At 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.
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