth family to do this). We hugged the walls and rolled all over the floors and laughed about the squeaky stairs I won't miss. We cried a little. It felt a bit goofy, especially the hugging of the walls, but it did feel like closure and I think it helped solidify it for our kids.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:06 PM on January 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Could you commission a small Etsy-affordable piece of art, to give a little more heart than just a snapshot.
posted by Grandysaur at 8:25 PM on January 14, 2020

As many have suggested, a painting of the house is great. We have one of our first house hanging in our second. We had to move for some practical reasons but loved our first house dearly. My sister-in-law gifted us an oil painting, which she created from a photo we had.

I'm happy to share the result through DM.
posted by condour75 at 3:28 AM on January 15, 2020

+1 to having an artist do a color sketch of the house. My parents had this for their old house and we got one for our old house and I love both of those sketches.
posted by Tehhund at 8:15 AM on January 15, 2020

My parents have a black and white sketch of my childhood house in a frame. I love it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:18 AM on January 16, 2020

I have a small jar labeled:

The air from one perfect day at the North Shore
5:00 pm, 30 May 1999
(resort), (city)

She could do something similar; maybe write some additional words of what the house meant to her or how the positives will travel with her, in her heart. Or even a few extra special memories. Or write them on strips of paper and enclose inside the jar.

That little jar never fails to bring me a sense of calm and love when I look at it.
posted by dancing leaves at 1:56 PM on January 16, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. I did end up ordering a watercolor painting from an Etsy seller.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:33 PM on January 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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