Garth George: I'm done with shifting house - really

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Those who delve into the working of the human mind and emotions, such as psychiatrists, psychologists and other such weird people; tell us that, next to the death of a loved one, moving house is the most stressful experience we can have.

If shifting house means all that comes before the event, I'd say that for once they are probably right.

I speak from experience: In 35 years of marriage, my wife and I have shifted 18 times. And, God willing, our latest will be our last, at least until we have no further need for an earthly abode.

My wife and I are now ensconced in a villa in a lifestyle village, free at last from the care for and maintenance of house, lawns and gardens, which become more onerous the older we get.

Here all that is taken care of.

It's like living in a luxury motel, except you have to do your own housekeeping.

The process begins, of course, long before the actual shift.

First you have to sell the house you have. That means choosing a real estate agent, which requires either personal knowledge or great care.

Having settled on a price ("Is that all you think it's worth?"), the long wait for a sale begins.

And it brings with it daily inconveniences.

For as long as it takes, and this last one took seven months, you can't leave lawns unmowed, gardens unweeded, beds unmade, carpets unvacuumed, dishes undone or rooms untidy lest an agent bring somebody through. Because first impressions are vital.

At the same time, the hunt for a new home begins.

There are hours spent searching internet listings, more hours spent driving from open home to open home, all the while waiting on that special feeling that says: "Hey, this could be the one."

And we were, as usual, staggered at the presentation of some of the places we looked at.

The way some people must live is far beyond the comprehension of people to whom cleanliness and tidiness are taken-for-granted parts of daily life.

Days, then weeks, then months go by and only very infrequently do you find an agent's card on the table when you get home.

Then out of the blue the phone rings and it's an agent with an offer. ("Is that all they think it is worth?").

So begin the negotiations until finally a price is agreed which, of course, is rarely enough for the vendor and a bit more than the buyer wanted to pay.

At some stage the time arrives when the agent opens the door, we look around, then at each other, not a word is spoken and the next day (after sleeping on it) an offer is made and a deposit negotiated.

If nothing else, in shifting house you soon learn a lot about the art of compromise.

And at this stage the oft-maligned real estate agents really earn their money.

They are, after all, the meat in the sandwich of vendors who want more money for the house and buyers who want more house for their money.

Then its lawyers, bankers, cartage contractors, postal redirection, telephone and power companies, change of address notifications by the dozen, packing, moving and the tedious business of unpacking and organising a new home.

And there's all the junk accumulated over the years to get rid of.

We sold a number of big items on Trade Me, sent a vanload of surplus bedding, clothing and household goods to St Vincent de Paul, and filled a medium-sized rubbish skip with the unwanted rest.

"From this one," say I, "they will cart me out in a box." And this time I really, really mean it. It's the easy, stress-free life for me."

garth.george@hotmail.com

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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