Finding ways to move into old age with grace is challenging. I’ve become increasingly consumed with this issue as I consider my desire to work less (I no longer call it retirement because no one – including me –believes I am capable of not working at all), my equal desire to continue to have a comfortable standard of living (I’m not good at pinching pennies) and the inevitable physical realities of getting older that both my partner and I are experiencing (oh, those stairs!).
As I wrote about last month, we’ve been contemplating various possibilities for the next stage of our lives. After a lot of thought and conversation, we’ve made a few decisions.
First, we don’t want to be homeowners anymore. We want a smaller place to live, free from stairs and outside maintenance duties, while also turning the equity in the house we own now into capital to support the next 20 or so years of our lives. We want to be free of the responsibilities of home ownership so we can just lock the door behind us, if and when we decide to go on a long trip.
A few weeks ago, we decided that the time to find an apartment had arrived. We were taken aback by how tight the rental market was, even for people with a fair bit of money to spend on housing. After a few false starts, we got lucky, wandering into the rental office for one apartment complex at just the right moment. We had intended to put our names on a waiting list, but the manager told us there was a two-bedroom unit available and, if we were interested, we could look at it right away. In fact, she said, we should look at it right away, because they had another potential tenant lined up to see it a couple of hours later.
We saw it, we liked it, and we completed our application right then and there. It was the fastest decision I’ve ever made about something as important as this and, as we drove away, we were both giddy and in a state of shock.
Our application for a light-filled corner apartment was approved a few days later. We get it on October 1st, which means that suddenly everything is moving very quickly. We’re looking forward to the views from our apartment windows as well as from the rooftop, where we’ll be able to see downtown Kingston, the lake, the river and lots of green. No more snow shovelling and, with indoor parking, no more scraping of car windows on cold mornings. And, no more stairs.
Stuff, stuff and more stuff!
Of course, there’s a lot of work between now and moving day. First, there’s the matter of reducing our belongings by at least 50%. We’re going to do that in stages. We’ve made a list of beloved possessions we think our kids might like to have (although interest has been less than enthusiastic, I have to say). We’ve rented a storage unit, where we’ll put items to which we are not yet quite ready to say a final goodbye, so we can see just how much we miss them over the next several months.
The world’s biggest yard sale lies ahead, where we hope to rid ourselves of items that we know we’re not taking into the final decades of our lives. Anything that doesn’t get sold will be bundled into our car for drop-off at Habitat for Humanity or other second-hand stores. (Feel free to drop by if you are in the area on Saturday September 2nd. We’re starting at 8 am sharp, rain or shine.)
Most pressing, we need to sell our house. That process is underway and will, we hope, be relatively brief while also financially successful. Once we have rid ourselves of extraneous possessions, we’ll make sure the house looks inviting (ie we’ll tuck away the details of our daily lives and make sure surfaces are clear of clutter) and do a final fall spruce-up of the gardens so everything can be photographed for the listing.
Fortunately, we have the world’s best real estate agent in Mark Sinnett. He’s also a writer, and the descriptions he writes for his listings are more like short stories than advertisements. I’ve never read one that didn’t make me want to buy the house, even when I wasn’t in the market for one.
When we bought this house about 12 years ago, we were turning our backs on our dream of creating an intentional community of political activists in rural eastern Ontario. Years of hard work had left us physically and emotionally exhausted and broke.
At the time, it felt like a failure to leave the land and return to the city. Sometimes, it still does. However, over the years we have lived here, we have made this place a haven for ourselves and for others. We’ve filled it with colour, art, warmth, music, good food and people. Peter has worked tirelessly outside, turning two mundane urban lawns into gardens filled with riotous colour, garlic and asparagus, sculpture and comfortable sitting spots. We’ve had some great parties and family gatherings, inside and out.
It won’t be easy to close the door behind us for the last time, but it feels like this is the right time for doing that. Apartment living will be new for us, and I’m sure there will be some adjusting to do, but we’re looking forward to this next adventure.