Less is More

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Take this as a bit of how-to inspiration (maybe? hopefully?) geared to the buyer who really wants to live in Toronto, to enjoy what urban life offers—vibrant, amenity laden neighbourhoods, easy access to everything, including transit; of course ‘vibrant’, amenities galore directly correlates to price here in the city. Detached or semi your target? If you have a healthy budget, if you’re open to exploring neighbourhoods you perhaps hadn’t thought of it’s doable. For a price. Core area the target? Condo is the affordable, and for me preferred, way.

Location, location, location (I suspect you’ve heard that one); if you’re like me, while my physical home has always mattered as well, my neighbourhood, my community, my immediate world outside my home matters big time. Every single day I am energized, I feel a sense of freedom, I’m inspired by just stepping outside my building: there’s the skyline, the Tower, everything a walk or bike away and rather than sitting in my car (though I do love to drive) I’m walking through the city, with my fellow Torontonians. Corny as it may be it’s really how I feel.

When I decided to sell a large four bedroom house (not in Toronto so no, I’m not rich) and come home to the core I wanted to do it affordably, I wanted my ‘location’ to be in the heart of it all, the solution being to adopt a condo lifestyle, a one bedroom plus den downtown.

My name is Brad, I’m now officially in the less is more camp. Starting the downsize was tough, midway was a challenge but I was feeling good about making some headway, now I embrace it. I’m surrounded only by the things I love, no filler, just what brings me joy and what I need.

If you’re going small/smaller/smallest you need to make the reduced space work for you. I’m plugging away at that—this afternoon getting a design quote on my built-ins for a den/office space—it’s worth the investment to tailor a space to your life.

Smaller condos simply do not offer closet space. A front hall closet: so much wasted space, the rod was placed at the back, the front half would have to remain open so I could get to the coats; I moved the rod forward, installed shelving up the back wall, I now have floor to ceiling storage behind the coats.

I have one good-sized walk-in closet in the bedroom, offers surprisingly decent storage but now it’s much better with a second row of shelving higher up for those items I don’t often need, I LOVE this improvement. I’m also shopping for a platform bed frame with drawers beneath, every little bit. Admittedly I have a weakness when it comes to clothes, shoes, bedding….but I now have that upper shelving! 🙂

Kitchen: this is a place to make efficient use of your space, chances are it’s much smaller, mine certainly is. I ordered my custom island/breakfast bar (and stools) from DesignRepublic in Toronto, a great outlet to source interesting pieces in the city, I wanted hidden storage beneath for small appliances, platters, no clutter in a small kitchen.

Cabinetry: I found after two months my pantry wasn’t cutting it, all those items that live at the back die at the back. Gliding Shelf Solutions to the rescue, Canadian made pull out pantry shelving available in plastic and wood, I chose wood, sturdy, quiet, smooth, supports up to 100lbs per shelf, that should do it. Smart Shelving is an authorized dealer for the product, they did a clean efficient installation. This was well, well worth the investment, my pantry is as organized as it’s ever been (or will be…).

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Three shelves become four: slide out pantry shelving courtesy Gliding Shelf Solutions. Lifesaver!

Bathroom: of course small but I’m fine with that, I have a deep soaker tub, that’s the must-have for me. While I like the fixtures chosen by the builder there wasn’t enough thought to how people live so after contacting customer care to find out the brand name of the fixtures I ordered up additional. There is a small vanity but there was no medicine cabinet, not nearly enough storage—there are times to spend to really make your home your own but in this case I managed a budget friendly find for the bathroom: a high lacquer contemporary cabinet from IKEA, looks great, offers more than enough storage, $110. While we’re in the bathroom…when you’re buying new push for any changes to the unit you feel you want—minor disappointment for me: I wanted a different bathroom floor tile, it was already in place, we were getting other upgrades so that one did not go our way. Small bathroom, not a great expense to change, and it will be changed.

I’ve just had the whole unit painted (no builder basic white for me, and the quality of builder paint is terrible), my TV mounted, all unsightly wires hidden in the wall, it will soon be time to dress that balcony for spring, my balcony with the perfect view: my downtown Toronto skyline and that Tower.

A downtown life can be done affordably, for me it’s the perfect way to live. If it’s what you’re looking for please feel free to reach out anytime for pointers, I’m a condo convert, a downtown Torontonian at heart, I’m more than happy to connect.

For instance, currently you’d find a 1+1 bedroom condo at Distillery District, with a storage locker (must-have for me) listed at $420,000. Food for thought…. 🙂

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LOVE at Distillery District, right next door to my home…happiness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Elder care is the new child care’

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Photo courtesy rockinghorseranch.com

I love this image: seniors sharing time, community, stories, perhaps common histories—but what to do when you’re the support and your ‘I don’t like old people’ parent doesn’t want to be a part of that picture? Welcome to my life 🙂

I was looking for an expression describing those of us who are adult only children—without kids of our own we’re not exactly the sandwich generation (apparently I could be deemed an ‘open-faced sandwich’) but we have no siblings with whom we can share the care, we’re a single slice sandwich or yes, I suppose, the open-faced variety.

I didn’t coin the headline, it comes courtesy of a great Globe and Mail piece from Elizabeth Church speaking with Linda Duxbury a Carleton University business professor who has spent a career looking at work-life balance. While I don’t approach this subject from an academic perspective it is a daily life perspective and has been for the past nine years since my father passed away leaving my 79 year old mother solo three hours away.

Rest assured my posts on elder care will be interspersed with others on all things real estate, home and lifestyle but a very real part of lifestyle for many of us is the role reversal that can happen with an aging parent. As an only child who’d been living a few hours from my hometown I knew I didn’t want my last months and years to be a weekend here and there plus holidays, and it was clear at a point that my remaining parent needed more support, living alone worked for a few years but then the ground shifted again. More than a few find themselves in this same situation.

When you’re a family of three you become acutely aware in the advancing years of your role, and you know that once your parents are gone your immediate family is no more. Of course not everyone is going to have the same relationships, options, capabilities, I’m lucky in that my mother’s always been game for adventure and generally speaking she’s an easy personality. This is simply my experience and I hope others will share, perhaps you’ll offer up your own tips—survival and otherwise…

There’s much to consider: when should a parent look at downsizing, the downsizing itself can be an experience! and then to what sort of accommodation? There are various assisted living situations, independent living with support in home, The Care Guide is a fantastic resource to start with. Then there’s old school going it alone and hoping for the best, not uncommon, that was my father’s plan and it’s often the plan that makes adult children crazy: ‘Come on, give me an inch here’ has come to mind and mouth from time to time. And then there’s my plan: I sold my Toronto house, moved life and career then moved my mother into a new (big enough) home with us outside the city, it’s been gratifying and, to be honest, challenging at times.

There are pluses and minuses to every scenario (and sometimes those pluses and minuses hop columns depending on the day). There is tremendous satisfaction in offering a senior parent new experiences, it’s far too easy to spend those years sitting alone ‘same old, same old’, there is peace knowing the essentials of safety and decent meals are taken care of; there are also sacrifices, frustrations, caregiver fatigue is very real.

So, watch for the next post as we dive in and please opt into the conversation with your own experiences, good or bad—we can all learn a little something from one another and as we say, there is strength in numbers!

One day we’ll be there…Heed the wise words of author/playwright James Baldwin:

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“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

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Ah the wise words of William Morris, the famed English textile designer and writer. I’m very much keeping those words in my frontal lobe these days (frontal lobe…is that where I want these words? Maybe that explains the challenge…).

It’s been a whirlwind, every day we’re moving stuff from room to room for the painters and workers, every day we’re touching this stuff trying to decide ‘Is it useful?  How many of these do we have?! Is this valuable? Do I love this?’ — that beauty Morris refers to. It’s been tiring but it’s a great exercise and reaffirms what we all know: we have too much damn stuff.

Donating to various charities, always a good idea: we’ve made numerous trips to Goodwill, we’ve had the Canadian Diabetes Association pick up bags of clothing from our front porch (so helpful when you’re busy renovating), we’ve taken books to our local used bookstore for credit and had them donate those they can’t use to other charities.

We had our first ever garage sale! We did well selling off items that we don’t need, won’t have room for, things like a ukulele I got at age six from my dad’s company Christmas party (feel free to wonder why I still have it…), a bb gun my grandmother gave me at 10 (I debated adding this to the sale, somehow it felt wrong but it’d been living in my parents house for decades, now here for a few more years, and it was an adult making the call to buy it so…). I sold some tables to a lovely woman who was buying household items to help furnish apartments for Syrian refugees—I’m a realtor, I tend to talk a lot and dig a little—we will no doubt have more furniture and housewares before our big move, another donation I’m happy to make. Thus far we’ve not discovered inadvertently selling off any beloved items though as an only child an endless array of family keepsakes tends to come my way, it’s tricky letting go of some of these.

What have I found in the early days of a premature downsizing? As the cliche goes: eye on the prize, we’re downsizing to return to a major city where space is at a premium, for us life will be about living in the city as well as in our small urban home. I’m trying to assess what I really need and want not just the wants because I live in a large four bedroom house with a basement….you know what ‘basement’ means. I don’t know about you but I’m inspired by articles offering pointers and lists, it helps me shape my approach (or it just offers that shred of hope when I need it), check Style at Home for thoughts on downsizing and for other home design and decor ideas.

A touchstone for me when I need motivation—I’ve got my copy of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up  living on my night table; it’s not just the advice it’s the tone, the author’s voice, dipping in for even one page end of day gives me hope 🙂

 

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You can’t purge it all…this hat box was my father’s from his show horse days, it held his formal Biltmore show hat, mid 1960s, it stays 🙂

 

 

 

 

Does Size Matter?

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And so it begins…

Bit of a blog break here, I’ve been rather occupied with a life challenge—I’ve been through the downsizing of elderly parents but I’m tackling my own, twenty-five years early.

Four years ago we sold our small, rather typical, but fabulous, Toronto semi in the east end (always an east ender here) to shuffle off to lovely Dundas Valley, and a much bigger house, for elder care—four years later we are trading in the four bedroom home with yard, large cedar deck, wood burning fireplace and so much more for a Toronto condo. Dundas truly is a gem but I’m a Torontonian at heart, have been for decades, I love the energy and all that comes with big city living, I’ve missed it dearly. And…I’ve decided to do something I’ve not done—live in a small space surrounded only by the things I really love ’cause that’s all I’ll have room for.

We’re going for the full urban experience, high walkability, Distillery District virtually at our door, a new streetcar line, our bikes (and bodies) will get a regular workout, we’ll drop to a one car household and with a gym in the building is there ever an excuse?

We’re downsizing ourselves, and a senior parent living in my house, we have to prep our lovely Dundas home, sell said home and set up life in the new Canary District Toronto!

Follow, post, suggest, share, it’s gonna be a ride 🙂

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Late night sorting…