'No virus was going to stop our dream of releasing the equity in our Ilkley home'

Moving house is one of life’s mot stressful events, it is accepted. Lorraine Behrens writes about doing it during a pandemic and saying goodbye to cherished memories.

Ikley. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Ikley. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

The three most stressful events in a life are commonly accepted as the death of a loved one, moving house, and divorce.

Having sadly experienced the first in April this year, and currently in the throes of the second, the third is likely to be initiated next time my husband points at the boxes containing my artworks and asks – yet again – is this for the dump? The last time we moved, back in 2016, I commented to our removal man that when I had been in my 20s I could fit all my possessions in a backpack. “It’s much the same,” he grinned. “You just have a much bigger backpack now!”

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It was inevitable that items we didn’t use but couldn’t bear to part with ended up in the loft of our house and last week we had to face their sorting and removal. Out went the bag of tiny baby clothes from our son (now out of university and working as a teacher); numerous self-recorded cassette and video tapes; bags of mouldy TV scripts; forgotten scraps of carpet.

Clutter.

It’s been marginally easier to get rid of my own stuff after being faced with dealing with the mass of hoarded papers, photographs and books at my stepfather’s house, following his death in April. The death of a close relative brings home the realisation of our own mortality, and that you really can’t take anything with you. But it’s so much easier to discard other people’s sentimental trash than your own. It’s fair to say that some of the carefully packaged possessions for our house move – that we just can’t bear to part with – will inevitably end up in the loft of our new home for another 15 years.

A divorce could very well be on the cards after I discovered Mr B attempting to dispose of various items I have bought for him as birthday and Christmas presents over the years. But if he asks me one more time if my boxes of cherished self-made ceramics, paintings and textiles are destined for the tip...

Of all the sensible things to do during a pandemic, putting your house on the market is probably not one of them. However, our plan to sell had been on the cards for a while now and we weren’t going to let any old virus stop us from our dream of releasing the equity in our home, located in the highly desirable environs of Ilkley and the Chevin. Our estate agent requested to do the viewings, so we had to move cars, go for walks and keep out of sight as complete strangers wandered in and out of our house. Fortunately we sold quickly – but the realisation of how much clutter we have accumulated over the years has been a shock to the system.

We have made numerous trips to the local tip (appointment only, due to Covid) with a great deal of our belongings going into the ‘re-use’ container for charity shop distribution.

Our saddest goodbye has been to the house, where our sons grew up and we all battled with and somehow withstood the difficulties and stresses of our family life. And our rabbits, Soos and Leo, who have been with us in the back garden for nearly nine years, two white creatures digging an underground labyrinth and escaping now and then but always coming back (or being eventually caught and returned) to their tumbledown hutch and run containment. The son who wanted them at age 10 looked after them (mostly) for a few years before going off to university; so of course it has fallen to me to become a rabbit whisperer, feeder, and occasional catcher. We took them to a retirement home, to a lovely woman who has a pet rabbit and wanted friends for him.

We would love to take them with us to our new home, but the boys shook with nerves during the short journey to their new home in Ben Rhydding; it seemed unfair to subject them to a possible five-hour drive to Buckinghamshire. They were last seen soaking up the sun in a large run on the grass and in the shade. And soon, we hope, to our retirement home.