December 29, 2016

Going from Living Large to Living Small

(Or how I went from six to two bedrooms and didn’t quite go crazy in the process).

At the outset, I must say that moving to a two bedroom apartment from a six bedroom free-standing home has been a super-challenging task. But we did it in stages. And (with the clarity of hindsight) made a few mistakes along the way. However, forgiving ourselves those errors seems to be part of the process!

Here’s what we did: we decided, quite a few years ago, that a move was on the cards.

In the lead-up (many months), we began having garage sales, scaling down our possessions and preparing the house for market.

Mistake Number One was that I honoured with probably too much respect, the possessions that my kids had left in our house when they flew the coop. Still smarting from my own father’s lack of any sensitivity in regard to our favourite toys, books, trophies, clothes, pets, sheet music and so on, I was determined that the only people to throw out my children’s things would be themselves. Sadly, they didn’t attack that challenge until we had dragged their boxes of goodies all around the world. At great expense. Both financially and emotionally. Anyway, we sold our house and took the extreme step of moving to another country, one that is tropical.

Mistake Number Two. The aforesaid boxes of interesting things, paintings, photos, family tree items, have all been somewhat mould affected and constant challenge is to get that smell out! The tropics have their problems.

We bought a three-bedroom house which we spent time and money on, converting it into a solar-powered, energy efficient holiday style house.

Mistake Number Three – perhaps. Re-thinking this: we probably may have been better off renting for a few years prior to committing to the market. However, we did buy our house comparatively cheaply (though exchange rates affected that process). We moved to a place where recycling and the environmental concerns Aussies take for granted were in their infancy, but in many ways, they seem to have caught up in a very short space of time. We felt that in the past three + years, we set a good example to our neighbours and community and joined in when there was work to be done. We taught many about green issues through actively using a clothes line, showing them our zero electricity bill and leading by example with rubbish pickups in the street. We also were able to give away approximately 50% of our possessions to people who really needed them keeping only items of personal meaning or that we would not want to replace.

Family matters changed our situation and another move was planned, though we are not just yet putting our solar house in the tropics on the market. Perhaps next year we may sell. To the right buyers who love and appreciate the environment, ecology and a garden with a green tree snake and families of lizards and birds. In the meantime, it is rented for a while but will eventually be a holiday house for our extended family.

This time, we decided on a two-bedroom, quite tiny apartment. Our daughter called it ‘an old-people’s home without being for old people’. Its major benefit is that it is situated in an area designated ‘green’ with only recycled water used on common garden areas, many of the building materials being recycled from the original development here and great rubbish-handling systems in place. There are walking tracks, leisure activities and many shared events, a farmers’ market weekly and a beautiful outlook despite being in a busy, crowded, urban centre.

The move was supposed to be perfect. I began accessing boxes (recycled) months ahead and initially packed a couple of boxes per day, again sifting possessions and reducing. Then the movers came to do their quote and 50% of my boxes were deemed unusable as they had once contained food-related goods.

Mistake Number Four. OK. Start again. I was determined to use mostly recycled boxes and wrap and one of my neighbours knocked on our door after a walk and reported that a new person had moved to our street. They had a mountain of empty boxes and bubble wrap in their front yard. They were only too happy for me to take as many as I wanted. This was truly excellent. I only had to purchase 10% of our materials and that was for super-fragile goods, such as my son’s guitar, his photos and a couple of hand-made cabinets with a lot of glass in their construction. I ramped up the packing and was finished in good time.

We waved goodbye to the truck that collected our goods and some time later we moved to the new shoebox apartment and waited for delivery. It was traumatic in the lead up as I would lie awake trying to calibrate the cubic metres of my boxes and visualize how it would fit in the apartment. Arrival day was equally sickening. We just had too much stuff so I initially unpacked as much as I could super-fast to reduce the area, the movers removing the empty boxes. Well, some. Over the next few days, we unpacked more slowly, making dozens of trips downstairs to the recycling room, embarrassed by our mountain of empty cartons (even flattened) and in agony from hauling boxes, slashing gaffer tape, trying to fit our scaled down goods into a house that has no linen cupboard or laundry. The decision was made. Donate, donate, donate. So we filled up the car time and time again and delivered boxes of excellent clothes, technology, books, CDs and DVDs, an X-Box and games, you name it, to the op shop. When I’d find a chipped cup, glass or ornament, it went in the garbage and it felt GREAT!

The need was made more urgent by interstate guests coming to stay for a few days. But that was probably a good thing as it gave us motivation and the energy to keep going from 7am till 11pm day after day.

Finally…

It’s almost a month since we relocated. Ikea and Target have been marvelous sources of modular, attractive and cheap storage. We have found devious ways of using the backs of doors for things such as cleaning items, jewellery, socks (shoe bags are great!). And it is only today I am beginning to feel settled and a little relaxed.

It now takes me five minutes to vacuum the entire apartment, our garden is a balcony located flower ball with 19 varieties of herbs and a space for a bird feeder as well! We don’t have to mow lawns, clean a pool, wash windows or mend anything. Our energy use is minimal and while we do need to use a clothes drier, we also have a rack in the bathroom directly above a warm spot (which I think comes from the apartment below). Clothes dry quite easily.

The best aspect is that now all the painful part has ended, we have spare hours in the day for the first time in our lives!

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Comments

  1. Just thought we would let you know that we featured a link to this post on our website! It really underpins the ethos that underlies our cause. Less = more!