Apartment Inspection

After my bike was dropped off at Dave’s, I had but one last thing to take care of – apartment inspection. I left notice of leaving almost two months prior to intended departure and later left the notice with Matthew, on site manager notifying him that I would be leaving the country on August 31, 2009 early in the morning so the best time for me to do the inspection of the apartment would be in the evening the day prior (Sunday, August 30).

I briefly met Matthew after I left this notice with him, but he was just getting in a cab so I didn’t really get a chance to talk to him about it. To make sure the inspection will be performed as expected, I phoned Matthew’s phone on Sunday noon, but got the answering machine. I left a message reminding him that I was leaving tomorrow and needed to get the inspection done tonight.

Luckily, shortly after I have returned from Dave’s dropping off my bike, Matthew called me to let me know that he got my message and will be back from work at about 6.30pm in the afternoon so we could do the inspection then.

That worked for me, I had a little bit of cleaning to do so I got right down to it so the apartment look presentable when Matthew returns from work. He knocked on my door at about 5pm, which was great cause I wanted to be done with it and have my mind focus on leaving for Cambodia tomorrow, but I did not have the apartment ready quite yet. I asked him to give me a bit more time and kicked into gear.

I was really, really disappointed to learn that he won’t be able to give me the check with my deposit right away so I could drop it off at my bank the following morning and have the funds there to pay off my credit card. This really messed up with all my plans, but because of tight schedule, I had no option but to go with it. Apparently because the apartment building is company run, the company will be delivered the inspection report and will issue a check by mailing it off to my address about 7 days later.

That was the most awful news ever. That would mean that I won’t be able to deposit the check into my account while I’m still in Canada. That would also mean that I would have to ask someone to do it for me, but most of all it would also mean that if the check is not issued for correct amount, I won’t be there to take care of it. This was truly awful news but I had no choice but to go with it.

BTW, if you live in Edmonton and stay in an apartment managed by Davies Management, you may want to look into it. They are happy to take the deposit as soon as you move in, but will not give it to you as soon as you move out. You will be forced to wait to get it back. If you decide to move to another apartment, you will need this deposit to leave the deposit at your new place. I don’t know how they can leave people hanging without their deposit for a week. I find this absolutely unacceptable. Remember the name – Davies Management. The worst experience ever.

After I had asked Matthew to give me a bit more time to finish the cleaning of the apartment, I quickly all common areas but didn’t bother with the carpet. One more awful news on top of the delayed deposit check was the fact that they will discount the cost of carpet deep cleaning from my check. I really didn’t feel like fighting this off in any way, so I took it as necessary evil, however I have responded in like. I did not vacuum nor otherwise clean the carpet. I left it the way it was, claiming that I will be charged for deep cleaning anyway, so why should I bother vacuuming.

I have asked how much deep cleaning normally costs and was told it would be about $45 one time fee. Given that I have left $850 as deposit when I moved in at the beginning of April, I should still get $800 back in a check which will get to my mailbox while I’m away.

I have passed this information on Lisa with whom I have made arrangements that she would check my mail every now and again and will deposit my checks that I would get for me at any TD Canada Trust location. She would be my remote hands for this type of thing and I paid her with lots of freebies I gave her from my possessions. Apartment inspection was done with and I had only about 13 hours left till departure from Edmonton. Yeee!

Longer Vacation is Cheaper – Explained

When I took a trip to Iceland, I was able to balance the total cost of it to a point that even though it’s one of the most expensive countries in the world, I only spent a little over $1,500 for 10 days, which included return plane tickets from Edmonton to Reykjavik and back, car rental for the duration of my stay, entrance fees to attractions which count as some of the most expensive in the world, food, drink, gasoline, lodging and all other associated costs. Yet despite my ability to get the most out of the trip for an unbeatable price, compared to my previous trips to Cuba and the Dominican Republic, the trip ended up being almost twice as expensive. Sure, the distance was significantly longer and country is significantly more expensive. However, after I have returned, I realized that an entire trip would have cost me way less, had I spent 1 month in the country, instead of original 10 days. Yes, what I’m saying is that longer vacation is cheaper. How is that possible? Let me explain.

Looks at it this way – if you take your normal vacation by using the vacation time allocated to you by your employer, you will leave for your destination while keeping arrangements with your current residence in your home country. That means that if you are renting a house, you will have to pay your monthly rent regardless of whether you are at home or gone on vacation. If you are a home owner, your property taxes will apply regardless of whether you are in the house or not. And if you live in Canada, the ridiculously high delivery and administration charges added to your power bill will be applied regardless of whether you have used any electricity, or not. I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but in Canada the amount of money you are charged for electricity used is often less than delivery and administration charges. In my particular case, the power bill for the apartment where I was staying when I took the trip to Iceland totalled up to about $50 a month. Out of which, only about $5 were actual electricity usage charges. Epcor likes to bump up your power bill with their own charges which are so inadequate, I don’t understand how it’s not illegal and how they get away with ripping people off like this.

On top of your rent and electricity, you also have the internet, cable TV, mobile phone, and whatever other month to month bills apply to you. These you will pay for normally even if you have not been in the country half of the month. So basically – if you cancelled all of it, you would end up with positive four digit figure which would easily be enough to extend your vacation to last a month.

If I made arrangements with my landlord that I would move out of the apartment on the day I was leaving for Iceland, I wouldn’t have to pay my $850 a month which would be more than enough to sustain my stay in the country for extra 2 or three weeks. If I also cancelled the electricity and the internet, and if I temporarily suspended my cell phone number, I’d be looking at a thousand dollars saved.

It really made no sense taking a 10 day vacation in Iceland. While I was there, in one of world’s most expensive countries, the money for amenities in Canada was being paid out of my pocket even though I wasn’t using any of it. Rent for an apartment where I was not staying was paid yet I had to cover for my lodging in Iceland. In other words, I was paying rent for two places at the same time, while I could physically only be in one.

The lesson I have learned, was that one of the keys to frugal travel is to book your vacation and make arrangements in your home country for a month. One week or two week vacation ends up being a costly endeavour which is why so many people either can’t afford it, or can only take one or two a year. It’s simply because you are wasting a lot of your money on things you are not using and end up covering for two simultaneous services while only using one at a time.

Liberation from Possessions

As recent travel re-ignited my barely burning spark of excitement, it was burning again, but still missing good fuel to burst into full flame. This fuel came in vast supply after I got rid of most of my possessions. I have not felt that liberated for years. Taking stuff that I owned and dumping it in the garbage bin was hands down one of the most liberating things in my life and definitely the most liberating since I got submerged in the corporate lifestyle.

I was so frustrated with my “Life in Boxes” situation, that I really wanted to settle in a stable place and live there so I can unbox and have access to all of my stuff for the first time in two years. The reason for my last move was the noise made by people living above me. I went to check my new place and it was in a quiet apartment building. I also liked the fact that the apartment building was for adults only. This meant there would be no screaming kids or obnoxious teenagers yelling in the hallways. Everything was suggesting that this was the place. I could not wait to move out of the noisy basement suite and when the day came, I rented an SUV and spent a long weekend moving to my new two bedroom apartment.

The moving was killing me already. It was a tough job and screwed over my entire long weekend again. Not to mention the cost of SUV rental and extreme amount of headache one puts themselves through moving. So when I was eventually moved, I felt the relief upon my skin, still shaking from the pains of recent move. I went to enjoy my first night in my new apartment, set myself a bed up, laid my tired head and body down, closed my eyes and went to have a peaceful night after months of extreme headache due to stomping roommates. What happened next was the biggest nightmare of my life.

I was tired as all hell and really needed a rest. I lay down and at that moment the people who lived in the apartment above me came home from a long weekend out. The noise they made was far worse than what I was getting from my previous roommates. What’s even worse, these people never quit. I was so tired I’d fall asleep standing. My eyes were so heavy I’d need pliers to open my lids up, yet the noise kept me awake whole night. I turned into a zombie and all of my faith in humanity was gone. I left one place to escape this stomping noise, went through extreme hassle of moving and worked day and night to move in three days only to come to the same and worse. I was ready to kill someone.

I basically realized that I can’t stay here. This noise was overbearing and there was too much of it. The following day I wrote up a letter introducing myself to the neighbours who lived above me and explained how hard it was for me last night with the noise they were making and how they didn’t quit whole night and asked them for consideration so we can all live soundly.

I dropped the letter off under their door and few minutes later someone knocks on my door. I open the door and there’s this absolutely gorgeous Asian girl standing there with my letter. I didn’t know what to say she was so gorgeous. I stuttered some incoherent crap and she left letting me know that her family faces the same issue as me as neighbours above them also make noise. I was devastated. I was defeated. I was broken, ready to quit on life. I moved six times in last two years. Because of that I was not able to unpack the stuff from my boxes because what’s the point of unpacking if I have to spend a week putting it back inside the boxes to allow for another move. And now after two years I thought I had found the place where I would be able to stay for a long time, so I could unpack my boxes and enjoy the items inside, but people living above me destroyed this hope in one night. My attempt to resolve it in a diplomatic way failed and I was left with nothing but tears in my eyes.

What happened next, however, was the most liberating feeling I felt since the beginning of my corporate lifestyle. I looked at the boxes which I have just moved in and said to myself – that’s it! I’m done moving it. I put a basket next to each box and went through stuff. Anything that I did not have in my hand in last two years went in the basket which I then dumped into the garbage bin outside. Anything I did not see an immediate need for went in the garbage. I didn’t care how expensive it was. I’ve dumped electronics, I’ve dumped jewelry, I’ve dumped merchandise I had for sale in my shop – I’ve simply dumped three quarters of my possessions without second thought.

After it was all dumped, I looked at the apartment which was before stuffed with boxes and now reasonably empty and felt an indescribable feeling of liberation. I felt as though a major burden I was crumbling under for years was taken off my shoulders. I felt like I could breathe again. I have liberated myself from possessions and it made me feel happier than I have felt in years.

My reasoning behind dumping everything was that it would not be worth the time trying to sell it. I imagined myself taking picture of each item I have, then posting classified ads about it. Some people would respond with loads of questions I would have to answer to give myself a chance to sell. Most would not go ahead with the purchase so I would spend a lot of time dealing with potential buyers who will not buy in the end. And what would I get? I’d end up selling way below reasonable value. So I’d be giving everything away anyway. When I took all that into account, I came to conclusion that amount of time it would cost me to post an ad and deal with potential buyers and amount of money I’d be able to recover per item would not be worth it. If I invested this time into something sensible, I could actually make decent money so why waste it in a stressful way? It just made no sense so dumpster it was. No second guessing – straight to the bin. If I look at my acting back then through the eyes of now, I feel extremely proud of myself. I now understand the value of time and how precious it is. I am glad I made it a priority over a couple of bucks these days and weeks of work I’d have to put towards potential sale would bring. Even before my awakening this undisputable understanding of my true self was there.

This whole dumping of possessions was kind of funny because I filled the whole giant bin outside in one day. I had to wait till dump trucks came to empty it and then I filled it again all by myself. I realized that other tenants in the apartment building would get angry with me for not being able to fit any of their actual home garbage in, so I waited each day until late at night to dump my possessions. Nobody saw who filled the dumpster so nobody knew whom to blame. I have filled it up like that several times. Dumptruck doesn’t come every day so my doing was responsible for crippling the garbage disposal abilities of all people who lived in the apartment.

This took place at the beginning of April 2009. It was before I went to Iceland, it was before I realized what corporate lifestyle did to me and decided to turn my life around. This liberation from possessions took place because I have had enough of moving my junk around and never even using it. Little did I know at the time that this small act would set me on my merry way to a better life. Yes, I still had the noise to deal with, but the thought of moving was not nearly as scary anymore. And now that I was free from most of my possessions, it has also become clear that when I turned my back on a leased car, it was the best decision I could have made.

My Whole Life Was in Boxes

After I had abandoned my photography business unable to compete against Walmart, I went to work for the government and since my former business was located over 100 km away from the government job, I decided to move. Not only is commuting 200 km a day costly, it also costs a lot in time spent. Hence it was not an option at all.

During my years as a business owner I have accumulated a great deal of possessions. Those included merchandise related to operation of said photography business, actual items that were for sale, lots of decoration for different seasons of the year, and crap loads of other useless junk I somehow felt appealed to buy when I saw it (corporate lifestyle ruled).

When time to move came along after I’ve been offered a job with the government, I packed it all up in boxes and moved to the new location I was going to call home. That however took place in the beginning of 2007. Edmonton underwent massive boom and rental prices went through the roof due to growing demand. Thousands of people from all over Canada flocked to Edmonton where economy was stronger than anywhere else in the country. There was more work available in Edmonton than there were workers.

With situation like that, there were no places for rent. Thousands of people looking, but everyone full up. Homeowners responded by hiking prices up ad nauseum. Since I have already left the notice with my old apartment, I had to leave, but I found myself in a deadlock. After two months of looking, I had no leads as everyone was simply full. It almost looked as though I was gonna end up on the street with dozens of boxes full of possessions and then I found a nice place the day before it would have been too late.

The place was nice, it only had a few catches. It was extremely expensive and was nowhere near conveniently located in relation to my workplace. I had to take it as that was the only available housing at the time. I asked my friend who has a van to help me move all of my boxes. We filled the van twice and moved most of the boxes that way, the rest I moved with my car. There was a lot of stuff in play, but it was all money.

Few months later, the housing situation in Edmonton has stabilized. Prices did not drop, but there was more availability. I took the opportunity and moved to a nice house with live in owner. He was a nice guy, the place was nice and it was close to work. I was happy. The owner let me use the garage where I have stored most of the boxes. The rest I filled up my room with. Life was pretty steady back then. I had little to complain about, other than the fact that there was no excitement in my life. I continued acquiring possessions as that is what you do when you live a corporate lifestyle. I bought myself a new, larger screen for the computer and 5.1 speaker system with awesome subwoofer that would bring any audio to life.

I stayed at that place for over a year and was surprised when the owner asked me to leave. I was happy there. It was close to work and no excessive noise to drive me insane when I’m at home. The reason why I was asked to leave, was that the owner, who had originally immigrated to Canada from Iran was able to get immigration papers for the rest of his family and needed his whole house so his parents and brother and sisters have a place. He recommended his friend and told her about me too. He was happy with me as a tenant, but the situation has developed in such a way that he needed his whole house for his family. I was unhappy about it, but had no other option. I still had my life in boxes and had to move all of them for the third time in a bit over a year.

I moved in with my former landlord’s friend at the beginning of spring. I was still driving at the time, but shortly after I moved to my new place, I bought myself a bicycle and started riding instead. This new place was on the 13th floor of an apartment building down town. Being downtown, it was again not close to my work at all and being on 13th floor, it made moving of all those boxes a major pain. I was pretty fed up with all that constant moving and was glad I had never unboxed cause had I done that, I would have to put it all back in the boxes in order to move. Keeping all I own in boxes had its advantages as it saved me a lot of time during moving, but it came at a price. You can’t find half of your stuff. You know you have it, you just don’t know which box it’s in. That forces you to buy what you already own. For example, you need a cork screw for your wine which I used to drink every evening (a glass of red dry each evening helped a lot with insomnia). I knew I had at least two of them, but for the heck of it I could not find them. They were in one of those boxes but each time I went through the content, I could not see any. So I ended up buying what I already had. Such is life when your life is in boxes. I also like burning scented candles and I knew I had plenty of those but rather than going through boxes, I opted for buying new ones. Corporate lifestyle which is all about acquiring possessions combined with life in boxes made for waste of money of unknown proportions.

Shortly after I had moved to the apartment on the 13th floor, I got myself a bike as my car was getting old and was becoming very costly to run and maintain. I made an attempt to lease a new car and had everything lined up, but it crashed and I ended up with none. Now I know this was one of the best things to have happened to me in a long time. But I’ll talk about it later.

I started riding bike to work. It was a 45 minute bike ride each way. I’m not a morning person so this forced me to get up earlier than normal in the morning so I could get to work in time on bike. Despite all that, commuting that way was enjoyable. Exposure to elements was making it tricky as some days it would rain like crazy, so I’d have to pack a set of extra clothes to take with me and change into them after I have arrived at work. Other days it would be so hot you sweat like crazy and stink whole day at work. Then it would get so windy you get to work exhausted as you pedal twice as hard but move twice as slowly.

But it was all good. I did it for a few months, until final element hit – cold. As soon as September came, it started getting brutally cold and biking became difficult. With each week it was getting colder and colder. Icy roads made for very unsafe biking and as you ride, you go against the air that’s freezing cold but feels twice as cold because you’re at a speed against it. I did it for as long as I could, but eventually had no other option but to move closer to work again. Driving my car was still an option, but it was the last resort. The car was completely busted, ate gas like crazy and didn’t heat up. It was still somewhat working, but it plain and simple sucked. I wanted to stick with riding a bike and it would be an option in winter as well, but not when your workplace is this far from your residence. 45 minutes of bike ride in summer equals over an hour in winter. It also becomes increasingly dangerous so it was just a question of time before something bad would happen. I had to move. Which meant I’d have to move all of my boxes with me AGAIN!

This time I found a place so close to work, I could walk to work in 10 minutes. I went through extreme pain of moving all of my boxes over to the new place all by myself (about 6 days of non stop work). The location was fantastic. I was so close to work, I was literally immune to any bad weather as I didn’t have to worry about traffic jams or cars not starting up. I could easily walk it to work in 10 minutes which was amazing.

This actually proved to be a heap of help as winter of 2009 was a tough one. It was extremely cold for extended periods of time. Whole December was below -30 Celsius. Then it gave us a bit of break and went down to beyond brutal again. Too many extremely cold days and these cold snaps also lasted for way too long. Not having to deal with any automobiles in weather like that was extremely beneficial. Sure it was beyond insane to walk for 10 minutes in such weather, but it could be done. On some days it got so brutally cold I had barely made it to work, but I’ve survived.

Unfortunately, I had really bad roommates in this new place close to work. I lived in the basement and the couple who lived above walked around like a herd of buffaloes. The noise was unbearable and never stopped. I spent Christmas suffering from severe headaches caused by non stop noise made by stomping of people above. I feared for my mental and physical health and had to leave as soon as I had a chance.

At this point I have already lost count over how many times I had to move my boxes from one place to another. I have been moving them around for so long, giving up on them was not an option anymore. In two years of working for the government I had to move 5 times and another move was imminent. Each of those times I had all of those boxes in my hand and each time the boxes were moved, they were just sitting there. Few essential items were at hand, the rest was just being moved in boxes. But the thing was – I have moved them around so many times yet never made use of any of it. I can’t give up on it now. If I were to get rid of any of it, I should have done it the first time I went to move. Subsequent moves would be so much easier. But since I haven’t done it, and actually went through eternal pain of moving each of them boxes around with me, I should continue putting up with it and wait until such time when it will pay for itself.

The breakthrough moment came with my last move. I had to leave the basement apartment asap because noise was just too much. There wasn’t much available at the time – everything was either extremely overpriced or extremely inconveniently located. Except from one place. It was a two bedroom apartment in a nice apartment building. It was reasonably close to work for convenient bicycle commute and reasonably priced: $850 for a two bedroom apartment. I figured I was gonna take it and find myself a roommate in which case the cost per person would become fairly affordable. So I went to move all of my boxes again. I had hoped this was the last time as having one’s life in boxes is extremely difficult and I was on the fringe of flipping from constant need to move them around.