Letting Go of your farmhouse

February, 2009

One of the key issues of conflict in multi-generational farm families is the farm house, the Grand Central Station of many farm operations. I have seen many different scenarios around this issue and have some tips on getting ready to move.

Why is letting go so hard:
The reason that many 60 something folks can’t move from the farm home is because they haven’t moved in 40 years, and just don’t know where to start. I think the key of letting go of the farm home is creating something exciting to move toward: I also realize that some young couples choose not to live on the main yard to keep their farm life separate from their family life. One family I know lives at the lake year round, and the parents are happy to stay put on the home place.

Do a trial run of living somewhere else.   Test out living in a new location, rent a home in town to try it out, or vacation away for a few months to learn how little stuff you really need.

De-clutter this winter, it might take you two years to get ready to move!  Embrace your garbage bag. Get a marker, tape, and garbage bags so that you can start letting go of stuff. and the websites will get you started. My sister and I started clearing out my father’s attic last year. We made many trips to the burn barrel, and the dump. I had a load of things to give to others at the local thrift store.  He lives in a tidier space now, and might consider moving.

The purpose of getting rid of stuff is to help you feel lighter and ready to move towards the next residence. You also have time to process what is really important to you in your new roles as grandparents, the hired hand, or a semi-retired farm manager. Letting go of your farm home may take a few years, so get started soon!

Make the hard decision to let go, then just do it.
It is a conscious choice to take on something new. It is so important to think about what it was like for you as a newly married couple starting out on the farm. The physical act of taking out bags of stuff and creating more order in your life will give you energy to make new decisions.  In coaching terms, you need to let go of things and expectations, take on new learning, hold on to what is important to you, and move on with the things you can’t change or have no control over.  I know that many farm couples are stuck because the whole process of moving just seems to be too overwhelming, you really need to take the first step and keep going.
Let go, take on, hold on, and move on.

Be gracious about the need for the younger generation to have access to the main yard to raise their family and work together as a strong farm couple team. I once had a very poignant story told to me by the farming son. “Elaine, I want my wife to be holding the flashlight while I load the auger, not my mother. My wife and I need to learn to work as a farm team. Mom and Dad need to leave the main yard. It is time.”

Talk about what a good day looks like to you on the farm yard, and enjoy the new and creative things the next generation does to the farm house.  I know how hard this is for everyone. We lived in our parent’s home for 11 years before we got the title, and before any major renovations were done. When we painted the house blue in l991, my father-in-law was very disappointed…but he survived, and the house is long since another colour.  We are now at a new stage. In ten years we may be living in a condo in town, and coming to the farm to do yard work, and odd jobs. Any renovations now might be better left to our son if he chooses to farm and live on the yard. I am still in the process of helping my father downsize his abode, as his needs are changing, and he may have to move for health reasons.

A client relayed that he has gone from “telling” to “asking”. He will always be the parent, but the roles are shifting, and he is letting go of management decisions, and the right to be the final decision maker. Life is a journey of letting go, and moving on.

What things can you do this winter to start embracing the idea that someday you may have to move off the main yard, and let the next generation have the fun of sitting in the middle of the action?
I enlist the help of my daughter who loves to use a labeler, and is a natural organizer. I also ask for help to haul things to the dump, and I am considering booking my own personal dumpster for a week to really focus on a family purge…we will all chuck things out.

Do you need to have all that evidence junk around you?  Those trophies from high school, the text books from college that you never open, and those magazines that are older than 3 months?
Grainews clippings, okay, file them or scrapbook them, but really, some of us need fire starter.

Find out how great it feels to simplify your surroundings, and explore the place you might like to live next. Try it out. You don’t have to tell the neighbours what you are up to, but please take your spouse with you!

Elaine Froese helps farm families get unstuck. She feels loved when someone else drives the junk to the dump. Visit her at Buy her book, and encourage your family to let go.
Watch her on AgVision TV at

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