Leave the House; Keep the Memories

Do houses remember us after we move out of them?

Carrie Thompson
9 min readSep 20, 2020


A photo of our old house.
What will our house remember?

Driving past a For Sale sign in a yard, I sometimes wonder if the house cares about the sale. I imagine it waiting with hopeful anticipation, dreaming of new occupants filling it with their furniture, pets, and children. Or maybe it feels deserted, wondering if the family moving out will be okay on their new path, in their new home, in their new life.

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore.” Robin Hobb

“What’s not there anymore…” the words rattled in my head as I stood in our empty home and watched the movers drive away. It took them two days to pack 21 years of our lives in paper and boxes, load the truck, and disappear, leaving us with nothing but some leftover tape and a few dust bunnies in the corners of empty rooms with bare walls.

When we decided to relocate across the country from our small town in NH to Seattle, WA, we put our home on the market. Though livable, it was a rehab job. It needed a roof, windows replaced, a repair of a cracked joist in the basement, and many little bits of cosmetic work inside.

Years of benign neglect had taken their toll: there were projects we intended to do but didn’t, along with a few remodeling efforts that were started but never quite fully finished to the last little detail. In our bedroom, for example, trim was taken off, sanded, repainted, but never fully reinstalled. The ceiling of my son’s room had a years-old spot from a Mom-Made Disaster where I filled an upstairs sink for a cat to drink and didn’t turn off the water, causing an overflow that soaked the ceiling.

We briefly considered calling the “We Buy Ugly Houses” people, but signed with a local realtor instead. We asked if we should do the needed work, but she told us to “Do nothing, just list it.” A hot housing market worked in our favor: the first weekend she showed it, a guy made an offer that was within range of what we thought we could accept. A bit of haggling back and forth, and in a few days it was under contract. A month later, just like that, it was no longer ours.



Carrie Thompson

A mother, a wife, a high school English teacher, and a suicide loss survivor on a quest for understanding and healing.