Is expanding an empty nester house a silly idea?

This was not an easy decision, to invest limited retirement funds into a house that we once considered way too large for the two of us.  Our family home in Calgary was 2450 square feet over two levels plus an insulated but basically unfinished basement.  During my working years I had set up an office in the basement trying to do what I could to separate working and personal life.  There were moments when it was cold to work but outside of that there was some heat and lots of space, so it was a favored place to work and store “stuff”.

I cannot say exactly when and where our too big house would become a retirement project but there was a long list of considerations that shortened and expanded over time and at some point we decided to keep this as our last and final home.  There was a lot of discussion and idea tossing over a few years but I do remember the final straw factor just before we began to commit to financial investment.  We were needing a break, drained and not only cold from winter but using social media to track our snowbird friends from the far north.  I came up with idea first, “let’s find a spa location and go to a place to be pampered for a few weeks,  Perhaps California.”  In reflection I somehow felt I had needed an ashram here and there over the years.  When I watched Tom Hanks shipwrecked I thought to myself, what a wonderful opportunity to lose some weight and get in shape and eliminate toxins.  I was longing for my own deserted island, drinking coconut water, eating fresh fruit with no chemicals, no TV, radio commercials or energy draining distractions.  Hard work maybe but good hard work and related to survival only not ongoing fight or flight anxiety.  In other words being saved eventually but mostly from myself.   I saw Eat Pray Love on the bookshelves. I was curious but I could not bring myself to buy and read the book as I was wanting the adventure myself, not just to read about it.  I was the book research guy not the book read type.  I secretly dreamed of an ashram where I could detoxify and relax while working towards enlightenment.  Perhaps a two week stay at a California spa would suffice.

It did not take any significant research to determine there were many California spas eagerly waiting to take our money.  I remember jokingly saying to my wife, “we could build our own spa to use forever for what we would spend on a two week trip.”  Just when that became a bit less of a joke and more of a project I am not sure, but shortly after our basement became my aging is my hobby’ first project to actually  get past the drafting table.  The project not only became fun but draining, time consuming but speeding up time, a passion as well as a frustration.  It was not at all what I had planned but instead much more than anticipated, surprises from nowhere, a satisfying journey and it all turned out to become a passion covering all facets of aging in place.

For some inexplicable reason, one is mindful of those steps to avoid articles, but one goes ahead and does it anyway.  Here is my top ten list to consider before you decide this also might be for you:


  1. you can do most of it yourself
  2. I can save a lot of money by buying loads of stuff on sale
  3. you can limp by without a detailed plan
  4. I can just top up the budget for unexpected costs and it will work out
  5. I will not buy those things that will put me over budget
  6. it will not take up too much of my time
  7. it will not be too much of an inconvenience during the renos
  8. lots of people will be on board and love to help out
  9. project management or general contracting is easy for a small project
  10. this will stay a small project


Idea documenting is next:

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