Here’s a news flash: I’m a prisoner to my possessions!
I’m a prisoner to my possessions! Every time I move to a new house, I have big, heavy furniture that moves with me. Ka ching! And a big moving bill. Ka ching! Three men and a five ton truck don’t come cheap. Ka ching!
There are many people who live a minimalist lifestyle. Some by choice, others because they just can’t afford stuff.
Let’s talk about the choosers. Minimalists live in RVs, sailboats, and even those tiny houses that seem to becoming a trend.
Things like RVs and sailboats have built in cabinets and furnishings. You can’t go out and buy a new dining room table because the one in that motor home or sailboat is attached and specially made to fit in that space. Same with the bedroom. It comes with a built in bunk. If you prefer a king size bed, you’re probably out of luck.
There’s only one time I regretted not taking up my father’s offer to transfer his RV into my name, and that was after the deadbeat and I split up and I was searching for cheaper accommodation. Not an easy feat in the hot housing market around Vancouver.
Could I live in an RV? Well, people do what they have to for survival.
The reality? I’ve spent a lifetime accumulating a well-stocked house. I have big furniture. Some I’m not willing to part with. At least not now.
Let’s start with my prized possession: an 1895 Broadwood & Sons grand piano.
My mother was an excellent piano player, but she went into full time care in 1998. A year later my father gave me the piano. And, yes, I also play, took lessons as a kid, got up to Grade 7 in the Royal Conservatory plan. At least I think that’s what it was called! My father was downsizing, sold the house and bought a condo. Since he doesn’t play the piano, I was the obvious choice for this massive hand-me-down.
I love that piano, but it’s not easy to move because it weighs 1,000 pounds. When I call the movers, they have to schedule three men.
I live in a small place. Most of my belongings are stored in one of the bedrooms, including the grand piano, dismantled. It really bugs me that there’s no room to set it up so I can play it.
As much as I love the piano, I recognize that it ties me down and limits my living options. I’m just so glad that I can keep it here in my little house instead of paying a monthly fee on a storage unit.
It has crossed my mind that I might have to part with the grand piano if I make a move to a country with a lower cost of living. Whenever I think about parting with it, I get a little weepy. I’ll never be able to replace a beautiful piano like this.
Luckily, there are international shippers… Ka ching!
I love to read and have boxes of books. Those boxes of books get heavier with each move. Now that I own a Kindle, it’s very easy to move my books.
Seeing as how I have to hire movers to handle that grand piano anyway, they move all the other heavy stuff, too, like the bookcases and all those boxes of books.
My reading tastes are all over – horror novels (love Stephen King’s earlier stuff!), mysteries, autobiographies, romantic comedies, travel literature, the complete works of William Shakespeare, and cookbooks. I love all my books and I have a lot of them!
Believe it or not, I downsized about half my books when I moved in 2007. Goodbye to the complete Harold Robbins collection!
I have three large bookcases that hold the books, plus photo albums, movies, music, and maybe a few knickknacks. They stand higher than me. Wider too! Ha ha!
Even though the deadbeat built the bookcases, they have no sentimental value to me.
It’s not like we’re talking a grand piano here!
Anyway, I can part with those bookcases, no problem.
Oh wait, there is a problem.
I still need somewhere to put my books. If not those bookcases, then I have to buy more bookcases. Here’s where being frugal comes in to play!
So that’s the dilemma. I have no problem getting rid of those bookcases – but where am I going to put my books? They can’t live in boxes forever!
Yes, that’s hutches plural.
One hutch is from a dining room set my parents bought in the seventies. I don’t know what happened to the table and chairs that went with it. The hutch has very pretty ornate carving, and the upper shelf has glass doors and glass shelves. Nice!
When not in captivity, that hutch holds my granny’s good china.
Five years ago I put it up for sale for $100 before I moved to my current place. I had a couple of people come look at it, but no sale.
One person emailed me to compliment how beautiful it was. She didn’t have any money, but suggested if I couldn’t sell it she’d be happy to take it off my hands for free. Needless, to say, I still have the hutch.
My attempt at downsizing failed!
The second hutch is not really a hutch. It’s a teak cabinet that – you guessed it – my parents had, so it’s always been in the house for as long as I remember. The good cutlery and linens were kept on the side with drawers. The other half had sliding doors and that was their liquor cabinet. The upper hutch part was picked up at a garage sale in the nineties.
If I had to, I could get rid of the upper section. Maybe even the lower teak section too. So why didn’t I put it up for sale instead of the nicer hutch that I like better? I thought the other one had a better chance of selling.
Guess I was wrong.
I hate to think they’ll end up at the dump.
Maybe you’re seeing a theme here. I have a bedroom set: double bed with bookcase headboard, tallboy, and dresser. My parents bought it in the fifties. When I was a teenager, they bought a new bedroom set, and I inherited their old set. And as you can see, I’ve been dragging it around with me for many years!
I’d like to point out there’s a big difference between “antique”, “vintage”, and stuff that’s just old!
And yes, I have things that fit all those categories. Some I’m not mentioning here like a gramophone because it’s not what I call “heavy”. I can push that sucker around. The grand piano not so much!
For many years, that fifties bedroom set was in my spare room. Just before my last move I sold my (way too big) bedroom set featuring a king-sized bed. I need a place to sleep, so the spare bedroom set became my main bedroom set again.
We all need a place to sleep. This bedroom set has been around for as long as my earliest memories. I could give it up, but that would mean buying new bedroom furniture.
The way my life is going I’ll still be sleeping on that bed till the day I die!
However, I think I’m going to be in need of a new mattress within the year. There’s only so many times a person can flip a mattress…
MORE HEAVY STUFF
Now let’s talk about some heavy stuff that I can turf.
Starting with the big sectional sofa I’m sitting on while writing this. I bought the sectional in 2012 and it fit nicely in the house I had at the time.
It doesn’t fit so nice in my current residence with the tiny living room. Within three years a couple of coils started to go, so it either sags or jabs me.
I’d like to get a smaller sectional because I like to stretch out on the chaise lounge when I’m watching TV.
On the other hand, I’ve been redecorating the living room in my mind. If I took out the couch and the coffee table, the grand piano could be set up again. Which means I’ll have to call back the movers to reassemble it. Ka ching! That leaves nowhere to sit in the living room except a piano stool and an easy chair I can bring out of the storage room.
Moving on to the sundeck…
I have a small deep freezer on my sundeck. If I move, I’d be inclined to donate it to my landlords for whoever moves in here next. It’s old. I can always buy a new deep freezer wherever I end up.
Same story with the porch swing on my sundeck. It’s weathered, it’s torn. Or dog chewed. I’m not going to move it again. Unless it’s onto the back of my landlord’s truck for a quick trip to the dump.
So I’m not a prisoner to all my heavy possessions. Yay!
RETIRING ON A LOW INCOME
Here’s the harsh reality for many single low-income women. It is really expensive to live in retirement in Canada.
At age 65, all Canadians who qualify (for example, must have lived in Canada for 40 years after the age of 18) will receive Old Age Security. Right now it’s around $600/month and it adjusts for inflation.
Then there’s the Canadian Pension Plan, you know the amount that got deducted off your paycheck? Canadians are eligible to collect it at age 60, and most of us do because we need any extra money just to cover our cost of living. I will get around $400 a month. That’s not very much, is it?
Who thinks they can retire nicely in Canada for $1,000/month? That won’t even cover my rent. What if I want electricity or groceries?
I’m in a slightly better position with a small income coming in from a former employer’s pension that was invested in a LIRA (Locked In Retirement Account). When I turn 65, I’ll receive around $400/month.
Any extra money I have, I invest in stocks and funds that pay dividends to help supplement my income.
A BIG MOVE ONE DAY?
But let’s get back to the reality that single, older women on low incomes are facing. Maybe $1,000/month to retire on from the Canadian government programs. Maybe double that if we have other sources of income, possibly continuing part-time work in retirement.
That money will go a lot farther in other countries. Most of them with much warmer winters than Canada!
I’ve been looking at a few countries south of Canada, but I also want to avoid countries that use the American dollar or their country’s currency is tied to the American dollar. The Canadian dollar is too weak. That $1,000 has just turned into $700 or so exchanged to American dollars.
That pretty much eliminates Panama, Ecuador, and Belize because my Canadian bucks won’t do so good in those places.
The other desire is to be close enough to the United States or Canada if I have to get out of Dodge, so countries like Mexico and Costa Rica might be on my radar.
How about the Dominican Republic? And what’s up with this? The DR shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, one of the world’s poorest nations. How come everything bad happens in Haiti like earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and if there are any volcanoes there I’m sure that’ll be bad news for Haiti, too! Bad stuff happens on the Haiti side of Hispaniola and the DR is relatively unscathed.
CHEAPER HOUSES THAN CANADA
Look at the prices on some of these properties in the Dominican Republic, in areas popular with expats. I chose small villas with swimming pools. Most of these sell furnished.
$125,000 for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath with pool. Near the beach, in a nice residential community. https://www.coralbayrealestate.com/index.php/search/villa-houses/property/1855-lovely-house-in-sosua-sosua.html
Edited May 8, 2021: The house shows a drop in price to $100,000 and a pending sale. May be off the market soon…
Here’s a 2 bedroom, 2 bath with a pool, and kind of a neat looking turret architecture thing going on for $129,000. https://www.coralbayrealestate.com/index.php/search/villa-houses/property/1349-darling-little-house-ready-to-live-in-sosua.html
Edited May 8, 2021: This house also shows a pending sale, but the web link is still active.
Here’s a few more that also have pools, so you can dream of sunny days and warm, winter nights.
Edited May 8, 2021: Website shows this one is sold. Guess I wasn’t fast enough! Ha ha!
2 bedroom, 2 bath for $130,000 https://www.coralbayrealestate.com/index.php/search/villa-houses/property/1304-affordable-villa-with-privacy-sosua.html
Edited May 8, 2021: This one shows a price increase of $135,000! Yeah, always a good move to increase the price when it’s been on the market for over a year without a sale.
2 bedroom, 2 bath for $140,000. Edited May 8, 2021: I removed the link because it’s no longer on realtor’s website. Guess this little gem sold!
And believe it or not, there are lower priced properties than the ones above, but probably looking at a condo apartments with a community pool, and possibly other amenities
Check this out.
A one bedroom duplex for $99,000 where the bedroom is on the second floor and looks big enough to hold a grand piano in there!
Edited May 8, 2021: I removed the link because the listing is gone, but there’s another one just like it available in the same complex for the same price. https://www.point2homes.com/DO/Condo-For-Sale/Puerto-Plata/Sosua/Batey-Sosua/1-BEDROOM-OR-2-BEDROOM-TOWN-HOUSE-WALKING-DISTANCE-TO-CENTER-SOSUA-AND-TO-BEACHES/20970530.html
THE HEAVY STUFF DILEMMA
So there you have it. My plans to escape Canada one day to retire somewhere warmer and cheaper.
Except I’m not ready to let go of my heavy stuff. I can’t get past the block of not having that grand piano in my life. If the piano moves, it’ll be inside a container that’ll have room for more stuff. At least my heavy books. Maybe even the bedroom set. The hutches and the bookcases would all depend on how much room is in that container and if a house is already furnished or not and how much I like the furnishings.
In other words, depending on the circumstances, one day I might be ready to part with some of my heavy furniture.
Until then, I’m a prisoner to my possessions.
Check back in five years.
This article was originally published on The Lifestyle Digs on June 20, 2020 and updated on May 8, 2021.