One day a philosophy professor walked into her classroom while holding a drinking glass filled with clear liquid. She stood silently in front of the classroom until all student chatter subsided. Then she posed a question to her class: “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”

Students gave guesses ranging from eight ounces to a couple of pounds. The professor replied: “I didn’t ask how much this glass weighs. I asked, ‘How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?’ The answer to that question is relative.”

“Relative to what?” a student asked.

“Relative to how long I hold on,” the professor responded. “If I only hold it for a few minutes, it’s pretty light. But if I hold on for the remainder of this class, it’ll become uncomfortable. My arm will start to ache. And if I try to hold it all day long, my arm will eventually cramp, or maybe get paralyzed with numbness. Ultimately, this glass that feels light right now will seem so heavy — and I’d be so incapacitated with pain and fatigue — that I’d be forced to quickly put it down in some random spot, or drop it involuntarily and make a mess.”

The professor regarded the water glass thoughtfully and elaborated. “The absolute weight of the glass never changes,” she explained, “but the longer I hold on to it, the heavier it seems, right?”

Students nodded in agreement and the professor continued. “The lesson, class, is this: Carrying some of life’s responsibilities can be very much be like holding this glass of water. For example, the responsibility associated with a new opportunity or new possession can seem light when you first pick it up, but in time you may start to experience discomfort — like the ache of stress — if you continue to hold on to that opportunity or possession after it no longer serves you well.

“And, just like with the water glass, if you ignore the warning signs of discomfort and insist on clinging to the things of the past for too long, just because they made sense then, the fatigue can wear you down and make life so painful or paralyzing that you are eventually forced to let go with little or no grace, and maybe end up with a mess.”

The professor gracefully set the drinking glass on a table. It had been useful to hold as a teaching prop, but that time had passed. Now that she had let go, she was free to pick up a new item that would serve her well in the moment, a red dry erase marker.

As she stepped to the white board and began to write, she concluded by saying, “Joseph Campbell, the noted literature professor, mythology expert, writer and lecturer, stated it well when he wrote: 'We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.'"

Holding on to real estate can be like holding onto that water glass: If the property no longer serves you as well today as it did in the past, the weight of responsibility grows heavier and more uncomfortable with time.

Maybe it’s time to let go of the first home you’ve ever owned and get a bigger one, if your growing family is experiencing the discomfort of trying to shoehorn into a house with too few bedrooms and bathrooms.

On the other hand, maybe your kids have grown up and moved out, and you and your spouse now have an echoing empty nest all to yourselves. Do you really need all those beds and baths and square feet to clean and heat and maintain for years to come? Or would a smaller, more energy-efficient home serve you better today?

Or maybe it’s time to gracefully let go of a second home, a vacation home purchased when finances were better or leisure time was more plentiful. Maybe your primary residence is out-of-state and you are too far away or are just plain too busy to make it to the Lakes Region often enough to justify ongoing carrying costs, including a mortgage, heating fuel, the nation’s third-highest property taxes, and electricity rates 35.27 percent greater than the national average.

Or maybe it’s a beloved but older house, one that you picked up when you were younger, healthier, and had more energy and enthusiasm with which to keep up with seemingly never-ending maintenance responsibilities. But the reality is that both homes and homeowners age and deteriorate. None of us are getting any younger. Exterior paint blisters just as surely as skin wrinkles. Chimneys crumble just as surely as my knees ache when climbing stairs during a Nor’easter. In the blink of an eye, those asphalt shingles that you bought what seems like just yesterday are suddenly past their 20-year life expectancy and starting to curl. Maybe a newer home with less maintenance and single-floor living makes more sense now.

Finally, sometimes people struggle to hold onto a property that was inherited. About a quarter of my business in 2018 came from the adult survivors of deceased parents who had owned Lakes Region property. It can be very tough emotionally to sell a home filled with so many fond memories, but it can also be difficult to add the weight of a responsibility your parents chose to carry to the load you already bear. In all of these cases, my clients lived hundreds of miles away or more. In one case, the home required immediate attention so it wouldn’t fall into a terrible state of disrepair. In another, the property tax alone was $1,000 dollars per month. So these clients demonstrated the strength to let go with grace.

I think of it like this: Life is like a ladder. Each rung represents a different stage of life. You can’t reach the next rung and climb higher unless you let go of the one you’re grasping now. Sometimes letting go gracefully demonstrates more strength than hanging on painfully.

If you’d like compassionate real estate help while reaching for the next rung in life’s ladder, give me a call.

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