I’ve been a little tense lately. I’m gonna be a whole lot more tense for a few more weeks. Actually, I’m probably gonna be tightly wound through the end of 2021, a year I’m particularly looking toward ending. Just warning you now. I’m trying. Really, I am. But snippiness and lack of patience for a large amount of bullshit is gonna prevail.
I closed my business down today.
It’s possible PNW may, like the proverbial phoenix, rise again, but if it does, it’ll be far off into the future and will be quite small. Probably sparrow-sized, not phoenix-sized.
The pandemic ruined me. Not mincing words. Like pretty much every small business owner discovered, the pandemic was especially harsh on local small businesses. While I held on much longer than expected thanks to a handful of wonderful, dear clients, most of whom I now consider friends, the ongoing precautions, lack of travel and work-from-home tableau crushed me as 2021 showed 2020 how to really perfect a kick in the ass.
Still, I entered 2021 with some measure of hope. And then on January 13, a freak windstorm that was poorly forecasted – as in it was not – arrived in the middle of the night and blew a 100-foot Douglas fir onto the top of my house.
Time to exit stage left.
I’d already been thinking about a move prior to the start of the Covid Times. But my business was thriving. In January, 2020 I was extended as much as I could be physically and was faced with either keeping my business as a one-woman show or hiring an employee or two. Times were good. I figured I’d stay put for another couple of years, grow my business and eventually expand a couple of towns over to where I thought I’d really prefer to live. Fast forward 60 days and things went from 100 mph to zero in a week’s time.
I spent much of 2020 in limbo. Really, I was in some sort of depressive dream-like state of denial. Instead of trying to do something to move forward, er, like clean closets or reorganize the garage, or research what the real estate market was doing, I went hiking. I hiked a lot. When I wasn’t working, hanging on to what little bit of my business I still had, I was deep in the woods somewhere with a dog, or four, sometimes with a friend or two, exploring fauna and gazing at scenic vistas. Hiking is kinda how I deal. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol. I smugly pride myself on my healthy choice of addiction to miles of forest.
So, unlike so many who fretted by learning how to cook at home, binging on Netflix and parking on the couch, I still fit in my pants, even finding that I could fit into smaller pants, thanks to my newfound joy of reconnecting with nature and with my dogs. Note: my dogs loved the dark days of the pandemic. So much time to frolic and explore with a suddenly very accommodating Human.
So, when that tree came down on top of my house, it was a sign. Get the fuck outta town.
I had actually put on my calendar to contact a realtor in January to find out what I needed to do to get my house ready for sale. However, even time spent sniffing too much pine scent in the woods didn’t alter the reality that no one wants to buy a house with a tree laying across the top of it.
Guess what? I, like virtually any homeowner that has deal with a major repair or renovations, seriously underestimated the amount of time it would take to make it appear that it is not a serious risk to live among 100 foot tall trees that sway dangerously to and fro in any wind event, no matter how picturesque.
Of course, those six months would have been a good time to do some serious purging. And I did. At least of part of the house. Forced by the event and the need to clear two of the biggest rooms in the house of all debris, er, furnishings and whatnot, I was a single-minded whirlwind. I gave away stuff, I threw away stuff, I packed stuff, I had stuff hauled away, I rented a storage unit and made numerous trips back and forth. All in a week’s time.
And then I went hiking. A lot. With my dogs. Whenever the work-people and tradespeople needed to access the house to conduct the repairs and make it look like it never happened.
In June, my house was fully repaired. The real estate market was doing crazy, stupid things. I had a house that was half-empty. I also had several agility trials to trial secretary for and a whole lot of summer hiking to do. All good, I figured it would be easy to make a goal of doing bits at a time. Isn’t that the advice we are so often given? Approach a large task by breaking it into smaller parts as the smaller bits are easier to digest?
Except when much of what you need to purge and organize and pack is upstairs and the temperate Pacific Northwest is seeing temperatures climb to an unprecedented 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Okay, that knocked out a good week, or two or three as the heat just kept on coming, albeit more like the 90s.
I realized as July was nearing its end that the breaking tasks into small pieces bit wasn’t working for me. That’s when I just started pulling shit out of closets, corners, under beds, and putting it into three piles. The keeping it pile, the throwing into the trash or recycle pile, and the giving away and making it someone else’s problem, or perhaps beloved item, pile.
The scale of these three piles began to change very drastically as this process went on. Quite shortly, the keeping it pile was always the much smaller stack of stuff.
I could write an entire piece on my discoveries as I went through 20 years of being in the same place, despite going through at least two massive purges in the past. But I won’t, for now.
I’ve never lived in any one place as long as I’ve lived in this house. Not even as a kid. We moved around a lot up until I was nine years old. While I consider the run down farm in Maine as the place I grew up, I left for college when I was 18 years old. I came back and lived there on and off a couple of times, and I lived in a little bungalow in Portland, Maine for nine years. That latter place previously held the record for where I had lived the longest. That was a bitch to move out of too. Lot of purging then as well.
Finally, in late August, I was prepared to put my house up for sale. The listing went live just after Labor Day and my house had a buyer within five days. It’s a crazy market. I do have to brag though that the guy that came to take the professional listing photos paid me one of the grandest compliments I’ve ever received.
“Your house doesn’t smell like you have a dog, never mind four dogs!”
This is because I have border collies. Not only are they the most magical of all canines, but we also spend a lot of time in the woods and they smell like pine needles, spring water and freshly turned soil. Well, except for the one that sometimes likes to roll in offensive organic matter. Dawn dish soap and coconut hair shampoo usually takes care of that though.
The pending sale was a huge milestone. But the real fun was only just beginning.
In the past nearly six weeks I have driven over 1,500 miles, toured seven counties, all west of the Cascades – although east of the Cascades was seriously under consideration for a period, lost track of the number of houses I looked at, and placed offers on five houses.
I fell, hard, in love with a house I looked at fairly early on. It was in an area I wasn’t originally interested in living, but one tends to change their mind once they realize that the same market in which you sold your house in so quickly was the same market you have to find a new living arrangement in. I almost passed on even looking and my realtor wasn’t even originally going to show me because the marketing pictures made it look like little downtrodden house on the prairie. It was not. It was gorgeous and delightful. It had also been on the market for nearly 30 days probably for the same reason I nearly didn’t look at it. Two lessons here. One, don’t judge from the picture. Two, have your realtor take good pictures or hire a professional to take good pictures. Worked for me! Sadly, I missed out on it by a few hours as an offer was accepted prior to me seeing it. Another lesson, make sure your realtor knows how to actually communicate with other realtors. More sadly, the sellers were apparently aggravatingly moral people who felt compelled to stick with the offer in hand they had, instead of flying toward my compelling offer. I didn’t even know those kind of people still existed, especially in this real estate market.
I was broken for nearly a week after that. I haven’t fallen in love like that in years.
Luckily, I worked with two wonderful, dear women who are not only wonderful and professional, but they are both also “dog peeps.” Whew! What a relief to not have to explain the obsession with yards, fencing, neighbors that are too close, busy roads, etc. I ditched the guy that wasn’t a dog person not only for his obvious cluelessness about things that matter, but also because certain counties in this state that aren’t even called King or Pierce think they now too are super special thanks to all the work-from-home techie types yearning to leap into sustainable gardening and farm life or to live on the edge of the Northern Cascades despite scary bears, mountain lions and coyotes all plotting to eat their small animals and children. I’ve made some predictions with a few trusted friends for the five-year outlook on these scenarios.
The search has been a roller-coaster of highs and lows, pretty much like everything has been in the past 18+ months. A move back to the East Coast was seriously on the table. In fact, I had told myself that if my fifth offer, on a place I very much liked and had been coveting for a few weeks, was not accepted, I’d move back east. I even started researching dog agility and clubs in the areas I was interested and looked at herding opportunities. You all have Fate to thank, or curse, for me staying in Western Washington.
Anyway, this is my rambling way to let you know I did find a place that met my criteria for a house with character, but not so much character that I’ll be sending money down a sieve for years to come. I’m excited that while it does have a lovely yard, it’s not a huge one, but it’s just down the road from a state park where the dogs and I can dip our feet in the water and not far from a preserve where we can explore new trails. I’ll still be within a reasonable distance of my beloved Cascade foothills and the Cascade range, but also closer to the Olympics and thus new exploration.
Twenty years is a long time to live in one place. The marathon toward change hasn’t ended yet, and I admit I’m edgy to get to the finish, but 2022 is starting to look a little different.
Also, I have two grand women I can recommend highly if you’re as sick of King County as I am.