Property nostalgia - why it’s hard to say goodbye to a beloved house

Where have you called home?

Where have you called home? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

There is undoubtedly a great deal of sentiment attached to property.

Leaving behind a family home can be tremendously hard

Leaving behind a family home can be tremendously hard - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

So far, during my life, I have had to extricate myself from several homes. For nearly my entire childhood my life revolved around three main properties – as I imagine it would do for a vast number of people. These houses were that of my own, in which I lived with my parents and sister, the home of one set of grandparents and then the home of the other set.

As of last Autumn, none of these homes are in my life anymore.

The first to bite the dust was the bungalow owned by my mother’s parents. My Nana’s untimely death in 1996 (don’t smoke, kids) was really my introduction to the feeling of loss (goldfish and hamsters aside). Although my Papa remained in that house for years after, he eventually decided to sell it. What had once been the setting of Fish & Chips Friday would now be somewhere I was no longer allowed to tread. The day I said goodbye to that home, at the age of 19, was a very strange one.

Weirder still was when my mother and step-father sold the home I’d grown up in, in 2013. I hadn’t lived anywhere else (other than when I was at university) up until the point I moved into my own place in 2011. My childhood was so firmly embedded in that house that when I was told it was on the market I wouldn’t believe it. But everything had changed by that point – both my sister and I had flown the nest, and at nearly 91 years old my Papa had passed away, having moved in with us in his later years. The place wasn’t needed any longer, and before long it was sold and I was having to deal with the boxes of ‘stuff’ I had stored in the attic for years and say goodbye to my old bedroom forever.


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The last of this trilogy of homes was only passed on last year, following the death of my Grandma, on my father’s side. Hers was the home I had known the longest out of all of them, and the sale of that kind of devastated me. This was the hardest to let go, given that it was very much the final nail in the coffin and I was essentially closing the door of my childhood for good.

Imagine my horror when only last week I drove past it like some kind of stalker to see huge metal fences erected outside, the front lawn totally torn up, the garage nowhere to be seen, and half of the actual house demolished. I pulled the car over, cut the engine, got out and found myself pressed up against the security fences staring at what was once the home of Spaghetti Bolognese Thursday.

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Truth be told, that house was in desperate need of a revamp. The kitchen had to be circa 1972 up until my Grandma’s passing. Had I won the lottery and bought the place myself to keep it in the family, the first thing I would have done was gut the place and re-do it. But still, this didn’t stop the sensation of “how dare they!?” flash angrily across my mind as I scrutinized what the new owners were doing to the place.

Just as I was about to break the law and slip through the gap in the fence to explore what was going on at the back of the house, the neighbour pulled into her driveway and looked at me as if I were the village creep, so I decided it best to get back into my car and head off without trespassing.

Unless you’re a complete robot, losing a property to someone else is a completely emotional moment. If you’re lucky enough to have had the kind of memories I had in the aforementioned houses, it’s essentially like losing a member of the family. And when someone else buys it, and suddenly you’re not allowed to cross the boundary without being eyed up by the neighbour, you almost feel as if you’re being cheated on by a lover.

But change is good – and most certainly part of life. I think that as I’ve seen these three homes disappear from my own life, I have understood this notion more and more. Chapters close, and you move on. And when it comes to choosing a new place to live, it’s important to remember this when you leave the old place behind; and think of the fondness you’ll eventually feel for wherever you end up next.

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