Like many people of my vintage approaching the end of our ‘official’ working years, I am thinking about my next move. This is the one that's supposed to fit in between where I am now and the day I'm asked to take a number in heaven's great anteroom.
My children are long gone and my government pension is almost within reach. I've introduced words like 'downsizing' into my vocabulary and happily imagine my next decades spent close to flat walking paths, over-priced cafés, galleries that can’t get enough of my art, public transit and health care.
I'm happy to relinquish some of the tedious repetitive tasks involved in traditional home ownership: such as lawn mowing, weeding and snow shoveling. On paper at least, I sound like the perfect candidate for condo living, don’t you think?
But … there would be trade-offs, wouldn’t there? Probably the most off-putting to me would be handing over some of the control of my own living space to a potentially unreasonable and dictatorial strata council.
Over the years talking with condo-dwelling clients and friends, I've heard some horror stories about strata councils and tyrannical committee members. I understand that communal living requires give and take and mutual consideration … but … no exterior doormats? How many people can you offend with a 'Welcome' mat?
And what about the rule that says that all window blinds and draperies must be white? I don't know how often every single person in a condo complex draws their curtains at exactly the same time but, even if they did, would those on the streets below be dreadfully offended if the face of the building wasn't monochromatic?
A townhouse development in the UK forbids owners to park their company cars in their own driveways if there is a logo or business name painted on the vehicle. I wonder if it's OK to drape an ugly old sheet over the offending graphic instead?
Still on the books in some developments is a by-law prohibiting washing from being hung outside on Sundays. Whether this was originally for religious reasons, or because those enjoying a 6-pack on a Sunday afternoon in their own gardens found the sight of their neighbours' smalls offensive, I don't know!
Based on just those rules alone, I don't believe my strataphobia is unjustified. I fear living in a place designed and maintained by expedience and uniformity. It shows a complete disregard for an individual's right to make even those choices that have no measurable impact on others … like doormats on the front step and bed sheets billowing in a breeze.
So, am I condo-ready? What do you think? Please share your thoughts and condo-living experiences with me.
Illustration by Chris Rohrmoser: Nest Building, A Guide To Finding Your Inner Interior Designer, written by Kate Bridger, published by Redfern House Publishing, 2011.