After nine years of working abroad, my brother is moving back to Canada. It seems strange that after living in places like Cambridge, Budapest and Majorca, he would settle back in Canada. Yet, the great white north seems to beckon back its ex-patriots.
He is now at a crossroad. With the possibility of this move being his last, he finally has the chance to settle in a home that meets his overall needs.
I have been in his situation, and I know the indecisions that can plague a search for a new home when you are fortunate enough to have the time, resources, and insight to pick a suitable long-term residence.
I believe I was successful because I was fortunate to find a balance between our needs and wants as a family.
My wife and I lived in a 600 square foot apartment for a year before we needed to move up to a new residence. The apartment was in a great location and only 40 minutes away from work, but Heather and I were crowding each other.
This was before I discovered the pleasure of purging myself of stuff and seeking a minimalist existence. With 30 years of “precious goods” to sort through, and living in an apartment filled with Heather’s “even more precious goods” there was no space I could call my own. Like my brother, there was much to consider before settling on a home.
Much to my wife’s consternation, I am a homebody. All of my hobbies involve my computer and a drafting table, and my leisure time involves watching movies, listening to audiobooks, and reading. Therefore, it was important that I get a large personal space and an even larger common space for the home entertainment unit.
Heather is the oldest of three siblings and loves to host family gatherings. Hosting any type of function in a 600 square foot apartment requires some creative planning, and in some cases a kids table on the balcony. (Do not worry; it was a ground level apartment)
Even in the apartment, my wife was unwilling to cut the guest list. This meant we needed space to entertain, and a decent sized dining room so that we could invite both sides of the family over for special occasions. (Luckily, we have the space to put the kids table in the living room and not in the front yard.)
Obviously, if you are young, mobile and your smartphone is your only electronic device, your home might be nothing more than a short stopover between work and socializing. In this case, it might make more sense to spend your money on the $20 cover charge at the dance club and a $300 cellular data plan.
After living out of a storage locker, and forcing my parents to hold on to many of my possessions, it was hard to being apart from my stuff. I love digging through boxes and the joy of rediscovering old treasures, but a lot of good stuff goes to waste because of the “out of sight, out of mind” rule.
My brother worked hard to amass a vintage video game collection that included console games and arcade machines he rescued from abandoned barns and painstakingly restored. He loved his travels around the world but missed his collection.
Living in a metropolitan city like Toronto means he is paying a premium for square footage in return for the convenience of a short commute to work.
He wants to avoid a long commute, but also wants to surround himself with a video game collection he has not been able to access for 9 years. Living in Toronto is going to make that hard to achieve.
Whether you are a minimalist or enjoy the feel of a full house, there are certain items that represent home and comfort. We work hard to accumulate our stuff, and sometimes it is hard to live without it.
In 1998, my parents bought a huge house in the country. It was their dream to have a hobby farm, and building a smaller home did not fulfill their notion of the Canadian dream.
The size and style of the home brought them comfort and joy, but also represented some problems. My brother already moved out of the house and in a few years (more than I expected) I left the nest.
Ultimately, the departure of the kids resulted in a lot of unused space and therefore placed a financial and physical burden on my aging parents.
You do not want the house to be financial burden or strain your ability to do what is important to you.
One aspect I hate about townhouses and apartments is the close proximity to neighbours. Neighbours are great, as long as they are not intently listening to your conversations through the wall.
We can control the mood and energy of our homes, but we cannot do the same for our neighbour’s apartment. Close proximity can result in conflicts over noise, smells, or unavoidable and unwanted interactions.
You also have to feel comfortable with the size of the lot. Nice open spaces or shared communal space gives people the ability to barbeque, kids to play, and dogs to be dogs.
I find it nice to have an open uncluttered space, but I am convinced that people have to strike a balance between comfort and convenience. There are many times when I need to reference a book, DVD or notebook, but I cannot access it because I rashly stored them in an inaccessible space. Conversely, if you work on vintage cars or build boats in your garage, you want the home to meet your current and growing needs.
As with many things in life, the deciding factor is our finances. Sometimes, you can get the best of all worlds but it will cost you. Even if you cannot afford the space you want, you might be willing to make deep budgetary sacrifices in order to make it all work out.
I never had to move more than 4 times in my life, and every new home was in the same city. While it afforded me a lot of familiarity, it also made me resistant to moving.
On the other hand, my wife is an army brat. Moving is in her DNA and deep down inside she enjoys the experiences that come with facing the unknown and the new. Being that my brother is the same breed as my wife, he has the luxury of being flexible and open to a Goldie Locks type of existence.
Home, the spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.