Letting Go of Our Dream Home

Michelle Stimpson & Bill Stimpson_Dream Home

“There’s no way we can move. We said we’d live here forever.” Those were the first words Bill and I uttered when we pondered the idea of letting go of our dream home eight years ago. At the time, we had only been in our beautiful home for two-and-a-half years. And it was truly our dream home. We custom-built the entire thing to completely reflect us and our lifestyle – both individually and as a couple. It was the perfect Minneapolis suburb retreat, tucked in a wooded setting with mature trees, wildlife, and ultimate privacy.

This rare find was thanks to a sweet elderly couple whose home was on a large piece of land, and they decided to subdivide their lot into two. We were the privileged ones who found the other half and bought it.

And it was there that we built our dream home.

Bill Stimpson_dream home lot

Bill Stimpson_dream home foundation

Bill Stimpson_dream home construction

Michelle Stimpson_dream home construction

A perfect spot for us

Our side of the street was a quiet curve of four homes built in 1948, and all the original owners still lived there – the Swansons, the Emersons, the Bensons, and the Olsons. We – the Stimpsons – fit right in! They all loved the idea of having a new young couple move into the neighborhood, and they took such great care of us.

While our house was being built, there was a constant stream of neighborhood ladies bringing cookies and lemonade over to the construction workers. And the two neighborhood men who were still living – proud World War II veterans – oversaw the digging, excavating, and building. For six months, these folks had an exciting event going on in their neighborhood every day!

The house we built was perfect for us. Here’s an excerpt from an annual New Year letter we sent to friends and family the year we moved in:

“Highlights in our new retreat include some of life’s simple pleasures: Watching deer and other wildlife roam through our backyard (including the albino squirrel we named ‘Alabaster’), weekend candlelight dinners with wine and smooth jazz, whirlpool baths for Michelle with nighttime starlight, and naps in the sunroom for Bill. We love our cozy abode more than we could have ever imagined and feel truly blessed to have such a wonderful place to call home.”

Talk about following your joy. We were doing it. And really, we thought we’d retire there.

Alabaster_white squirrel

Mischievous "Alabaster"


Rabbit lounging on a Saturday morning


One of the many deer who came for a visit

Big Red_red squirrel

King of the neighborhood: "Big Red"


Our favorite black-socked fox

But something wasn’t quite right

Saturdays and Sundays included caring for the home and the large yard and extended driveway. Bill would be outside for hours whether it included mowing, snowblowing, raking leaves, or other house maintenance ‘stuff.’ And while he enjoyed it, it also took us away from being the independent couple we loved to be…and being able to head out on a whim for the day to enjoy our city.

And the amount we were paying for our mortgage and upkeep was taking us away from our ultimate dream of regular vacations and adventures and going back to school and starting our own business. We both felt locked into corporate jobs we held, and yet that wasn’t what either of us saw for our future.

I’ll never forget what I learned – and then taught – in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop: When you say “no” to one thing, you’re actually saying “yes” to something else, and vice versa. So, by saying “yes” to the house and that lifestyle, we were essentially saying “no” to what was even more important – starting our business, traveling and adventuring, living as an independent couple without being tied down.

Shifting perspectives

So while at first we thought there was “no way” we could ever move…we began to realize that our dream might start to look different. And that was okay. Yes, the dream of that home and the setting was perfect for us. And at the same time, though, we were ready to move on and create a new dream.

We put so much love and care into that home. And Bill finished the lower level complete with a home gym, kick-ass bar, home theater, and corner fireplace.

And then we sold it.

Stimpson dream house

The most wonderful couple bought the home, and we knew they would love it just as much as we did.

Moving toward a new dream

We ended up downsizing, got rid of a ton of stuff, sold our boat and all kinds of “things,” and moved into a beautiful new townhouse in the next suburb over. We went back to school. I left my corporate job and launched my coaching business. Bill started to look into other pursuits. We taught our first workshop together. We started writing a book. The new dream began to take shape.

Bill Stimpson & Michelle Stimpson_LifeShine Expo

So many people cheered us on and also said what courage it took for us to create a new dream for ourselves. I suppose it was courageous, but it never felt like “courage” to us. It was simply about being clear on what we needed – and wanted – to say “yes” to.

Now, we get to say “Yes!” to the lifestyle that truly calls to us. We do several vacations, road trips, and adventures throughout year and come and go as we feel moved. And…I’m coming up on celebrating eight exciting years in business, helping other women live their dream!

I just came across the following year’s annual letter, and here’s the update we gave:

“After much reflection and discussion, we decided to sell our house and buy a townhome. Although our Minnetonka home was absolutely perfect for us, it no longer seemed to fit in with our plans. Saving time and money by moving to a maintenance-free townhome now allows us to focus on our priorities and enjoy more of the things we love to do. It was quite an emotional move to leave our home, but when the time came, we forged ahead and never looked back. Our new place is perfect for us now in this new phase of life.”

So. That’s how the current dream looks…for now. And at the same time, I also sense a restlessness inside both of us to change things up again and take the dream to the next level. Like everyone else, we’re constantly growing and evolving and changing. A plan that once was a perfect fit needs to be updated, too.

Following your joy includes checking in with yourself and making sure you’re on the right track. If you are, great! If not, it’s important to make the course corrections necessary.

Who knows where our new path will lead? All I know is that we’re excited about our future and see a horizon of possibilities.

Life is good.

Where is it in your own life that you’re ready for a change?

What’s the first step that needs to happen?

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it so well: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

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22 Responses to “Letting Go of Our Dream Home”

  • Your new home is beautiful Michelle and it seems to be the perfect size for both of you.

    I admire your courage to downsize and build again.


  • Lisa Sellman says:

    I remember when we bought our home 10 years ago, we were approved with a mortgage 3 times the amount. At the time, there was no mortgage crisis and it seemed sort of silly to settle in a not that glamorous house that needed quite a bit of repairs. We would not change things for anything. I was able to leave my full time job just a few years later with no worries about income. I love the Dr. Martin Luther King quote because that is how I have always lived my life and it has been so wonderful, each step of the way.

  • Carol says:

    Bravo Michelle! I loved reading the “story behind the story”. My favorite part was at the end when you said, “Like everyone else, we’re constantly growing and evolving and changing.” You make it okay to change our minds and let us do what’s right for us in the moment… Reminding us that priorities and focus naturally shift with life. Thank you for the big dose of JOY this morning!

  • Bill says:

    This brings back such awesome memories! Both from building our dream house, and from leaving it behind in pursuit of a new dream. I wouldn’t have done it any other way!! :)

  • @ Alex: Thank you. The more I think about it, I guess it was “courage.” :)

    @ Lisa: You’ve got a great attitude and obviously you “get” the idea that when you say “no” to something…you’re saying “yes” to something bigger and better! Thanks for sharing.

    @ Carol: Thank you for the nice feedback! Yeah, I think sometimes we each need to feel ‘permission’ in a sense to make a change – as in, when someone else does it, it makes it sound/feel a little more do-able. So happy to know that the story brought you joy. :)

    @ Billy: I LOVE that we get to share all of life…together.

  • Becky Henry says:

    Michelle, it was such a joy to read your fun blog and enjoy your photos with my coffee this morning. I’m thrilled to be here working in my PJ’s on this snowy spring day!

    This is just what I needed to read as we have been toying with “rightsizing” or “downsizing” to a place with less maintenance so we can travel and run our businesses without so much time and money going into house maintenance and repairs.

    Now, we just need to find the right place…and as Carol here said so well – Thank you for the big dose of JOY this morning!

  • Deb Brown says:

    Wonderful article, Michelle! I have found over and over again that I have to let go of things I thought were forever to make room for new bigger things in my life.

  • Anna says:

    What a great blog! Your home in Minnetonka was perfect for you two at the time!! It was more of a retreat. Your ‘new’ place is more of a launching pad! I love the coziness & fireplace!
    Keep on dreaming and being joyful!!

  • Michelle! You always amaze me! I love to say YES! too! :)

  • @ Becky: I’m so glad to hear that the message in this story was just what you needed to hear! And yes, it is so freeing when you can finally ditch the old way of life…in service of the new way. Wishing you all the best as you search for that “right” place. I know it is waiting for you. :)

    @ Deb: Yep, the only way to fully welcome all the new and wonderful things in life is to finally release the old stuff and let it go. A great life lesson for all of us! Cheers to letting go…

    @ Anna: I like your idea of our current place being a “launching pad” – yeah, that’s what it feels like! I’m excited for this next phase of life that I bet will even be more amazing than we dream of. Thank you for always cheering us on!

    @ Jen: Here’s to saying “YES!” to all of the good stuff in life.

  • Rochelle Gale Weber says:

    Your home was gorgeous, and reflected who you and Bill were in each and every crevice. It was welcoming, comfortable, unique, functional, and tastefully decorated. I loved everything about it down to the artwork…and the warm tones of paint on the walls. The back yard was absolutely breathtaking…and a “vacation place” in itself! I will ALWAYS remember the driveway. It got us….every time…in the winter. “OK push on the count of three”! I loved seeing the two of you there. All great memories! Your townhome, though, just fits you both, and your lifestyle, like a glove. May you continue to enjoy it with good health and happiness always. Love you both, Auntie.

  • Troy Beugen says:

    The two of you are very inspiring, you are doing what most are afraid to do… Live Life!
    That is what we try to do and whenever I need some inspiring words I read your stories.

    Keep on enjoying life! I will do the same!


  • Lance says:

    Seeing that fox…it reminds me so much of our backyard now – and esp. of the mother fox and 6 little cubs that would wander out of the woods and into our yard last summer…

    …and that reminds me that, just like that fox, you and Bill stepped out of your “comfort zone”, and out into the new and open. And…because of that, our paths have crossed (and I’m deeply grateful for that). More than that, though – you listened to your hearts, and what a beautiful, beautiful way to really live…

    You both shine such good into this world!

  • @ Rochelle: Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can always count on you for great feedback and you always cheer us on in everything we do. OMG, laughing out loud about that steep long driveway in the winter – I swear, I thought your car was not going to make it all the way up. Too funny! So appreciate the warm wishes and we love you back!

    @ Troy: Hi! Wow, thank you for the great comment. I had to pause a couple of times to let that idea soak in about “living life.” I think you are right in that most of us are afraid to do it. That is my sole purpose in life! But I must say I often need to remind myself to get out of my head – or out of the “details” – and LIVE! So happy to hear that you strive for the same thing, too. Thanks for reading and commenting, Troy!

    @ Lance: What a beautiful comment that has truly touched my heart. Thank you for the lovely insight, and I’m deeply grateful, too, that our paths have crossed. Much love to you, Lance! And cheers to stepping out of that comfort zone!

  • Karin says:

    I love your story. It’s not easy to step sideways when so many move in the direction that is ‘socially expected’. What seems like ‘all that’ doesn’t always end up being what we really want or need. After reading this entry, I feel validated as someone who has always stepped sideways for the sake of living an extraordinary life!

  • Jane says:

    Love that phrase you have shared with me many times Michelle, about when you say “no” to something you are saying (or able to say) “yes” to something else!! What inspiring models you guys are for each new stage of life that rounds the bend! HUGS!

  • Joy says:

    We are getting ready to “let go” of our dream home of 16 years.
    We have raised our 3 children here and thought we would be here”forever”.
    It is a grieving process. Your article made me realize that 1) we are not alone 2) it will have many positive aspects once we get to the “otherside”..one little step at a time.
    Being free of some “stuff” will be liberating.
    Thank you,

  • Jill says:

    You and Bill are such an inspiration. I loved reading this!

  • @ Karin: You are right – when something is ‘socially expected,’ it’s certainly not easy to be different and is definitely the road less traveled! I remember people kidding us for wanting to downsize in our 30’s rather than waiting ’til we were in our 60’s and beyond. For us, it was – and continues to be – the right thing to do! Glad to know you feel validated and thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    @ Jane: Yeah, isn’t that powerful? Most of us are never taught how to say “no,” and I find many of my clients struggling with that in their adult life. But when we can re-train ourselves to remember that saying “no” actually allows us to say a bigger “Yes!” – it’s incredibly freeing. Thanks for the sweet comment and for being here! :)

    @ Joy: Welcome! You are so right in that it is a ‘grieving process’ – saying goodbye to an old way of life, an old way of being. Yes, you are NOT alone and there is soooo much good on the other side – it’s just that it will look different from what you’re used to. Like you said, one little step at a time. Congratulations to you and wishing you all the best! And remember to enjoy the ride. :)

    @ Jill: Thank you! Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Glad to have you here!

  • Hi Michelle!

    What a wonderful post to read. Up here in Wasilla, I have been toying with the idea of buying a house, setting up shop, and sticking around for a while.

    But, like you said, saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to another. I’ve been here for a year and a half, and love it. The people are wonderful, I have a wonderful support network through the church I work for– they’ve become my “Alaska family”.

    But I’ve had to ask myself where I find my joy. Of course, the children, families and youth I work with give me great joy, and I’m lucky to be able to smile, laugh, sing and dance with them. However, the greatest joy for me comes from my family, my home, and the people who have both shaped me and empowered me to move here and do the kind of work I do. People like your grandparents, Rollie and Doris! I’m so lucky to consider your family an extension of my own.

    Thanks for a wonderful blog, for being the kind of person you are, and for always encouraging us to identify and follow the things in life that bring great joy.


  • @ Ian: Hi there! What a fun surprise to see your comment – thanks so much for taking the time to read the post and share your thoughts. Yes, that saying “no” & “yes” thing is so powerful! Glad to know you’ve asked yourself the question of where you find your joy. When we’re clear on that stuff, life decisions definitely become easier. All the best to you as you navigate life in Alaska…and hold true to that which brings you joy. You are a bright light, Ian! Appreciate you being here, and thank you for the kind words. :)

  • Thank you for the inspiration. I began a morning graitude blog about a month ago called goodmorninggratitude.com. The half hour to 45 minuters each day of attention to being grateful has profoundly altered my perspective and the quality of my life beyond my ability to explain it. Now if I can just let the “Stuff” go… that’s the next project.

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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

The Parent Company

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