The Wine Diaries-Downsizing After Divorce Isn’t All Bad

the wine diariesAt my age living in an apartment is kind of frowned upon.  I’m too young to ‘downsize’ and I’m too old to be slumming it.  I should be presiding over my large 4 bedroom estate.   I should really have room for grown children to move in when their plans change at the drop of a hat.  I should have bedrooms waiting for those future grandchildren.  Something must have gone terribly wrong. 

Oh, right. I got divorced.

Even if your divorce is planned and expected there are unpredictable variables.  One of those variables is moving or downsizing.  You might move once or you might move three times before you ‘settle down’. I moved twice then again, after the fire.  So, for me I’ve moved three times since my divorce and we hope to move again in the next year or two.  Pack light.  Be ready for anything.  When was the last time you felt that unpredictable?

As much as I loved my house I bought after my divorce, I was overwhelmed at times with the maintenance and upkeep.  It was a four bedroom home.  It was quite a bit smaller than my matrimonial home but inevitably, it was a fair amount of work and cost to live in.

Once in a while I miss that house.  I loved the back yard with the enormous trees, offering shelter in the summer and shimmering snow blankets in the winter. It was cozy.  I used to sit out on my patio with a coffee and listen to the leaves rustle in the gentle breeze or catch the last bit of sun dappling through at the end of the day.

But when I began a long distance relationship, it was overwhelming to return home after a few days away to a yard that had sprouted weeds and grass seemingly grown a foot in my absence.  The children being with me only half the time meant that they were less than enthusiastic about helping out with household chores.  As much as I tried to enforce their chore schedule it all became quite a burden.

The lesson?  Owning a home as a single woman is a rather hefty commitment.  If you’re there ALL the time it might be doable.  If your kids are there ALL the time, it probably makes sense to live in a home that will accommodate the needs of all family members.

Fast forward five years and I’m living in an apartment.  Wait.  Why didn’t you buy a home and why are you renting?  You might be wondering.  Renting is a dirty word, unfortunately.  No matter how much it makes sense, even if you live in a city with a real estate bubble renting is still a dirty word.  As explained by blogger Garth Turner…

“Seriously… ‘Buy a house now or end up in drug-infested rental squalor with rat-children and no future.’ And it’s all my fault.” –Garth in reference to the Toronto Real Estate Board. If that doesn’t emphasize the stereotype of renting…

Meanwhile, here in Vancouver I guess you could say I traded in my status and image for reality and common sense.We live in one of the highest priced housing markets in the world and therein lies our dilemma.  For now, we are apartment happy.  Not always apartment proud, but happy nonetheless.

I’m actually enjoying apartment living.  REPEAT:  I’m actually enjoying it.  I don’t have to worry about roof replacement, hardwood floor refinishing, broken hot water tanks nor yards that are out of control.  I don’t have any property taxes to pay, or strata fees, which can both eat away at your equity.  You know what?  Living without the responsibility of a house is not so bad.

I kind of like that I hardly go a day without seeing a neighbor. Sometimes I recognize the dog before the person.  I see the elderly, sharp dressed man from down the hall, on his way out to do his errands. He wears a bow tie everyday.  He’ll give me a smile and he’s always whistling while he walks.  He’s over 80 year old.  I know if I need something I can find someone close by to help.  Living in an apartment gives a whole new meaning to community.  I feel safe.

Nonetheless, we bank much of our image on our homes so without one, what are we?  For example, how many times have you been to a friend’s house and they want to give you the ‘tour’?  They want to show you their ‘stuff’, their style and I don’t blame them.  They’re houseproud.  I wonder as I’m being led around though, do you really own all this or does the bank own it?  All kidding aside, I am reminded of the self worth and image we have tied up in our homes.   I know a few men who actually changed their demeanor once they purchased and moved into their new home.  They became the ‘King of their Castle’ and that’s a nice way of saying a**hat.  The fact is though, houses are only a physical representation of our lives.  A house has no feelings or attachments.  It doesn’t love us back.  Walls really don’t talk and that’s probably a good thing.  Even so, we believe a house being one of our assets, tell much about our status.

Meantime, living in an apartment has not only been necessary in our real estate market but a learning curve for me.  My kitchen is the same size as my pantry was in my broken dream home.  It’s tiny.  When my Son was out at Christmas he said “Mom, how are you going to cook a turkey dinner in here?”  We both laughed as I answered “No problem.”  The trick is to not let any stragglers enter the kitchen during cooking time.  “Out! Shoo!”

Sometimes I have to remind myself that being HERE in this place, is a blessing for now.  When it’s time we’ll be in our ‘home’ with our yard, garden and flowers maybe even a cat or two.  I won’t be giving my friends a house tour though because that’s not why they’re there.  My friends will be there to see us and not the house.

For now I’ll look back on these ‘apartment’ days fondly and remember how I made a temporary place our ‘home’.   I’ll appreciate how the sun hits the chairs in spring, how we get the sunset in the summer and how I decorated the fireplace for Christmas in December.  You see, what I’ve learned is apartment living isn’t all bad.  Our self worth isn’t completely wrapped up in the square footage or our homes.

Yet, I like to complain about all the noise and my lack of privacy.  Sometimes I like to complain about hauling up bags of heavy groceries to the fourth floor.  Sometimes I like to complain about the barking dogs in the dog park every night at 6 pm.  Sometimes I like to complain about the commotion outside in the parking lot below.

Sometimes I like to complain.

But in spite of these inconveniences, the sounds and smells of apartment living will be forever burned on my memory as some of the best times of my life.

Did you have to sell your matrimonial home?  Did you have to move from a house to an apartment?  How did you feel about it?

PAIR with Cul De Sac Wine Company, Cabernet Sauvignon from California-friendship, laughter, skinned knees, badminton on the lawn, BBQ on the deck.  at Cul De Sac Winery we raise a glass to good neighbors and good wines.

That’s actually what reads on the label.  All the reasons we dream of a piece of land to call our own.

Leave a comment, I LOVE ’em!


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31 Replies to “The Wine Diaries-Downsizing After Divorce Isn’t All Bad”

  1. I’m not divorced but I think the key here is being happy and I believe you are. Home is where your heart is no matter how big or how small. Making the decision to be on your own is big in itself. Rock on gf!

  2. Hi Lisa, loved your thoughtful write up on what makes a home, a true home (you!) and not just stuff of things that are part of a house! I found your blog, via the lovely Kim at ‘My inner chick!’ So thought I’d stop by & say hi!

  3. Hi Lisa,

    I agree with Bren here, the aim is to be happy eventually, and if you can find you happiness where you choose to live, then that is the right place for you.

    It’s not easy shifting homes, and downsizing perhaps is the right thing to do, if you are alone, at least for the time being.When and if things change, you can always build it up again. It just takes a positive mindset to restart once again. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend 🙂

    1. Hi Harleena, you’re right. I love your emphasis on having a positive mindset to make things happen and ‘build up’. So true. I’ll keep working on that ;). Thanks for your input!

    1. Yes, you’re right. Less work means more play time = healing. Sorry, I missed your comment Chrys. I see you submitted this morning and I didn’t get it until now!

  4. Hi LIsa! You are so right that there is FAR too much emphasis on BIG in our world these days. My husband and I choose to scale back about four years ago–we call it “right-sizing” and it was actually one of the VERY BEST things we ever did. Sure I can think back on a few things we had to release–the lovely swimming pool and spa, the three car garage, the manicured lawn, etc.,etc…but what we traded for was a lovely house that fits us both, much lower maintenance and money savings that allows us to do everything else that I REALLY enjoy doing much more. Plus I love my neighborhood so much more too. Good for you for finding pleasure and happiness right where you are–and yes a little Cabernet Sauvignon along side is always a good thing! ~Kathy

    1. Oh, Kathy your story is very inspiring! ‘Right-sizing’–I love that! I’m just going to try that Cab Sau right now. Mmmm, pretty good.

  5. Sometimes I like to complain too Lisa…I have complained about my rental townhome’s busy street, the lawn that’s all weeds and ant hills from previous renters who didn’t enjoy a nice garden, the usual suspects that make me want to go “Argh, I WANT MY OLD HOUSE BACK!” But then I calm back down, realize my kids are here 50% of the time and we can “live” in this house. Nobody barking and complaining about the state of the house, the lawn (besides me in my head), no huge pool and property maintenance, and it’s all good in my head again.
    I can invite friends over, we can all relax, and nobody comes to see what’s hanging on my 4 walls…they come to see me.
    I am happier here than the big house made me, and I feel this house actually does hug me when I come home some days feeling lonely or let myself get caught in “what the heck happened to my life” thinking. It’s only 6 months in, I know my new real will become the real that I remember every day soon enough. And I’m happy I don’t have to maintain myself AND a huge home anymore…it’s a blessing!

    1. Michelle, you are an inspiration and just sharing your perspective here will inspire many women who are forced to downsize. Although it isn’t easy to give up a beautiful, large home as you say, it is a blessing in many ways. I love that you say your friends are there to see you and not what’s hung on your walls—perfect! Feeling lonely? Totally normal! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  6. After everything that I’ve been through–it sounds trite, but so true: home is absolutely where your heart is. We make our home by our strengths and choices, choices we made to choose love and not pain, and what a lovely home it is that you’ve made. One where you’re comfortable and where your kids and you can be happy. Awesome. <3

  7. Hi Lisa! I found your blog through Chrys Fey’s Liebster Award post since we were both nominated. And I’m so glad I did! I really enjoyed reading your writing. I love how honest and heartfelt your thoughts are and I admire how you’ve learned to appreciate whatever home you find yourself in.
    My boyfriend and I share a condo and as much as we would like to purchase a house, there is really nothing wrong with where we live at the moment. Sure.. all of our friends are pretty much married and own homes, but we love to travel and live freely at this time in our lives. And if we had a home, we wouldn’t have as much flexibility as we do financially now. Sure… the neighbors smoking outside gets annoying but we learn to shut our windows. And sure… it’s a far walk with groceries from the parking lot to our building. BUT, we have an impeccable view of mountains outside of our window and a nice breeze unlike some of the other units.
    So like yourself, we have learned to take the good with the bad.
    And I love how you are not going to do tours of your house. It should always be about the people who reside inside, not the materials they reside inside of. Home is within yourself and each other. Everything else seems to fall into place once the heart is settled=)

    1. Thank you, Gina for the Lovely comment! We sure have a lot in common! I live with my boyfriend too and we also enjoy the freedom of apartment living yet dream of being homeowners again. I will stop over to your blog! Chrys’s blog is awesome too.

  8. Hi,

    Every sad person try find the happiness inside wine. Divorced and depressed person love to drink wine in sad moments. But there are other solution also available to find happiness.


  9. Hi Lisa
    I think living happily is more important; either you live with your family or alone. There are thousands of couples who are not broken up but living alone because of their job requirements like army men working at border or in another country.
    The unluckiest are those who live together physically but mentally they are poles apart.
    Thank God you are not that kind of person and fully enjoying your life.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful views. Great!

    1. Great points made, Mimuba! Feeling alone while living together is very lonely, for sure. Thanks for sharing here. 🙂

  10. I do miss my dream home because I worked over 18 years till I got it. I didn’t think I would miss it since i only had bad memories there, but I do.

    1. Hi Nikky, well, that’s understandable! It is a loss we feel. All we can do is focus on where we are today. I can tell you I miss my dream home less as time has gone by. I remember my kids saying “mom you should put your hand print in the house.” It was so sweet and made me cry. But it’s all been okay!

  11. I have always loved living in a small space. Less to clean. We really overdo it with homes in this culture. My home now feels ways too big. I love the idea of less is more. More time to enjoy the world outside! I think this essay will help so many people!

    1. “Less to clean”—excellent point, Jodi. One of the reasons I don’t mind the apartment living is that it’s so fast to clean. Somehow it still gets pretty messy though 🙂 We sure have gotten caught up in the ‘bigger house is better’ idea and I’ve done it myself. Thanks for sharing here, Jodi!

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