The last items are scattered throughout the various shared spaces of the house.
A dish or two here, shampoo and conditioner there, way too many suitcases closed away in the closet so I don’t have to face that I still have too much sh*t and that I really can’t justify bringing it all to Hawaii.
As I awkwardly interacted with my roommate during our last 24 hours in the house together, not quite knowing what to do with myself, I came to realize that I also haven’t quite known how to say goodbye to this place—this house and the people who have made Boulder feel like home.
How do we say properly say goodbye to the people and places we quarantined with during a historic pandemic or those with whom we expressed the deepest, most hidden of our lessons and thoughts amidst the beginnings of a historic movement for racial justice? How do we say goodbye to a house that saw us through all of that, the birth of new love, and the struggle for a place within a new job?
As is the answer to most things, the key is presence. And presence is hard.
I’ve not been “here,” really; I’ve been in the empty room. The empty room. The empty room. So focused on that empty room that I forgot to enjoy it one last time in its fullness.
I’ve been in the memories attached to those tiny elements of décor that make a place feel like home—my grandmother’s things passed down. So in the memories that I forgot to make the last ones with my dear friends.
I’ve been in and out of storage with imaginary loads and real ones, evaluating what might fit and what might not. I’ve been in the car, mentally reorganizing where each of the too-many items will go, telling myself there will be space enough to make love to my boyfriend in it for the first and last time. So preoccupied with space that I forgot to enjoy all of the nature around me.
While I scheduled and calculated and figured everything out, I wrote in no time for closure.
So, here are 10 steps to leaving a home and everything that makes it so, learned from everything I didn’t do, (and some that I did):
1. Double up.
If you figure that it’ll take you x amount of time to pack up and “move out,” give yourself twice that time to balance everything that goes into saying goodbye.
You’ll want that time to be able to accept that invitation to so-and-so’s last-minute birthday bash instead of having to decline because you have to get everything done.
You’ll want that extra time to use up that last bit of bath salts and that bath bomb you forgot to use months ago.
And let’s be honest: you’ll want it for all the cleaning you repressed knowing you’d have to do. As one friend put it, “When moving, all good intentions lead to the same damn place: a full day of hell.”
2. Enjoy the space alone, with intention.
Do it before you pack a single thing.
Carve out a day to take in the space: The way the light floods the room at around 4 p.m. and paints shadowed lines on the floor; the peek-a-boo, purple-orange Flatiron view from the window at sunrise and sunset; the smell of your room dusted with the green tea incense ashes you never swept off the floor. Be with the great indoors you’ve created.
3. Enjoy the space with friends, with intention.
Give your home a little send-off for the coziness it offered. It doesn’t have to be a party; it could be a meal or one last tour of the space and then a fire in the back yard—anything to honor the friendships the home (even just your being there) helped to facilitate.
4. KonMari the sh*t out of your sh*t.
Plan extra time for this. Hold every item in your hands and send it a goodbye or a see you later. Don’t just shove it in boxes in an urge to get it all done.
5. Be extra.
Give extra hugs, ask extra questions, give extra compliments. Don’t let the time for those last hugs from roommates pass by. Don’t let the chance to get to know them just a little better, or to show them your affection and appreciation slip away.
6. Chart out all the places that make your city feel like home. Sit with them.
The café where you decided that you were going to move there. You know, the one with the brick and the old, creaky wood, and the back patio with a sandbox for the kids.
That stretch of the creek where you watched the leaves glitter the rock with sunspots in your flowered dress and vowed to never let it get old.
That one place you got a little too drunk and danced like a crazy woman to the beat of someone’s drum—so hard your brow dropped beads of sweat onto the brick walkway and you left laughing between too-little gasps for air.
Decide if these are places that are best suited for you to spend time with alone, or with others. Prioritize and schedule dates with these places on a calendar. Put the most important ones first.
7. List all the people who made your city feel like home. Schedule time with them.
List every person who makes your place your place. It can be coworkers and bosses, friends and family, roommates—even that one barista.
Prioritize them and pencil them into your calendar. Consider, as you do, who you want your very last moments to be spent with. You might be surprised who comes up as high on the list as they do.
I wish I would’ve been able to make my goodbyes more ritualistic. Instead, my friends walked me “home” one last time, and yelled “penis” from the sidewalk as I drove away (which honestly couldn’t have been a more authentic send-off if we’d tried).
8. Spend time in the empty space.
When it’s all empty, allow yourself to fill it with just the memories or even to imagine yourself vacuuming them all up into a bag to take them with you. Notice how different the space feels without your belongings and with the absence of the intent to stay there. Be present with the feeling of the emotional ties slipping away.
9. Drive away.
Look in the rear and side-view mirrors a ton. Be the irritatingly slow driver or the annoyingly sentimental person in the Uber or on the bus, looking around.
Take in the surroundings as you make the transition away from what you knew and were comforted by, and the new emotional stretch mark you’re growing while entering someplace new.
10. Grab a box of tissues and let yourself cry.
Let yourself feel it before the end. Let yourself laugh through the tears that come in joy, and your whole being ache with the pain of what you’ll grieve.
As I sit in the midst of what is set to be another month of this hectic rush, I offer you the wisdom I gained from my regrets in not bidding a proper adieu to the first home that I have decided to make all on my own.
May your future transitions be full of presence and intention.