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Home, home on the screen

Classic TV shows had great homes.  Roseanne aside, houses were meant to be aspirational, just a little bigger/tidier/nicer than our own, so we could relate without really noticing them.  They were sets, not characters.  Or….were they?  Didn’t they become characters in the shows?

Thanks to artists Mark Bennett  and Inaki Aliste Lizarralde we can revisit those oh-so-familiar homes through their floor plans.

ILoveLucyFloorPlansWe spent many hours in that apartment with these folks

FloorPlansLucyBut that was a New York City flat.  How about this home:

FloorPlansLeaveItToBeaver

Even with four bedrooms (and 2.5 baths) Wally and the Beav shared a room.

 

The next decade brought us more homes we visited every week

FloorPlansRobPetrie

FloorPlansStephens

FloorPlansBradyBunch

Of course, Mike Brady was an architect, so his place reflected the open-concept, shag-covered tastes of the time.

But all these houses had one thing in common, something that shows itself in the reruns of the shows.

They weren’t very big.

Sure, they were bigger than our homes.  Nicer and newer and just better.  But they weren’t huge.

According to Life Edited, in 1950 the average floor space of a house was 983 square feet.  By 2012 that area had grown to 2,662 square feet, and there were fewer people living in the house. Over the years we got used to the idea that we needed more rooms.  But we really don’t.

That Life Edited article cites the book Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century which has some interesting things to say about what goes on in those big homes:

  • 3 out of 4 of the families garages cannot fit cars because of excessive stockpiling from stores like Costco.

  • 50 of the 64 parents reported not stepping outside in the course of a week.

And what are they doing inside those homes? The book describes a survey that showed how every member of the household moved throughout the home — a measurement taken every ten minutes.  And the pattern looked like this

No one used that formal dining room.  No one sat and chatted in the lovely living room.  Those spaces weren’t needed. And they are expensive in terms of heating, cooling, cleaning, decorating.  The more house the more money you need to support it.  And to build it.

 The outstanding domestic debt of the Household and Home Mortgage Sector in 1950 was $411B (adjusted for inflation). Currently, that same figure is $9.7 trillion. While the population has doubled and home ownership and college attendance have increased, this is still an increase of over 23-times.

Let’s start thinking and planning how we want to house ourselves in this new century.  Let’s leave our fantasy homes on the screen.

A new addition

How have I been occupying myself the last couple of weeks?  Not by writing blog posts.  No, I have been waiting.  We slipped away for a week to our usual holiday spot, but the rest of the time I was waiting.  Brooding.  Sitting in my empty nest and waiting on the arrival of our newest BFF — our grandson. This long weekend I watched a Dr. Who-athon on Netflix and knit a little blue sweater as my daughter patiently waited for her son to be born.

And now he is here!

Andrew

He arrived on September 1, and is a bonny lad. We are all madly in love with him, especially his sister.  How like her he is!

The best thing about this wonderful experience is that we now live right next door to these wonderful people, and can visit them whenever we want!  There are not many grandparents who have that chance, and I realize how lucky we are.

Soon I will be back to the regular content of the blog, but for now I will be gazing into that beautiful face. Darling Douglas.

 

A tale of two houses

Two houses recently sold in our neighbourhood.  One, the one we lovingly referred to as “the crack house”, is certainly scheduled for demolition.  There hasn’t been any maintenance to that property since mullets were in style (the first time).  It is falling to pieces, the yard filled with trash.  Soon the big machines will come and tear it down and replace it with a three-storey faux craftsman with a laneway.  It was inevitable and to a certain extent, planned-for.

We have seen the future and it is huge.

We have seen the future and it is huge.

The other house that sold is our neighbours’.  The couple who lived there spent much time and love taking care of it.  Yes, it drove us crazy to hear their tools fire up early on a week-end morning, but you could see just from looking at the exterior that these people took care of their home.  Now the big question on our minds is:  “Will the new owners leave as is? Reno? Demolish and rebuild?”

On our block we have seen it all.  Perfectly good small houses demolished for behemoths.  Aging bungalows given new life with loving renovations.  And of course, speculators buying the older, more derelict properties to hold on to for future development (while they rot and attract vermin of all species).

Rumour has it that the house next door has been bought by a family who will be moving into it as is; the tenants in the spacious two-bedroom basement suite are not looking for new accommodations yet.  But we won’t truly exhale until the moving trucks pull away, emptied of a household’s goods now placed in their new home. Then we’ll show up with a plate of cookies to welcome them to the new neighbourhood.

But if they want to make changes but don’t want to tear it down, the new owners will be stepping into a quagmire of regulations and rules that is the permit process for renovation in Vancouver.  This story in the Globe and Mail sums it up quite nicely.

Additions to the building code include a host of requirements designed to enhance accessibility for the disabled and to make houses more energy efficient. …..

Groups opposed to it are arguing that it will make renovations prohibitively expensive, adding to affordability problems and increasing the number of demolitions

Luckily the new owners wouldn’t have to do anything to bring the house up to code — the current residents have done all that.  But what if someone bought the “crack house” to preserve that old-fashioned style of house?  They would be screwed.  It would cost twice as much as the house would be worth to bring it up to current codes.  That’s one of the reasons we are losing these old houses.  It’s just too much bother and expense to try to save them.

It’s not “energy efficient” to put a house’s worth of old materials into a landfill.  And the drive to make our condo buildings air-tight contributed to the leaky condo crisis we are still trying to fix.  Personally I feel people should get some dispensation for trying to save an old house, not just one designated as a heritage home, but a place that was built in the ’60s, the ’50s, and the ’40s.  The architecture of those eras deserves to be respected and cherished as much as that of earlier years.

Meantime we will watch and see what changes our neighbourhood will experience in the next few months.

Decluttering — the journey begins

clutter2

So you know you have to declutter.  Your place may not look as bad as the photo — YMMV — but you want to downsize and declutter.  Where to begin?  With a list!

No, don’t grab yet another piece of paper and start writing — the nice people at Life Edited have made a list for you already.

When do you begin the process of decluttering?  Now.

1. Don’t wait for a good time to start.

We’ve all been done in by those “tomorrow” promises.  Start now.  Throw one piece of paper into the recycling bin.  Clean out the bottom of your purse — or the fridge — or your top drawer.  You’re starting a new way of life.  You can ease into it.  But start now.

2. Get rid of stuff you are very attached to, but don’t worry, it gets easy with practice.

No matter where you begin, sooner or later you will run across something that has value to you — even though you don’t need it.  I remember a lovely old chair we had.  Naturally, it had been given to us by a friend.  I hated getting rid of it, so I persuaded my daughter to take it.  Now when I see it in her basement I cringe.  I should have just given it away to a charity.  I am used to giving those things away now.  It still bothers me, but less and less.  And once it’s gone, believe me, it’s “out of sight, out of mind” — you won’t even think about it any more until you see a picture of it — if it was important to you it will be in the pictures you have of your home.

3. Don’t wait for the right home to start downsizing.

I should have started de-cluttering months, even years, before I did.  But I had the room for all the stuff, in the corner of a closet, in the storage room, in the junk drawer.  It would have improved my life, but only one thing got me to part with all that crap stuff.

4. Moving is the best way of getting rid of stuff.

There is nothing, NOTHING, like moving into a space less than half the size you are currently inhabiting to make you start decluttering.  As you start to pack up your belongings you realize how ridiculous it is to move a box of magazines you never even looked at.  Or an old, cheap, broken camera.  It’s not something you can do all the time, but moving is a great motivator.

5. Don’t wait for the support of friends and family to start making changes.

I remember visiting a little summer house of a friend.  It was absolutely packed with photos, knick knacks, doo-dads, thingamajigs.  It looked charming, she really had a knack of editing and curating.  I do not have a knack.  A room packed with my stuff looks like a room packed with crap — no matter how much it cost.  And I’ve visited houses that looked like that — with too many things crowding the shelves.  The people who live in those houses are not going to be supportive of you giving away your pictures and ornaments.  “You can keep that!”  they’ll say.  “You don’t have too many (insert item).”  So don’t announce to those people that you are downsizing.  Just do it.

Do it one step at a time, one item at a time.  But do it.

Decluttering — getting rid of roadblocks

Let’s make it clear that decluttering your home and your lives is a process. A journey rather than a destination.  Because you will never be able to say “I don’t need to declutter any more!” — it just ain’t going to happen. And I cannot claim to be an expert.  I used to be one of the worst clutter-ers in history, not exactly a shoe-box full of single socks away from a reality show, but pretty bad. And the reasons were clear.  As this article from Houzz points out, I had the wrong attitude towards it. clutter1 The clutter never got as bad as that picture.  In fact if you visited our condo you wouldn’t have seen it.  It was all packed away in storage rooms, in cupboards and in closets.  One of the main reasons we don’t have clutter any more is THERE IS NO WHERE TO PUT IT. But there was still too much stuff in our house.  And the barriers to getting rid of it were many:

1. “It’s a family heirloom.”

I had a pile of tablecloths that had been given to me by my mother.  Plus a pile that I had purchased through the decades to match occasions and several sets of dinnerware.  We were moving into a laneway with no table.  The tableclothes were useless.  But I still felt bad about giving the tableclothes away, even though I hardly ever used them (we’re more placemat people) and I was giving them to my kids.  I wanted to ask the kids to please hold on to them — after all, they are heirlooms.  But eventually I realized that I had to give them away with no strings attached.  When that box left my linen closet a heavy weight left my life.  It was the start of the journey to rid myself of things I didn’t need anymore.

2. “It was a gift.”

Do you have a drawer of items that were given to you but you just can’t use?  I had a cupboard full of them.  Mugs.  Picture frames.  Ugly picture frames.  Vases that could hold two dozen long-stemmed roses (when was I ever going to get those?)  All gifts, and therefore sacred.  But if I could give my kids “stuff” with no strings attached, surely I could remove the same condition from my belongings.  You gave it to me and I enjoyed it for a while, but now it has to go.

3. “I may need it someday.”

Just as there are clothes that don’t fit our bodies any more, there are things that don’t fit our lifestyle.  We have to recognize that.  And though everyone’s standards for “useless clutter” are different, if you haven’t used it in the last year it’s not likely you will ever use it again.  And if you need it, really need it again, maybe you can borrow it from a friend, rent it, or even buy a newer model.  I have to admit that I kept things around that I thought I could use someday only to find when that day arose that they weren’t really what I needed for the job after all.

4. “I paid a lot of money for it.”

The article suggests that when you are getting rid of things, don’t bother selling them, just give them away.  Have you ever had a piano?  It’s the perfect example.  I’m not talking about a Steinway, just an ordinary upright piano that your kids took lessons on.  When you got it you paid hundreds, even thousands for it.  But they are so hard to get rid of when you don’t need them anymore.  When, for instance, you move to a condo and realize that there’s no one in the household who plays the darn thing and even if they would it’s too loud to have in a condo.  Then you have a three-hundred pound albatross.  So give it away.  Also sofas — if they are expensive they won’t fit anyone else’s decor. If they are cheap the recipient won’t want to pay for them.  Dining room sets.  Hutches.  If you don’t want it — give it away. Sure, there may be a twinge when you think of how much you paid, but you got the use of it. Our possessions are really only rented, anyway, aren’t they?

More on de-cluttering to come.

Clutter – what is it?

I’ve been thinking more about the mechanics of keeping our place tidy and clean, so I was shocked when I saw the headline on Lifehacker:

Keeping Some Clutter May Be More Valuable For Lower-Income Households

Wait, what???? How can clutter be valuable?

The idea seems a bit counterintuitive (particularly if you account for storage space), but it actually makes sense. “Clutter” is typically seen as junk. Crap you don’t need. However, the less money you have, the less you can afford to replace that old stuff you might-but-probably-don’t need.

This idea can manifest itself in a number of ways, including hanging on to old furniture, clothes that don’t fit anymore, or a pile of chargers and cables.(emphasis mine)

I consider ourselves to be upper-lower-income.  And we do hold on to stuff — but only to stuff we will probably need. And that certainly includes a pile of chargers and cables.

For instance, we each just got brand-new Kindles.  My old one is cacked — that’s been tossed.  But what about the charging cord?  It fits my new Kindle.  I can still use it.  So the new ones could get put away and we could just use the old one, but why not take it to work and leave it there?  Or put it into my purse with my spare cell phone charger so I’ll always be able to charge it?

But I won’t throw it out.

Or how about head-phones?  When I got my new phone it came with ear-buds.  So I took my old set and put them away.  Sure enough, when my new ear-buds gave out I could pull out the old set and use them.

Broken stuff gets turfed.  But I cannot call a baggy full of chargers and cables “clutter”.

What’s “clutter” to you?

Keeping it clean — old school

Yes, the laneway house is kept tidy.  Two adults, two indoor cats, all working together to keep it clean and habitable.  Who couldn’t manage that?

TidySign

OK, we don’t get any medals.  And I have to admit a couple of corners (in the storage space beneath the stairs for example) that are not as well-organized as I would like.  But let’s get into the WABAK machine and see how I learned how to keep a house tidy, back in the days before the internet.

Back in a time I like to call….the 60s.

My mother worked hard to keep our home clean and tidy.  And my sister and myself had chores to do every week to help her.  We had to dust and vacuum the living room, do dishes, iron our clothes, the usual things our friends did.  But the worst was the Saturday morning bedroom cleaning routine.  DS and I would retire to our bedrooms, and after an hour she would emerge, her bed made, her desk organized, her dresser dusted, her floor mopped.  I could hear her leaving for an afternoon with her buds while I closed the book I had been reading and did a quick zip around the room to pass inspection.  I didn’t mean to procrastinate.  I just got side-tracked.

That habit followed me.  I knew I had to do the minimum amount of housework to keep the place looking habitable, and I wasn’t dirty, I just kept putting off the stuff that was “too much bother”.

You can get away with stuff like that when you are part of a two-job couple.  But when you are a stay-at-home Mom, it’s part of your job to keep the house clean.  And I just found it overwhelming. I thought that you were or you weren’t a tidy person, that was it.  There was no way out of the mess.

Then one day, I think I was watching Mike Douglas while I ironed, I saw two sisters, Pam and Peggy.  They called themselves the SLOB Sisters.  And they were just like me! Sidetracked Home Executives.

Their book gave me a system.  And it worked.  I didn’t have to be “naturally tidy”, I just followed the system. Big tasks were carried out once a month, with smaller ones done daily or weekly.  There were even jobs that you only needed to do once a year.  Everything was scheduled.  So simple.

I used their system religiously while the children were small.  It fell apart (a bit) when I went back to work.  But there are still things I do that I learned under the SLOB Sisters’ tutelage.

There are other books, other systems.  But if you are feeling completely overwhelmed by housework, I am here to tell you that there is a way out.  And you can do it.

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