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Home, home on the ranch

Published October 24. 2009 09:00AM

For many of us, there comes a time to downsize.

The first step is to realize when the time is right. For many empty nesters, the time is right when the children are gone and the house feels empty. For some, the time is right when mobility becomes compromised by illness or aging.

But for others, the desire to downsize is a feeling that just comes. You'll know when the time is right. It just happens, as it did with me. So I started looking for a more modest house. After many happy years in a Victorian, I figured my best bet would be to find a smaller Victorian. But it didn't work out.

Things have a life of their own, and some decisions seem to be made for us.

And so I didn't end up with a Victorian, but instead, a 'modern' ranch-style. It's located three miles away and was built in 1958, which doesn't really make it modern. But all things are relative. When you're accustomed to a house built in 1891, the 1950s is modern. So now I'm downsizing, slowly picking out what to take along and what to leave behind.

The ranch has lots of trees and land, which is nice. But I wasn't sure it was the place for me when I first laid eyes on it. Houses have personalities. This sturdy, brick house reminded me of a stern Ward Cleaver. I don't know why, but when I visited a second time, my attitude changed. I not only liked it, but knew it was right... the setting, the woods and the peaceful atmosphere.

I learned that the place always had been very private and had just one owner. It had never been sold and was well taken care of. The couple who built it had no children. The husband passed away years ago, leaving his wife, whose name was Evelyn. She passed away in May at age 91. They said Evelyn worked in the drapery department of a large furniture store on my block for 40 years. Yet I never knew her. Sometimes small towns are large that way. They say she was a kind, cultured woman who traveled extensively. I'm sorry I never had a chance to meet her. My loss for sure.

Out of the blue, I received a phone call from Evelyn's close friend Mary. Mary told me something that gave me a warm feeling.

Evelyn would have wanted someone like you to have her house," Mary said. It was a nice thought... even more special because Mary wanted me to know it.

Fifty-one years is a long time for a house to exist without children running around. There are no crayon marks on the walls. No swing sets in the yard. No hint of toys in the cellar or storage areas. That's fine with me. But I think all houses need a symbolic toy to remind us to stay young. So I'll be sure to add that touch, even if it's only a Slinky, or maybe a rubber ducky. In my opinion, a house needs a toy almost as much as it needs a chimney.

Living on a single floor will be an adjustment, but one I look forward to, and the idea of downsizing from 3,000-sq.-ft. to 1,600-sq.-ft. appeals to me, as does a conveniently attached double garage.

Apparently, I'm not the only person drawn to these advantages. There are several websites describing trends in housing and they tell of renewed interest in 1950s ranches. Ranch houses appeal to aging Boomers. Ranches make sense because they're easy to navigate, which is fueling their resurgence.

Of course, I'll always be a fan of fancy, old Victorians. Putting my place on the market is a difficult decision, one that many folks might not understand.

Why is your house listed for sale," some have asked. The answer is easy. A single person doesn't need seven bedrooms. There comes a time to downsize. There comes a day when you awaken to a feeling that it's the right thing to do.

For me, the time is right for a fresh start. The new house is right, too all it needs is a touch of youth and a token toy. I have those bases covered, enough to make Ward Cleaver smile.

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