I’m back

It’s been a while. In fact, it’s been nearly six months since I wrote a journal post of any kind. At the beginning of the year, I noted that I wanted to begin a daily practice of journaling. My success there, as with many of the things I mentioned, kinda went to hell in a handbasket. A very large portion of the past eight months has completely consumed us with the process of selling our townhouse and buying a Kitsilano condo.

Off the rails early

In truth, I have a good excuse reason (or at least that’s what I tell myself to assuage the guilt of not living up to my goals this year). Things were still more or less on track at the end of January, but then this happened and my run and bike took a complete break while I healed. I note that I pretty much never recovered after that and am currently on track for the worst year of running and cycling, volume-wise, in many years.

However, once we committed to downsizing to a condo, pretty much all my previous plans went right out the window.

The big downsize

We began talking about it early in the year and by the last time I wrote a journal post in April, we were well on our way to listing our previous home. After selling at the end of May, we then embarked on the process of buying our new condo. While purging, patching, repairing, painting and staging was a labour-intensive 4-5 months, at least we were somewhat in control.

In a market gongshow like Vancouver, buying a condo isn’t so simple. Gone are old standards like negotiating time or buying subject to an inspection. You’ve typically got to make an offer within one or two days of going to an open house, after quickly doing as much diligence as possible. You can’t base your budget on listing prices because a decent condo in a desireable area will sell for quite a bit over asking. If you find something you want you need to quickly inspect all strata meeting minutes, read deficiency reports and between the lines of it all with a fine-toothed comb and then offer your walk-away money right up front.

We lost out on a couple places we were interested in at first and, trying to be picky, we were only making offers on places that met several criteria. Initially, we incorrectly assumed there’d be some ability to negotiate or improve our offer in competitive situations. While we’d received a fairly long timeline from the buyers of our old place, stress began piling up as we were whittling the time away looking for the right place. It didn’t help that we were also seriously considering a move to Victoria and going over a couple times, only to have places we wanted to see gone by the time we could get there.

Achieving minimalism

Only when we finally adopted the ‘walk-away money’ approach on our realtor’s advice, did we get the condo. Nevermind that we paid well over asking on a place with ten offers, we managed to hit all our must-haves, only missing a few of our nice-to-haves. In all we ended up on a busier street, with 50-100 square feet and one bathroom less than ideal. We’re viewing this place as probably a five-year residence, purposely chosen to help us change our lifestyle and vastly reduce our footprint.

The main things we really wanted were to be far more walkable to a wider variety of food and activities, with better running and cycling at our doorsteps and absolutely no yard work or gardening. Relocating to smack-dab in the middle of Kits about six blocks from the water has not only allowed us all those things, but has provided many more vegetarian/vegan options for eating as well.

The other thing losing roughly 1100 square feet and a double garage has done, is to force us to examine everything we have and become far more efficient. We sold or donated the vast majority of our furniture and found we still needed to get rid of more after we moved. This part has been a truly transformative experience. We’re hardly austere or depriving ourselves now, but we have way less stuff and the stuff we do have has become more compact, efficient and mostly better quality. We don’t even have a bedroom dresser and are currently weighing the value of buying even a small dining sideboard. As we stream all our entertainment now, we have no CDs, DVDs or other media any more, either.

Downsized dining – oak leaf table and teak stools

We used to have fully furnished living, dining and family rooms, den, three bedrooms and a double garage full of stuff. Honestly, our new condo has a very small oak dining table with teak stools, a sofa, chair, hope chest/coffee table, flat panel TV, and queen bed frame with storage drawers. In-suite, we have hall and bedroom closets (both recently fitted with excellent organizers) and a pantry of roughly an 8′ x 8′ size. Anything else we have is in two tiny storage lockers. The only other things we have left to do are to replace some ageing bath and kitchen fixtures and perhaps put a good glass shower door in.

We’re not done yet, but we’re close to a point where we’re just going to chill and enjoy our new freedom. I’d say minimalism is really a journey and you never really ‘achieve’ it; rather you just continually try to get better at it.