People ask why, at age 60, I’ve gone and moved to a (slightly) larger house with some land, when others at this age choose to downsize into smaller spaces.
With my mother gone, I’ve been feeling lonely and now crave company. So with an extra bedroom, we have space for overnight guests. The new house is one level, one we could see ourselves aging in, and one where older family & friends might feel at ease. The location itself, though in the suburbs, has sidewalks that lead to nearby essentials like grocery stores and banks. I particularly like that we can walk to desi grocery stores and even have a choice of desi restaurants. So for us, this new location is more walkable than our townhome in the city.
The main draw for this house was the land. Since 2020 and the COVID lockdown, I’ve been drawn to step into the garden, away from people-filled spaces. We tried gardening in public spaces, and at homes of friends, but really craved a space we could step into from our doorstep. At less than half an acre, it isn’t much land. But we have plans for it!
The house was mostly move-in ready, so first came Mom’s bed for the guest room, and the dining table. Ready for company!
On our first evening here, noticing that a lot of the incandescent bulbs had burnt out, we replaced them with soft white LED lights. While at it, we also replaced the bright white LED lights with yellower soft white lights, making the house feel so much warmer. I’ve read that white light, though it may be easier on aging eyes, messes up the circadian rhythm, making it harder to sleep in the night. So, energy efficiency, a cozier feel and likelihood of sleeping through the night was worth investing in light bulbs rated to last 14 years or so!
Faced with light fixtures that used unusual incandescent bulbs, we simply replaced the fixtures with soft white LED lighting, cheaper and likely good for decades.
Our first night here, I was simply amazed at the darkness. No streetlights meant I could see stars. And one by one on this sleepless night, I unplugged each nightlight in the house, relishing the dark and quiet after the city.
On our second morning here, as I sat looking at the back yard, a red fox came from behind the pine tree, and limped thru to the side of the house. A surprise morning visitor. I had seen deer coming thru our yard weeks before, when I first drove by this property, but a red fox was quite unexpected.
We met neighbors to the left, who have 3 children. And neighbors to the right, who have 2 children. And a neighbor across the street.
Heating fuel conservation
Aware of our energy usage, we lowered the thermostat setting before bed, and increased it upon arising. We so miss the learning programmable thermostat that altered the heating schedule based on our coming and going. I remember seeing our gas usage drop significantly at a prior home when we installed a similar thermostat. Within a week, we had replaced the thermostat!
Also within a week, we had had enough of the hand-held shower, and replaced it with a low flow shower head. This offered handsfree showering, reduced water usage and increased water pressure on sore muscles. Ahh…
The bathroom as well as the kitchen sink faucets only offered water at a dribble. It seems the aerators had corrosion and/or calcification, and worked great once we cleaned out the aerator.
The fridge came with an icemaker and a water dispenser. The icemaker seemed clunky and happily, the fridge died one wiinter night. It has been replaced with an efficient fridge / freezer that we both enjoy, without the icemaker or water dispenser accessories.
The people before us had a washer/dryer inside one of the bedroom closets. Though the machines were removed, the piping and cables remained. To add shelving in this closet, we removed the water, electric and ducting, which led us to removing the drop ceilings in the basement. Not even one week, and the finished basement had gained our characte, with plumbing and electrical systems exposed and easier to trace and maintain! We traveled the technologies of the last century — landline telephone lines, radio and TV antenna cables, coax cables — as we traced and removed unused cables that were in the way of all that we wanted to remove.
We’re re-imagining this suburban home. Over time, we’ll make it fossil fuel free also, like our townhouse. We would need to first seal the envelope, which means buttoning up the drafts and adding insulation. The windows seem to be the original ones from the 1960s, and we felt the draft this past winter. They will need to be replaced first. Oil heats our home and provides our hot water. We plan to replace the aging oil boiler with electric systems. And add solar panels on the roof to power the energy needs of the entire house.
What we mostly want is an orchard to take the place of our front and rear lawns. And so begins the next adventure for our household… stay tuned!