should I stay or should I go?

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:

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.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

91 thoughts on “should I stay or should I go?

  1. I can see why you wouldn’t want to leave that home and area. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Life choices are difficult. I’m facing a few myself. We have to decide not only with our mind but with our gut (or our heart). Too often we ignore the latter. Doing so tends to keep us secure, but it doesn’t always keep us happy. I wish you the best of luck with your decision. Sounds like you may have already made it, and knowing you, you will conquer it brilliantly.

    • I’m so torn, Carrie. I know that selling will give me an opportunity to travel and do more. It will allow me to settle up some debt, it will provide financial freedom. I know I can still own in/near the area, the trade off will be the home itself. And that’s part pride of what we’ve built here. Yes, a lot got outsourced, but a lot was the result of our own hard work. It makes me so sad to think about not living here.

      Good luck in your choices, too. I know you’ll follow your heart/gut and mind to do the right thing for YOU.


  2. I cannot imagine having to make this decision! Your home and surroundings look amazing! That coupled with your family history there, I can understand why you would find it hard to leave.
    But I suspect that you know what is best really 🙂

    Funnily enough I dreamed about moving house last night, we found a new house to move to but I really didn’t want to leave the one I am in now. Perhaps I was channelling 🙂

  3. Hi Nancy! I think you know that Thom and I made a similar decision about 5 years ago and it was THE BEST thing we ever did. Do I have even the tiniest bit of regret–NO! I’ll admit that it wasn’t always easy while we were doing it–and we had only been in our previous house for about 7 years when we sold–but once it was gone and we VERY CAREFULLY selected the new one based upon all the qualities we knew we loved, there was no looking back. I love my new house more than the last one because it so fits us right now, and by using the money to go completely debt-free the freedom we now have is AMAZING.

    What’s the old saying, we are more disappointed by thing we don’t do than by those we do. Your house looks wonderful and you have lots of great memories, but it’s time for new ones. And “oh the places you’ll go!”

    Sorry for the rant 🙂 ….Kathy

    • Thanks Kathy, I knew you’d be the voice of reason.
      I’m overdue in reading your Friday post. Definitely stopping by before the end of the day.

  4. Thank you for showing you beautiful surroundings! If i were you, I’d have a hard time to choose as well! But you are not in a huge rush, are you, Nancy? I think the right choice will come to you soon enough!

  5. Your house and yard and surrounding area are gorgeous, NT. It’s hard to move, but (often) the dividends are many.

    While you are making up your mind . . . take lots of photos of your gardens in full bloom.

    • I will, NH. These photos are actually from 2 summers ago. We’ve since played with furniture placement and swapped a few shrubs around. The clematis are in full bloom right now. I’ll be sure to take some new shots.

  6. I can definitely see why you’d struggle with this decision – even if your house wasn’t so beautiful it would be a difficult choice. I hope that you come up with the best choice for you, whichever way you go

  7. It’s all about timing and after you do your homework on the numbers to downsize, you may find it’s not cost effect as property values have gone up. Looks like a very special and beautiful home. The numbers will help in making you’re ultimate decision although it may not be easy……as I can personally attest to 🙂

    • Yes, I thought of you and Al, among others, as I’ve pondered this decision. I think the numbers are pretty compelling, but we’ll definitely do the homework before throwing a for sale sign up.

  8. I think there’s a Woody Allen movie that opens up with a business man, sitting in his home office, writing a suicide note. We don’t know why, but we see the note just before he leaps out the window to shuffle off this mortal coil. It says: CHANGE EQUALS DEATH.
    I’ve got this tattooed somewhere on my body, but I make a practice of throwing a stick into the wheel spokes now and again just for the sheer hell of seeing what a shake up shakes down.
    I wish you luck with this heart-tugging decision, Nancy.

  9. I can understand how this is a very difficult decision for you. Your place looks absolutely gorgeous and I know the area well. It is a perfect place to just wander out the front door and find peace in the surrounding nature.
    It’s a really tough call to make. So much of who we are and how we feel is reflected in our home. To leave it is like leaving a part of yourself.

    • That’s exactly right, Joanne. I feel like this place is so me. I don’t want to let a desire to hold on to “stuff” prevent me from making the better long term choice though. Such an internal struggle.

      ps I emailed you a few hours ago. Maybe you could drop by here to chill one of these days.

      • ok – I’ll go looking for your email in my mailbox and drop you a line back 🙂

        Chill was the key thing everyone was looking for today! Youzzer! It was hot out there!!

      • Ah, the other reason I love it here. It’s 10 degrees cooler in my backyard than a couple blocks up on Kingston Road. Seriously. GAH I’m going to miss this place.

  10. There’s nothing quite like the tug of home. Even though I often say home is with MTM, the truth is I need a place to nest, to feel settled, even if I’m gone a lot. You will make a beautiful, welcoming home wherever you are, Nancy. You’ll be in my thoughts as you mull this tough decision.

    • Thank you kindly, Andra. I honestly didn’t think it would be this hard. Ed and I have owned two other homes before this one, and leaving both of those was a piece if cake. Didn’t blink an eye. This place is different though… My heart is here.

      I am also now feeling pressure to do as much entertaining here as possible, before I leave. Interested in a visit? 🙂

  11. Oh Nancy, what a beautiful home and lovely location! I can see why your heart is settled even though your head is nudging new ideas front and center. I hear good bye in your words though and hope you have a fantastic summer in Toronto enjoying every inch (or cm 🙂 ) in your neighborhood and back yard and wish you all the best with the tough decisions.

    PS – I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much I like your theme changes. 🙂

    • Lisa, this is a much, much tougher decision than I ever dreamed it would be. As I mentioned in a response to Andra, Ed and I have bought and sold two homes prior to this one, and I had zero emotion to selling or leaving either of those. (Apart from the obvious: “we brought Amanda home to house #1 as a newborn”, “Nicholas arrived in house #2”, but apart from family memories, there was no attachment to either house. This place though… it’s different. It’s special to me. It will be a hard place to say goodbye to, and I may have to be taken from here kicking and screaming. 🙂

      Thanks for your compliment on the site design! I changed it about 10 days ago, I think. I’m pleased that I get to highlight a bunch of stories (like previous design) but get to have a lot more info in the header and an easier menu system. So far, I’m liking it’s navigation a lot.

  12. Your home is gorgeous and the surroundings are wonderful! I can completely relate to your dilemma. We held on to our huge beautiful house up north for about seven years while we spent less and less time there. Two winters ago, in a blizzard, five huge trees fell down, 3 on the left side of the house (only bending the gutters) and two on the right side of the house (just a meter away from the corner). That did it. A sign 🙂 that we should let it go. We finally sold it last year and know it was the right decision…

    • I remember the pics you shared of that gorgeous home of yours, Tiny. I can certainly understand why you hesitated to sell, but it sounds like you’re at peace with your decision now. I think I’m getting there myself.

      • Yes we are. No regrets. We got a smaller place a bit north of here on the Atlantic coast that serves as a 2nd home – worry-free, low maintenance.

      • That’s how we feel about the Vegas condo. It’s bought and paid-for, and the carrying costs (utilities, HOA fees, taxes) are so cheap, it really is a no brainer. And now it’s a matter of figuring out what suits our needs for here in the Toronto area. We need a place to hang our hats (and for our grown children to still be able to hang theirs until their fully self-sufficient (likely years away…).

  13. Okay, is it just me or is it totally weird how similar our thoughts are this week on home, and decisions that shape our lives?! What an awesome post, because you’re so right about how these places become part of our souls. GOR.GEOUS photos, omg wow. I can *feel* your angst over this decision. *hugs* just trust your gut, Nancy.

  14. Here’s where I’m at on this one… Your pictures of your home, town, and garden are striking. I mean, you have created your own paradise, and you definitely have a tough decision to make. I can totally understand being sentimentally attached to a home, it’s hard to call it just a house! Plus, you should be really proud of the fruits of your labor. You have every right to be, you work extremely hard.
    But you know the real truth, that a home is wherever you make it. You will always have those memories, but you can make new memories wherever you find yourself, too. And they will probably be just as awesome and joyful.
    Hugs to you, this one is a toughie, and I hope everything falls smoothly into place.

    • What you’re saying is true, and I know it, Martha. Home is wherever you make it. And I’ve proven that I can be very happy in a small and humble space – spending about 40% of my time in our little condo in Vegas these past few years.

      I am always talking about letting go of ‘stuff’ in favour of having richer experiences, and this is just the next in the line of stuff I need to be prepared to let go of. Granted it’s a big and beautiful piece of stuff, but it’s stuff all the same.

      Thank you for your kind and caring words. They mean the world.

  15. We live in a beautiful part of the world, don’t we? Love your home too, although I know what you mean about moving, and moving – it’s the experiences that shape and define us. The stuff just sits there and gets older and starts to break down.

    • We do, indeed, live in a really lovely place, Trent. I’m sure we’ll end up with something somewhere near this area, because we really do enjoy it; it just won’t be this house. Which makes me sad. But I need to snap out of it. It’s just brick and mortar with some nice jewelry to dress it up. It doesn’t define me.
      If I keep telling myself this, I will start to believe it, right?

  16. Hmmm. I can see this would be a difficult decision Nancy. Based on my experience the past seven months, less is more. There is definitely a lot to be said for having less stuff and things to deal with. My home is just under 1400 square feet, built in 1908 and loaded with character. I find that it is just the right size for me and Maggie. I would vote for the down size. You can always rent a hall if you want to throw a big party.

    • Gut wrenching, Faye. I’m just trying to divorce myself from the materialistic attachment and then sort out the true feelings. Thanks for your support. xoxo

  17. Oh, muchacha! This is tough! What do your children say and how do they feel? I know when we mention moving out of our home (as modest as it is), they freak out. I’m just curious what feedback you are getting from them. Mr. B loves the house he was raised in which his parents still own and can’t think of ever needing to sell it. Of course it’s more about the memories.

    Having said that, new memories are out there waiting to happen. The possibilities are endless and exciting. Once you make the decision you gotta go with it with no regrets! 🙂

    • We’ve been looking at smaller places right in the heart of downtown Toronto for approx. 2 years now (that was the original plan, but a 1,100 sq foot condo downtown is >$1m, so we’ve killed that idea), so the kids have known for some time that the intent is to not live in this house anymore. Neither of them voiced any concerns; possibly because they don’t plan to live at home much longer, or possibly because they aren’t nearly as attached to it as my husband and I are. Probably a bit of both.

  18. Yeah, how do you leave Eden, right? Whatever you decide, sending peaceful thoughts your way . . . and an embarrassing profit should you sell. John

    • The embarrassing profit is the primary motivator at this point John. It should provide for a more modest home in the area, some good down-payments for each of the kids for when they’re ready to buy their own homes (we’ll put those away now) and to settle some debt that’s been giving me an ulcer (figuratively, not literally). I’ll gladly accept your peaceful thoughts.
      Thank you, friend.

  19. Wow Nancy, that would be hard to leave! Looks amazing. But if I’ve learned anything, it is how little the stuff matters. But in truth, it does, and if you aren’t forced to leave it, it really is hard. It sounds like you are ready to open a new chapter though and I encourage you to do so. You’ve given your home so much love and it will remain within it and within you.

    • I’m almost embarrassed at the level of attachment I feel. Makes me feel so much less evolved than I thought I was. I know I can leave this and be truly happy anywhere else I go, but also know it will break my heart when I do. That makes me feel pretty shallow, but it is what it is.

      Thanks so much for your kind words
      Kerry. xoxo

  20. I did miss this one. Wow. That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I could give that up, Nancy. I’ve just read your comment above about feeling attached to your home and here I am yearning for one. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I just that you are ultimately happy with your decision. Carol XX

  21. Pingback: and so it begins | my year[s] of sweat!

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