Houses are a lot of work.
I’ve mentioned my house fear here on the blog, and talked about it a lot with people in person, over the years. Houses scare me. My fears about home ownership are two-fold: they take a lot of time to maintain and clean and they attract a lot of stuff. Admittedly home maintenance and cleaning is not something I enjoy so I come from a place of negativity around the work of home ownership. Cleaning three bathrooms and vacuuming 2500 square feet of floor sounds like a stolen Saturday to me. The annoyance/pain of raking leaves or other yard maintenance makes me anxious. I know this is not the case for everyone because I know people that live in houses and have enjoyable and relaxed lives and aren’t crying to me about day(s) lost to the work of home ownership.
That said, a few weeks in and my husband and I both feel that owning a home has been just as much work as we expected and not any less. We’re in a 1400 square foot rancher with a decent sized fenced back yard, a garage and a basement that has a suite in it and a large unfinished room. Coming from our two bedroom 1100 square foot condo, the one that required no yard work and had a gym and indoor swimming pool for our use, the change has been severe. Of course, one of the reasons we moved here was to have more time and a more relaxed schedule. We knew some of that time would be used for home maintenance.
Condo life is easy.
Condo life really is easy. I can’t say that enough for people that are looking to downsize or shift something to get more time. Sure, you pay a monthly maintenance fee but you don’t have to own and maintain any lawn and garden equipment. We’ve been at the local hardware store a half dozen times since moving in getting the basics to keep the house and yard in shape. The backyard of our home came with not one but two sheds that the previous owners had filled with home and yard maintenance equipment. We won’t be going that far but yes, we’ve invested a hefty sum to mow the lawn, be able to clear gutters and trim trees. In a condo that’s all not your problem. You’re also unlikely to get a surprise maintenance bill in a condo. Furnaces age out, water heaters break and you could face an immediate bill of several thousand dollars just to keep your house liveable. In a condo you make a monthly payment to take care of those big expenses – it’s great for budgeting. And in Vancouver condo boards now have to get a depreciation report for their building each year to guide how they allocate funds for current and future maintenance and replacement projects. Home owners on the other hand have to do this planning and budgeting themselves. And let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to start saving now for getting the roof replaced in the next five to ten years.
Yes, I moved to a house and I’m still raving about the beauty, ease, savings and simplicity of apartment life. I loved it. We loved it. I know it’s not for everyone, many of you enjoy the space a house affords and are happy to trade in some time to have that. But in the busy exhausting days of having young kids, especially for working parents with long commutes, I highly recommend exploring apartment life as an avenue to gain more time. I’ve been writing about the challenges and benefits of living in an urban centre with kids for years. But I don’t detail a lot of the day to day here or document specific activities that we do. For a full picture on living in downtown Vancouver with kids, I love the blog Apartment Baby. Andrea’s been blogging since 2008 and now has three children and a wonderful downtown lifestyle (she’s also a labour and delivery RN and has a wealth of information for new parents). If want to explore the good and the challenges of living in an apartment with kids, check out Andrea’s blog. It’s actually where I have gone to in the past for new ideas on where to take my kids!
I don’t know how parents of young children maintain large homes. Do they just strap the newborn to them and get to work? Are they mowing the lawn with the baby monitor hooked to their belt so they know if the toddler wakes up from their nap? Do they have a lot of budget wiggle room to outsource all of it? I would have been completely overwhelmed at the amount of work a house requires when we had newborns and toddlers. They’re older now, almost 3, almost 5 and 8, and more independent and sometimes even helpful compared to those early years. And we’ve gained more time with my husband moving from a job that had him travelling three weeks of the month to a job that has him working from home. Maintaining this modestly sized home feels manageable at this stage in our life.
Finding pleasure in the work of home maintenance.
Of course, it would be sad if all we did was grumble about the increased workload from buying a house. Instead, we’re trying to get into it and enjoy the work. My husband apparently likes mowing the lawn. I’m trying to get into a routine with the new recycling system, one that requires a lot more work on our part than just taking the elevator to the garbage and recycling room in our condo building. There’s something quite satisfying about stacking all of our cardboard, sorting what can go to curb-side recycling and organizing all the items that have to be driven out to the waste disposal site just out of town to be recycled.
We’re also trying to get the kids into the extra work. They’ve been bagging leaves and I’m trying to get them interested in sweeping pine needles off the driveway. They want to plant strawberry bushes in the small garden beds next spring. Hopefully the end game on all this house maintenance is that our kids learn the skills to maintain a house and then can a) take over the work! and b) they have a better idea if that’s the lifestyle they want for themselves.
If you live in a house, do you find the maintenance and cleaning to be a chore? Do you enjoy the work? Are you ready to be done with it?