For Toronto-based blogger Alyssa Garrison, home isn’t just a place to hang your hat and crash at the end of the day. It’s a palace for her treasures, a place where everything is a little bit magical, a physical manifestation of the inside of her brain. Garrison is the force behind Random Acts of Pastel (RAOP), a lifestyle brand that focuses on fashion, beauty, design and embracing every colour in the rainbow (especially pink).
Home is where the heart is for the pastel enthusiast. Unfortunately, she’s had to move 13 times in 10 years. Toronto’s challenging rental market, negligent landlords, a collapsing roof, nightmare neighbours, heartbreak and transitional roommates all played their part: “It was a mix of life stuff and apartment stuff going horribly wrong,” she says. That said, Garrison has never hesitated to sprinkle stardust wherever she goes — even on a rental with a leaking roof.
I caught up with Garrison to find out how she finally found her forever home (a stunning unicorn of a house dubbed “Heaven in High Park” on Instagram), her experience becoming a single mother by choice, and why she encourages other women to never wait for a partner to have a kid, buy a house, or do whatever it is they want in life.
First came the house, then came the baby
When Garrison turned 27, she decided it was the last year that she would wait for a partner to realize her dreams of becoming a young mom. Instead, she took matters into her own hands, and with the help of a sperm donor, a doctor and a supportive network of friends and family, she concieved on Mother’s Day and gave birth to Summer Honey Rose Garrison on January 25th, 2019.
But before that could happen, there was one piece she had to figure out: Finding a suitable rental in Toronto’s volatile market. “I had the idea and I was working towards it, but I felt like the apartment was a huge missing piece,” she says. Garrison suspected that condo living wasn’t for her, but decided to try it for a year to test-run the possibility of buying one. “I knew I couldn’t move forward having a baby at the sad condo. Finding the right apartment was a huge step towards being able to make this dream a reality.”
It turned out apartment 13 was the lucky number. She went to a viewing and wrote a long, personal letter, detailing to the landlord how much the home would mean to her. He let her know that it had just been rented but he would keep her in mind for future vacancies. Defeated, she closed her email and expected to never hear from him again. “This particular landlord messaged me the next day saying someone had just given their notice in another one of his buildings,” she said. This place was about the same price, but a lot bigger.
In the end, it was so perfect, her only concern was that there was too much space. “I was a bit scared to commit because it was quite a lot more rent than I’d been paying. I said to a friend, ‘I don’t even know what to do with all of these rooms, I don’t even have enough furniture, what am I going to do with this house, it’s too big for me as a single person.’ And they said to me, ‘If you make the space, the universe will fill it.’”
Building a nest egg
Despite dreaming of homeownership, Garrison is grateful to have the flexibility of a rental — for now. Her family is on the West Coast, and her friends are in Toronto. “I can’t really commit to where I want to buy,” she says. “I like the idea of buying, just for the stability of not having to ever leave. But I need to find a place where I never want to leave, first.”
That hasn’t stopped Garrison from saving — whether it’s to buy a place one day or create a nest egg so she can take an official maternity leave one day. “I used to be so, so terrible with money. I was super irresponsible and I just loved spending,” she says. In recent years, she’s turned saving money into a challenge. “Budgeting for myself, making goals — it’s kind of turned into weird, fun game for me,” she says. “Is this being an adult?”
Garrison also subscribes to the adage: “Look at all of your stuff that used to be your money. Look at all the money, that eats up your time.” Every time she’s about to buy something, she holds it in her hands (“Marie Kondo-styles”) and asks if it was worth the time it took to earn the money. “Is this where you want it to go to? Another candle?” she says, “I definitely do not need more candles.” Being the sole-income earner has been the biggest challenge for Garrison as a single parent. “I can’t take a break from work. It affects my whole family, and there’s no one else to support me in the meantime,” she says.
Not waiting for “Prince Charming”
Today, Garrison uses her platform to share her non-traditional pregnancy story and normalize single-parent families and alternate methods to conceive.
In many ways, I see a parallel to women (and men) delaying homeownership until they meet a partner. The reality is that more single women are buying real estate on their own than ever before. Despite this, there’s still a societal pressure to wait for a partner before taking that first step on the property ladder.
“I used to feel like ‘Oh, wouldn’t you want to buy your first house with someone? It’s such a special experience.’ And I think a lot of people feel that way,” says Garrison. “You follow the steps: get married, buy a house, have children. But I think it’s a fun adventure to do on your own, too.”
It’s helped Garrison realize that no situation is necessarily perfect. If you wait to have a child with a partner, there’s always a chance the relationship will dissolve. You could wait to get a house with someone, and they back out or default on the mortgage. “I think my gamble is less traditional, but not necessarily a lot scarier,” she says.
Ultimately, Garrison believes in building the best life she possibly can, right now. If someone comes along to share in it with her, that’s great. “Why wait? Why not just go ahead and forge your life the way you want, as best as you can, and let someone else fit in down the line.”