On My Mind

Calvin is by Bill Watterson

Calvin is by Bill Watterson

Things on my mind this week (very random):

Today was Record Store Day, and despite my last post, Rom and I went shopping and spent $$ on music. No regrets whatsoever. Supported local stores, hung out with hipsters and got an amazing free peanut-butter-and-jelly-doughnut! I managed to resist a special 3-disc pressing of the Dresden Dolls on colour vinyl but it was very impressive!

I loved edgy books like this when I was a teenager!

I loved edgy books like this when I was a teenager!

It might be a spending spree: I found out that a book I’d read years ago has a sequel. Seeing it’s out of print and my library doesn’t have it, I ordered it from Amazon. Stop me now! At least I won’t be buying an Apple watch. I look forward to seeing one in action, though!

It’s budget time – the province sent down its budget last week, the federal government announces its new budget on April 21, and the city approves its budget April 28. It’s a federal election year so we can expect some pandering. The city once made an online exercise available in which locals could distribute the tax dollars to services. No surprise, I suppose, how hard it was to balance the budget and support all my favourite services without decimating the rest. For example, if I allocated more money to the library system, I might have to take it away from public transit…etc. Luckily we didn’t transfer the actual funds!

In other money news, my treasurer job has me trying to contract an auditor, and tomorrow I will be working at the annual fundraising auction.

Wandering on to other personal finance topics…

Sometimes I wonder how long we will keep our house. I am only vaguely thinking of retirement – I am planning financially but trying not to dwell on it. I don’t want to wish away the next 14 years of work and not be fully present. But 14 years is actually the “foreseeable future” now. It has just occurred to me that real decisions will have to be made in this time frame. For example, we sometimes talk about building a sun room or “conservatory,” which could be anything from a framed-in screen room over the existing 10’x10’ deck, to an actual home addition. But is this something would use constantly, and how would it affect the future sale price of the house? This year we are just doing maintenance. We need to replace the exterior doors, which is not a small job. So basking in a new sun room would have to wait, regardless!

Only about $2000/month...

Only about $2000/month…

Related to that, I’ve been thinking lately about what it would be like to rent an apartment. I worked out how many months I could pay various rents based on the anticipated sale price of our house. I figured out we could rent an average 2-bedroom apartment for 20 years, a nice condo for 13 years or a deluxe one for about 9 years. After that we’d be paying from our pensions. Kinda scary! It makes a lot more sense than I thought to live in a paid-for house and do the maintenance.

We had an excessively hard winter. There were some weeks we couldn’t visit my parents because their home wasn’t accessible by car – it was too icy to walk – and there was nowhere to park! They were OK since they have an SUV, so they could get out, but we couldn’t get in. Rom and I have 2 small cars and mostly use only one. It has crossed our minds to trade them both in for an economical SUV like a Hyundai Tucson. No immediate plans but might simmer on it until we see how next winter shapes up.

It’s been funny this week to see my neighbours trying to make the snow melt faster. Roads and open areas are clear, but shady gardens are still snow-covered. Every day I see people out with shovels and rakes, breaking up the crusty old snow and distributing it over lawns and driveways to get some sun.

Our new friend

Our new friend

All the wild birds have migrated back and they could easily starve in the snow. It has been well-publicized and everyone has been flocking out to buy bird feeders and food. I put out 3 feeders, but they are all for small songbirds. I can’t buy more because they’re sold out everywhere! So I have been putting trays of seeds and fruit on the ground. I am surprised that most of the birds are not attracted to the feeders or the food and don’t seem to know to access it. I read up a bit on the locations and types of food. I’m sure I will learn, but they don’t seem to be quick learners either. The lovely pair of cardinals have been here every day, and now we have a big pheasant stomping around every day, too!

It is disheartening to see how much litter was left behind in the snow banks. I do some pickup every day on my way to and from work. I used to blame the nearby high school students for littering, but it’s not all snack wrappers. A lot of it is household trash. On garbage day, sea gulls and crows tear apart trash bags to get food. We have municipal compost pickup and no one is supposed to put food in their trash bags, but it happens anyway. Smart homeowners have started putting their garbage into a wheelie bin instead of leaving bags by the curb, and some have started covering their trash bags with an old sheet or tarp that the garbage crew leave behind. Rom and I were amused to find out that the municipal staff who  heave the trash onto the garbage trucks are called “swampers.”

I am gearing up for another round of decluttering. As Viv says, why are there continuous rounds? Doesn’t that imply I’ve been restocking my house with junk? No, it’s been a gradual process, and each time, I go deeper. I have found that once or twice a year is good. I gain perspective as my life changes and I come to realize which changes are permanent. Am I going to use that camping gear ever again?

I updated my clothes inventory. I’m still under 150 main pieces – holding at 148, including some recent replacements. It doesn’t merit its own post because I don’t have a strategy right now. I am in a holding pattern.

At work I am still involved with collective bargaining for a few more weeks. I am itching to book a vacation but can’t yet!

So that is my life around the home and neighbourhood as we finally begin to thaw!


  1. Fiona

    That sort of spending is so extremely enjoyable! I read recently that laws have been enacted in the US that make digital ownership end with the life of a person. It’s making me re-evaluate all my book and music decluttering. I am even thinking of re-buying books and music. My mp3 files will one day be worthless and only the physical items will remain.

    I’m with you on the house decision. I think we will never sell our house. If it gets too much to maintain, I would rather rent it out to tenants (as we have done in the past) and use the earnings to rent a smaller place. That way, we still get capital appreciation.

    I hope the winter is properly finished soon!

    • Hi Fiona, I heard that about digital ownership too. In iTunes, for example, you can’t legally transfer files from one account to another, or merge accounts, even if the buyer doesn’t want them any more. Of course, most people don’t care what is technically legal. It is even dubious whether buying and selling used CDs is legal. I buy them, and pretend that doing so now gives me a “license” to play the songs, but it bothers me that the artist gets nothing. I am sure it is the labels and distributors who don’t like it. Meanwhile, physical CDs (and even more so DVDs) seem to have become worthless on the secondary market so I could never get anything for selling my collection. It is strange to think that someday Link will just rip a few of them and that will be that! Not so different from poaching from my iTunes, really…

  2. jamielredmond

    I love this post. So many thoughts flying around in it.

    We went to Canberra for the day yesterday. It was a little bit unexpected, but I think we managed to make good use of our time. We got a few things to help out with storage in the new house. Trying to settle in this time around (4th house in 12 months), rather than feel so transitory. We are decluttering as we go. Luckily there is a Salvation Army store on the way from our house to the shops and they are happy for people to leave donations on their front verandah over the weekend. It makes it very easy to load things into the back of the car as we declutter, then drop it off when we leave the house.

    I saw lots of people in Canberra enjoying Record Store Day. There were tables set up outside the record store near a comic book shop we frequent, and I noticed that JB HiFi had set up some tables of records just inside their doors. There were so many people (all looking very hip!) checking out the records.

    I hadn’t considered that you wouldn’t all have bins to put your garbage in for collection. Here we have three closed bins and one crate. The bins are for green waste (grass clippings, etc and food for composting), recycling (plastic, cans, etc) and a small bin for non-recyclables (we fill about one small bag a week for this bin). Our crate is for paper and cardboard. I also collect the plastic bags that can’t go in our recycling bin (bread bags, frozen food bags, etc) and take them to a supermarket in Canberra that collects them for special recycling. The trouble we have here is that I live in the “Windy Monaro” and it can be hard to keep the paper and cardboard under control. I have a brick I put on top that the “garbos” leave behind, but the winds can be relentless at times. I also try to position the crate between the two other bins that go out on that night, to reduce “flyaways”!

    We have a few birds that enjoy sitting in the tree outside our kitchen window. I think they are Crimson Rosellas and Superb Fairy Wrens. They sit in the tree, nibbling on their food. My 7 in particular loves watching them.

    • Fiona

      Hi Jamie – 4 houses in 12 months! That’s a huge effort. I hope all is well with you all. I’ve tried to leave comments on your recipe blog but they still won’t go through, I must be doing something wrong.

    • Thanks, Jamie. Canberra must be your nearest city. I know nothing about Canberra other than it’s the capitol, but I now see it’s about the same size as my city, Halifax, population-wise. Didn’t know til now it was a planned city from Day 1.

      Those birds are gorgeous. This has been a very educational comment 🙂

      We get bins from the city for our compost and yard waste, but have to provide our own bins and crates for the rest, or just not use them (they take bags or tied bundles).

      Sure do hope you get to settle in now.

  3. All our bins are closed. We can’t leave rubbish in bags on the side of the street. It won’t get picked up anyway. We thought it looked strange and messy in London. We can’t overfill our bins or they won’t get picked up either. Restricts the amount of weekly rubbish you can produce, which is good. Bagged rubbish would we torn apart by wildlife and cats.

    I’m amazed you still have so much snow. I’d love to experience a hard winter. Love the birds. Maybe no ones told them about the food? Let me tell you the cockatoos would mess around. They’d be into it quick smart.

    Enjoy your records.

    • I wish we had the same system for garbage pickup. Interestingly, we are going to a clear bag system later in the year, which will allow the “swampers” to reject garbage that isn’t sorted properly. I hope people comply. I can imagine rejected trash being left in the street; some people are like that and don’t even clean up when the birds tear apart their garbage bags 😦

      • What if they leave their uncollected rubbish in front of other people’s homes? We get neighbours that drop stuff in our bin after dark cause theirs is too full. Bad luck if we plan to put something in later in on the night (which we often do, leaving emptying out inside bin till the last minute.)

      • That happened to me before – my immediate neighbour’s trash was pulled apart. The house has been vacant for a while, and someone else must have put their over-the-limit trash there. It didn’t get picked up, and it was all over the street and my front lawn so I ended up cleaning it up. I was pretty pissed off. Especially since I had to save the garbage in my bin for the next pickup day. On the plus side, “pickers” drive around all night in trucks looking for useful items left out in front of homes on garbage day, and they pick up all sorts of non-working appliances, exercise machines, sports gear etc that they recondition, sell, or use for parts.

  4. I put out our garbage in a bin here, so it doesn’t attract animals and so far so good. I am having no luck in attracting birds to our feeder here. love how your post is a bit about everything, makes for an interesting read,

    • Thanks, Gill, maybe having a scattered mind paid off 🙂 I am surprised that hungry birds can’t figure out free food. I suppose if they normally eat bugs and worms, they only look for movement, and if they eat seeds and berries from plants, they only look among promising-looking plants. Maybe they have no sense of smell?

  5. I’ve done that same math on a nice apartment/condo. Right now we still have a school child, so no changes are imminent, but it is a little shocking to see how fast the home sale,proceeds would be gone. For us it might be more cost effective to stay in our home and be gone for a number of weeks in winter when we are retired. Hmm.

  6. Deb

    We live outside of Ottawa and we still have snow on the driveway near the house. I am decluttering paperwork. I am scanning everything. It is very time consuming! At the rate I am going it will take a long time.

    • Hi Deb, I thought we were the only area with snow remaining! I would be interested to hear how you do with the scanning. I would like to scan my printed photos, but for documents, I have considered taking pictures of them instead – I could always OCR the photos if it was really important to capture the text. I’m not sure when this will ever take place because it brings on wrist/elbow repetitive strain.

  7. Retirement is still a long ways off for Mr. G and I but our sister-in-law’s parents recently sold their house and moved to a neighborhood that has smaller homes, but does all your outside maintenance (which sounds nice!). On the other hand, my grandmother chose to stay in her home and her kids take turns doing the maintenance for her . . lots to think about.

    My dad has several bird feeders and whenever he switches brands of seed or replaces a broken part on a feeder, the birds are suspicious and won’t use that feeder for a bit. And he has a pretty established visiting bird population because he’s been putting out food (and water if it’s warm enough) every day for years. At least you’re trying!

    • I haven’t heard of houses (just condos or apts) that arrange maintenance for you. Sounds appealing! Maybe I should be setting aside big bucks to have someone do all the hard work/yard work so I can stay here past any reasonable advisable age!

  8. Our apartment will be paid off in under 2 years, and I hope that I will stay here forever (look forward to putting the mortgage $ into something else). I guess my questions are what can you do between now and when you retire to make your house more accessible/pleasurable for you or would you rather retire to a smaller place that is easier to maintain. Cashing a house in (as opposed to downsizing) seems financially unwise; renting comes with less flexibility than owning and means dealing with a landlord and a lot of rules.

    • And besides that, I haven’t lived with neighbours on all sides of me (in the same building) since I was in my 20s, so I don’t know if I could tolerate their lifestyles and habits! Eventually I would like a place with no yardwork, and with indoor parking, so that rules out staying here. I’m sure I can handle it for 15 years but someday I might not want to spend my time that way. So yes, I can see going smaller then, and seeing how I do with sharing walls (and floors and ceilings)!

  9. I always admire and enjoy how you think through things like you do, especially with changes to your home. Will you use it, will it add value to the home. etc. Good questions to ask. Living in the south, we built a pool back in 2002. As we debated, a friend said, if you build a pool, you will get to meet your kids friends. Sold.

  10. I can’t believe you still have snow over there when we are out in the garden now over here as everything is bursting forth! Having said that day to day it swings from being sunny and warm to bitterly cold. It doesn’t help in choosing the right item of clothing to wear in a morning when it is so changeable.
    I don’t think we have a Record Store day over here but then I don’t really keep up with music very much these days – I have a few favourites but that is all – we are more into artwork and gardens so in our spare time we will visit galleries and open gardens.
    I think decluttering has become an added household task thses days like washing and cooking and cleaning. Funnily enough decluttering is never mentioned in any of my old books on Housekeeping – stuff just didn’t seem to be a problem back in the 40’s and 50’s. I wonder when it was first ‘invented’!!

    • I wonder when it was first ‘invented’ – good point! When I was a kid, the idea of any toys lasting until you were an adult would be unthinkable – they would go through several children in the family and then down to younger cousins. Same with clothes of course. Doesn’t happen much now with such small families. I think that hobbies were more results-oriented, like knitting or fishing. You didn’t need a complete kit of upgrade-able gear for every interest you had. Ultimately consumer goods are cheap in relation to salaries. Too bad they are also short-lived and disposable.

  11. EcoCatLady

    So many thoughts here, but the one thing I just have to say is… peanut butter & jelly donuts?!? Seriously?!? I think perhaps I was just born without the peanut butter gene, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    And your math on the apartments is very interesting. Do they have reverse mortgages in Canada? Probably not something I’d ever consider, but it does sound like an intriguing way to get some benefit from the equity in one’s home.

    Hope you get some genuine spring soon… sounds like you could use some better weather!

    • I love peanut butter – it was a regular jelly doughnut with peanut butter icing. But homemade by a fancy caterer. Yes, there are reverse mortgages, but I’m not sure what I think of them! Thanks for the weather wishes – it is coming around slowly!

  12. gk

    I give a lot of though to what type of living arrangements might suit us in the future. It’s a challenging thing to ponder. We have a rental home and I would like to eventually sell it and then perhaps travel/rent with the proceeds – maybe like this couple – http://seniornomads.blogspot.co.uk

  13. Not sure how I missed commenting (or reading) this post. Actually you are one of the few WordPress bloggers whose whole post doesn’t come through on my email alerts. So I can’t sneak a read at work 😦

    I know about Record Store Day as Triple J promotes it. I’m just so hard line with ‘stuff’ – particularly books and CDs and DVDs. So I don’t partake.

    Yeah, we have ‘wheelie bins’ all over Australia as others have said. I noticed in Japan they have mesh and nets to detract from tampering from pests. I can’t imagine not having standardised bins that get collected! Oh, Aussies, and I’m even well travelled.

    I’m pretty sure I’d retire to an apartment, after so many years of living in one. Even my parents consider it, though they have a ‘flat’ home now, with no steps anywhere, which is timely as mum’s been in a wheelchair for a while (she’s no good with crutches) for a tendon surgery. I tell them they can’t move without an equally ‘old people’ friendly alternative home.

    I go through decluttering waves too – not in one now, though I did know I was planning to buy clothes at the op shop, so took three items to ‘buy’ space 🙂 I donated two tops and a dress for one top and a pair of pants. I ‘preshopped’ on a evening walk, and came back the next day to try on, with a wallet.

    • I tried to change the setting to allow the whole post to come through – you’ll have to let me know if it works! Hope your mom is recovering well. That “preshopping” thing sounds very smart to me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: