After spending a year that felt like an eternity as a house husband, 2015 is upon us and suddenly an overwhelming sense of finality has set in. While thousands of fellow bloggers have simply “sold all their stuff” and left for wherever, the concept is different for old people (over 40) that lived a 30 year cubicle lifestyle complete with two car garages, suburban lawns and two-hour daily commutes. While I never want to return to the boring work of being a financial services peon, I’ve almost grown used to being a useless suburban slug that spends his days exercising, food shopping and blogging. But with Diane growing tired of being the sugar-mama, it’s time to buckle down and start packing.
Slightly anxious, we spent last weekend at the local U-Haul store purchasing moving supplies. Deciding it makes more sense to put whatever we’d want for future use in storage and not send it to a port in Penang with no known destination, we kept the inventory to 15 medium boxes, 5 large, 10 small and one dishpack (mostly to save our Tim Horton’s collectible Hockey Hall of Fame glass set). Veterans to the U-Haul store, Diane and I have already had 7 addresses in 14 years of marriage, three in the San Francisco Bay area, three in Calgary and even a six month stint in San Diego (we hated living there). Having sent our stuff 2,000 miles by truck (Twice. And once from SoCal to NorCal), you’d think we’d be seasoned veterans. But moving is not the same as ditching everything for a new life in an unfamiliar continent across the globe and a certain degree of nervous anticipation filled my head.
As you may recall, our landscaper performed a massive clean up project of our house a few months ago but had to return because the leaves do not die and fall off entirely in California until the first week of winter. Returning with our real estate agent yesterday, Oscar spent four hours trimming the mess known as the wisteria vine that sits above the entryway of the house. Unfortunately for Oscar, this also meant removing a large rate that lives rather comfortably most of the year in a mostly undetectable nest. (Rats are a reality in suburban hills; you can poison them but eradicating the population is impossible).
Charging only $270 to prune two crab apple trees, saw off an enormous pepper tree branch that invaded the roof and shape the wisteria back into something desirable, Oscar is both professional and inexpensive and I’d recommend him to the idiots that spend the same or more on unskilled laborers (all of whom are now “legal” thanks to Obama). Noticing an amazing difference, I realized the property will almost be worth the insane price some poor American family is going to pay. Requiring mortgages about five times the national average just to buy a 1,650 square foot middle class suburban home, I assume early retirement is not on the minds of any new owners.
Oddly, our real estate agent offered to prune all our rose bushes herself at no cost. Born and raised in Walnut Creek, it’s one of her hobbies and she claims she enjoys it, although watching her do it didn’t look like anything I’d call fun. She also offered to replace several of the new plants that the house stager purchased which died after a recent cold spell (no, not Canadian cold, just near the freezing mark). According to her, the pictures below are what a properly pruned rose-bush looks like (to me it looks more like a dead stalk).
Emptying the garage of all our personal belongings that have nowhere to stay in our rather small house with no basement (not permitted in California due to earthquake concerns), I sorted through my box containing 49+ years of everything sentimental to me. Reminiscing for a few hours every time we move, I marveled at all the old pre-internet work stuff salvaged from the good old days (the 1980’s), mounds of sports memorabilia and some old pictures and miscellaneous articles from my childhood, Spending less time than usual, I packed it all up into two medium boxes and once again said good-bye to a half century of memories.
Sorting Diane’s stuff is not something I’d ever want to do so her boxes were laid out on the carpet for her own perusal on the weekend. Spending every weekend sorting, sealing and preparing the house for the stager’s rented furniture is the weekly mission for the next four weeks. Remembering what a pain in the ass the selling procedure is, I discussed the upcoming schedule with the agent after she finished pruning the roses. Mostly an exercise in clearing checkbook space, I cringed at all the crap that a seller has to pay to get an insane asking price (although we did almost none of this in Calgary and still sold the house in two days at 99.5% of asking price).
Taking it all in, I perused the list of upcoming events required before the house goes up for sale on March 21st. For those unfamiliar, our list includes the following and is probably smaller than many owing to the lack of kids and pets.
- Professional carpet cleaning
- Power washing of all exterior walls
- Painting/removal of stucco scratches from seven years of ivy growth
- Window cleaning
- Professional housecleaning
- Mulching/final touch ups to landscaping
- Inspections: Home, Pest, Roof and Chimney
Ka-Ching !!! Basically the sound of the cash register ringing up fees for all these services, it reminded me that becoming a successful real estate agent is not actually that hard here in the land of overpriced houses, three-hour commutes and Utopia to the 99% of Americans that measure happiness in terms of hours wasted on the freeway to get material possessions and take crappy little two-week vacations almost until death.
Fortunately, we are no longer part of that lifestyle and hopefully, the real “American dream” reaches fruition sometime this year. As we speak, a promotion on my local radio station talks about the San Francisco Bay Area. The guy says “the bay area: it’s paradise on earth”. Proving beauty is in the eye of the beholder, he can have his version of paradise. Maybe he’ll buy our house.
Although upcoming posts might be limited over the coming months due to lack of time, please don’t forget us. Once we finally become Experimental Expats, we intend sharing experiences almost daily from wherever we may wind up. Cheers and Happy 2015 !!
Wanted: Tales from others who “sold all their stuff” and moved overseas. Please help make our transition easier by sharing !!