Construction Has Begun

Since financing was finalized it’s been a slow but steady slog. In order to start construction you need a building permit approval. In order to have a building permit approval you need a functional well. For a well you need a site plan. We already had our site plan with well and septic design completed in the spring which had been approved by the Board of Health. It’s an intricate series of dependencies.

Watching the well drilling is pretty neat. They use a series of metal rods to drill very far into the ground. In my area it is typical for wells to reach 400-600 feet. Unfortunately for us, we had to drill quite far. We even had to hydrofrack which is related to the terrible-water-that-lights-on-fire gas hydrofracking but is done at a much shallower depth with clean water.

 

IMG_0933.JPG

The rods get joined to the vertical pipe to extend the drill downward

After the hydrofrack they had to pump out excess and dirty water for a couple days until it runs clear. Then they tested it. So far it looks like we will have to fix the aluminum and iron levels of the water but nothing else.

IMG_0959.JPG

Ewww. Dirty water from hydrofracking.

Once that was complete, the only thing stopping our building permit was our road. Yes, that road (See Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4). Getting the road ready to pave was a scramble but it all worked out. A local paving company gave us a great quote (about $16,000 to grade and pave about 11,000 square feet of binder course) and worked with us to get it ready for the paving. Amazing that after two years of weekend work on this road only 3 hours were needed to pave it.

IMG_1073.JPG

Graded and rolled

IMG_1118.JPG

Crew getting started and the engineer double checking

IMG_1125.JPG

SO PRETTY

With the road and well complete we finally had everything needed to receive a building permit. The town had no problems and gave us our stamp of approval in mid October. Our builders were excited to get started and are confident they can manage the winter weather. The first step was to remove the top soil in the construction area and pile it up for future use. The next step is to create the (very tall) driveway so that it can serve as access for the project. One of the difficulties of building on a sloped lot with a walk-out basement is managing the driveway/garage. We didn’t want our garage facing the street because of the design of the house as well as concerns about rainwater flowing from the road into the garage. This meant we have a side facing garage. With a sloped lot, this places the driveway further “downslope” which means building it up a lot in order to avoid a slanted driveway. Making a relatively level driveway means a big drop-off on the other side. We are hoping to make it look nice by terracing or creating a natural appearing change in elevation.

IMG_1694.JPG

Black box is below grade, black line is driveway

I expect progress will be much faster over the next year than the previous two! I hope to provide an update after every major step in construction. Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Finding $$$

After choosing our builder in April, our next task was to secure funding. I had previously contacted some banks to learn about the construction loan process. You have to provide your blueprints for an appraisal so they can determine the market value of your future house. This determines the amount they are willing to loan you. This doesn’t take the actual construction cost into account at all. With this type of loan they send out inspectors who verify the work has been done and approve the next draw. During construction the loan is interest-only then it switches to a standard loan. Usually this carries a slightly increased interest rate than their standard package because of the added risk of a new construction.

We started the process with two banks of identical rates. My original thought was to pay for two appraisals in order to double our chances of obtaining a favorable appraisal. However, I got spooked by one bank because they had a several thousand dollar fee if you requested a rate lock and didn’t go through with the loan. I caught the fine print in time, but the fact that the bank didn’t verbally disclose it to me before I signed the rate lock agreement soured my opinion of them. Ultimately starting the process with two banks cost me money anyway: the second bank received a lower credit score report because of the first bank’s credit report (dings your score by ~20 points) so we had to come up with extra cash at closing. Sucks.

But that was just a minor frustration compared to the rest of the loan process. It ended up taking about four months instead of their usual two months. Of course it was the appraisal that caused all the trouble.

We were assigned an appraiser in early May. I spoke with him and answered questions about the design. But a week later I heard from the bank that a second appraiser was assigned. This was the first hint that there were going to be problems. I asked the first appraiser what had happened. He told me that he found it hard to find “comparables” for the home and passed on the assignment. Comparables, recently sold homes that are of similar size and quality, are the foundation of an appraisal. Uh oh. So we started with the second appraiser. I answered his questions and he declined to speak with my builder. After a couple weeks we received the appraisal.

It sucked. Basically it evaluated the home at less than 50% of our construction + land costs. Completely unworkable. Worst case scenario. I started working with the bank immediately on our options. They told me that I could write an appeal stating why I thought the appraisal was inaccurate and provide my own comparables. I got to work and wrote up a lengthy list of the appraisal’s faults. I noted that he didn’t take into account any of the green energy design even though there are methods to compensate for it. He hadn’t met with the builder and had declined to speak with him. He compared our massive wrap around porch to porches 10% of the size with no adjustment in value. This beautiful custom home was being compared to stock development houses. I actually contacted the first appraiser (the one who had passed on the job) and asked him to review my appeal. He approved of my report and seemed apologetic for the mess we had gotten into. Fortunately for us, the bank agreed that the appraisal was bogus.

But then, oddly, the bank asked the same appraiser to re-appraise the home. He provided a new appraisal that was higher but not drastically so. It was still a pathetic amount. This time the bank readily agreed that the appraisal had problems and needed to be thrown out.

So, we weren’t totally screwed but time was getting away from us and we hadn’t made progress with the application. The bank assured us that they would find an appropriate appraiser. Two weeks went by and they told me they had contacted 7 appraisers, none of which were willing to pick up the assignment. They were too busy or felt there weren’t enough comparables to write the report (like the first guy). Finally they found someone. This person spoke with our builder and took the green energy design into account. We waited impatiently for the new report.

Success! The appraisal was much closer to our goal! There was still a gap between the loan and our builder’s budget but it was within our means. Location is such an vital determinant. If we had a small parcel of land near Boston and built this house, it could get appraised for well over our construction budget. But in a rural area with more modest homes the loan could only go so far.

With the new appraisal in hand the closing went absurdly fast. They needed some last minute documentation but they were determined to close before their rate deadlines passed. This meant that 12 days after our appraisal came back, we closed. Having gone through 70 days of dancing around appraisals it was lightning speed!

Soon we will be starting construction on the house. Each step has been complicated but worthwhile. This project is awesome and daunting.

-Clara

 

 

 

The Seven Dwarfs

Since the last post, we have been working on choosing a builder for the project. It’s a big decision and not one you can make quickly. I’ll use pseudonyms for this blog post and name the builders after the Seven Dwarfs. Aside: Did you know that there are tons of crazy names given to the dwarfs in the last 100 years of adaptations?

First, we were given a reference for Axlerod (okay I decided to go with the 1965 Dwarf names from Mr. Magoo’s Little Snow White) through the energy consultant. The energy consultant had worked with the architects regarding the heating/cooling systems and the ventilation system. He had worked with Axlerod in the past and felt it would be a good match. In fact, Axle’s crew is skilled in finish carpentry which was a particular asset for this project (See the last blog post). So we met with Axle and his teammates.

They were definitely green energy geeks. They were also really excited by the Hanshaugen Restaurant which served as the model for our design. Axle felt confident that they could construct the exterior details that form the personality of the house. We filled out their material selection list and began making trips to tile shops, flooring stores, and kitchen hardware galleries. Things were going smoothly until we got our first proposal from them.

Ooof. It was a doozy. But how Axle and his team explained it, they just went through each of the elements getting bids or best-guess estimates based on square footage. They weren’t looking to hit a specific budget goal. And unfortunately their proposal was about 40% higher than our ideal budget. Not easy to swallow. We reluctantly decided to widen our builder search. Axle understood and agreed to keep working at the budget to bring down costs. We suggested leaving a couple major elements unfinished (the stone veneer arches at the walk out basement and the basement itself) to cut down costs. Then we had to approach other builders.

Since one of my goals is a green energy constructed home I was very wary of using conventional builders. So much of the performance of a green energy home depends on the detail and finesse that the builders put into it. Sealing every air leak and understanding how edges of the house come together smoothly are vital. I ended up sending out queries and speaking to six more builders. Here is how five of them went:

  1. Bartholemew was a friend of our guy building our road. “Talk to Bart!” he said. Well, we talked to Bart. We sent him plans. Then silence. After a few weeks we heard back that he isn’t licensed in our state so he couldn’t do the work. Okay. So he recommended Cornelius.
  2. Cornelius builds fancy homes. Our house is a fairly fancy home. I spoke with him and sent him the plans. He seemed interested. Then silence. After a few weeks, I sent him a follow-up email. Silence. So, maybe not so interested.
  3. Dexter was a nice guy who chatted with me for an hour one Saturday going over some of the details of our plan. He thought that our first bid was probably within the right ballpark, and said that he’d get back to me with some budget ideas. Then silence. I emailed him and got no reply.
  4. Eustace was a similar green energy builder who got back to me with a few questions regarding the plans. He replied a few times that he was still gathering bids. But after a month I still had nothing concrete from him. Time to pass.
  5. Ferdinand wasn’t sure if the project was too far for him so we sent him the plans to take a look. He spoke with the rest of his group and sadly decided that our town was a bit further out than they like to go.

Lastly was George. George and his wife run a design-build company. He drew up our house in ArchiCad and had a lot of ideas about the house. Some of them were about cost saving alternatives and some were about better flow in the house plan. We liked shifting some of the spacing to create a better kitchen space and adding some width to the staircase to gain doorway space elsewhere. A few ideas we had contemplated during our architect design phase but had opted against. For example we have a large master bathroom. He wondered why it was so large and offered some ideas to cut it down into two separate rooms. We explained that it was the only space suitable for direct sunlight for plants so we opted to keep it open. Cutting it into two separate rooms would create a lovely “grow room” but since our plants are entirely decorative it would be silly to hide them away. A few other ideas were aimed at cost savings but drastically changed the aesthetics. Overall though, we were impressed with the effort he had put into pouring over the details of the plans.

George did worry us with some of his concerns about some of the structural elements of the house. He recommended we eliminate windows in one area due to the concrete wall foundation and remove a steel beam to simplify the structural supports. He also suggested redesigning a balcony to eliminate a cantilever. He felt that it was necessary to spend time building the construction documents from the ground up with his construction knowledge.

At this point, Axlerod had come back with an improved budget by getting different bids, changing some construction methods, and by bringing some elements in-house instead of subcontracting. Their new proposal was 14% higher than our ideal budget. High, but within reach. We discussed with Axle our conversations with George because we wanted to address the concerns that George had brought up about the structure. Axle explained that they were happy with how the construction documents were drawn and had no concerns about each of these elements brought up by George. Axle noted that some builders like to build a specific way and want to mold houses in this image. This matched with our perception of George as well.

So we had to make a decision. Axle and his team brought enthusiasm, engagement, and shared values. They did scare us with their first budget, but worked hard to bring it more in line with what was feasible for us. George was clearly very thorough in his approach but couldn’t commit to a budget until the re-design. Ultimately we decided we trusted Axle. We shook hands and signed an agreement for the first phase.

Whew. We’re excited about moving forward on the house. There’s certainly a lot more to come over the next few months before the first hole is dug. We still have to obtain approval for a mortgage. And just as importantly we have to finish the road. If these things fall into place, we are tentatively aiming for July as our start.

-Clara

16.12.10 Casements

My sketchup drawing of the house! Prize for getting to the bottom of the post.

Forging ahead

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. 2016 was an emotional year both personally and nationally. It is sometimes hard to separate that stress from the rest of life. This blog focuses on our little subdivision project and offers a bit of respite from the real world around us.

Last week was a major stepping stone for the project. We received the Permit Set construction documents from our architect! She and her training architect did a fantastic job of translating our vision into an elegant and well thought out home. We have chosen a builder (project manager and finish work team) and will be starting on material selections this week. Today I’ll show off some of the elements of the design.

img_66163

Located on the  northwest corner of the lower level

First is a root cellar. Our house is situated on a slope with a walk out basement. Because of the overall design, we had the space for a root cellar. It is exterior to the house and mostly embedded in the slope as well. It’s inset to avoid sunlight warming the door, and measures 16 feet by 8 feet. There will be concrete walls (plus some insulation and cement board) and a stone floor. There are two air outlets planned to help modulate the temp and humidity. I’ve never owned a root cellar before but I’m looking forward to learning how to use the space effectively for extending our vegetable storage.


Our exterior has a number of details that are unusual for a New England home.  Here are the arched windows on the second floor. There are two sets of these on the north side and two sets on the south side. We had originally considered a basic half circle atop a rectangle but it didn’t give the right look. It resembled the common colonial window seen all over New England which wasn’t our goal. The extended half circle looks much closer to the Norwegian design we are referencing. Adjacent to the set of three windows are two chevron wood panels. The pattern was drawn from the St. Hanshaugen restaurant. It’s tough because we don’t have detailed drawings or images. It’s definitely not an accurate representation of the restaurant but hopefully comes across convincingly. It reminds me of our efforts in cosplay. You often make judgment calls from grainy video or photographs. The studio lighting impacts the colors. Do you go with the true color or the color as it appears on the TV?

hanshaugen_05

Close-up of the windows we are referencing

img_6617

Detail of insulation

Lastly I wanted to highlight the insulation for the house. We are using a “double stud wall.” This means that there will be two wall frames set ~12 inches apart. Dense packed cellulose is blown in between the frames. This provides high “R-value” with a green material. For the attic we have 18″ of blown cellulose to provide an extra thick layer of insulation. These details plus careful air sealing will provide a comfortable home with low heating and cooling needs. Green energy design is better for the environment, saves you money in the long run, and feels more comfortable.

I’ll post additional highlights of our home plan as we begin our material selection this winter.

Take care.

Clara

Building a Road (part 4)

Yes, this is still an on-going project! The town engineer did come and approve our subgrade last month. It was fortunate that we had a dump truck delivering construction entrance gravel that day, because we needed to have it drive slowly down the road to prove that the dirt was compacted. I had no worries about the compaction level of the dirt because our friend has been driving up and down it for a year with the excavator and trucks. Passed easily.

But we still don’t have gravel down. Why? Great question. For one thing, the road requires several methods of water management. When you create impervious surfaces (the asphalt) the town requires you to mitigate the additional surface water. Our friend is constructing a swale on one side of the road as well as two retention ponds. Each “pond” serves as a buffer for run-off in case of storms. They are wide and shallow. One is placed at the entrance on the corner of our new road and the existing residential road. The other is at the end of the hammerhead.

Our friend has made great progress in constructing these. It took a lot of dirt to bring the hammerhead-side pond to the right elevation. It’s a good thing we have some dirt and rocks to spare. In order to spare our topsoil (the nutrient rich layer), he dug down and used some of the lower quality soil underneath:

IMG_5822.JPG

Stealing a bit of fill

Look! It’s where our future vegetable garden will be! Rest assured the quality soil will be placed back at the end.

The other delay has been due to utilities. When you build a subdivision road you are required to place utilities alongside it. Makes sense if you want electricity and internet to reach your home. Your electrical company is the one who designs the plan. You pay them a lot of money to design the utilities trench, then you build it for them. They inspect along the way. At the end you hand over the possession of the trench to them for maintenance in perpetuity. We did not realize how lengthy this process can be. Our electrical company estimates 5 months from initial contact to completion. And since we only contacted them a few weeks ago… you can see how this causes a delay in the road.

We are also contemplating the pros and cons of “aerial” versus “underground.” By default the utilities are supposed to be placed underground in a trench. This is a bit more costly but reduces the likelihood of power outages. Looks nicer, too. However we have a lot of ledge alongside the road where the trench would go. Until we start digging in that area we won’t know how much is composed of massive stubborn granite. We need to talk with the electrical company engineer to discuss how they feel about it. If they believe that aerial will be necessary that means requesting a waiver from the town. Which means meeting with the planning board again. Let’s hope whatever the result is, it’s the best choice for the road and the subdivision. Crosses fingers.

As I said in the last road building post, we needed an extension. That was blissfully easy though. The planning board accepted that we were having delays due to some of the topography (the blasting added a great deal of work) and allowed us a one-year extension. On Friday I picked up the amendment, notarized it, and submitted it at the Registry of Deeds. I certainly hope that’s the only extension we need!

IMG_5817.JPG

Current status of the road

Oh but one bit of extra bright news in all this. Even though our friend has had to slog through many additional hours over the last month on this project, he found the time to place an additional standing stone around the fire pit. Justin and I helped with placement and shoring it up. We now have seven of eight stones placed! This one has an adorable sitting spot on the right-hand side.

IMG_5902.JPG

Seventh standing stone

Until next time.

-Clara

 

One stone at a time

My husband. If you know him, you know that he loves fire. He had been talking about building a fire pit on the land practically since we bought it. Last August he wanted to start. I asked our friend to dig us a shallow hole with the excavator so we could start with an actual pit and he obliged. Here’s how it began:

IMG_1559.JPG

See the excavator tooth marks!

Each of those rocks were sourced from the property. You can see it’s quite a mishmash of shapes. Justin got much more picky as the project continued. He actually had to rebuild the interior wall once to make it more sturdy.

IMG_1617.JPG

Here is the first ring. Now many people might stop around here and say, “Hey, that looks fairly functional. Great.” Justin, though, had a vision. He wanted to create a patio around the fire pit as well as a ring of standing stones. How big of a patio? Who knew, at that point.

IMG_2961.JPG

String to monitor how level the rocks were

 

And so it began. Each rock was selected for its thickness and flat shape. Fortunately because of the road construction we had plenty to choose from. We bought a metal cart and hauled rocks up and down. I helped choose rocks but mine were decidedly smaller than the ones Justin picked. It’s good to have a range of sizes!

IMG_3102.JPG

Once the first ring went down, we started our first celebratory fire. Notice how it’s dirt in the pit under the fire. Now it’s all ashes and charred wood. Cheery fire!

IMG_3091.JPG

Because the winter was so mild Justin was able to continue working through the beginning of winter. This next photo is from early December, after about 3.5 months of occasional weekend work:

IMG_3206.JPG

While I did none of the rock laying, many of our friends chipped in. Considering the weight of these stones, I wouldn’t have been able to pick up most of them to maneuver. I did vote on the fit and kept him company  🙂

IMG_3437.JPG

You can see one of the standing stones placed in the back. There are four currently, with another four planned. They are roughly equidistant from each other and the center of the pit. While Justin had originally wanted to extend the patio to the standing stones we were able to convince him that about halfway between was adequate. We didn’t want a huge 20 foot diameter circle of stone nor did we think the hours of work would be worth it. Fortunately Justin was getting a real sense of how exhausting this was and agreed.

IMG_3972.JPG

Here is the edge, which is about 10 feet from the center of the fire pit. It was awesome when Justin was able to first link up to the edge. This was mid March.

IMG_3995.JPG

From there, things moved at a pretty rapid clip. He made really amazing progress each afternoon. It took him about 4 hours to make about 8 stones of progress. This includes finding the rocks, digging the dirt to the proper depth, fitting rocks together, and leveling it all. We kept up a steady pace of rocks so he would have enough to choose from. At this point we had the blasted rocks from the road construction so there was plenty to pick through.

IMG_4240.JPG

Then spring started to peek through again to keep us company. Days like this were gorgeous and so pleasant. I worked on brush clearing while he kept up his rock placement.

IMG_4274.JPG

Almost there. So close! You can see he had been placing grass back along the edge to return the vegetation.

And here it is:

IMG_4402.JPG

Yes, I know, our tarp covered cart is there ruining the full effect. But it was such a vital part of the process it’s okay that it’s in there. You can see the four standing stones. Each of them have their own interesting shape.

Lastly, a view of the fire pit complete:

IMG_4712.JPG

Of course Justin is still working on it. One of the standing stones is near an elevation so he has started on a retaining wall surrounding it. Once that’s done I know he has other hardscape plans. I’ve been asking him to work on the area around the well so he’s started to bring rocks over there too. He’s done an amazing job and he’s so pleased when people compliment him on it.

-Clara

 

 

 

 

 

Building a Road (part 3)

Over the last few weekends our friend has moved a great deal of dirt! See Part 1 and Part 2 to get a sense of the change over the last year. He’s been able to work efficiently with the excavator and a dump truck. A friend of his has been driving the dump truck unloading dirt on our adjacent property. See them working on the road:

IMG_4689.JPG

We hope that in the next couple weeks we’ll be able to get the town engineer to come verify the elevation for us so we can be ready for gravel. So much gravel! I looked at the Covenant again recently to check our dates. We have until September 1st to complete the base coat of the road (they gave us two years). If we think we will be behind schedule we can request an extension from the town planning board. Yep, back to the planning board if we need to! I hope that by the middle of July we’ll have a good sense of whether we’ll need the extension. The top coat can be applied after the homes are complete if it doesn’t take a while.

Here’s a view in the other direction:

IMG_4687.JPG

Much of the trees and brush on the lefthand side will probably be pulled down. It’s mostly invasive junk plus a couple nice large trees. It would be great if we could keep the trees but it depends on where our driveway ends up. Somewhere over on the left where you see the piles of rocks will be our driveway.

Fortunately we have a lot of spare land to drop our materials.

IMG_4695.JPG

Each of those smaller dirt piles is a dump truck load of dirt. It’s a lot of dirt. We have some plans for this to be used as fill around the properties. Our friend’s lot will need some build up so that their garage is at the same level as the road. There are also some very deep ruts in the wooded paths from ATVs that would be well served by this dirt. I foresee some fun dirt-filled cart hauling in our future.

-Clara

Architect Adventures (part 2)

As I mentioned in my first post about architects, we changed our minds and went with a second architect after a year and a half of work with our first one. We are now about 5 months into our second round and much happier. The difference is that we went in with a very clear vision of what we wanted our house to look like and some sample floor plans.

Justin and I like the same kinds of homes. We are not ones to embrace the modern aesthetic. Tudor, English Cottage, Gothic Revival, Storybook, and Richardsonian Romanesque are some of the styles we find appealing. But we also love Stave Churches. Stave Churches are a type of medieval wooden church found in the north-west parts of Europe, particularly Norway. We visited Norway for our honeymoon and went to the most famous stave church, Borgund Church:

IMG_8269.jpg

Well, it’s impractical to build your house to look like Borgund Stave Church unfortunately. On the bright side, there was an architectural movement between 1880 and 1910 called “Dragestil” (dragon-style) that pulled from many of these design elements. Holm Hansen Munthe was an architect who was known for this style. He built this restaurant in Christiania (later called Oslo):

HanshaugenRestaurant.jpg

When we came across this photo we knew we had found the style we wanted. It even fit the slope of our land. It was simple enough to allow us to utilize green energy design principles (simple geometry of the living space, south facing roof for solar panels) while keeping it interesting. We even found some floor plans of the restaurant that allowed us to compare size. Our house would be a very similar size to the restaurant!

We are about to enter the construction documents phase. We could have gone much faster, but we’re not in a rush because our road construction still has more to go. Here’s a sneak peek of our new house. This is a 3d model from a different corner but you can see the similarities. Some changes have been made for cost reasons.

IMG_4409.JPG

What do you think?

-Clara

Building a Road (Part 2)

Progress is happening! It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, but I have a few planned posts in mind. As I mentioned before, we have a subdivision road to build before we can construct our homes. Our friend is doing the vast majority of the construction for it. Last December we brought a blasting company in to remove the ledge. This weekend our friend was able to clear out almost all the rubble. It’s an impressive series of changes.

Subdivision Before

Entrance to our subdivision off the main road

As you can see, there was a path on the lefthand side going into the property. We weren’t allowed to use that path for two reasons: the slope of the road is too steep for fire trucks, and the angle where it meets the main road is too sharp. We knew that there was ledge to our right-hand side but it was impossible to make the planning board change their mind. We also knew it was for a good reason, even though it was going to cost us more.

Subdivision During

Blasted away the ledge

I wrote about some of the issues with the road and clearing in this post. The rubble had to sit untouched for about six months because winter started soon after the blasting. Spring meant spring rains which prevented the excavator from being of use in the soft mud. But with enough dry days in a row our friend returned to slog through it. We were very lucky that a neighbor saw him removing the rubble and asked to purchase it for his own landscaping project. Thus we were able to make a little bit of cash and find a good use for many loads of it. We kept a decent amount of it for our own purposes as well. One of the lots will require some additional grading and we like to use the well shaped rocks for some hardscapes.

Subdivision After

Rubble mostly cleared

Isn’t that impressive? There’s a large rock remaining in the photo that needs to be broken down further before being moved. But you can see where our eventual road will run. It’s more clear now how the slope is improved on the right-hand side versus the left. We’ll be thankful when it’s icy and we’re trying to drive up the road to our houses. The subdivision follows a 50 foot width further in, but widens sufficiently at the main road.

What great progress!

Nostalgia and Clutter

This post has little to do with our land project. I’ll sort of get there by the end.

I pre-ordered an HTC Vive. If you don’t know what they are, they’re a virtual reality game system that just came out a few weeks ago. There are three major VR devices coming out this year: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Playstation VR. I pre-ordered a bit late, so I didn’t make the first wave of shipments. Two nights ago I got the e-mail that warns you your credit card will be charged for the system. It’s a tease for the upcoming charge and delivery. The internet says this means it could be three days away or two weeks away. What it means is that I really have to get my Vive space ready.

The Vive has “room-scale virtual reality” which means that you can walk around with the device on, and it will mimic that movement in your game. This means the larger the space, the better the experience. Unfortunately I have a very cluttered house. So I started clearing out our expected space. This is the guest room, which has also served over the years as my storage room. My husband has his own storage and display areas elsewhere in the house. I decided to pack up as much as I could. Of course this brings me back through memory lane.

Some memories are sweet: aw, look at that ridiculously young photo from when I was a teen. Some memories are embarrassing: oh dear, I can’t read this letter I wrote to my boyfriend when I was 15. I have kept all my old correspondence from when I was young, though I don’t want to read any of it. I have a hematite collection with small pebbles, necklaces, rings, and even a heavy 3″ sphere. All of it carefully boxed away. When we eventually move into our new home I’ll have to figure out how to store everything properly.

Some people don’t mind throwing away their old things from when they’re young. After all, they haven’t needed them in the last twenty years so why keep it for the next twenty? I did let go of many things when my parents sold my childhood home a few years back but I regret not keeping more of those little doodads. Not because I’ll ever need the tiny cup charms that spelled out my name. But because I really enjoy the sensation of remembering. So I shall continue to keep the spoils and tokens of my youth. It’s a bit daunting to think about our new house design and where a dozen boxes of childhood tchothkes will fit. I think it’ll be worth it to me though.