Don’t Feeed the Raccoons

As the weather gets warmer and the days begin to grow longer we begin to notice the first stirring of spring, the earth and her creatures  awakening after a long winters slumber.  In Toronto this also means the beginning of the nightly battle between homeowners and the raccoon population. We know what you’re thinking we have invaded their space etc. yet we still have to coexist with one another and there are times when we humans are losing the battle to these wily critters. When we became homeowners the elderly childless couple next door fed our neighborhood raccoon and skunk population and while charitable, this left us with an enormous problem, we could not sit out in our backyard after dusk and at least one morning a week we awoke to the pungent aroma of skunk musk because our neighbors Chow surprised one of the little black and white critters.

Raccoons are nature’s scavengers, her garbage collectors if you will, and in the wild they are preyed upon by bobcats, coyotes, and the great owl, urbanization however has destroyed these populations and raccoons now have no natural predators and, with an endless food supply aka our garbage, their numbers have completely gone unchecked. In the GTA the booming raccoon population is a real problem.

What can the average homeowner do to protect themselves?  When you google ways to raccoon proof your garbage you will find suggestions like make sure the area around your garbage is well lit, sprinkle the area with naphtha flakes aka mothballs, sprinkle predator urine around your garbage, ammonia will also serve in a pinch, and others suggest playing a talk radio station will also keep raccoons away.  We have tried all of the above remedies and nothing worked. The only thing that did work was to completely remove their food source by making sure all of our garbage AND recycling had lids which were secured or stowed away in a garage, shed or and enclosure. Yes we said recycling, even though everything in your recycling bin is empty this actually serves to annoy them, and they will respond by pooping in your recycling bin.  We know this from firsthand experience, the only thing worse than cleaning up the contents of your green bin first thing in the morning, is cleaning raccoon poop out of your recycling bin.

If you are storing away your garbage and recycling in the garage make sure the door is closed and locked, adult raccoons will go on their hind legs reach up and turn the door knob (we have actually seen this) and now not only do you have to pick up your garbage but you also have to worry about whether or not the critter has decided to take up residence in your garage.  If that happens, call a removal service and they will advise you how best to deal with the situation.

When you have locked up your garbage racoons will continue visiting your property until they are absolutely certain there is no potential for a meal; almost as if they are waiting for you to let down your guard.  Their tenacity knows no bounds. It took about two years for our nocturnal visits to stop, but we still lock up our garbage one slip up and we will end up back on their nightly rounds.

Best of Luck



Happy International Women’s Day!

Originally posted on Oasis Addiction Recovery Society: March is Women’s History Month and today March 8th, is International Woman’s Day. O ur next few blogs are going to focus on the obstacle unique to women in regards to addiction and the stressors which trigger relapses. The everyday pressures of a career, work, relationships, family, extended…

via — Oasis Addiction Recovery Society

Buying vs. Renovating

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By Anastasia and Michael Tsouroupakis

This morning while we going through our routine of getting everything and everyone ready for the day, I watched a report on one of the morning news programs about the growing trend of people choosing to renovate their homes rather than sell.  This was no news to us, we have noticed this trend in the last few years, since we are a city storage facility a lot of our customers are using our facility to store their belongings during their renovations.  We hear from our customers that it is the most affordable way to stay in the city.    Are you on the fence about selling or renovating?   We put together some of the advantages and disadvantages we think can help you pick a side of the fence—so to speak.

Selling Advantages:

  • A chance for a NEW BEGINNING: Selling your home will offer you the opportunity to start fresh, new home, new community, and new schools (for those with kids).  If you feel this way you have clearly outgrown your present home.
  • Financial Advantage: Selling your home will leave you with a profit, in addition to the fact that securing finance on a new home will be easier for you than a first time buyer.
  • Purge: If you are choosing to downsize this will force you to rid yourself of unnecessary clutter simply by virtue of the fact it will not fit in your new home. If you are moving to a larger home, this is also the time to decide on those thing you want to accompany you to your new home.

Selling Disadvantages:

  • High Cost of Buying: In the GTA the cost of homes is absurdly high.  In fact, if you live in the GTA it is estimated that up to 40% of your income is spent on your mortgage.  If you do realize a profit from the sale of your home , the high cost of buying coupled with any renovations the home may need (and believe me it will), will put you way over your budget.
  • Stress of Moving: Packing up and moving your home is the second biggest stressor next to the death of a loved one.

Renovating Advantages:

  • Costs much less: Meet with your financial consultant and find out if you can tap into the equity of your home for the reno, rather than going through the expense of lawyers, realtors, moving, and then reno’s in your new home.
  • Have It Your Way: This is the opportunity to customize your home to your needs, and those of your family.
  • Most updating and renovations add re-sale value in your home.

Renovating Disadvantages:

  • Not an option if you don’t like where you live, or your home in general.
  • Some renovations do not necessarily add value to your home. If you choose to spend $50 000.00 on a wine cellar in your basement, chances are you will not realize this investment when the time comes to sell your house.
  • Easy to go over budget.

Are Your Documents Water and Fire Protected?

By Anastasia and Michael Tsouroupakis


Hurricane Joachim has left devastation in its path, the states of North and South Carolina have experienced record breaking rain and flooding; property has been damaged, homes have been lost, people are missing and worse have died.  While we cannot control the weather, what we can do is make ourselves less vulnerable to the elements.  One way to do this is to safeguard all your important documents, irreplaceable family photos, and things like spare keys cards etc.  Having access to this vital information after a flooding, or even a fire will help you get your life back to normal that much quicker.  While we understand this is a daunting task we have broken it down to ten easy steps.

Ready?  Here we go:

Step 1:  You must decide where you are going to store your documents, in your home, in a safety deposit box at your bank, or in an offsite storage facility.   We suggest your home or an offsite facility, particularly if you are already renting a storage unit.  The problem with a safety deposit box is you are at the mercy of a banks limited hours however,  tragedy hardly EVER strikes during banking hours, and you may require immediate access to particular documents such as extra keys, credit cards, debit cards etc.

Step 2:  Once you determine the where, you need to begin locating and collecting your important documents and valuables.  Your collections should include things like, birth, marriage and death certificates, passports, SIN cards,  deeds, life insurance policies, immunizations records, wills, testaments  spare keys, credit cards, debit cards, banking  information. In addition, you may want to add sentimental family items such genealogies, photographs, letters etc.

Step 3:   Make copies!   Either scan or photocopy documents, photos, and letters as a backup.

Step 4:  Separate the vitals into two piles, the first pile should consist of documents and items that often used and referred to e.g., spare keys, debit and credit card banking information. The second pile will comprise of those things that will be rarely needed wills, birth certificates, photos etc.

Step 5:  Store the often used items in an accordion file and create a master list for easier retrieval.

Step 6: Make a trip to your local hardware store or office supply place and purchase a fireproof safe.  There is no point in going through steps 1 through 5 if you are going to store everything a cardboard or plastic storage box that can be destroyed by fire or carried off by a home intruder. We suggest you opt for one of the larger models if not the largest one; more often than not we always underestimate the amount of storage space we need.  We also suggest you purchase a series waterproof sleeves and boxes to store your important documents and valuables within the safe.

Step 7:  If you are storing your fireproof safe at home ensure the safe is in a spot that is hidden, dry and bolted in place.

Step 8:  If you choose a storage facility make sure you know exactly where within the unit the safe is and that it can be easily accessed.  Don’t place heavy boxes and pieces of furniture around it, this will make opening the safe impossible without rearranging boxes and furniture.

Step 9:  Tell someone.  Don’t keep the existence and the location of your safe a secret from everyone; tell one trustworthy person the location and the combination of your safe.  If you use a storage facility for this, tell management that this individual is authorized enter your unit on your behalf.  If you and your family find yourself out of town this person can retrieve a set of spare car keys, credit card etc. without any hassle.

Step 10:   Don’t delay, get started TODAY.

Financial Lessons for Children

By Anastasia Tsouroupakis


Way back in February I had read an article in the Huffington Post Canada which reported Canadians had the second highest debt increase in the world; according to Mckinsey Global Institute, Canada had the “second highest increase in household debt, relative to income, among developed countries since the Great Recession”.  I found this stat alarming! My first question was why?  I remember growing up the rule in our household was if you couldn’t pay for it in cash you couldn’t afford it.  I am sure that most of my contemporaries grew up with the same philosophy and yet, as a nation we are still in trouble.  How do we raise our kids to be fiscally responsible?   We did what any other parent would do; Googled it!   There are a wide variety of articles that touch on this subject, and after going through most of them I decided upon three that made the most sense to us and which my kids could get on board with.  I would like to say that  up until this point we didn’t think that we had done such a bad job, our kids (ages 9,13 and 16) do work around the house and the office and we give them an allowance which they spend however they chose.  We had set some ground rules early on, for instance any kind of leisure device gaming stations etc., along with any games, controllers etc., toys, etc, they buy with their own monies.  This of course is not an unusual strategy in fact most of our friends do this, however this is not enough we have to teach them to be more fiscally savvy; their economic survival depends upon it.

  • TEACH YOUR KIDS ABOUT HIDDEN COSTS: The first article we found spoke about teaching your kids about hidden costs. In Canada this lesson is be easily taught using our GST; the Goods and Service Tax of 13%.   Up until this point we would pitch in the tax, but we quickly realized this wasn’t doing them any favors.  When one of our kids (particularly my second son) comes to us and says he has saved $60 and wants to buy a video game that costs $59.99 we tell him that’s great, too bad he doesn’t have enough to buy it.  The first time I said this he was dumbfounded, I told him that on top of the $59.99 he and everyone else must pay 13% so the video game now costs $67.99, an additional $7.80.  After ranting and raving about how unfair taxes are, the fact still remained that he didn’t have enough to buy the video game.  This was his first lesson in looking for hidden costs.
  • Borrowing Money: Financial experts insist we teach our children at a young age about borrowing and repaying loans with interest.  This is a very important lesson because there will come a time in their lives when they will have to borrow money (buying a car, home etc.), and we must teach them that they should only incur debt insomuch as it adds to their assets.  The other day my daughter asked me to buy her an app for $3, I told her I would lend her the money but when she got her allowance she would pay me back $3 plus .50 in interest.  This prompted her to rethink her purchase, the app was no longer worth it.  I also borrow money (I pretend to) from my kids and pay it back with interest, they love this part of the game.  The only problem is that they keep trying to lend me money.
  • Pay Them In Large Denominations: I myself am far less inclined to break a twenty for something than I am a five dollar bill.  I know that once I break a twenty it will be gone in no time.  The same holds true for kids, if you pay them in large bills they will hold onto them longer, because they recognize the larger bill holds more value.  I used to pay for chores immediately with the change I had in my purse, quarters, loonies, twonies, whatever, they would take their change and spend it at the local corner store buying whatever they could afford.  When I started keeping a tally of the chores each of them had done for the week and I paid them in larger denominations (i.e. paper money) they held onto it a lot longer.
  • Delaying Gratification: This is a huge life skill which will be used in every facet of their lives.  I make my kids wait 24 hours before they purchase anything if they still want it at the end of that time, then they may proceed.  More often than not they have forgotten about it and have moved onto something else.  This ritual if you will, prevents them from falling prey to their impulses, and let’s face it, the reason so many of us has so much consumer debt is a result of impulse buying.  By waiting they saved their money which can then be put towards something of greater value.
  • Let Them Keep The Change: On occasion I give my oldest son money to buy lunch, if I gave him $10 and asked him bring back the change he would usually bring back next to nothing.  Once I told him to keep the change he didn’t ask me for lunch money for the rest of the week. The theory behind this thinking is simple, when it’s mom and dad’s money its endless, when its theirs it’s not ; thus they become less inclined to overspend.

Best of Luck

Carnforth Self Storage


Should Government be run like a Business

By Anastasia and Michael Tsouroupakis

Canadians are getting ready to elect a Prime Minister, will we re-elect PM Stephen Harper, or will we choose a new path for our country by electing Justin Trudeau or Tom Mulcair.  Let the games begin!!!  During any kind of election, provincial, regional or municipal, the topic of the inefficiency of government always occurs and at least one candidate (usually a business owner or former CEO) proclaims that governments should be run as a business.  To a person who owns their own business this idea in theory is very attractive. The world’s richest business man Bill Gates proclaims, according to him governments are “terribly inefficient” and he regularly criticizes the US government for being dysfunctional because it’s not run like a business.  Gates further explains, it is has no need to function efficiently because there is no competition for the services it provides: for instance there is no need to hire more employees at Services Ontario, because there is nowhere else to go in Canada  to renew your licence, health card etc.  There is no other option BUT to wait in line to get what you need.   A privately owned business on the other hand, cannot afford to have disgruntled customers as they will lose business to their completion.   This in theory is fantastic except for one problem—Government is not a business and its primary function is NOT to turn a profit –the function of a government is to  provide social services and to a lesser degree goods to its citizens and this does not translate into profit.  Libraries, parks, rec centers all provide a valuable  social services but are far from profitable and yet they need to exist as they serve a greater good.  If the government operated services strictly on a profit criteria is ALL business do, these services would cease to exist.  John T. Harvey contributor to Forbes in his article makes an excellent point when he says that many business exists despite their social value, Ashely Madison the dating site for married couples for instance is functional in the business sense because it is profitable, yet its social value is highly questionable.

Recently I found myself at a friend’s house for a BBQ, there were a few of us who were business owners and we began discussing the merits of running the government as a Fortune 500 Business, and while in theory it sounded viable (at this point we had decided to sell off various government assets to improve our bottom line)  a friend of ours who is a social worker joined our conversation and made the following point; not everyone is a small business owner, the government  MUST  represent and MUST benefit all of society not simply the business sector.   This point put a halt to all of our musings for a more efficient government.  She made a good point, libraries and parks do not really turn any kind of profit, so in the business run as a government paradigm they would be the first on the chopping block. Can you imagine growing up or your kids growing up without these community staples?  I know I could not, libraries cultivated my love of reading, and parks are places were the community came to together, children played safely, and parents connected.  Libraries and parks help shape and cement the communities they are situated in, and one of the many roles of government is serve these communities.  The question then is not really “Should government be run as a business?” but rather “Can government be run as an entity which is both moderately cost effective and responsive to its people?”