Wednesday, January 11, 2012

love vs. list

Oh sure, this is not a new debate. And yes, everyone goes through it at some point. But knowing this doesn't help me sleep at night. I've been agonizing in the wee hours for the last half year trying to figure out if we should stay in our current house or start over.  Just writing it makes me freak out a little inside.

For anyone who watches Love It or List It (which I have to admit to watching, even though it's on a competitor station - sorry work!) we are basically any couple they follow. We've been in our house 10 years this summer, it's mostly good but there are shortcomings. It would be a stretch to afford a bigger house in our neighbourhood, if a house even came up for sale (it doesn't happen regularly). The renovations we'd need to tackle scare the bejeezus out of me, and I'm not convinced they'd turn this into our "forever" house anyway. Change seems like a nice idea, yet there is so much effort - and cost - associated with moving. And I value being able to live in a small space, finding creative ways to make limited space work for us instead of just going bigger. We've invested a lot of love and labour into this house and our location is hard to beat. But the house is dark and no amount of white paint is ever going to change that. See? Perfect Love It or List It content, though I'm not entirely sure which side Jay and I would be on. He mostly wants to stay, but is leary of renovating and has an easier time falling for other houses. I seem to be leaning towards moving but I am incredibly picky about other houses and so far we've seen about 10, none of which I feel are worth the move.

Here's what we need to do to stay: dig out and finish our basement. This would get us a second bathroom, handy for a family of 4 (though 1 bathroom hasn't been terrible), and also a larger work/studio/craft/play space for all of us to share. Even though I moved into the basement last spring, it hasn't been ideal. All summer it smelled bad and I'm storing my fabrics down there which isn't a great combination. Plus it's still a rough space; all we did was paint one corner for me but I'm always surrounded by piles of boxes, stuff on its way out, Jay's wood and tools and paint, hanging laundry...and on and on. Oh, and the cat litter boxes. It doesn't make me feel creative, you know? And if we took on this ginormous reno we'd finish up the rest of the list: install new hardwood floors upstairs to match what we did on the main floor, figure out air conditioning, redo the linen closet, replace the front walk and fix the concrete down the side of the house and probably change our oil to natural gas to gain more space in the basement and be able to turn our fireplace into something functional. Not a small list by any means.

To move, ideally we need the space above ground to handle our studio needs including an outdoor garage that's either insulated or easy to insulate. I don't think I've posted about Jay's awesome garage studio (another reason that makes this house hard to leave). We had it built in the fall of 2010 and it's perfect for the toxic part of his process (mainly, epoxy) while also being a well lit, comfortable working space that I envy every time I walk in. It's a single car garage that fills the back of our yard, the length of the garage being the whole width of our yard.

So it's a plus. And even though our backyard is teeny I actually really like it. It feels private, we have a 150 foot pine tree and vines that take over the yard all summer, which somehow makes up for the lack of grass. We built the deck and Jay laid a recycled brick path. I love walking right from our pantry onto the deck, reading in lounge chairs on a warm day, and watching the kids water the flowers while I'm at the counter making sandwiches. Sure, we share the backyard with a family of raccoons every summer but what Toronto backyard doesn't?

Hmm, I think I just fell into an "I love my house" tangent. I could go further and add to the love list being able to walk to the subway, Loblaws and No Frills, Shopper's Drug Mart, Starbucks and Tim Horton's (that's for Jay, not me), a knitting store (that's for me), the library, an LCBO, Goodwill, Salvation Army, a number of sit down and take-out restaurants (the Stockyards, anyone?), a kids shop for last minute birthday gifts, the revamped Artscape Wychwood Barns with its Saturday Farmer's Market, Cedarvale ravine, at least four parks with kid equipment, and finally Sadie's school, which is a whole 2 minute walk from the front door (yes, we've timed it...chronically late people tend to know these things). Did I mention this is all by foot? I'm not sure I could ever give it up.

Basically if a detached 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with a separate garage and at least one more room on the main floor came up for sale within a 4 block radius of where we are now and it didn't need renovations but was suitable to our style and also affordable...that would be ideal. But likely impossible. Sigh. I'm open to any and all advice. Yesterday I felt staying here was right, and then today someone told me we only live once and change is good.

I guess a few more sleepless nights are still to come.


Aline said... [Reply to comment]

it sounds and looks lovely from just reading this post. I know that kids grow up and move out faster than you think is possible so maybe saving and making what you have better over time is best. Our little home is far from what I want but we have been debt free for 10 years and that has been awesome. Good luck!

Steph said... [Reply to comment]

While we're not looking for a house, I think we're almost in the same boat as you... our house is small,the kitchen needs work, it's dark inside (it's a semi-detached built in 1920, the neighbour gets the sun) and I have a love/"meh" relationship with it. It has things about it that are great (big yard, close to everything we need) but if something that was exactly what we wanted and in our price range, I would want to consider it.

Kerry said... [Reply to comment]

Hey now. Now I want to live your house!

Deanna McFadden said... [Reply to comment]

My vote would be for digging out the basement, but then, up arises yet another issue -- where to live while that happens. Brian's family lived through that while he was growing up and it wasn't terrible, and his parents have been in his small bungalow his ENTIRE life. I love that Toronto affords us the "work in progress" attitude to many of our houses, that they are old enough to have character and yet everything we do to them makes them more "us" for future generations to uncover. Not that my rambling helps you decide whether or not to move. Then, my vote would be to move next door to me.

ltrsktr said... [Reply to comment]

We have a mutual friend who has digged twice in one year. She lived in the houses during the renos both times. It is a lot of work but it was completely worth it for her. She gained so much useable living space. I know if anyone could make it beautiful and functional, it would be you guys. I vote for stay and don't think about moving unless something truly amazing comes along that you can't pass up. Your house is lovely, the neighbourhood, the school.. all of it awesome. As far as the lack of light goes, would you consider cutting a bigger window in the front of the house? Every time I'm down about the lack of space in my house I think of people living in teeny tiny apartments in New York and paying enormous amounts of money. It makes me feel better :)

Coco said... [Reply to comment]

I say stay !!! Yeah !!!

We grew up 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, with 6, a dog, a huge jumbo fish tank and no basement similar to yours in leslieville. Then Dad reno the basement, a shower bathroom, 2 kids move down there. It never felt small growing up in that house.

My sister did add a 2nd window to one of her rooms to give her more light.

My sis always say pay off the house, after its all paid off, then use the money for travel.
Doesn't this sound good. :)

Bad time to move, properties are over inflated now.

Can't beat growing up in the city.
The kids will thank you for it.

My neighbour-tatto shop, he lives on the second floor, family of 4. His tattoo shop is on main floor, basement he just dug/Reno this summer, for his kids to use. He added a new entrance in the back. Water proofed the basement. I watched them working inside and outside, wow great job.

You need to call them to do your Reno. They did an amazing job.
MC contractor-family run, they care about their craft. No sloppy joe here.
416-881-8483. Manny
( that what it says on the van )

( funny I fell I need more space, you are lol )

petite gourmand said... [Reply to comment]

wow I could have written this post.
we are in the exact same boat (house)
I keep telling myself need vs. want....

then I think, well if we don't go for a bigger house maybe we'll end up getting a farm house out of the city instead.

I wonder if all those people in those huge Toronto houses know how lucky they have it?

Jason Schott said... [Reply to comment]

I know a great realtor that will help you find your dream home!'s me!!! Jason Schott