Tammie and Phil Borders, both 57, went to the same Indiana high school but didn’t meet until after college, at a New Year’s Eve party. As newlyweds, they lived in downtown Indianapolis while Phil went to med school. They loved being in the city. But after having their second child, Tammie became a stay-at-home mom, and the family began to move around for Phil’s work, eventually settling in a 7,000-square-foot house a half hour from Indianapolis. When their three children had grown and moved out, they began to dream of getting back to the city. So they did. No more yard work or dusting empty bedrooms. No more pool maintenance or driving everywhere. No more stockpiles of family members’ possessions. “Now everything is used and easily maintained,” says Tammie. “We don’t have the stuff that clouds your life and makes it complicated.”
Getting there, however, was neither quick nor easy. Getting rid of 30 years of stuff can be a drawn-out process—as was finding and renovating a place where they wanted to live. They noticed a 19th-century building, a former bakery, but with a sky-high price. A year later, the price dropped, and they jumped on the deal. The Borders began designing first-floor commercial offices, a second-floor apartment, and a third-floor addition. They hired a builder, an architect, and an interior designer. “I just kept saying, ‘Clean and simple,’ over and over,” says Tammie. “My husband’s only input was, ‘Low maintenance.’” In a new, smaller space, she realized, everything visible has to be curated, redolent of individual personality and identity. It’s not about what you own, but who you are and how you want to live.
To maintain that curation, the first floor, housing their own office and one rented to a design firm, has a big wall system of closets for coats and hats in the entrance. The second floor, where they live, has a master bedroom with a walk-in closet that features two laundry bins (one for dry cleaning), lighted drawers, and pull-out rods for hanging clothes for the next day. “You can see what you’re going to wear and set it all up the night before. I love those,” says Tammie. In the interest of “a bed for every kid,” the den not only has a built-in desk area and an office unit, but also a drop-down Murphy bed and wall unit. The new third floor has a guest suite and a rooftop deck the couple enjoys every day they can—if they’re not walking to the theater, to lectures, or out to eat, that is.
“I don’t think a week goes by that we don’t say to ourselves, ‘We’re so happy to be downtown. We’re so lucky.’ It’s what we’ve been working for all our lives.”
The renovation took a year, and divestiture took a while, too. Tammie’s advice to any of the 74 million baby boomers contemplating downsizing: “Try not to be so attached to your things. It’s just stuff.” To their new home they brought only important mementos: a family Bible, an armoire, a tall black cabinet. The rest went at auction. “It’s much easier. It’s just more calm,” says Tammie. “I don’t think a week goes by that we don’t say to ourselves, ‘We’re so happy to be downtown. We’re so lucky.’ It’s an exciting adventure. It’s what we’ve been working for all our lives.” The couple recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in their new place, in the city where they first lived together. Tammie’s daughter took her out shopping, and when they got home, there were 30 dozen roses filling the windows. Phil had to go to 10 different florists. “They all thought he was nuts, buying that many,” Tammie says, laughing. “It brought me to tears.”