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What makes a home & chore theory

What makes a home & chore theory

What I’m reading
Children of homeowners twice as likely to own homes themselves.

Almost 40% of US homeowners own their homes outright as of 2022—many of them baby boomers who refinanced when rates were low.

The list of brain conditions that have been associated with changes elsewhere in the body is long and growing. Changes in the make-up of the microorganisms resident in the gut, for example, have been linked to disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease.The brain and body are intertwined.

A thought piece
This is a FANTASTIC piece: how your house makes you miserable. “How do you make your home entirely your own — a reflection of your good taste! — while also making it wholly acceptable to the market-reflected gaze? The only solution is to make the market-inflected taste your taste. And that experience can be incredibly alienating, particularly when you convince yourself that you’re doing a remodel that you’re going to love, spend a ton of time and energy on it, and then look around and think meh.”

When we bought our house a friend of mine said to me, “Yeah, we looked at that house but it needed so many renovations to make it liveable.” WHAT? This house was in perfect condition when we bought it and in the 6 years we’ve lived here we have few problems (the oven died but it was original to the house – 1962!). We did do some cosmetic work to the house such as tear up all of the white carpet and refinish the hardwood underneath. We also installed laminate throughout the basement (again, white carpet) as well as replace the vanity in the main bathroom to a two-sink Ikea one for the kids & replaced the linoleum with tile flooring. Overall though, we only spent about $1500 in those cosmetic changes. Conversely, I think this friend wanted to turn this mid-century bungalow into a modern showpiece which would have required tearing down walls, putting in marble counters etc. We liked it just the way it was.

Sure our cabinets are crappy 80s ones that have been painted white and we unfortunately have popcorn ceilings (which people apparently hate but I am neutral on the subject). I just think that not everything has to look like it’s about to be featured on HGTV. I remember my friends and I all living in a bunch of old, crummy apartments with weirdly angled ceilings and wonky closet doors. All of these places had charm because they were each vastly different from each other. We also used to decorate with a mish-mash of found items interspersed with Ikea furniture and every place was so different from another one.

I guess renovating the condo has put this to the forefront of my mind because a condo is a different beast. A friend of ours had suggested that we just sell it “as is” with all the smoke damage, the yellow paint, shitty cabinets and no appliances. But I think people expect more of a turnkey experience with a condo where a house is more of a place that you would accept some imperfections in exchange for the location, land and bones of the place. The condo cabinets and the counters *do* look dated which is a pain when you are trying to sell. But I am loathe to tear them out and do a full reno because a> it’s wasteful; b> the people who buy it may just tear it all out and reno themselves anyway. I abhor the idea of wasting all that time and money only to have it all tossed into the garbage. So we’ve mostly focused on replacing the damaged bits, did smoke remediation, tossed on a coat of fresh paint and bought new appliances.

I think as well that we view our house as our HOME and not an investment. So we don’t care to be constantly updating it. It’s also why I installed a sit-down tub instead of a roll-in shower. Yes, the tub was very expensive AND it will reduce the value of the home should we put it on the market. But so what? I plan to have my corpse dragged out of here and during my (hopefully long) lifetime I will get a lot of enjoyment out of being able to take a bath whenever I want.

Child labour
We asked the kids if they would like to clean the house on the weekend for the same amount of money we pay the housecleaner. The reason why is because The Eldest had Covid last week and so we told the cleaner not to come (clearly!) but the house still needed a good once-over. They were really excited about earning money and The Youngest was even more excited to learn that the money I offered was for EACH of them and not SPLIT between them. Haha. Crap, I could have paid them even less! 😉

The kids did a FANTASTIC job – as good or even better than our housecleaner does. I was thoroughly impressed. To be fair, we used to clean as a family and so they have had years of practice. But post-pandemic with all of the busy-ness and my health we decided that having someone come and clean every two weeks was worth the money.

My kids have always had unpaid chores. From the time they were toddlers at the end of the day we would play music, dance around and put our toys away before dinner. This was to get them into the habit of tidying, not because they were good at it. Us parents did most of the actual tidying but over time they grew into the habit of actually putting their stuff away at the end of the day and then we just built on that.

By 6 & 8 they learned how to do the basics of cleaning by doing it with us, and by 10 & 12 they knew how to clean the entire house. That isn’t to say that the adults didn’t take on the majority of the work at first but over time they slowly did more and more on their own until we did none. They still do tidying in between the housekeeper visits as well as washing the dishes every night. We’ve also taught them some basic dishes that they can cook on their own. The Youngest in particular has been asking to learn more about cooking, so we are taking the time to teach them how to cook a variety of meals.

The one chore we actually pay the kids to do is folding and putting away my laundry. Mr. Tucker’s office is right next to the laundry room so he generally washes the clothes during the week so that by the weekend it’s all clean and in baskets. So on the weekend, they have to separate and fold/put away the household stuff (ie: towels and sheets) as well as do their own. Mr. Tucker is super picky so his is left and just does it when they are done.

In a sense, being disabled has really helped with teaching kids how to do chores. Children can be the masters of strategic incompetence when they don’t want to do something. So many parents just throw up their hands and do the task because ensuring a child learns how to do a chore can take twice as long and is way more stressful. But in my situation, I had no choice. I had to work through the process of them resisting learning how to do things because I just could not physically do them anymore. Of course, we are now all better off: the kids 100% have the skills to feed themselves and maintain a home and Mr. Tucker and I don’t have to struggle doing all the house stuff.

What’s even better is that they are proud of their skills. The Youngest came home once and told me that none of their friends were forced to do chores at home*. Their friends were saying things such as, “Why do you have to do anything? I don’t have to do any chores and I still get an allowance!” & The Youngest replied, “Because I live there for free? It’s only fair that I help out. Besides, I have the skills to live on my own now and you don’t.**” I was pretty impressed with that answer because it’s an astute observation for a 13-year-old to make I live there for free and it’s only fair that I help out.

We had planned to take up most of the housecleaning ourselves when Mr. Tucker retired but both kids said that they were happy to get paid to deep clean the house. So we may end up paying them to do the deep clean once-a-month instead. They like earning the money, they do a great job and since we generally manage to keep the house tidy enough in between deep cleans, it will work out for everyone. Of course, the time will come when they will be too busy with school and their own jobs. But then Mr. Tucker and I can take it back over.

Hope you are having a lovely Tuesday!

*The Eldest has also said this. It’s up for debate as to whether or not that is the truth. I am sure many kids have responsibilities.
**Ok, a bit rude and I also learned the trial by fire way when I first moved out and I wouldn’t recommend it.

The different stages of a good life

The different stages of a good life

When I was in my teens and 20s my idea of travel were of traipsing around Europe staying in hostels and meeting new people. I was raised by someone who loved travel to exotic locales and who had traveled extensively so it was a natural fit. I did do some of that when I was younger and it was lovely.

Conversely, my paternal grandparents owned a condo in Florida and drove down in the winters where they stayed for 4-6 months a year. When I was younger the idea absolutely repulsed me: why bother going anywhere that you wouldn’t experience history, culture and art? I wanted new landscapes and new food and to meet new people! It confounded me that they had never left the continent and I couldn’t see the value in going to the same place year-after-year. I also never understood the concept of sitting on a beach all day. ZZZZZ…boring! Cruising? Well that was for the newly wed and the nearly dead!

Mr. Tucker and I ended up getting married in the Caribbean because my parents paid for it and one of them was very keen to plan it in a certain place on a certain beach. I was neutral on the place but we did end up having an amazing week. When we arrived Mr. Tucker and I sat on a beach for the first time with a drink and he turned to me and said, “NOW I get why people enjoy this so much!”

When I was in my 20s I also had dreamed of owning a country house with acreage where we would be self-sufficient so that we wouldn’t need to have as much of an income. I had been inspired by The Tightwad Gazette and books that Helen and Scott Nearing wrote. While Mr. Tucker and I sat in our 530sq ft condo downtown, we often would look at farms for sale. At one point we were even starting to look at properties that would fit the bill.

In the end, when I got pregnant with the eldest we ended up in a mid-century suburb having traded homes with a relative who also owned half of the condo. Mr. Tucker was not happy but this relative always wanted to retire in the condo so we sucked it up and moved into the house. It remains to this day the biggest fight we have ever had. Not all was lost though: we met some really great friends in that neighbourhood, people who we continue to be close with to this day. Unfortunately, the relative had told us that they would sell us the house at one price and then reneged on the deal because condo life hadn’t turned out the way they wanted it & they wanted their house back. They signed the condo over to me (we had invested a lot in the house) and we all know how that is going.

We ended up buying a new house also in a mid-century suburb because by the time we were forced to move, the shine on the country life had worn off. Our kids were 7 and 9 at the time and were used to the amenities of the city, I had a career, was investigating ongoing medical issues at the time, and we wanted the kids to stay in the same school system. Oh, and I did want a puddle.

We don’t regret the decision now that we are middle-aged and in retrospect a farm would have taken our lives in a completely different direction. We probably would have ended up back in the city anyway with my medical needs.

So what gives?

Age gives.
Mobility gives.
Finances give.
…and life changes.

You change.

It happens slowly over time but your ideas about the future change when it actually becomes the future. If we had pursued our dream of owning a farm and being self-sufficient it would have been disastrous when I became disabled. I probably wouldn’t had my career and with it the disability benefits that pay 70% of my pre-disability salary (indexed to inflation). It would have left us scrambling for money and resources. I am grateful that the dreams I had in my 20s didn’t come to fruition, it would have ruined my middle age.

We have also had multiple cruise vacations (you can’t hostel through the Panama Canal) and have a beach resort vacation planned for this winter. We have changed so substantially in the 21 years that we have been together.

Now, at 47, I even see why my grandparents bought a place in Florida: as you get older, the winters feel harsher, walking in the ice and snow becomes more dangerous and the lack of sun really affects you. Last year I read an article about Margaritaville in the New Yorker and I didn’t feel revulsion, it made complete sense! This isn’t to say that I am rushing out to buy a house there but it occurred to me that for a certain group of people living there is an absolute dream.

Mr. Tucker and I have been discussing our ideas of what a good life really is. We used to dream of him retiring early and us being able to take off and travel the world. But going to Puerto Rico in 2022 for two weeks was an absolute nightmare. Travel post-pandemic was a nightmare (4 hours to get through security in Toronto), when we got there it was a comedy of errors (bald tires on the rental, getting lost in the mountains, roaches in the hotel room, no restaurants open in the town we stayed in etc.) and it has since really turned Mr. Tucker off of travel. While we still laugh at the stories we have from that trip the sour taste still hasn’t been completely eliminated from his mouth.

The only reason I got Mr. Tucker to agree to a trip this winter is that it is a> a direct flight; b> an all-inclusive resort; c> he will theoretically be retired so he won’t have to leap back into work if it is a horrible experience. Our trip in 2022 felt to him like work and then he had to jump right back into work when he got back.

Life is a series of experiences and those experiences lead to change about what you consider a good life. 14-year-old me loved go to the mall and shop for name brand clothes I could show off to my friends. I couldn’t have imagined ever NOT wanting to go shopping when I was that age. 47-year-old me avoids the mall like the plague. I also hate the idea of more stuff to clean, maintain and store. Impressing other people also holds no interest for me. Age is also why driving down to Florida for a month in the winter becomes more appealing over time as flying has become more hostile, post-pandemic. Getting to the airport early and dealing with delayed or canceled flights seems like more of a nightmare than just driving and taking our time. 24-year-old adventurous travel me is not 47-year-old mobility-impaired me. We are completely different people with different needs, goals and desires.

This isn’t to say that we wont fly places and travel more when good deals come up, I am just saying that I finally understand why people enjoy different types of travel. For our future travel, it may just look more tempered and less adventurous. When Mr. Tucker retires we will still have 5 years until the last kid turns 18 so a lot of that time will be spent staying home. Next year the eldest will be in grade 11 (here the biggest years to get into university rely on your grades for 11&12) so we won’t be able to pull her out of school to take advantage of a good travel deal. Also, the kids will be working in the summer so travel will be out during summer holidays as well.

Recently, Mr. Tucker and I were discussing how excited we both were to build new gaming computers this November. He got pensive for a minute and then said, “you know what? Even if we never traveled again, I would be ok with that. I like that we have our little house that has everything we need and we have a really good life right here.” To be honest, I have to agree. We have SEEN a lot and DONE a lot and if we never get to travel again we will have still done more travel than most people. Having a cozy little life with a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, time to work on our hobbies and see our friends IS a good life. A very good life, indeed. And that is enough.