Confessions of an ex-snowbird

About half of our friends still split their year between Florida and some other location, but we’ve dropped dual residency and I feel all the better for it. When you turn the key in the lock of a home in South Florida, it is always with the slight trepidation that the hurricane shutters you invested in will fail to live up to the advertising. And in our case, on the other end of I-95, was a home vulnerable to snow, ice and frozen water pipes. We crossed our fingers, packed our important documents in a portable file, loaded the car and headed North or South as the case might be, twice a year. Owning two homes meant a full stock of favorite kitchen knives, pots and pans, linens, food processor, spice rack, exercise equipment, all the things we found indispensable to a comfortable life. It meant shutting down or reinstating phone, mail and Internet service, a process that was seldom as glitch-free as one might hope. Clothing traveled back and forth in the car because it was always warm where one was headed. I did read of one snowbird couple who keeps a duplicate set of clothing in each location.

Of course, Americans are a people perennially on the move, so the desire to ‘winter’ in one place and ‘summer’ in another does not seem particularly strange, in fact, it is a choice to which many aspire as a symbol of prosperity and the good life. For the wealthiest, even two homes will not suffice. That’s may explain why there is such a thriving business in caretaking (see The Caretaker Gazette).

But for me, snowbirding began to feel tiresome, wasteful and ultimately unsustainable. My personal epiphany didn’t arrive with the current fad for thrift that has taken hold of our country. It was the realization that staying in one place meant committing to one community, one town, one weather system, warts and all. Owning (furnishing, maintaining, insuring, etc.) two residences makes one vulnerable to the grass-is-greener curse. It reminds me of a cat I once had that drove me crazy by never being happy for long on the side of a door I had just closed behind it.

If you’ve ever done it you know that it is considerably harder to divest oneself of the two-home lifestyle than to get into it in the first place, when stuff happens more slowly, almost without you realizing how much you are accumulating. If you find yourself in this position, hope that your children will still want grandma’s rocking chair or the oil paintings you found so irresistible and now detest. Or that they are not somewhere in their own second home acquisition or divestment phase. We change. Our stuff remains stuff. Hello eBay. Hello Craig’s List.

Our paring down process continues in this second year of single home ownership. The boxes of family albums may never leave the attic of a the child who lives North of the Mason-Dixon (unless or until the family moves). I think of it as partial payment for the mountain of dirty laundry hauled home from college.

No disrespect to my many friends who continue their annual migrations, but I feel more liberated, grateful for, and contented with just one home, especially when I read about the thousands of those who have lost the only home they did have.

3 thoughts on “Confessions of an ex-snowbird

  1. forest

    I really think it’s a big drain to live a dual life like this and I agree with your perspective on it all.

    The off seasons may be dangerous and quiet but there is a beauty to all of that too and a feeling of achievement when you rough it out. I bet the community bond in the winter is pretty good.


  2. phclub

    I have been thinking being a snow bird would help me through the tough New England winters, I would like to hear more from others.

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