“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” That’s what it’s like to say goodbye to your starter home.

Often under-appreciated, frequently complained about, it’s not until you’re about to leave that you realize what exactly you’re leaving. 

Sure, it was never your dream home. It’s old, it’s small. Maybe not in the most ideal location. Its design and décor are probably dated. 

You spent your time there thinking about what kind of house you’d buy if money were no option. Because it turns out, buying a house right out of college is pretty darn expensive. So you got this house, with its small rooms and even smaller closets.

As the years passed, you made it your own. And you managed with the things not worth doing because, as you told yourselves and others, “This isn’t our forever home, it’s just our starter home.”

But then the time comes to move – the reasons for which could be plentiful and varied. At first you’re excited for the change, the newness of it all. But with change comes leaving behind comfort, familiarity – and memories. 

You see, only once you’re faced with moving from your starter home does it take on a new perspective. Looking around, you notice things you didn’t before. 

Like how your feet have worn a path from your bedroom into the nursery from the multiple nighttime meetings of you and your child. Or how the sun has left an imprint where you hung your first wedding portrait on the wall.

The floor is scratched from little ones pushing chairs around to sit at the grown-up’s table. The wall shows the faintest markings of crayon wax that wouldn’t scrub off. The carpet is stained from one too many dropped sippy cups. 

There’s paint on the baseboards, accidentally left there by two DIY-ers trying to save a couple bucks. 

Outside you see the towering maple tree, whose low-hanging branch became your kids’ swing set; the chains of the swing leaving grooves in the soft wood. You see the driveway that has been the canvas for so many colorful chalk masterpieces. 

If these walls could talk, they’d surely have some good stories. Stories of the happy times, like welcoming new babies home from the hospital, or family picnics, or Christmas morning. And stories of the not-so-happy times: arguments between you and your spouse when you just can’t come to an agreement, tears when the stresses of life become too heavy, frustration at the challenge of being a parent. 

These walls have seen it all. The ins and outs of a family getting started. 

Leaving your starter home isn’t as easy as you always thought it would be. The idea of “Good riddance!” is replaced with a lump in your throat and bittersweet emotions. Because what you didn’t realize this whole time is that it’s not about the home itself, it’s about the people who live there and the memories you make.

So when the time comes to move on, perhaps you’ll look at your starter home a bit differently. While you’re onto the next adventure, perhaps your house will become a starter home for its new owners. And knowing what you know now, that should let you leave with a smile on your face. 

Goodbye home, thanks for the memories. 

Jennifer Craven

Jen Craven writes about motherhood in all its complexities. She is also the author of the novels, "A Long Way From Blair Street," and "All That Shines and Whispers," which is set to publish in Februrary 2021. Jen's work has been featured in The Washington Post, Scary Mommy, Motherly, Her View From Home, Huffington Post, and more. Visit her at www.jencraven.com, or follow her on Instagram @jennifercravenauthor.