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Linda & Richard Eyre: Downsizing from the big family home

Published: Thursday, March 1 2012 4:41 p.m. MST

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Like so many who finally send off their last child and become empty-nesters, we finally decided it was time to sell the big family home and downsize and simplify a little.

It’s more than a bit nostalgic to move from the Salt Lake home where we raised our nine children, and where every square inch is filled with memories. It’s the house where we have spent the entire middle part of our lives, the house we expanded, updated and remodeled not once but twice, the house where blessings and reunions took place, and more than a thousand family home evenings.

As we made the decision to move on, some of our kids were not too happy about it. “How can you just sell the only house I have ever known?” was the sentiment of the youngest, and some of the others weren’t far behind.

We can’t keep a house just for the sake of your memories, we told them, but the conversations and objections did lead to an interesting idea: We realized that very little of the home’s furniture would work in the new place we were moving to, so we told our kids that while we couldn’t keep the house, they could keep the furnishings.

Then came the question of who should get what and it quickly became clear that they would all want the same things. To avoid making those kinds of choices, we decided to have an auction.

We picked a date and hired a real auctioneer, complete with a top hat, a microphone, a gavel and a very fast-talking voice. Prior to the big day, we went around and put an item number on each piece of furniture and invited the kids over to look through everything and to each develop their bidding strategy.

We gave each of them $40,000 in play money.

The auction lasted all afternoon and was a very spirited affair. Two of the kids could not make it to Salt Lake so they were on open cellphone lines, making their bids remotely. The auction lasted several hours, with some items going for far more than we thought, and others attracting little interest.

An old church pew that we brought back from England and used for the “repenting bench” where kids who were fighting had to sit until they resolved their argument was bid on by almost everyone and kept getting bid up and up until it was more than $10,000, then more than $15,000. I (Richard) asked the son who finally got it for $17,000 why in the world he had spent nearly half of his bidding money on an old rickety bench, and he said, “Are you kidding, Dad? I spent half my life on that bench!”

The only thing that went for more was the grand piano, even though it had a red tag, meaning that the new owner couldn’t take possession of it until after we had passed on.

The beauty of it was that everyone got what they wanted most without us deciding who should have what. And the auction put a kind of wonderful sense of closure on an era of our lives and allowed each of our children to take some things from that era into their current lives, along with the memories that went with them.

It was Winston Churchill who said, “First we create our houses, and then our houses create us.”

That is how we feel about 1098 Augusta Way, which we named, for reasons we can no longer remember, “J.B. Mopeltel.”

Thanks, J.B., for helping us create our family. May you now do it again for someone else!

Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda's blog www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com.

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