Size Does Matter When it Comes to Making a Home

Meme reads: May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibility.

I know that living in a big house is on the wish-list of many people and I don’t judge them for it. But there was a time when I lived in a big house and I’d never go back.

Buying a big home was never in my plan. A big lot, maybe. But a giant house didn’t make me go oooooh. I catch a glimpse of J-Lo and Ben’s $60-million mansion as I scroll social media and I don’t feel envious. If I had their money, I’d do something else with it. (That house is for sale now in a whole other story!) They have kids and celebrity friends and need more room. No kids here. Friends or family visit a few at a time. We’re not throwing Oscar parties for nominees!

In 2005 when house prices were snowballing and there was a feeding frenzy on every decent property, I ended up in a place that was far too large for two people. This five-level house had a top floor designed by a church architect. It featured a cathedral ceiling and a massive window. In all, there were six bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms plus a finished basement. It became home to two people, two dogs, one cat, and a rabbit.

We had the kitchen gutted and redone. The backyard was completely private and there was a three-season room just off a patio by the inground pool. It was like having a cottage in the city.

How it Happened

I was working at 680 News in Toronto. As co-anchor of the morning show, I arrived at the Rogers Campus at Jarvis & Bloor around 3:30 am. When I started the job, I had to drive in from Hamilton so a move to Burlington helped. But my then-husband and I thought living even closer would be better for us overall.

Our Toronto agent really knew her stuff. Despite a firm budget, she found loads of properties in Willowdale for us to view. But multiple offers defeated us over and over again. It was brutal. We stopped sticking to our list of wants and needs so we could have a hope of buying something.

When she called to tell us we’d finally gotten a house, I hung up the phone and burst into tears. I couldn’t remember which house it was! We had seen so many and put in bid after bid. Instead of napping, I had been hopping into the back of an Escalade every other day and riding to Toronto to tour property after property. It got so that the only homes I remembered were the awful ones. The one where we encountered a full cat litter box at the front door. Or the one where the owner refused to leave so we could look around and he tailed us from room to room.

A Moving Experience

Moving day was hot and humid and on the weekend Live 8 Concerts were broadcast around the world. The previous owner had left an upright piano behind. When we called our agent to complain to his agent, he tried to convince us that it was a precious antique. It was not. They had installed a railing after the piano was in and didn’t want to go to the trouble to take it out. So, we called specialized piano movers and they billed the previous owner. He was not happy but we were finally piano-free.

Our movers stole from us and ruined a bunch of my clothes.

A painter was finishing up on the top floor as they started hauling stuff in. One of the movers picked up the brush and painted a stripe across all my clothes in the closet when the painter went on break. I’m not kidding! I learned that the most important question to ask a moving company is: do you hire day labourers? If they say yes, don’t hire them. You want movers who are on staff, bonded and background-checked.

Before finding out what they’d done, I tipped each of those movers in cash. Their smiling faces looked directly at me as I thanked them and pressed money into their palms. And then to find out they’d stolen an Mp3 player and other electronics plus ruined my clothing? We were furious but there was no recourse. Believe me, we tried. Neither cops or the company management cared.


The house was on a tree-lined, middle-class block near Finch and Leslie. Its claim to fame was that Bob Homme, the actor who played TV’s Friendly Giant, lived across the street. (He had died a few years earlier.)

A high income job, a big house, nice cars and lavish vacations don’t mean you are rich. In fact, it could mean the exact opposite.

Robert T. Kiyosaki, author, Rich Dad Poor Dad book series

At first, it was fun to decorate such a big place. With the addition of Ikea bookshelves, one bedroom became a library. Another, I used as a craft and painting room. Still another was my office. My then-husband turned the lower living room (yeah, there were two) into a TV room and the bedroom off it was his office. I dismantled and filled in the pond in the back yard on my own – a truly disgusting job! We had little pool parties and there was never an issue with room if someone wanted to stay over.

After the Novelty Wore Off

The marriage was already fractured but I believe the house contributed to its end. We discovered that you don’t have to live together in a big house. If your favourite places are at opposite ends, what’s the point of meeting in the middle? You don’t have to work at cooperation or negotiation or compromise. And my commute to work? It was about the same as from Burlington. By the time I negotiated all of the stoplights, the move didn’t save much time at all.

When Derek and I decided to live together I said it plainly: I don’t want a big house. I want us to live together, get in each other’s way sometimes, figure out how to coexist. In my world, a big house meant big problems. Bigger bills, bigger headaches. It’s not everyone’s experience but it was mine.

We have plenty of elbow room in our home but it’s not ridiculous. And there’s a postage stamp back yard. We adjust and compromise. He always seems to need to get into the fridge when I’m cooking. I’m forever putting something away where he can’t find it. We need to communicate and work it out. Adjust and share. I can appreciate the beauty of endless gleaming floors, massive foyers and several extra bedrooms. But for me, that’s for pictures or for visiting. Not where I want to live my life.

8 thoughts on “Size Does Matter When it Comes to Making a Home”

  1. “Get in each other’s way sometimes”

    I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: You are wise and funny!

  2. You fill a house with love not the size of the rooms or how much furniture you have in the rooms!
    None of that matters in the long run!

  3. Claire Cascone

    There are a thousand details to consider when buying a house, and no matter how much thought you put into all those lists you make, one never really knows what to look at, or avoid, until they actually live on the property. Moving is stressful.
    I’m with you when it comes to a big house. The first thing I think about when I see a large foyer is that it’s wasted space that you are paying a lot to heat or cool. But, that’s just the way my mind works. Everyone has their own preferences. I have lived in the same bungalow in central Etobicoke for 49 years. Twenty-four of those years with my husband, and he still asks me where the salad spinner belongs, or why I have frying pans in two different cupboards.
    I love what you said about you and Derek getting in each other’s way sometimes. That’s what family is, and that’s what makes a house a home.
    Great blog, Lisa! Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Claire! We have a saying here: “It’s behind the salad dressing!” And that goes for anything that isn’t anywhere it ‘should’ be!

  4. OMG how have you never brought up the paint brush across your clothes story? We will address that if/when we ever get the stuff moved out of our house. But YIKES! Our DIL had some stuff stolen in her move across the country 4 years ago; they hired the first movers alphabetically online and paid for their mistake a few times over. Never got their new Dyson (still in its box – oops) back. We live and learn and movers can add headaches to one of the toughest, most traumatic experiences on top of the trauma of actually relocating. (This move, one of the crew actually died while making the trip back from BC to Ont. so it’s delayed the arrival of their stuff – but it’s small potatoes compared to losing one of their crew – so tragic.)
    As for your current home – it’s perfect. Lovely and love-filled – which is all that matters. Oh, and the guest room has its own coffee maker, which automatically earns you five stars!!!!

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