Another Life Changing Decision – Part 9

April 1, 2014

I’m sitting on a plane heading to Hong Kong and then on to Singapore. It is a very long 14 hours ahead of me, I figured I had time to catch up with my blogging seeing as I already slept through most of my first flight.

The last two weeks have been two of the craziest, most chaotic weeks of my life. I honestly have no idea how I’ve managed to get out of the house with (hopefully) everything I need for my Vietnam: Through the Lens Photo Tour and the house staged and ready for viewings.

Since my last renovation and Life Changing Decision post, the pressure has really been on.

About a week and a half before departure for Asia:

My kitchen is mostly back together and after about four times, the cupboards are done. They aren’t perfect, but I’ve given up that idea and replaced it with a goal of them being sufficient. My new backsplash in the kitchen is up and looks beautiful. It’s grouted, sealed and there’s no going back now. It sure does look pretty though! It feels good to have my kitchen close to working order. I was able to cook a few meals in the last couple of weeks before I left. That was after I cleaned all of the cutlery, pots and pans from the inch of dust that was over everything.

For a full three weeks, possibly longer, I had no suitable living space in my entire home. My living room was packed full of everything from everywhere in the house and all of the furniture was moved to the centre of the room in order for painting to take place. I literally had one chair set aside in the back corner of my living room that I could sit in to use my laptop. My desktop computer was unhooked and covered in plastic for several weeks. Getting from one side of the house to the other was a maze and there was never a clear path. Stepping over things, or dodging items that were losing their delicate balance and falling to the ground were definitely daily tasks.

My friend who had offered to do my flooring bailed on me, saying he just simply couldn’t finish it by the time I needed. He offered to leave his tools here in case I could get someone else to finish it. I was devastated. For the first time amongst all of the stress of renovations, I was about to lose my mind. And, I didn’t even have anywhere to sit! I called on a friend who was very capable of doing flooring, but hated it. He pulled me out of a jam and although I paid him, I probably still owe him for saving my sanity.

Another friend came to install all of the quarter round upstairs and replace all of my switches, plugs and thermostats. Definitely more work and more stress than he (or I) anticipated! Somehow it all got done though.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say that they can’t be productive when their office is messy. Sometimes people have to clean up their surroundings in order to concentrate on work. Well, I felt this way every day for weeks on end about my life, but it was impossible to clean up. There was nowhere to move anything. My only escape was going to a friend’s house to relax, then coming home and crawling in bed.

Finally, the week before I’m leaving for Asia, everything starts to come together. All of the walls are painted, the floors are nearing completion, the kitchen is back in order and the living room is messy, but livable again. Nothing is covered in plastic at this point and cleaning of the entire place has begun.

It is amazing how long it takes to do the little things … re-hanging hand rails, changing hardware on cabinets, painting closet and bedroom doors. All of these things were done in the last one to two weeks of the whole process.

Now, you’d think I’d be starting to relax a bit seeing things come together, but sadly, there were still a few big ticket items to be finished. Take for example my stairs which were still bare ply wood. After several trips to Kent, I finally decided on a carpet for the stairs that would compliment the wall colour, but not clash with the flooring and, despite the large assortment of beige choices, I was able to find something in a blue / grey tone instead.

Just when I thought things were coming together, we got a snow storm that backed up the installers. Then we got hit with a Wednesday snow storm … and then all of a sudden it’s only a few days before I’m leaving and the carpet isn’t installed yet! Oh my nerves. Finally, the installers were able to come on my last weekend and get the carpet in place. I even managed to convince him to redo the laminate in my 1/2 bathroom at a decent rate.

Two nights before leaving for Asia, all of the big items in the house were complete. Now it was just small things, cleaning, staging and packing … oh yes, did I mention that I didn’t pack for my trip until 2 or 3 days before I left?

Last night I was up until 1am finishing final touches and still not everything got done. In the end I decided that sleep was a necessity and anything else would just have to wait or be done by my real estate agent. I still had two closet doors not working properly and missing hardware, a couple of light bulbs that needed to be replaced and who knows what else!

I’ve never been so excited to get on a plane so I could sleep! I left for the airport in the middle of another miserable snow / sleet / hail / freezing rain storm by cab and it took a good 45 minutes to get there (normally less than 30). I thought for sure that flights would be delayed, but magically, somehow they were still running on time.

So, I’m up up and away on my way to Singapore for a few days to get over jet lag before continuing on to Vietnam for my Vietnam: Through the Lens photo tour. Here’s hoping I can catch up on at least some of the lost sleep in the next few days.


Thank you Emily for your love of painting things and willingness to help clean. Not to mention our girl talks which took the pain of renovating away a little … at least in the moment. I cooked a lovely brunch one day when Emily was here helping me and then we promptly sat on the floor to eat because there was no where else to sit. Classy right?

Thank you Anita for doing everything that could be done to help, until you needed to focus on your own renovations! Doing dishes, writing kijiji ads, cleaning windows, stomping floors back in place, laughing at me for multiple ridiculous efforts in renos, shopping for supplies, moving furniture over and over and generally keeping me moving forward … Oh yes and making decisions for me when I couldn’t get my brain to function.

Thank you Jennie for helping stage and decorate, measure things, hang art and shimmy face plates into place when I had all but given up hope that it could be done!

Thanks to the men in my life (David, Paul, Rick) who (with only a little begging) came to my rescue in flooring, tiling, electrical, installing lights, fixing doors, installing fan covers, drilling holes, texting me instructions on what materials to buy, watching me get zapped and then teaching me how not to do that again, teaching me how to do caulking … for the hugs and the support. I won’t likely ever be rich, but I will soon be debt-free and for that, I thank you.


Another Life Changing Decision – Part 7

Renovations may be the death of me.

Here we are in March and honestly, the renovations are only creeping along. I can’t believe I somehow thought they would be done by now. Who was I kidding?

Between the contractor’s schedule and lack of communication and my need to do things on budget (hence asking friends to help), it seems like it is all moving at a snail’s pace. Oh yes, let’s not forget the incredible stress I’ve had trying to decide on paint colours for throughout the house.

It’s really quite the disaster and I don’t know how I’m surviving. There is no livable space in my house. The kitchen has been torn apart for over a week with most of my dishes packed up and stored throughout the house. Drawers are filled with stuff and sitting on the living room floor, plates are covered with table cloths to keep the dust off. The wall paper has all been removed in the kitchen and the cabinet faces have been taken off site to paint. They’ve now been returned, the rest of the cabinets have been sanded and painted … Sadly, once the cabinet faces were put back up, they didn’t look right. After staring at them for days and having other friends look at them, I decided something was wrong. I talked to the contractor and it appears that he got two cans of white paint mixed up. He put the last coat on the cabinets with what he thought was semi gloss, but he ended up re-priming them. So, down they all come again to be repainted. Here goes at least another week without an operational kitchen. I haven’t cooked in a couple of weeks.

Feb 23

Feb 23

With everything from my kitchen now moved into my living room, it’s in quite the state as well. But, up until this point the living room has been untouched so there is still a couch to sit on, it’s just messy all around.

As for upstairs … the furniture has been moved around a couple of times and both bedrooms and the hallway are painted with two coats of silver dollar half grey by Benjamin Moore. The trim has been painted, but a few spots have been missed and need touch ups. Sadly, the hallway was done horribly with some areas not getting even one coat and other areas being spotty. I had to ask the contractor to redo it, which he did. Sadly, I think the main reason was because of poor lighting in the hallway and he simply couldn’t see well enough to do a good job. A couple of days after mentioning it, the hallway has been redone, it looks much better. Phew!

The floors are bare with the carpets gone and staples all removed, but no matter how many times I sweep or vacuum they are still filthy. All of the furniture from my master bedroom (except the bed) has been moved to my small spare bedroom. There’s room to open the door, but I don’t really bother because not much can be done in there. At least the painting in that room is done, other than touch ups, so I can just avoid that room all together.

My bedroom on the other hand, I can not avoid.

My bed still sits relatively in the middle of the room. A friend is laying my new laminate floors for me (Molokai Driftwood). He started and with about 6 or so hours of work, has done a little more than half of my master bedroom. Good progress. Sadly, having a friend work on this means it is slow going. Not in the actual work, but more in the matter of he can’t come do it all at once because he has a full time job. So, it has to be between work and family commitments.

Mar 6

Mar 6

Every day from the beginning of the contractors painting up stairs I’ve had to keep my bed covered in plastic and then uncover it each night before I go to bed. This continued once we started the flooring. I had to empty out my closet, which meant that everything got dumped on my bed then covered in plastic. Each night I’d come home, uncover everything, put it back in the closet so I could sleep on my bed and start it all over the next day. This was because I never knew which days the contractor or my friend were going to be coming to work on the bedroom and I didn’t want paint or dust all over my clothes. Bad enough it is all over EVERYTHING else! Oh the frustration!

To add to the pressure? I only have a couple of weeks left before I leave for South East Asia and I definitely want my house on the market and able to be shown while I’m away. It’s useless for it to sit here empty while I’m gone. So, a hard deadline is in place. I leave early morning on April 1st.

I’m exhausted. I honestly can’t believe I haven’t just lost it all together …
Whose to say that I won’t before it’s all done …

Thanks to my friends who have been helping out and my sister who has helped with more than I can even say. From moving furniture to cleaning out cupboards, cooking me meals and just keeping me sane … Thanks everyone.

March 6th … signing off … still alive but not sure if I’m sane.

Another Life Changing Decision – Part 6

Ok ok … I’m cheating a little bit on this post. Below you will find links to several of the blogs I wrote in February about renovations which was the next big step in this big ‘get debt free’ process.

Good for me, they were already written and fit right in with this progression.
Good for you, if you missed them the first time, here they are again!
Good for you, catch up on a couple of weeks of my thought process all in one day. (for those of you who are anxious and trying to hurry things up!)

Renovations – Part 1
Renovations – Part 2
Renovations – Part 3

Renovations – Part 3

Feb 22nd – Renovation Update

Three weeks ago I was calling contractors and having them in to quote on doing renovations with the goal of having everything complete in early March. I guess that was a little ambitious of me. Both in the matter that I had a lot of decisions to make (I’m a slow decider) and in that contractors have their own way of dealing with time and deadlines.

Here’s what has been accomplished, along with approximate working hours to complete.

Carpet removal from upstairs – 8 hours
Staple pulling & clean up – 9+ hours
Taking carpet to recycle depot – 1.5 hours

Removing cabinet doors in kitchen (hinges & handles) – 2.5 hours
Removing wallpaper in kitchen & clean up – 10 hours

Cleaning out kitchen cupboards & boxing items – 3 hours (only 1/2 done)

Removing face plates, switch covers & hand rails – 1 hour (1/2 done)

Researching & Buying supplies:
Flooring – Home Depot / Kent / Happy Harry’s / Floors Plus
Paint – Home Depot / Kent / Color Your World / Sherwin Williams

6 hours meeting with friends and contractors for quotes & discussing plan of action
3.5 hours meeting with real estate agents

4 hours (2 separate evenings) – researching paint colours in general
6 – 8 hours (with my sister on a Saturday) – Happy Harry’s / Floors Plus / Kent – Bought flooring / handles / hinges / backsplash tile and carted everything from the car to the house. Had to make two trips to Kent to get the flooring. Looked at kitchen lighting.
1 hour (lunch break) – researching paint colour

Random other things that needed to be done.
4 hours – sorting items, donating to Value Village, putting items on kijiji
2 hours – emailing Photo Tour participants & Young & Fearless participants about photo pick ups.
Undetermined amount of time for kijiji & photo pick ups.
2 hours Financial Planner
1 hour finding out exact debt amounts (Line of credit / vehicle / mortgage)

That appears to be a total of approximately 64 hours in the last 3 weeks. Geeze, no wonder I’m exhausted! And, that doesn’t count the 10 – 15 hours of overtime I’ve done at work in the last two weeks.

Renovations – Part 2

Here it is February 22nd and life has been so busy that I haven’t had time to write about the trials and tribulations of renovations.

Beware. Post laden with sarcasm, coming your way!

I don’t complain very often about being single, or needing a man, but let me tell you … doing renovations when you are single and not ‘handy’ is tough. I’m all there for you women who love to do renovations. I do believe that women can do it, just not me. And, it’s not that I don’t think I can – I’m sure I can – But, I really really really hate fixing things. I always have. My past roommates have been known to hang pictures for me, put together desks and barbecues and likely anything else ‘handy’ that needed to be done around the house. I don’t want to learn how. I don’t particularly like putting puzzles together (especially when sometimes pieces are missing or cut just a little bit wrong, but still have to fit together properly). It’s true. It’s just not my thing. And when people say ‘just do that yourself’, or ‘you can do it’, I just glare at them and say ‘no kidding, I can, but I have zero interest in doing it.’ It amazes me how many people push forward and try to ‘force’ me into doing things that are ‘sooooo easy’ … ‘anyone can do it’ … ‘I don’t know why you’d pay someone to do that!’

Ah hem … Are you offering to do it for me because I think you missed the part that said ‘I JUST DON’T WANT TO.’

Wait … Since it’s so easy and you have so much free time in your life, why don’t you come do it for me? Oh yeah, right, I forgot … you’re busy. Hmmmm … funny how you can be busy, but I should do EVERYTHING myself because it is so easy.

My favourite is ‘Shari, you should do that yourself. You don’t need a man to do it. You’ll feel so proud and accomplished when you are all done.’

UMMMMMMM Let me see …


NOOOOO. I won’t be proud and accomplished. I’ll feel weak, annoyed, frustrated and like I could have been doing something more important with my time.

Case and point … Four hours (with a friend – so actually 8 working hours) pulling up carpet and removing tack strips.

Case and point … Six + hours (alone) pulling staples from stairs and then another two pulling staples from the floor.

Proud and accomplished? Um, no. My hands had calluses and hurt. My fingers were aching. My wrists were sore and my arms started falling asleep at night. Not to mention the couple of scares I had when I pulled so hard that I nearly fell backwards down the stairs.

Sleeping. Writing. Traveling. Spending time with friends. I would take any of those pleasurable activities over manual labour any day. A big shout out to the folks who do manual labour daily either by choice or by necessity. I feel lucky to have the strength and situation to choose other means of earning an income.

To any of you who are saying ‘quit whining’, you need to go back and read again. I’m just stating the facts. I’m not whining at all.

It is hard work. Fact.
It takes a lot of time. Fact.
I’m not interested. Fact.

For those of you who love doing renovations, who love fixing things and find pride and accomplishment in all of this, here’s to you! It is a very important job that not everyone has the time and talent to do.

If I were to say to you ‘Why don’t you write a book, or do some volunteer work’?
Oh that doesn’t interest you? Hmmm. It’s easy. You should totally just do it yourself! You’ll feel so proud and accomplished!

Does that make you want to run out and try it?
No? Oh, really? Hmmm … funny how you telling me how easy laying flooring is also doesn’t make me want to run out and try it!

Funny how people can be so different … I’m ok with that. Are you?

Renovations – Part 1

February 5, 2014

In the middle of January I decided that it was a good time to start thinking about selling my condo. My mortgage is coming up for renewal in August and I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed with responsibility. So, selling the condo and becoming debt free seemed pretty liberating.

Five days into February and I’m moving right along with my plan, almost on auto pilot. It just seems as if I’m in a space where one thing after another just has to get done.

I’ve now had two different contractors in to quote on doing renos to my condo. I’m just waiting to get both quotes in before deciding who to go with. Honestly, they are very different … one seems very knowledgeable, lots of ideas and opinions to share. The other guy seems a little less business-minded and more like one of the country boys I grew up with. Both come highly recommended, so I’m just waiting to crunch some numbers.

With a self-inflicted goal of getting my house on the market in early March, I have no choice but to get things underway. Here’s my list of renos to be done:

Wall paper removed.
New paint – walls and baseboards.
Ceiling touch ups, but hopefully not repainting.
Backsplash to be added.
Recaulk sink, countertop etc.
Cabinets sanded and painted white with new pulls.
Planning to leave the countertops and flooring as is.

Living Room & Dining room
Fix laminate flooring, but not replace it.
Paint all walls, window frames, baseboards.
Remove broken blinds.

Stairs & Hallway
Remove carpet
Paint walls, baseboards
Paint / varnish stairs or replace with new treads
Laminate flooring
Paint closet doors

1/2 Bath
Recaulk around counter and sink
New flooring – laminate / tile or linoleum

Full Bath
Paint walls & ceiling
Recaulk around counter / sink / tub
Paint door

2 Bedrooms
Remove carpet & replace with laminate flooring
Paint walls & baseboards
Paint window frames
Touch up ceiling
Paint closet doors

Throughout the house, replacing switches and face plates.

Some of the above I can get my handyman friends to help out with. And, I even have a couple of people who have offered to help lay the laminate flooring for me. But, I’m waiting to get the quotes in before I rely on the kind assistance of friends.

With the help of one of my friends, I’ve already removed the carpet from the stairs and hallway. It took two of us about two hours last night, but there’s still a lot of staples and bits of carpet to remove before the job is done. Next up, carpet coming out of the bedrooms.

What did I learn?
1. The difference and benefits of both ends of a crow bar!
2. During renovations is no time to be gentle.
3. That carpets are disgusting.
4. That staples are my nemesis.
5. That you’re not allowed to dispose of carpet in the dumpster.