Category: House & Home

Right, so… where was I?

I am moved.

After mostly retaining my sanity after “one more load” (which, of course, refused to ever be the last load), finally, one Saturday, it was. That pitiful, awkward, completely unrelated items that don’t actually really fit into tote bins load. (Thank you to Andrew and my brother for their muscles, de- and re-construction skills, and relatively large vehicles for the big stuffs.)

Then I cleaned. Then Sherry came over and we cleaned. Then I finished off the cleaning. (Seriously, I’m not a filthy person. How were there ~15 woman-hours of cleaning to do in that place?) For my own mental state/closure I needed the place to be as clean and in as close to the same state as when I moved in as possible. (And bless Sherry for being the right kind of people and just saying, “Ok, what’s next?”, then doing that, regardless.)

I fixed what I could, and was ok with what I couldn’t. And after a week when I stopped in, there were only fliers in the mailbox, which felt good, since it meant I covered my address change phone calls and such pretty thoroughly.

I held onto the keys for one more week, just in case I forgot something, but I didn’t. Then I stopped by a final time and left them in an envelope on the kitchen counter. And with that, ended a chapter. Movin’ on up and all that.

New place has felt good since I moved in, which is a relief. Anatole has sorted out some cat spaces, which is a relief (though the fact that one of them is the tub continues to confuse and amuse). The place is warm enough that I’m almost always in bare feet, the sounds when the windows are open are pleasant, and the park has turned out to be a vast treasure chest of stories of which I am LOVING being an observer.

Honestly, how can you not come home late and see two people sitting close together, heads down, on a bench beside the lake, or entwined in the gazebo in the Victorian Gardens, and smile and be inspired with potential tales?

The super, Gary, continues to be awesome (what a relief!), and the neighbours are heterogeneous (yes, such a $5 word IS appropriate) and quirky. I continue to slowly gather intel on PI and its people… 🙂

Not going on a massive shopping spree to complete my decor is hard (not buying much until after the Scotland trip), and I’m still curious as to how an apartment of similar size to my old one seems to have so much more floor space. And no, I’m not done unpacking yet. Getting a little closer each day, though. And I have a new drill. Pray for me. 🙂

Let’s see… what else is going on? I really enjoyed listening to this:

And this:

Which also catalyzed me to read this: The Wisdom of Whores.

Reading this: Bite Me, too, as Sherry, Jan, and I will be seeing Mr. Moore for a reading next week.

Shedding and shredding

I continue to move. It started just shy of three weeks ago when I got the keys to the new place. I’ve been pleased with how much of my stuff will fit in my small-ish car. Of course, I continue to wish each carload made a more visible emptiness in the old apartment.

I borrowed a shredder this weekend because I have a lot of old receipts and a filing cabinet full of old papers, and there’s no reason to keep, let alone move, most of it. I’ve gone through three folders so far, and might I note that it’s highly satisfying. As I tweeted, shredding might even be more satisfying than popping bubble wrap. (Melissa’s query about how satisfying shredding bubble wrap would be has me intrigued…)

Anatole, too, is riveted by the shredder. It’s big enough to be intimidating, and makes that somewhat loud growly noise. Great entertainment. 🙂

But the most satisfying part of all of this, so far, is the removal. Of clearing out the detritus and excess of my material life in bags to Goodwill and the dumpster, in recycling bins to the curb, in bags and boxes of things returned to their proper owners, and in old paper through the shredder.

I got in a fairly decent habit of not accumulating too much when I lived in Sydney. After all, the apartment wasn’t that big, and at the end of the year, whatever I took home would have to be (very) expensively shipped or fit in my luggage. And in the next two places I lived, space was minimal, there wasn’t room for a lot of furniture, etc.

That changed somewhat when I moved into the (now) old apartment. I needed more furniture, had a pretty good amount of storage, and it was the first place I’d lived by myself. And I expanded accordingly. Granted, three years living here is nothing like the 20 years the people who live above me have lived here. I’ve seen their storage closet. It is literally a solid wall of stuff. I don’t know how they get the door closed.

However, there’s a lot of symbolism to this move, which I won’t get into right now, but there’s very much a strong “next chapter” aspect to it. And so the shedding and shredding of stuff I don’t need, want, or have room for fits very well with that, and makes me feel better about a lot of things.

Also, living in the chaos of managing work, life, moving, attending/speaking at a conference, and planning a trip — all recently and currently going on — discarding things is one of the few tasks I have lately that gives me some feeling of control over things. For that I’m grateful.

As a bookend, once I’m ensconced in the new place, there will be a list of stuff I need to acquire, and doing so, as part of home-ifying the new place, making it mine, will be very satisfying as well.

Some day (hopefully not soon) I’ll pick up more boxes and ask friends to save newspapers (will there will be newspapers for packing?) and start choosing between what to move and what to throw out once again, hopefully on the way to an even bigger and better chapter in my life.

And closing the door for the last time, I’m sure I’ll wonder, as I always have, about the parts of ourselves: the pains, pleasures, and memories we leave behind in the places we live, and how they blend with those of previous inhabitants, and if they have any effect on those who come after.

My apartment personal ad

I promise you that this post won’t get all The Secret-y. However, I do believe there is much to be said for knowing, clearly, what you want, and asking for it (either specifically to someone or to the world in general).

My dear friend Havi introduced me to the idea of writing personal ads, not for dates, but for things one needs. She wrote one last year when looking for a new house for herself and her gentleman friend. And it worked out very well. (Hurray for Hoppy House!)

I do not need a house. I don’t even have to urgently move from this apartment (i.e. have not been evicted and there are no health hazards I’m aware of). However, it’s been an intermittent itch in my head this year, and, without putting too fine a point on it, I am not a fan of the new landlord.

Certainly, I could go on the offensive to try and get some things done, but honestly, that requires a lot of time, energy, and annoyance, and is, essentially, a declaration of war, which obviously wouldn’t cause him to want to be BFF with me. Plus, I am fairly certain he’d already love for me to move out, since he could rent my apartment for considerably more than I’m paying. (Which means he has only the bare legal minimum of motivation to keep things fixed and running around here…)

And honestly? Life’s too short for that shit. Plus, since I was already pondering a move before this stuff started, it feels like the ebbs and flows of the universe are gently pushing me towards the door. Which leads me to… my personal ad.

I’ve started doing some research, and have put out the word with my network online and offline that I’ve started looking for an apartment, however, I do like the personal ad idea, and it will help me fix What I Want in my head, and help me keep that image fixed so I don’t start to mentally settle on a place I might see that has too many concessions from What I Want so I end up not happy there.

And so…

I haven’t danced in a while. Help me want to?

One introverted nerdy girl and her pets (one large, orange tomcat; several tropical fish; and 113 rubber ducks) seek bright, spacious apartment with functioning electricity (don’t ask…) for possible long-term relationship. But no strings longer than 60 days’ notice are preferred, since who knows what direction life will turn?

I don’t smoke, do drugs, or drink all that much, and there won’t be any wild parties here. Vinegar has become my main cleaning agent, so while the place might smell like a pickle from time to time, it will be much healthier than lots of chemicals. I’m terrible at hanging pictures, but have learned some tricks, so I promise not to poke accidentally holes all over the walls.

I’m clean but cluttered, love plants and animals, and need big windows and wide sills for said plants and animals to sit on to enjoy the world. I enjoy my media at medium volume, sing from time to time (but am pretty good at it), listen to TED videos while I do dishes, and love a good documentary, so we can learn together regularly.

While I like to entertain, I’ve never really had the right space to want to do it at home. I’d love to change that. I’ve hosted my family’s holiday dinners a few times now, so you’ll get to enjoy having little girls exploring you sometimes.

I need one bedroom, but would be okay with two if the price is still alright. I need a kitchen with decent counter space, a bathroom with a shower and tub (over six years without a tub is much too long), and a living room big enough for two couches and an easy chair (unless I have that aforementioned second bedroom). A space big enough to comfortably do yoga and whatnot is greatly desired.

What girl wouldn’t love a dishwasher and in-suite washer and dryer? But they’re not essentials, and I know that apartments with those amenities tend to be out of my price range. (I choose not to max out my available income on housing.) The less carpet, the better. I’d love to have a porch, patio, or balcony to myself, and even better if I can use a bbq on it. I’m kinda tired of living semi-subterraneanly. The more places I can curl up with a book, the better. I don’t care if the apartment is in a house or a multi-unit building.

A balanced indoor climate is important. I’m not interested in freezing in winter or boiling in summer. Or water that leaks where it’s not supposed to, come to that. I also want decent water pressure, a reliable hot water heater, the aforementioned functional electricity, and mold is NOT welcome. Neither are neighbours who frequently scream, cry, argue, set off the smoke alarm, listen to terrible and loud music, have cartoonishly boisterous sex, play instruments, or have unhappy pets who are constantly vocal.

I promise to clean up cat barf promptly, do dishes regularly, dust occasionally, and bake things that smell wonderful. I also use good coffee beans, so you will have a fine aroma to wake up to each morning.

I like living within walking distance of uptown Waterloo, and would prefer to remain in this area. I love to walk around, take pictures, and explore, and would be a friendly member of my neighbourhood. Are you the apartment for me? Let’s chat. I’m not shallow, but preference will be given to those with photos. You can email me at melledotca at gmail dot com, or ping me on Twitter.

Can’t wait to meet you. 🙂

Par-tay

The other day my upstairs neighbour, She Who Smokes, caught me as I was coming home, and said she wanted to mention that they would be having a party today. I said that was cool, since I’m pretty hard to disturb. (My family are the kings of ridiculous ambient noise.)

She said it would be during the day, anyway, and that they were celebrating her birthday and Remembrance Day. Umm, okay. Never heard of Remembrance Day being celebrated before, but hey, her husband is pretty Slavic, and they know their dour.

Then she said they’d be watching a movie, and it was 10 hours long or something. More umm. What movies are 10 hours long? Documentaries and dramatic series, I guess…

Wouldn’t you just be wetting your pants to get that invitation? “Come celebrate my birthday! We’re going to sit around all day and into the evening watching The War. Cake and ice cream provided!”

Update: Okay, so I was kidding, but based on the level and type of noise emanating from upstairs, they’re totally watching a war flick. 🙂 However, based on the smell immediately inside the front door, down the stairs, in the area outside my apartment, and now filtering into my apartment, the only thing they’re serving is cigarettes. By the gross. BLECH.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

The apartment building where I live is nothing special. It’s in precisely the area I wanted to be, the rent is particularly cheap for Waterloo, and the actual apartment is rather nicer than the building or stairwell. But the building isn’t particularly new or pretty, the stairwell’s a bit beat-up, and it tends to smell odd out there.

Most of the residents have been there a long time. The winners are the folks above me, who have been there approaching 18 years (their son — Upstairs Steve’s — entire life). My brother and I agree that this is mind-boggling. (Though I’m sure to a New Yorker, say, it wouldn’t even merit batting an eyelash.)

Anyway, the mailboxes for the units are crappy. Standard house-style ones with a hinged lid and hooks for a newspaper. But they’re old and have been exposed to the elements for a long time, and are bent and rusty and tend to hang crooked. So that’s bad enough. But the neighbours have some bad habits, which, I think, are ingrained from the aforementioned years of living in the same place — a place that’s just rented, y’know?

The habit that’s really bugged me since I moved in is how junk mail is handled. And holy crap, until I became a primary occupant, I had no idea how bloody much of it there is. (I am going to have to get a new mailbox, I think, before it’s worth bothering sticking on a NO JUNK MAIL notice, since the surface is too rough for anything to hold.)

I don’t know anyone who enjoys junk mail, including the neighbours, so they don’t bother taking it all the way into their apartments to dispose of. They leave it on the porch by the mailboxes. On the top step by the wall, typically, in a pile that rapidly yellows and gets soggy and blows around the lawn and flowerbeds. Lovely. Classes up the place, I tell ya.

I did not contribute to this problem, and, in fact, on a few occasions picked up the nasty pile and pitched it to clear off the step. Except that eventually I started getting used to it, and one day, which was particularly junk mail-heavy, and I was crabby, I dropped my unwanted crap onto the pile, too. And then I felt like a complete asshole, and took the whole wad into my apartment and sorted it into garbage and recycling. And I had an idea.

The next time I was at Canadian Tire, I checked out their recycling bins to see if they had what I wanted — something big enough to hold a week’s junk mail for all the units, but small enough not to block the porch. Voila, found just the thing. $4.99. Sold.

Took it home, put it on the porch, and tossed that day’s junk mail into it for “priming” purposes. Upstairs Steve’s mom (She Who Smokes) saw me, and said that it was a great idea, and agreed that the junk mail on the steps sucked.

And lo and behold, the next day when I got home from work, the bin was a third full — everyone took the hint and, when they came up front to get their mail, sorted it on the spot. All the junkmail went right into the recycling bin. AND, every week since, someone else has taken it out to the curb before I got around to taking my own recycling out.

Yay for the little things. 🙂 (And I may still pick up a pot of red mums for the porch. I do so like them.)

(And yes, I am aware of the entertaining juxtaposition of the eloquence and magnitude of Gandhi’s quote, which I used in the title, and the banality of my story. Heh.)

Domestic ghosts

One regret I have is that, when we sold my brother’s house, I never got around to smudging or otherwise doing something to acknowledge and disperse the unhappiness that had existed there. Cuz man, there were some demons.

I am not referring to ghosts, per se, actual non-corporeal spirits which may or may not be friendly, but more about the energy we give off over time. Humans are powerful, and we are made up of energy. Think of how we affect each other — that one person who can enrage or melt you with a word or a glance — I can’t believe we don’t leave an imprint on our environment as well.

Fortunately, the circumstances of purchase for the people who bought my brother’s house worked out very well, so I hoped that that was enough to make a fresh start.

I was talking to Sherry the other day, though, and one of the houses she’d looked at was in a similar “state”. The gentleman who was selling the house was elderly, and rather desperate to leave the house and move to a nursing home. You see, his wife of many years had died the year before, and everywhere he turned in that house, she was at his side, and it was too much for him.

There is no way to feel fairy tale fantastic about buying a house like that, and yet, from a real estate perspective, it’s a great way to get a deal. But again, a house like that — you would have to do something to acknowledge the couple/family’s long life and history together, as well as the incredible grief the man selling the house had been living with. Hell, who knows, maybe his wife is a real ghost there. However, as my friend Kim knows, it’s possible to live just fine with ghosts. 🙂

It’s something I like to think about when I’m in houses, especially old houses. Really especially in places like Europe where their history makes every moment of Canada’s seem positively “new”. Layers upon layers of interwoven and intermingling lives and loves and fellowship and discord. Bodies born into this world and bodies borne out of it. An amazing thought, isn’t it? To be not only the accumulated total of our experiences, but coloured by the accumulations of the sweep of the past as well.

Dear Everyone I Know…

My birthday is in eight days.

Just sayin’ is all…

My father is a pyromaniac. Can you imagine? “Hey Dad, just bought a house… it has NINE FIREPLACES.” Kitchen’s a bit pokey, though. I mean, c’mon, the place is 8200 sq. feet, and it’s positively cramped. As Sherry noted, we could probably get them to knock off a hundred thousand or two just for that…

(And hey, it’s just around the corner, so we could totally just walk all my stuff down there from here!)

Kith and kin

I finished reading The Mistress’s Daughter last night. It was either recommended by the lovely Ms. Violet, or I found it through some link she sent, what with all the vast reams of adoption reading she’s been doing. (So far hypochondria hasn’t kicked in, so I haven’t self-diagnosed myself with FASD or RAD or anything else she and I have discussed at some point.)

Anyway, interesting enough read, but once again, my overall impression was the same as always: I don’t get it. It’s not that my story isn’t the same as hers. Well, I don’t know who my bios are, and I’m not interested in finding out, but one would HOPE they’re not as messed up as hers. And hell, the whole “replacement for a dead sibling” couldn’t have helped…

It’s just that… I don’t get any of it. The overwhelming searching/curiosity. The feeling of aloneness and need. The necessity, eventually, of having her own child. I wonder if my brother could relate. I should ask. Particularly timely given the imminent nie-phew.

I admit that the issues of belonging that I have could be construed as inextricably linked to my origins, but it’s never felt like they are. I KNOW I don’t really fit in with my extended family, personality and interests-wise, but I’m also not the only one who doesn’t, and I fit in just fine with my immediate family.

It’s outside of that, more socially and with significant others, where the space has almost always been. And again, I know I’m not the only one who’s known that. There are lots of us who have something that sets them apart — the smart kids, the fat kids, the bad kids, the poor kids, the nerdy kids. Come to think of it, us misfits probably actually form some sort of majority. 🙂

Perhaps it’s just a fashionable thing right now. Lord knows there is enough parenting and adoption literature out there these days, accompanied by myriad theories related to both. Perhaps this is just a time when more people than ever have found ways to tell their stories, to try and connect and find their own belonging. Plus, while societally we used to subscribe overwhelmingly to keeping secrets, we’ve pretty much swung the pendulum all the way back the other way. The name of the game now is full disclosure. Government-mandated, even.

It’s just odd finding yourself to have all the criteria for membership in a certain club… and then realizing you really don’t belong there, either.