Exciting and Stressful News!

I've been sitting on this news until I found the right time to share it with you...

I went to visit our house, the construction site, with a carpenter, who'll be building some things for the apartment (more on that in a little bit). and on the way out, I passed the contractor and asked him if he had any estimated moving date, because the apartment pretty much looked ready (the streets aren't paved, faucets haven't been installed, and the kitchen cabinets aren't fully in yet), and the contractor said he'd be emailing us later that day...

Well, the email arrived, and it said pretty much (approximate translation):
"Regarding Building Project X, Building Number Y, Announcement In Advance Of Handing Over Apartments:
1. The apartment will be ready to be handed over at the beginning of November, 2016, and no later than November 15, 2016.
2. Get ready to move in, including taking care of last monetary issues.
3. A further notice about the exact date you will get your keys will be given to you at a later date."

Can I have a little freak out moment here?!?!

This is so exciting for so many reasons, but also stressful for an equal amount of reasons.

Number one, its exciting for the obvious reasons, that we'll be doubling the amount of living space we'll have in less than one and a half months, and possibly in just one month!! And our own place!
Originally they had said the apartment would be ready no later than this coming July, then they said perhaps by last August... And now a move in window that is very shortly!!
So many things to look forward to about this new apartment!

But the stresses especially are because it means we have so many things to do in the next month and a half, which include finalizing with a carpenter who will build a kitchen for our rental unit upstairs, finding a contractor to do the other changes we need to turn it into two separate apartments (not a big deal, but enough), and pack up all our stuff, and pay to fix the things we broke in this apartment (two cracked windows that we've dealt with but need to fix before moving) and painting the apartment we live in now, not to mention paying for the movers....
And we also have to furnish the apartment, and either buy new furniture or build new furniture... It's not bad stresses, good stresses, but still a lot to do now.

Lastly, we need to find renters for our rental unit we'll be renting out, and renters for our current apartment, otherwise we'll be paying rent and a full mortgage, and that isn't really something we could handle...

All these are good stresses, just a lot of things to do now.

Part of my stress is figuring out what to do regarding carpentry.

The carpenter we're going with is a relatively close (but not too close) relative who we trust and does a good job, and that makes it a little less scary, because we've heard so many stories of people hiring someone who came highly recommended, and ended up doing a bad job, because the people recommending him had vested interest in us hiring them, and weren't necessarily having our best interest in mind. This relative is the same carpenter who built my mother's kitchen, so I saw what a decent job he does, and trust him that when he says he's giving us a good price, he is.

At the very least, we need a kitchen installed in the rental unit we'll be having upstairs. Our goal is to make the apartment the best value, and therefore easiest to find renters for, without spending too much money, and also having it last the longest time, so we don't need to pay for repairs or to replace the kitchen soon after.

In this L shaped area, we'll be having bottom counters along both walls, nearly certain that they will be built by this relative. When I asked him about how his pricing compares to the other carpentry options, he told me that he charges 20% less than the other private carpenters he knows that work in this area, but Ikea kitchens would work out to be approximately 30% cheaper than his. However, Ikea is less customizable, which means that where the wall is indented in the kitchen, we would just have dead, unsable space if we got an Ikea kitchen, and that locally Ikea uses wood that swells and warps when they get wet, so it needs to be replaced more often. He advised that if we are looking to have the best quality for the least amount of money, we do bottom cabinets with him, and upper cabinets, since they don't get wet, from Ikea. That is what we'll probably do.

Then we have to think about the downstairs kitchen, the one we'll be using, not the one we'll be renting out.

What you can see in this picture is what they've installed of the kitchen so far- the bottom cabinets (minus the doors), minus whatever that piece is called that goes between the kitchen and the floor, and the granite countertop.

The kitchen also comes with an upper cabinet that spans the length of the shorter cabinet (on the left), and now we have to figure out of that is enough for us, and if not, what we want to do.

I'm not neat, but I want my house to be neat and not look cluttered. My house right now is extremely cluttered and a big part of that is the fact that there isn't enough storage space and therefore, everything is piled just whereever there is room. I have a lot of kitchen equipment.
I do not want my new house to be a repeat of my current house. I want space. The kitchen that the apartment comes with has only 2 more doors than what we currently have. However, much of our current space really isn't accessible now, because of issues with our sink that means that we can't store anything under there...  And under our stairs we'll be having our food stockpile. But I worry. I am afraid that we'll end up with the same cluttered mess we have here because of lack of cabinet space. So I want to install more upper cabinets, along the length of the right hand side of our kitchen, and maybe also adding another layer on top of the upper cabinets that come already, so that the cabinet space goes all the way to the ceiling.
I could potentially get Ikea cabinets, which would be just along the right hand wall, but then I couldn't have it to the ceiling. I asked the carpenter for a variety of separate price quotes- one for the kitchen upstairs alone, one for the right hand single level cabinets for our kitchen, and one for the cost of cabinets above the single layer of cabinets on each side in the kitchen.
I will compare that to Ikea's pricing for cabinets on the right side, but he didn't suggest that, as we want to install dish racks inside the upper cabinets, so we can free up clutter on the counter, and if there are dish racks and the counters get wet, he suggested not getting Ikea since they will get water damaged more quickly from that.

The carpenter also told me that he would charge the same for each piece whether we get it done all at once or in parts. So we can decide to have him do the rental kitchen upstairs and either one side of our upper cabinets in downstairs kitchen or not, and then see how we manage with just what we have, and then as needed, or if we save up money, we can spend on installing more cabinets, bit by bit, in our apartment. We don't need to do all or nothing to save money, so we have more options to consider, factoring in how much the move and all the construction will cost us, before we decide if we want to spend extra on making the perfect kitchen now, or doing it in steps, as needed, when we have extra cash.

Decisions, decisions...

The carpenter is in touch with private contractors that he's worked with, and seen how they do things, so he will be putting me in touch with ones he'd recommend as a fellow professional, to do the last of the changes we need to do to turn the house into two apartments. (Opening up and installing a front door, installing a window, putting up drywall to block off the stairs, making a storage space above the hallway, installing a boiler upstairs, and installing an electric box meter for the upstairs.)

So much to do, so little time to do it! All the preparations and measurements need to be done before we move in, because as soon as we do, we need the construction done ASAP so that we can rent out the upstairs apartment to help with the mortgage.

And then there's the headache of finding people to take over our current contract for our apartment, which can only be done once the move in date has been finalized. Wish us luck with that!

I'm not even sure when we should start packing, since our apartment is so small that we don't have any place to put boxes once they're packed. I'd like the move to be as stress free as possible, but I'm not sure if there will be more stress if we're living with our life half packed in boxes for the next month to month and a half, or if we rush last minute to pack everything. For those who have experience moving a family (we only moved once, and we didn't do a very good job of that), I'll gladly take advice.

And now for some pictures of the apartment:

One side of the front yard.

The other side of our front yard, and the stairs leading up to the rental unit and two more apartments (not ours). I think I decided that bikes, skateboards, and other outdoor riding toys, and gardening tools will be stored under the stairs.

Where the tenants will have their front door. (See that indent? That's where we'll be breaking down the wall to put in the front door.)

Our entrance, and view through to the backyard.

Our teeny tiny master bedroom, which I know will look bigger once all the construction materials are removed from it, and once it is furnished (small places always look smaller empty).

The other side of the teeny tiny master bedroom, and door to the en suite bathroom.

The master bathroom.

What will start off being a guest room and my office. Hubby also wants to build a workbench for himself here, but we'll see about that.

The kids' room. Double decker layered quadruple bunk beds along two walls, low cabinets for toy storage and a work desk along the wall with the window, and floor to ceiling cabinets/shelving along the other wall for clothes.

An alternate view of the living room/dining room/kitchen. It isn't so big, but it isn't so small either. Measurement wise, I think it's 260 square feet, which is probably 1 1/2 the size of what we currently have. As I wrote this post, I did an approximate measurement of this apartment and our current living room/dining room/kitchen is about 185 square feet. The new one therefore will be about a little less than 1 1/2 times the current size, which will also feel more spacious since the layout is better, and some of the things currently in the living room (like my desk, etc...) will move to the office/guest room.
But not in terms of numbers, just looking at the space. Right next to where the kitchen (the part that is installed) ends, there will be an oven. Beyond that, the rest will not be kitchen space- it will be room for a couch or two, our dining room table, etc... And since there is a recessed space for our bookcases, they won't be taking up room either.

And... a lovely view of our backyard, with that eyesore sewage thing or whatever that is in the middle.

Our under the stairs storage space.

Our stairs... which somehow will become a storage space too.

Our bathtub room.

And separate toilet room. Which we probably will add a small sink into.

And voila.

That's it.

For our rental unit upstairs, there's that first picture I showed you where the kitchen will be, but why not just show it again, as a refresher:

Here's another angle of the same room. All shown here will be free room for the tenants to do what they want with it, other than immediately to the right of the window, which is where the front door will be.

And from another angle- where the kitchen side (ending where that yellow wire for the gas line is) meets the rest of the room. That is approximately 290 square feet, bigger than our living room/dining room/kitchen by 30 square feet!

A view from the master bedroom down the hallway and into the living room/dining room.

One view of the mater bedroom, and entrance to the en suite bathroom.

Another view of the master bedroom, with its floor to ceiling windows (that have blinds to cover them if you want privacy, don't worry!). Approximately 130 square feet.

Not such a good view of one of the other bedrooms. 125 square feet, approximately.

One view of the not en suite bathroom.

Another view of the main bathroom. Washing machine and dryer also go in here.

And finally, the last bedroom, also approximately 125 square feet.

If not for the fact that we want a yard, I totally would prefer the layout of the rental unit to our own. We're renting it out for a very good price, from everyone I heard from locally, especially since it is a brand new, great apartment, centrally located. If you are reading this and you know you are local to me and want to inquire about the apartment and the cost, email me at pennilessparenting@yahoo.com. Depending on when we can start construction and how long it lasts, it will either be available from the middle of November, beginning of December, or middle of December.

Ahhhh!!! And now I can stress!!

If you were in my place, what would you do regarding construction? Do you have thoughts and personal experience with Ikea kitchens? Would you do the extra kitchen cabinets now or wait for another time? And when would you start packing? Any advice? I'm all ears!

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Congratulations on being close to having your own place! Moving is always stressful but it's temporary.

  2. I'm so happy for you! The layout looks square and neat, with perfect potential for your goal of tidiness. Can you post a pic or link to what you mean by quadruple layered bunk beds?

  3. what is a double-deckered quadruple bunkbed?

    1. I dont know if this is what Penny is referring to but my cousin has a bunk bed where the bottom bed is raised a bit. Instead of draws underneath there are three trundles that pull out. At night they pull out all the beds so in the space of one bunkbed they can sleep 5 kids each on separate beds. During the day the beds are pushed back under the bunkbed so they have floor space.

  4. All the kids are sharing one room?

  5. I can't give any advice, but I hope you can rely on the relative's advice. I'm sure you're aware of this, but boys and girls won't always want to share a room. These problems are the kind most people would like to have, but they still need to be dealt with in the best way possible. Good luck!

    1. In many parts of the world, entire families share a one room house and are just fine :).

  6. What about 2nd hand cabinets? A mutual friend did her large kitchen (herself I think) with used cabinets and it looks great.

  7. "...minus whatever that piece is called that goes between the kitchen and the floor..."
    I think its called a toekick

  8. Congratulations!one thing I wished I had done was clutter before lugging all my boxes I had in storage for 3yrs (I got married and moved overseas) into our new home when we moved back. I ended up donating/throwing away 1/3 of my boxes items (Though no Manchester and few kitchen items!) after moving. This would have saved my husband and brother that extra truck trip, and me 1month of sorting items after work! Maybe until you move, rather than boxing items (since you said you didn't have the space), play a game with your kids and each choose an amount of items you won't want to wear/use/decorate when moving to your new home. It may make moving/packing easier!
    Btw my friend has a 4 bedroom place, and all her 4 kids (3boys, 1girl under 8) sleep in the same room. One room is used for her husband's study room (he's doing his master's) and the other is a guest room. The kids never play in there, as they have a play area and a large yard. They never complain, but there will be space for them to have separate rooms when older.
    Good luck and keep us updated!

  9. Hi, Penny. I think adding to your kitchen little by little is a good idea, since the carpenter is willing to freeze the price. After living for some time with the existing storage space, you can better estimate your needs. Congratulations, I can't wait to follow the whole process :)
    And regarding to moving, as I've moved around 20 (!) times in my 35 year old life, here's few tips:

    1. start collecting empty cardboard boxes right away. they are easy to fold and store, and you will be needing a lot more of them than you think (and finding a lot of them for free in one go will be impossible, in my experience). if you plan to hire the movers, maybe some of them have their own boxes, but if you plan to do your own packing to save on time, and hire them only to physically move everything, cardboard boxes stockpiling is a great idea :)
    2. buy packing tape, and store it together with scissors and marker in an accessible place, so they are right there when you need them
    3. pack the books you do not reference daily/weekly or that your kids do not use/refer to often for their education (I use smaller boxes for books, since they are heavier to lift even for me alone). You mentioned the lack of space, but maybe you can store them underneath something, to lift that other things up.
    4. if you miraculously find some space, try packing also out of season wardrobe, items you use for holidays, etc.
    5. label all boxes! some people go as far as creating spreadsheets, and writing down every item in every box, but I just write "books" or "pans" or "office stuff 1", "office stuff 2" (and I tend to remember I put pencils, scissors... in the first and paper-y items in second). Good idea is to write the name of the room box goes to, and to mark that rooms in new apartment, so the movers can carry the computer straight to office, etc., so you have less job afterwards.
    6. a) when moving (a day or so prior), when you start to maniacally pack everything, create an "emergency box" for the new apartment with clean towel, toilet paper, soap, chargers, a few cleaning supplies, a few tools you think you might need, band-aids, energy bars, few glasses (so you can offer some water to movers/helpers)... that kind of stuff.
    6. b) it is also neat idea to pack a suitcase for every family member with few days clothes, toiletries, a towwl, one set of sheets etc., so you can live comfortably while taking your time to unpack things by categories, or by room, and not digging through boxes.
    6. c) you can also create one emergency kitchen box with 2 pans, 6 plates, 6 glasses, a dish soap, 2 kitchen towels, salt, oil, etc., so you can start cooking simple meals right away without the need to unpack everything right away. (same principle as with clothes)

    there are lots of articles and blog posts online that offer moving advice, so you'll be an expert in no time, I'm sure. good luck with everything, and keep us posted! :)

    1. That's all excellent advice! Penny I am SO happy for you. This too shall pass. Just ride it out. And I want to mention something my mother used to say.... "It takes about 2 years to really move into a new home." And she's right. You will keep finding better ways to arrange, use and store your belongings. When you move, the most important thing is to get the beds put up and the bedding on. Then, when you take yourselves over there, at least you can go to bed! Good luck!

  10. Congratulations! I once had a client that was a top of the line custom nyc cabinet maker pretty much tell how to retrofit an ikea cabinet to be as durable as his custom product. A couple of years later I saw an article with the similar breakdown. I will be using this reference for when I am willing to commit emotionally and financially for the kitchen upgrade process. I hope you find it useful. http://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-costs/surprising-truth-ikea-vs-custom-cabinets/

  11. I haven't mentioned that you can start living "out of suitcase" and with just essential kitchen items already in the old apartment, so you can pack other clothes/kitchen items a bit earlier!

  12. I always started packing early. Also a chance to get rid of anything your not taking or no longer want. I've never installed a kitchen, can't help with that but I would think you could use the IKEA cabinets on top of the ones your relative is installing since they won't be getting wet. Maybe those pretty ones with the frosted glass? Good luck and congrats!

  13. I have moved home six times in the last five years, and two of these were cross country moves. I find this works best for me:
    Start intensive de-cluttering from maybe a month in advance and try and get things in order. This helps because on the day of the actual packing I know where everything is, and its all sorted out. Its also nice to start out in the new home without any junk. Hubby and I do the actual packing over just one day, after dropping off kiddo with the grandparents. Its really hard but its over soon. Label each carton so that its easy to unpack. Unpacking is more gradual, over a few days, with just the essentials on the first day.

  14. I'm sorry, but I just had to laugh in delight that your concern is moving! I seem to be constantly moving my elders (well, at least for the past five years)... Now I'm moving myself!

    It's always easiest to see it from the outside....but from the inside, you will NEVER accumulate enough boxes! My best source here (California) is the craigslist website, using the listing "free" -- and of course, I return the favor by re-posting the boxes on the "free" list once they have been used to move things.

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