Saturday, April 22, 2017

Condo living, one year later

One year ago today (already!!), the movers arrived at our old house to empty it of our possessions (the ones we hadn't gotten rid of in a frantic attempt at downsizing and de-cluttering), and we took possession of a shiny new (to us -- but still relatively newly built) condo on the other side of the city. (We officially moved in the next morning.)

As you might remember if you've been reading my blog a while, I came to condo living with some reluctance. (I laid out my thoughts on the matter, pro & con, here.)  One year later, here are some thoughts on how I'm feeling now:

What I miss about our old house/community
  • It's funny (especially when you consider how much I dragged my heels about moving), but when I think about it, there's not a lot that I really miss about the house itself. I loved it while we lived there, and I think of it fondly -- and I guess I sometimes miss being in a self-contained space a bit (as opposed to sharing walls with neighbours) -- but there's nothing I had there that I really wish I had here (except maybe a little extra storage space, lol). 
  • OK, one thing: I miss Katie's tree in the backyard. :(  I wish we could have taken that with us. ;)  (This is why I caution other bereaved parents about backyard memorial gardens & trees, scattering ashes in backyards, etc. -- you might think you're going to live somewhere forever, but life takes some funny twists & turns sometimes...)
  • We had some very nice neighbours on the one side of us. I won't say I MISS them -- we weren't exactly buddy-buddy (we were never further than the front entryway in each other's houses in the 18 years we lived side by side) -- but we were friendly & cordial. Dh & the husband chatted together as they both shovelled snow and mowed the lawns, we collected each other's mail during vacations, and watched each other's comings & goings. Most of all, we watched their daughter (Little Girl Next Door) grow up. She was six months younger than Katie would have been, and will be graduating from high school this year. I took a little baby gift over when she was born (which was a HUGE step for me, not even a year post-stillbirth), and she was the first baby I held, post-Katie (when I took the gift over -- I planned it that way -- got that "first" over with on my own timetable & own terms, away from the prying and mournful eyes of well-meaning family members and friends).  I sometimes wonder how she is doing.  
  • I miss the great location. Our house was just a short walk away from a retail plaza where we had fast, easy access to a supermarket, drugstore, dollar store, convenience store, hair salon, nail salon, dry cleaner, several fast-food places (pizza, subs, Chinese) & even a small pub (although we never went there).
  • I miss our walking routine: one of the local schools had a fabulous paved track on its grounds that was used by the entire community and was great to walk on. We would walk up there, do a couple of laps and walk home again -- a nice 40 minutes or so. Very convenient.
  • It was a smaller and somewhat quieter community. Traffic wasn't anywhere near as hectic as it is here (although development was on the upswing when we left) and, after 26 years, we knew our way around and some of the shortcuts. 
  • I miss the local mall. Dh thinks it's a crappy mall -- and it's true it's been hit by a lot of store closures in recent years (Target Canada, I'm looking at you...) -- but there are still two large department store anchors and a lot of other stores there I liked to shop at.  Most of the shopping close by here is of the standalone big-box store variety.  (Which is fine in many respects, but not much fun in the middle of a Canadian winter. My mother is convinced that whoever came up with the idea of big-box shopping developments vs enclosed malls must live in California. It's not a concept that's particularly suited for walking from store to store in -20C weather...!) Dh points out that we have a couple of really good, big (traditional enclosed) malls within a short drive of our new community -- and we do -- but they tend to be focused on outlet stores and high-end brands (where even the discounted prices often aren't something I'd typically shell out for). Some of the mid-market retailers I liked to shop at don't have outlets in those malls, or anywhere else near here.   
  • I REALLY miss the easy access to good transit into the city, with all its amenities (including (still) our longtime optometrist & dentist, and my ob-gyn). I could hop on a bus at a stop near our house and within about 15 minutes, be at the local commuter train station, with trains at least every half hour into the city (& home again) -- a 25-40 minute trip, depending on whether the train was express, partial express or all-stops.
  • We just found a new family dr we really, really like, just before we moved. We have decided he's worth keeping, and so we make the trip whenever we need to see him -- but obviously, it's not as convenient.
  • I miss living close to the lake.  Part of the commuter train route we used runs directly along the lakeshore, so the water and the beach was a twice-daily calming sight for us for many years. In recent years, they have built walking/cycling trails and recreation areas along the waterfront, and dh and I spent some pleasant afternoons there, enjoying the cool lake breezes on a hot summer day.
  • I miss the reassurance of knowing there were not just one but two hospitals within a reasonable drive of our house.
  • I miss being close to the cemetery where Katie's ashes are interred. :(  We visit whenever we're in the area (we still go back for medical appointments and haircuts, etc.), but generally only once a month or two, as opposed to when we used to go every weekend.
What I don't miss about my house/our old community
  • I don't miss worrying about things like squirrels in the attic...! 
  • I don't miss worrying about all the repairs & renovations that our aging house needed.  Neither of us are particularly handy, and the to-do list seemed overwhelming at times. It was actually a bit of a relief to have left that all behind and started fresh with something (almost) brand new. 
  • I do NOT miss the neighbours' (plural, more than one) stupid dogs, who would bark nonstop, including at all hours of the night, and poke their heads over the fence to growl & bark at dh when he was mowing the lawn.
  • I don't miss the neighbours on the other side of us. We both lived on pie-shaped lots and our driveways met near the bottom (leading into the street). Both of us had too much stuff in our )(single-car) garages to park in there (erk!).  They had several vehicles to our one, with cars often sticking out into the street.  Depending on how they parked, it was sometimes very difficult for us to back out onto the street when we were leaving in the morning.  
    • More annoying, they would leave their garbage in unsecure containers by the side of the house -- & then take off to their cottage for the weekend. Inevitably, the raccoons would get into it and scatter it all over OUR driveway & lawn in the sweltering summer heat. Even when the neighbours were home when this happened, they would often just walk around the mess and leave it there. It made me mad, and it drove dh (who often cleaned things up himself) absolutely bonkers.
  • I don't miss the neighbours two doors down from us whose lawn was never mowed and who had junk (pieces of plywood, rusty old appliances...) piled up on the front porch, and generally let their property deteriorate to the point that several neighbours called the city about it. It was an eyesore. :p 
  • I don't miss living close to an aging nuclear power plant. Needless to say, I don't mind putting some distance between that and us! 
  • I know dh does NOT miss shovelling snow or mowing grass!!
  • I definitely don't miss dealing with dh's unhappiness and frustration re: the house and with the neighbours.
What I like about living in our condo/our new community
  • I love, love, love our condo. :)  It is spacious (875 square feet, but it feels spacious), bright, airy and shiny new, with floor to ceiling windows, a small balcony (big enough to fit two or three chairs), stainless steel appliances, a quartz countertop, beautiful laminate & ceramic tile floors, ample kitchen cupboard space and spacious closets (including walk-in closets in the front entryway and in our bedroom).  I love the open floor plan of the main living space -- how I can be behind the counter in the kitchen, keep an eye on what's on TV, talk to whoever's sitting on the sofa, and see what's going on outside. I love all the natural light we get through the big windows.
  • Although our condo is situated on a very busy main thoroughfare, we are at the back of the building, where it's a bit quieter and the view is nicer.
  • I love that there is a lot of open space around us, and we get to see some beautiful sunsets, many evenings. (And sunrises too, if we get up early enough to see them, lol.)
  • Underground parking rocks. :)  No snow to clear or icy windshields to scrape! :)
  • The neighbours that we've met have been pretty friendly.
  • We LOVE being closer to BIL & his family, as well as several other relatives. We get to see a lot more of them now. It's been fun having SIL close by to do girly things with, like shopping, getting mani/pedis and seeing chick flicks together. ;)  And it was so nice to be closer in the months leading up to Oldest Nephew's wedding last fall and to be a bigger part of that than we would or could have been had we still been living further away. Now we're looking forward to Younger Nephew's wedding next year!
  • Despite the lack of conventional malls in the vicinity, there IS great shopping, locally and at a couple of malls that are a short drive away.
  • There is also an abundance of good restaurants, both national/regional chains & local establishments.
  • Also some great local supermarkets, bakeries & gelato shops. :)  Dh is in heaven (and has gained more than a few pounds since we moved here, lol) because the stores are well stocked with the Italian foods and brands he grew up eating. :)
  • We may not live as close to the lake anymore, but there are some scenic forested/ravine areas here that are especially pretty in the fall. 
  • We are closer to the airport, whenever we need to use it.
  • While I may have a few reservations, dh is so, so much happier here. Which makes ME happy.  :)
What I don't like about living in our condo/our new community
  • The storage locker (in the parking garage by our parking spot) is not huge (& it's not climate-controlled -- I sometimes worry about the stuff I have there getting mildewed, etc.). It does fit an amazing amount of stuff  when you cram it all in ;)  but even slightly larger would have been nice.
  • Although we face the back of the property and not the highway at the front, construction work began on a development of about 60 high-end townhouses in the vacant space directly behind us. (We did know this when we bought the condo. Of course, you never know exactly how things are going to play out...!).  There's been a lot of dirt and a lot of noise (starting some mornings by 7:30 a.m., or even earlier...!), and yet -- a year after we moved in -- we have yet to see a foundation poured or a building framed.  
    • On the bright side, we know it won't last forever...!  
  • We haven't been especially impressed with the building's property manager, and we know we're not alone. 
    • On the bright side, steps are being taken by our condo board to deal with this. 
  • Putting up with some of the neighbours. Among other annoyances, we've had cigarette smoke infiltrating our unit; loud voices from across the hall (same unit!!), sometimes late at night;  yappy dogs in the hallways, going out for or returning from walks;  and continuous thumping noises above us.
    • That said, most of these annoyances are periodic & nowhere near as annoying as what we used to put up with from our neighbours at the house (at least yet...!).    
  • (As mentioned above) I mourn the lack of easy transit into the city.  :(  Right now, my main option is to hop on a regional transit bus (there is a stop nearby) that would take 40 minutes to get to a subway station on the edge of the city. It would take another 30-40 minutes to get downtown on the subway from there. Another option is to get dh to drive me to the closest subway station, about 20-30 minutes away (depending on traffic), then hop the subway for a 30ish-minute trip downtown.
    • There IS a subway extension being built nearby that is SUPPOSED to be finished by the end of this year. Needless to say, I am looking forward to that...!
  • While we do have some services, shops and fast food restaurants (McDonalds) within walking distance, for the most part, you need a car to get around here. (While I have my license, I've never done much driving, and haven't done any driving in years... and I'm not likely to resume driving anytime soon, given the local traffic...!) 
  • The traffic here is INSANE -- very congested -- & (IMHO) the local drivers are nuts. :p   Yes, there were bad drivers where we used to live too, but it seems like we encounter more of them, more often, since we moved here.
  • We haven't established a regular walking routine yet (and as a result, we've both gained weight... dh in particular, much to his chagrin...!).  The main roads are way too busy & noisy for pleasant strolls. There are some residential areas nearby that we could explore, and some but we'll probably need to bring our phones & Google Maps with us to find our way around the winding streets...! (Also some conservation areas with walking trails, but we'd need to drive to those.)
  • There is no hospital close by. They are (finally) going to be building one, but it will be a few years until it is finished.
  • This is a much more affluent community than the one we left behind. That's not necessarily a bad thing (and this is probably a reflection of my own insecurities) -- but there's a LOT of conspicuous consumption and keeping up with the Joneses, which makes me very uncomfortable sometimes. At the movies one Sunday afternoon, shortly after we moved here, I nudged dh & said, "Have you noticed that all the pre-show ads are for Mercedes-Benz and BMW and Lexus, and in our old town, they were for Toyota, Volkswagen & Ford??" 
  • As a childless couple, we are definitely in a minority hereabouts (although it hasn't been a real issue so far).
I've said this before & I will say it again: in a lifetime of moving around (albeit most of those moves were made in my more flexible younger years...!), I've learned that there is good & bad everywhere you live;  it's up to you to make the most of it.  I'll admit that I don't feel entirely at home in this new community (yet?).  But I haven't been looking back a lot either.  Overall, we are happy here, and happy we made the move at this point in our lives, while we're still young enough to make the choice and explore freely and enjoy.

(I can't believe it's already been a whole year, though... time flies...!!)

*** *** ***

ETA:  After hitting publish (& doing a few things around the house), I thought of a few more pros & cons to add! ;) 
  • I have a love/hate relationship with the glass shower cubicle in the master ensuite bathroom. It looks fabulous, but it's a b*tch to clean :p  (I call it "my nemesis"...!). Although I must say I do get a certain sense of satisfaction when it's all finished and shiny clean. ;) 
    • (As an aside -- two bathrooms were not on our "must" list when we were condo hunting, but it's turned out to be a big plus to have them!) 
  • I love doing laundry here. :) It's so easy! The front-load washer & dryer are stacked inside a closet off the main living space. It can be a little noisy while they're running -- but no lugging baskets of laundry up & down stairs, no straining to hear the "done" signal; no shivering in a dark, chilly basement. The laundry closet is just steps away from my kitchen counter, and when the clothes are dry, I stand at the counter and sort & fold them before putting them away.  
  • The lack of stairs, generally, is a big plus for my deteriorating knees!  ;)


  1. My Mum is in the process of downsizing and moving, likely into a condo much closer to us (although to the west of the city). I find your posts really helpful! Lots of things I wouldn't have necessarily thought about.

    We are waiting on the same subway extension as you (Q and I both work at the university that currently requires a bus as well as the subway to reach). I think they must be running on time at the moment as our local politics newsletter took it as a given it will be open by the end of the year. That will be exciting!

    I'm glad the condo is working out. I hope you find some good walking routes soon!

    1. Glad if you find some of these posts helpful, Turia! :) I am hopeful the subway extension will be up & running by the new year! I know a few people who work or have worked at that same university (Younger Nephew & his Fiancee both went there, & dh is actually thinking of enrolling for work on another degree -- apparently tuition is free once you turn 60!). Who knows, we may have friends in common! ;) The world is much smaller than we think sometimes...!

  2. I love this. Both that you're not looking back, and appreciate the best of your new condo and location, and also because DH and I have accepted that one of our likely retirement options is an apartment (we tend not to use the word "condo" here), even though we actually don't have that many. (We lived in an apartment in Bangkok, and I loved it.)

    I'm sorry you miss Katie's tree. I hope it helps to know that others are now appreciating its shade and greenery too.

    A couple of things amused me in this. One is that I don't think anyone in NZ refers to McDonald's as a restaurant!

    The other was shock that you lived near to an aging nuclear power plant. And the thought that feeling safer being a bit further away is probably psychological ... But that's my perspective coming from a country that is proudly nuclear free!

    Oh, and squirrels in the attic. So cute!

    1. Well, I DID qualify McDonalds with "fast-food restaurant," lol. We do have lots of restaurants hereabouts, but the ones closest to us within easy walking distance tend mostly to be of the fast-food variety.

      Yes, we did live just a few miles away from a nuclear power plant... the oldest one in Canada. They keep promising to shut it down (because it's basically reached the end of its useful life) but they keep refurbishing & extending its life. :p (I think two of the eight reactors have been shut down, and a few more are slated to go offline in the next few years.) I don't think most people in the city proper or in the town itself give the place too much thought -- denial is a powerful thing...! What I found funny was people in the city would make jokes about how we glowed in the dark & references to The Simpsons, like they were immune. I just said, "Hey, if we go, we're taking you with us!!" & that would usually stop them in their tracks...!

      Believe me, squirrels in the attic are NOT cute!! lol

  3. I love pro-con lists, and it was nice to see all the things that are good about the year of condo living. I'm sorry about Katie's tree. Like Mali, I hope the people who live there now appreciate it even if they don't know the significance. That will be nice to have a subway extension near you! I miss mass transit by train/subway from when I lived closer to Manhattan. There's definitely something nice about not having to get in a car to get around. And those open mall things -- I hear you! Enclosed ones in this colder climate are so much nicer because you can leave your coat in the car if there's a garage. Which actually, none of ours have here. I usually just freeze from the car to the mall and then am glad I'm not sweating in my coat. But the strip mall type things are awful. I am glad that the transition to the condo seems overall to be a good one, some adjustments for sure. May the next year be even better!

  4. Oh my gosh, what an exhaustive list! It makes me tired just reading it all!
    I try to de-clutter at least once a year, and each time I’m sure I say to myself “if we ever have to move.....I’m in big trouble”

    There are times when I’d love to move out of suburbia, to somewhere quieter. I’d never convince the hubs though, and we’ve got to be realistic and factor in support services/healthcare/essential services etc for the (far) future. We currently live in a very quiet street and have great neighbours, and services are a quick walk away.

    Here’s a quick shower hint, which we learnt when we renovated our bathroom several years ago.
    Our shower went from having two frosted glass sliding doors to a frameless single piece of clear glass. After I (or hubs) shower we swipe over the glass with a window squeegee that we hang on the wall with one of those little suction cups. Relatively clean glass ready for the next use, and it makes the weekly cleaning much quicker and involves a lot less elbow grease.
    My girlfriend, when she saw it on a visit, did the same for her bathrooms (5 kids).