Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Physical and emotional closure

Ten days ago, we sold our house in Atlanta. Maintaining the house for the past 3.5 years was an expensive and logistical headache. Coordinating home repairs and finding renters while living abroad was a constant burden. Fortunately for us, our current tenants enjoyed the house so much that they emailed us an offer to buy it. Unfortunately for us, negotiating all of the closing processes while living abroad was more challenging than usual. 

To coordinate a timely closing, the US lawyers emailed us the legal documents to print on our side, sign, notarize and ship back. Easy, right? WRONG.

For one thing, US Legal paper, the size of paper required for printing out all of those affidavits and seller's documents, was not available in Sweden. A frantic search of local office supply stores resulted in the realization that I was going to have to be creative. 

Resourcefully, I spied my children's drawing pad of paper - it looked long enough but would it do the trick? I'm not one for DIY but after much measuring and cutting, I finally had 28 sheets of US Legal paper ready for the printer. Since it was much thicker than normal printer paper - as it was intended to absorb markers and crayons, not printer ink - I had to individually feed it each one into the printer, reset the printer settings and hit print - 28 different times. This was extremely time consuming to say the least!

Then came the little issue of finding a notary to witness and notarize our signatures. All of Sweden was on vacation when we did our preliminary search. Luckily for us, the only notary (publicus notarius, FYI) in our county opened the day before we had to ship them back to the US in time for the closing. We have only one day to pull this off. STRESS. Five hundred kronor and an hour later and we were out the door - taking a one and a half hour train ride into the city to FedEx the documents back to the US.

There was a mixup with the FedEx shipping label as Sweden couldn't figure out who to bill. The shipping label was for US shipping but it was coming from Sweden. FedEx did a few head scratches while figuring out their billing procedures so our lovely notarized documents sat in the mailroom for an extra day. Now we are in even more of a TIME CRUNCH than before and everything is out of our control. CUE MORE STRESS.

We tracked the documents and they arrived in Atlanta at 10am local time and the closing occurred at 1pm that day. Being so far out of the picture, nobody remembered to tell us if we had actually sold the house or not. There is always the off-chance that things go wrong at a closing. Jon reached out to the buyers the following day and they informed us that yes, the closing went well and they now owned our house. Done and Done.

All of the stressful parts of selling a house were made that much more cumbersome simply by living abroad. Every aspect of this process required at least two hours of online research and then the calling of various offices to understand the process. We were constantly thinking, "How can we make a Swedish solution fit our American problem?" Apparently the only solution might involve staying up for hours, measuring and trimming 28 sheets of drawing paper both lengthwise and widthwise and trying not to tear your hair out in the process.

In addition to the logistical challenges, I also felt strong emotions about selling our house. We have nothing physically tying us back "home." We have no items in storage - the management company threw away my wedding dress and photo albums so no need to take care of that anymore. Phew. Thanks guys. And now we don't have a house. I know we are saving money and stress and everyone is excited about that but it also means that our Atlanta chapter is closed closed.

Our house was symbolic to me of our old lives. It was our first house, the location of our marriage proposal and where we spent the first nine months of our son's life. While I keep those very happy memories with me, the sale of the house closed off that chapter for us permanently. The cliche loved/hated by expats, "You can't go home again" isn't just for a physical place, it is also for an emotional state of being. For the first time in 3.5 years, I really feel like we are permanently abroad. And as much as I love living abroad, I also loved our lives in the US. It was definitely with a bit of a heavy heart that I mailed those closing documents. 

Part of my sadness stems from the lack of a "proper goodbye." I don't know what one is, but for me, I don't felt like I had one. I didn't have enough farewell dinners or get togethers with friends - there just wasn't enough time. Are there ever "enough" farewell dinners anyway? 

You never know when your time will be the "one last" and you never know who it will be with. During the five weeks we had to prepare for our move to Sweden, we were in such a rush to pack up our lives that I never got to enjoy those "one lasts" in our neighborhood. That one last coffee at our favorite corner cafe. That one last dinner at our favorite restaurant. That one last walk through the park in the springtime. In reality, I did have those "one last" moments except I didn't know it at that time.

Moving abroad has made me find creative solutions to problems I didn't know ever existed - like creating US Legal sized paper in a foreign country - and it has made me appreciate the "one lasts" I will never have again. Sometimes we don't get the emotional closure we are looking for.

Like most things in life, this was bittersweet. A little bit of sadness and a little bit of joy as we let go of the things we no longer own. I'm still making my peace with this and that's OK.


  1. Wow that's a big moment for you guys!! I can definitely understand why you have mixed fee,Inge about it!! We never actually owned a house when we moved abroad so we never experienced those feelings but I can so relate to the "one last...." Not so much with where we lived but with friends and family (and food!!!) for sure!
    Thanks for joining in with #myexpatfamily hope you enjoyed the link up :)

    1. Ah, the food! It's what cannot be easily replicated wherever you go. Thanks for letting me link up!

  2. This made me tear up! It's always so hard saying goodbye and starting a new chapter. Somehow those new chapters seem to be emphasised so much with a move abroad. We are living in the US, but originally from the UK. We're not sure how long we'll be here, but the thought of saying goodbye to either place makes me emotional. You're right that an acceptance of life moving on is the only way to make peace. All the best to you and your family. x


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