Insurance. Hate paying it, 'cause what are the odds that you'll need it? But then if you do, thank the stars you had it.
Our insurance covers replacement cost on the house. They still haven't given us a budget. They have to figure out the value of the cinder block, drywall, windows, furnace, steel roof, and on and on and on... to rebuild our house as it was. We're not too concerned about the budget covering the changes we want. Cinder block is very labour intensive, and there aren't very many people who do it in this area, so quite expensive. Then we also cut the second set of stairs, and the second story out, so the budget should easily cover upgraded windows, the deck, and an extra bedroom.
The second part of the insurance covers contents. It's also replacement cost, but to a maximum of $X. $X was fairly generous, so I'm not too worried about replacing stuff.
And then there's Additional Living Expenses (ALE), which is based on some percentage of the first two parts. ALE covers motel/rent while you are out of your home - because you're still paying your mortgage, as well as additional expenses caused by being out of your home- restaurants for the first few days, extra gas because of all the shopping, propane for us, because we can't heat with wood, etc.
We got an advance on our ALE to buy the trailers. They gave us a budget based on 5 months rent for a 3 bedroom house in our area. Our requirements for a trailer were a queen size bed, bunk beds, and a couch or fold out bed, big dining area, and good storage. The trailers we first looked at, with those things (generally one or two tip outs), a decent bathroom, and an outside shower, were almost double the budget. The insurance company wouldn't budge on the budget, but they did offer to give us an advance on our contents, which we could recoup by selling the trailer after the house was built.
I was very uncomfortable with that. We never have good luck reselling anything, and in the grand scheme of things, I didn't want to risk not being able to replace my dining set later because I bought a fancy trailer.
At the same time we were also looking into buying a sea can for storage, so we had some room to put things we were replacing.
We started looking at cheaper trailers, but most wouldn't fit us without folding the table down as a bed, which is annoying when you actually go camping, so I can't imagine doing it daily for 5 months. Spring was getting closer and more people were advertising trailers for sale, and some were really, really low prices. A lot of rebuilt hunt camps, some fancy ice fishing huts, old, heavy trailers. I said to Husband, "We could but two of those.." And that's when it all came together. We could buy two of those. Or three of these... And we wouldn't need the extra storage space of the sea can.
So we bought our trailer - the main trailer first. It was a little over half our budget, and as I mentioned earlier, is technically big enough for all of us. We could go home as soon as the weather broke, even if we hadn't found the boys their own rooms yet. And that's actually what we did, because it took another week after we were back at the farm to get the boys' trailers, set them up, and work out the heat situation.
#2's trailer came next.
And then, #3 and #4's. I never took any interior pics of it, and they are messy teenage boys, so you don't get to see right now.
The three trailers came in a little under budget, although all three were delivered by the former owners, so we haven't paid taxes on them yet. With tax they'll be just a little over budget.
The insurance company and their contractors are supposed to take care of figuring out the replacement cost of the old house and the estimate for the new house. Then we have options on buying a new house (settlement), building a prefab, or building from scratch, among other things.
Contents is a real pain in the ass.
We are supposed to list everything that was in the house. Every single little thing. And the replacement cost of each item. The big stuff is fairly easy. It's not too hard to pick out a new fridge, stove, couch, etc, that's comparable to what we had before. Furniture stores are all too eager to help with that. They want to lead you around and pick out every possible stick of furniture you had. Huge commission.
The little stuff is time consuming and almost seems petty. But it really adds up. I spent hours in the dollar store writing down thousands of items I've purchased just in the past couple of years. Similarly with the Bargain Shop and Giant Tiger (small Canadian department stores).
The hard stuff is the old stuff, thrift store/garage sale finds, or the "irreplaceable". Ebay has helped with some of it. There were a few people selling Holly Hobby lamps similar to the one my Grandmother had made for me when I was a child. My tire ashtray on ebay - $135! Apparently it's a collector's item. Who knew? I just put out cigarettes in it. Photo albums and pictures... good luck with that. I am very fortunate to have a cousin with her own printing business. She's been scouring all the relative's facebook pages, as well as harassing them in person, and printing new pictures for me. Most people aren't that lucky.
Thrift store shopping helps. I've collected a number of items that are the same as what I had before. It's easier to buy them when I see them than to right down an arbitrary price for an item you can't buy new anymore. Well, you could get something similar, maybe, but I've always been resistant to change.
And Amazon is my new best friend. It was making my post office a little crazy though, so I've just upgraded to Amazon Prime, and now we're even closer. If I think of something I need at 2am, Amazon has it on it's way in the next day or two. If I want to comparison shop, read reviews, price check - it's all right there. I can shop in my jammies, not have to worry about how I'm going to fit everything in my car (like I do on every trip to the city), and now I don't even have to go pick it up, it's coming right to my driveway. It does have it's faults though. Returns are expensive, and sometimes you don't get quite what you were expecting.
I also really like the Wish List feature, because I can check prices for my insurance list and save the items to my wish list. Then it'll just be a few clicks after the house gets built, instead of going back to the store I thought I found something in, to discover they're sold out, or it's the wrong store.
Another fault though, is that sometimes I get a little carried away at 2am, and order things I really don't need right now.
So what do we need? Well, there was the obvious stuff in the beginning. I escaped in my long underwear, nightgown, and sandals. It was about -25°C that day, and we still had about 4' of snow. Obviously, pants, sweater, jacket, socks, boots. Husband and the boys had the clothes they were wearing. We all needed a few changes of clothes, toiletries, boots or shoes. The Red Cross was awesome with that stuff. They gave us vouchers to go shopping, a list of emergency items that we would need, and booked and paid for our hotel room for the first 3 days.
The next thing we needed was food. I have weird food issues, and waking up hungry anywhere, without something to eat makes me crazy. It doesn't matter if I have money and transportation and Tim's is only two blocks away, I need to have food with me all the time. Furthermore, I need to have chocolate, peanut butter and chips at my disposal pretty much all of the time.
So the next stop was the grocery store. But I am a mother of 4, who lives in the sticks and buys everything in bulk. I don't know how to shop for two days, let alone two days without a stove. I had a breakdown in the grocery store. Picking things up, putting them back, trying to walk past a really good sale on pasta sauce, where I would normally buy 12 jars... Husband kept saying "What are you going to do with that?" which made it worse.
We ate a lot of microwave dinners over the next few weeks.
The first microwave dinner night, I realized we had no salt. The next day I went out and bought salt and pepper shakers. It didn't occur to me to buy salt and pepper to put in them until we ate our microwave dinners that night. The next day I bought the filled cheap salt and pepper shakers in the dollar store.
The first week or so was a constant haze of moments like that. Constantly running to the store to pick up one or two things that we needed right that minute. People kept asking us what we needed, but we didn't know what we needed until we needed it.
If you really want to help someone in the face of disaster, don't ask what they need, just pick out a few things that you use every day and give it to them. I didn't have any place to put/use/wash a set of dishes (which I was offered) but a couple of coffee cups were really appreciated. A couple of tea towels, a variety of teas (just a couple of each), hair bands, a comb - all wonderful. Three garbage bags full of clothes covered in dog hair that didn't fit any of us was not helpful. But a clean set of gym clothes from another boy in my son's class - awesome. Small packages were not overwhelming. Big ones were. Furniture will be great after the house is built (or when the person moves into another house) but when you're living in a motel room with one drawer each, it's just another layer of stress. I can't even remember who or how many people said they were going to save a couch or a bed or a dresser for us.
The other thing, is that everyone wants to help right away. This disaster just happened you must need everything right now. In a couple of days I had boxes full of all sorts of stuff stuffed into every corner of the motel room, and the school wanted to do a spaghetti supper benefit for us and collect donations. I had to say no. No, thank you.
Now that we're back on the farm, something like that would be appreciated. But the immediacy is over, and people have gone back to their regular lives. It's over now, in their eyes. And that's ok, for us, because we had insurance. Someone without insurance would really be needing all of those things now, that people were so eager to give at first. So it's ok to wait a while, let them recover. Let them find a space where they can actually see and sort and make decisions.
The next thing we needed was information. We still need information. I'm finding it as I go, but a jar full of business cards would have been very helpful.
There's a woman on our local buy and sell who keeps posting adds to build her Tupperware sales team. I asked where I could get a catalogue and she told me to go to the website. Seriously? Ok, I haven't been to a Tupperware party in a long time, but they do still exist, right? That is the point of building the sales team, right? I found a Tupperware lady at the Sportman Show last weekend (I was there with Cadets) so I bought two sets of bowls (the colours are terrible!) and got her name and number to replace the stuff I don't need right now later - and a catalogue. Now I have the price list I need for the insurance company, and a reminder of things I had in my kitchen cupboards but forgot to put on my list.
Local businesses, artisans, crafts people - I need to know who they are. I can't replace my Dad's knives in a store. He bought custom made knives on his travels! How do I find these people?
So... If you've read my ramblings all the way to here, you are a champ. I'm going to sign off now, because I need to go get propane, and wash a couple sweaters, and my thought processes have wandered off so far I don't even know what I was talking about anymore. Thanks for listening.