Windows and a hallway, that’s all I need

Life in a box, I am learning, can be quite satisfying. A year ago, I never would have believed that, but here I sit, content.

Last June, I committed myself to life in a condominium. I put in my bid while still living in a three-storey house on an expansive, treed lot, not quite sure how the downsizing would work, but ready to give it a try.

I miss my gardens more than the house itself…except for the orange door. I was particularly fond of that.

When I began the process of moving away from New Brunswick and relocating to Ontario, I knew my years of owning a house were behind me. Toronto house prices are outrageous. Riverview house prices are a steal.

From a home ownership point of view, one might have judged me to be moving in the wrong direction: a smaller space for a bigger price; a balcony instead of a yard; thousands of neighbours rather than a cozy neighbourhood.

But I have discovered I quite like condo living. Unless there’s a rich husband in my future ready to resettle me in a mansion with a cleaning staff, I expect I’ll be living in decreasing square footage until I die and my body is sifted into an urn. Life doesn’t reduce itself much smaller than that.

I am beyond fortunate when it comes to condo space. I live in a corner unit. I have a hallway.  These two features clinched the deal for me when I was browsing in condo-land and despairing at the crowded floor plans and concrete views of most places I looked at.

Hallways have a way of making one’s life more expansive.

My delight over the hallway surprised me. I could really care less about the second bathroom, but the hallway? Somehow that long stretch of floor space made the condo feel more like a home. Plus it gave me room for bookshelves. And books could make a prison cell feel like home to me.

I was prepared to downsize and give away a lot of the things I’d acquired over 20 years of home ownership. The over-sized chair and ottoman, guest bedroom furniture, wheelbarrow and garden tools all went to various friends who seemed happy to inherit.

But I was not prepared to squeeze myself into a space so small it couldn’t even accommodate my dining room table and four chairs. I like sharing a meal with friends.

The unit I finally chose had ample space for a couch and a table in the living space. It’s not huge, but there’s enough room for a party.

And it has a view. Or, I should say, views.  Looking towards the east from the front bank of floor-to-ceiling windows, I see the Toronto shoreline with its iconic CN Tower. Towards the west, Lake Ontario stretches on into a horizon (almost like the ocean!). On clear nights, I can see the lights of Niagara Falls.

Life on an edge…water or city, agrees with me.

Of course, dotted all around me, are other condominium towers, or holes in the ground where new towers will sprout over the next three or four years.

Living here would be a five-year-old boy’s dream. Every day he could look out on his own collection of Tonka trucks – back loaders, front loaders, cranes, dump trucks. The lot next door is busy with activity at 7 a.m., the dust rising as the hole gets deeper.

I detest the dust and have given up trying to keep my floors clean. But I quite like the activity. One day this week, I watched a massive crane lift a porta-potty from one side of the vast construction lot to the other.  I wondered if someone was sitting inside, hanging on for dear life while his pants hung down around his ankles.

Speaking of ankles, I sometimes see more of my neighbours in the building across from me than I really want to. Mostly I don’t even really notice them anymore, except when one of them does something that catches my eye (like the nude man wandering around in front of open windows).  I averted my eyes. He eventually closed his curtains. Life goes on.

I’m slowly learning condo etiquette, mostly by modeling the people who ride the elevators with me each day. A cheerful ‘have a nice day’ is the greeting of choice, and if there’s a dog in the elevator, he’ll look you in they eye. But people rarely do.

Eventually, I expect I’ll make some friends in this vast tower of concrete and glass. I’ve discovered a gardening group. I hear there’s a walking group. If I’m really desperate, I’ll borrow a dog and join the crowd that gathers in the nearby park, all on common ground thanks to their four-legged friends.

Until then, I’ll come home each day, open the key to my box, and slip inside. Just one more condo inhabitant in a city of millions.

Lynda MacGibbon is a transplanted Maritimer living in Toronto. Her column appears each Friday. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter @lyndamacgibbon