Life is all about choices. We face countless decisions every day.
Some of them are trivial. At a wedding reception: will it be chicken or fish; red or white? At the gym: will you take a group class or do your own thing?
Others may have a bit more consequence. In a rush hour traffic jam: do you stay on the highway or take the surface roads? At the salon: will it be just a trim or will you chop it all off and dye it platinum blonde?
But some decisions have lasting and potentially life-altering effects. In your career: do you stay in your current job or move onto something new? And what about how and where you live? Do you stay in your big, beautiful home or downsize and enjoy more financial freedom?
Like anything else in life, ego plays a role in decision making. It’s up to us how big a role we will allow it to play.
I love my home here in Toronto. Located at the city’s easternmost border, my home looks directly over the north shore of Lake Ontario, and backs onto 70 acres of conservation land, Petticoat Creek Conservation Area. One would never guess, based on the woodsy appearance, the abundance of wildlife and the quiet small town-feel of my quaint, eclectic little neighbourhood, that they were a mere 30 minutes from the bustling centre of the 5th most populous city in North America.
My family has called this place home for 14 years.
Whether I choose to walk, jog, or run, based on my present (and clearly conflicted) state of mind, this is what I’m surrounded by, just steps outside my front door.
Turning left I follow the short length of my dead-end road to the rugged terrain of the Waterfront Trail in Petticoat Creek, in the city of Pickering to the east:
Or turning right, I travel the 50 or so steps west to the city of Toronto, I take a bridge across the Rouge River and down to the beach, following the Waterfront Trail west. Glancing down from the top of the bridge I spy a riverside photo shoot, featuring a gorgeous sari-wearing model:
The area where the Rouge River meets Lake Ontario features an eco-rich marshland, a paradise for kayakers, fishermen and a plethora of wildlife:
My first glimpses of the beach:
This trail is my go-to for many soul-searching and decision making moments:
Lake Ontario to my left as I travel west, but to my right more marshy areas. The diverse ecology of this place is what makes it so special.
And then there is my home, a house we took part in designing, every inch of it livable; not a square foot of wasted space. You won’t find a library/den or formal living room here. I eschewed all of those design elements in favour of airy and open principal rooms designed for the life we live. It’s not a large home, but it feels much larger than its square footage because of smart design.
A formal dining room is the only nod to tradition, and only used when the number of guests requires it. Most of our meals are eaten in the kitchen. Oh how I love this kitchen. It’s a chef’s dream, featuring the Wolf range made famous in my kitchen disaster last December. The kitchen opens up to the family room. No walls. Perfect for allowing those preparing the meals to stay engaged with those lounging and awaiting their food. The family room and kitchen overlook the backyard via a wall of windows.
The backyard, above all else, makes me want to stay in this home forever.
Our pool builder won an award for his work here. The landscaping is a source of unending work, but also joy and peace. There’s nothing like enjoying that first cup of coffee outside when the rest of the house is still asleep. The calm I’ve felt in those moments, even when I was a giant stress-ball in my former career, was worth its weight in gold.
I love my home. And I am proud of it. I’ll admit that.
But it’s time for me to face reality. I only spend approximately 60% of my time in Toronto these days. And I really only enjoy the backyard and the surrounding areas from May to October. The carrying costs for this property aren’t insignificant. Property taxes are very, very high. Maintaining the pool and landscape is also not cheap.
So I ask myself, If I’m enjoying this place approximately 3.6 months per year (I.e. from May to October X 60%), then does it make sense to hold on to it?
Through sheer luck, we bought at the ideal time 14 years ago, when real estate was at relatively low. The property value has more than tripled since then. Meaning, I could sell this place, buy something much more modest, still splitting my time north and south of the border, but with a whole lot more financial freedom and a lot less guilt at leaving this wonderful place vacant for weeks on end.
But it’s hard. I love it here.
I’m trying to sort through how much of my love is based on the ego and pride of having a beautiful home, and how much is genuine attachment to the memories my family has built here.
I’m at a crossroad. I know what I should do. I just need to convince my heart (and ego) what my mind (and gut) already know is the right decision.
Experiences over stuff.