Life at No.22, Musings, New Zealand

Upside to Downsizing

How time flies as we near two years of living at No.22. 

During late 2018, while housesitting in France, we purchased online our first apartment and since then we’ve discovered the upside of downsizing in homeownership. It’s bigger than our previous well used suitcases and motorhome; and smaller than other owned properties.

Our life now is centred around living in an apartment with more stories attached to it than it has levels. It’s also what this blog is about, us living back in New Zealand with moments of reflection on our travelling years. Yes, you’re right; this post is well overdue. Let me share some details about our apartment, she’s a reasonably old five-storey building, having been built at the beginning of the 1960s when many “heady and revolutionary things” were happening. It has a claim to the title of being the first Tauranga residential building to be constructed using concrete slabs.

We have no use of ride-on or hand mowers as there are no lawns to mow, gardens to weed continuously or general house maintenance. Those jobs are for contractors. Which means there’s no need to acquire an excess of equipment as we share items from a ladder to a hammer. We do have herbs, a lemon and olive tree happily growing in pots on our balcony to compensate for lack of ground and to keep my green fingers reasonably satisfied. On our communal ground, there is a patch of dirt that was once a vegetable garden, not as popular as it once was, hopefully a makeover in the form of raised beds will enthuse some of us to use it. Time will tell.

Balcony plants

By not having a car focussed living arrangement, our time can be spent with short walks to shops, cafes, art galleries, public library and gardens. Walking gives us the time to think and most of all, to absorb the magnificent old pohutukawa trees around the corner and sweeping harbour views. If we get the urge to feel the grass between our toes we’re spoilt for choice of green spaces. Some include gardens or a playground in a few cases both. For myself and a few other vertical neighbours, we get to enjoy cycling on trails not far from our doorstep to enjoy nature at its best.

Heading towards Matapihi on the way towards Papamoa.

We cohabit with an array of folk most are over the age of knowing life’s pitfalls and how to win disagreements, or I should say they do their darndest. As we are all owner occupiers which is a significant positive as we get to know each other over time, giving us all an added sense of security. There are some disadvantages to apartment living. Maintaining a large building is expensive, as we found out when having to replace our roof, and that is happening at the moment. There are rules to create a more friendly environment such as having no pets, due to proximity to our neighbours. Though we rarely hear excessive noise from other residents, which is wonderful and makes our environment a reasonably quiet haven to enjoy. We found living in suburbia far noisier with swimming pool attics and screaming children at all hours of the day and night. Countryside living is also not always a quiet haven with seasonal work machinery and highways not far from most properties. Here, there is more thought put into what we do and how it could affect our neighbours.

Looking back at the history of apartment living ours was not in the era when one of New Zealand’s first apartments were built, this happened ago in the late 1920s with the construction of Auckland’s Brooklyn Apartments. New Zealand has been slowly catching up with the rest of the world when it comes to choosing to have three-dimensional neighbours as many folks who arrived here years ago were nursing the quarter-acre dream. The land was cheap, and the population was small, that all worked way back then and as our community grew the roads, the services, the infrastructure that underpins the city had to grow, too. Apartments were the best modern-day solution to denser urban living, especially in our bigger cities.

If you had asked us about apartment living previous to living overseas for years while housesitting, the answer would have been a resounding “not for us”. Now, we can’t visualise ourselves living in another stand-alone house. We fully embrace the concept of three-dimensional living with all it’s pros and cons.

55 thoughts on “Upside to Downsizing”

  1. Isn’t it funny how life changes like that. When my daughter was born we lived on an 80 acres property, thinking that was a stepping stone to the land we really needed! Thinking back about that it makes me laugh. 80 acres is huge! I like growing my own food, but I don’t think anyone needs 80 acres to do that. This sumer I only had a container garden, and received a bountiful harvest. It sounds like you live in a wonderful place.

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  2. What a lovely picture you paint, and obviously one that resonates with others. Your good decision was timely, both for health reasons and the current pandemic. A traveling and house sitting lifestyle could be especially challenging right now, I imagine.

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  3. Hi, Suzanne – Your apartment has the number one feature that I look for wherever I live — walkability! I love how you have mentioned that at one time, apartment living would not have been on your agenda and now it is a perfect fit. There is much wisdom in this post!

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    1. Hi Donna, walkability was a big plus. We do have a car, so on days when the weather isn’t so grand it’s used then or travelling further out of town. Shifting into something smaller makes our living simpler and with what has happened it was the right move.

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  4. I can’t believe it’s been two years already, Suz! I remember you changing the blog over and deciding on a new name as if it was yesterday! It’s interesting how our priorities shift over time. I’ve always said I didn’t want to settle, but after seventeen years without a stable home, I sometimes crave familiarity and comfort.

    Apartment living… While I’d love not needing or having a car and being able to walk everywhere, I would have an issue with the noise. We have now been living in a room in a small city for five months and the closer living quarters bug us a bit, even though this is a relatively quiet town. We will see what happens.

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    1. Liesbet, time has certainly flown by. If we were really honest, travelling all the time with no fixed abode has it’s issues and dare I say it as we age, peace, simplicity and belonging to a community is important.

      Your small van would be smaller than where you live now 🙂 Apartment living is certainly not to everyone’s taste which is a good thing as diversity is the spice of life. For us, it was to be a base while still travelling now it is a safe haven and close to the hospital which will be an ongoing place we need to visit more often.

      All the best Liesbet about setting yourselves up the next stage in your lives.

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  5. Suzanne, Sounds like you made a very good choice. Having access to trails, nature, and amenities expand your living space to the outdoors. The smaller indoor space (e.g. compared to living in a big house) is good, too because it forces to be creative with the use of the space, and overall it’s more environmental-friendly.

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    1. Hi Natalie , it certainly does make us more creative living in smaller spaces. I dislike clutter and mess so works perfectly. Having the ability to use a balcony as well as green spaces near us in a big bonus.

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        1. It was a calculated risk which we tend to take all the time throughout our lives together. Now, not so many for obvious reasons. Stay safe April as I read today the UK has had another big spike in Covid numbers.

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            1. Very sad, April to read about the next wave happening. It’s overwhelming sometimes to exactly know what’s the best way to eliminate Covid. Keep safe and still keep running as I find the ability to get out for exercise keeps me relaxed.

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  6. That ‘invitation to cycle’ is picture perfect, Suzanne. 🙂 🙂 As so often the comments tell the rest of the story. Your seller moving up two storeys (for a lovely view, or just noone stomping on her head, I wonder? 🙂 )

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  7. I love the fact you live so close to beautiful countryside. We have to think about downsizing but we have really appreciated our garden during months of lockdown.

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    1. It’s a hard decision deciding to shift especially when it’s been a while since you’ve moved residences. I think our years travelling made moving into our apartment so much easier and with health issues it has been a godsend to be near hospitals etc. In the end, listening to our gut instincts has always worked for us both.

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  8. I often wonder how apartment living would feel after being in houses with gardens. As we get older it does become tempting though. I think a lot would depend on the area and neighbours. Interesting post Suzanne

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        1. The virus is the least of my concerns at the moment. Though I am aware for those working in certain areas like tourism it is very much a concern. Yes, it is hard to imagine that this is the new normal, wearing masks and being concerned about getting sick. Keep thinking positive it will rub off on everyone 🙂

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  9. Interesting thoughts. We adapted quickly to living in apartments when we were in France but it quickly became harder with two kids. If it were just my husband and myself, we definitely would go for apartment living.

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  10. Well you’ve certainly chosen a dream location and it obviously suits you. The only way I’d go back into an apartment or flat as we call them, is by having the penthouse floor to myself! We lived in a 4 storey Edwardian flat in Surrey which was lovely and spacious, but carrying shopping up two flights of stairs, (not to mention the complaints from delivery drivers), a neighbour below who used to cook his socks (actually I think it was something to do with his fishing habit, but boy did it stink at times) and a neighbour above who seemed to be running a laundry service as their washing machine was on every night and right above our bedroom has put me off communal living!

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    1. You made me laugh regarding your neighbour with the socks. So far we haven’t experienced the cooking experience though if someone was that inconsiderate to have their washing machine on at all hours [though never hear our neighbours] they would be voted out. Unfortunately, many apartment blocks have renters which is a whole new problem. Luckily, it isn’t an issue here. We have lived rurally and in urban situations and our small abode ticks all our boxes at the moment. Especially as we are close to amenities like the hospital and fun things like cafes etc

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      1. Yes, the trouble was that our block was a mix of renters and home owners and the landlord / management company was awful in getting repairs done. The proximity to a lovely town and a station was a plus point, and the fact it faced east-west so glorious sunrises and sunsets.

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        1. I love our views and seeing the sunrise and the occasional sunset if bright enough. Our place is self managed we all have an equal vote/opinion. As with most committees only a few do all the work. We are all committed to living in a safe, well maintained and quiet building so it’s all good. We have rules which are legally binding, break them then the lease to occupy is terminated. We would never agree to having renters here.

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        1. Too true, and I am pleased for you both that the renovation is going well. Who knows you may enjoy living back in Australia that you never want to head back to Italy to live. Or perhaps now 😉 I think we are all making the most of what life deals to us the best we can and enjoying the process. The alternative isn’t so positive.

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          1. Finished the rental property and we’re back in our house now, which has been rented for 6 years. Although the tenant (with 2 small children) left the house clean, there are loads of repairs and maintenance to do – and we thought we were keeping the repairs up but can’t fix what we don’t know about… 😉

            Realistically, returning to Italy this year doesn’t look like an option and as for early next year, who knows – travel is an unknown for a while.

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    1. Thanks Janis. I was wondering if someone would comment on purchasing it online. We have had our eye on an apartment here for a few years and had a viewing on one years ago. Our purchase was that we sighted the apartment before the final payment etc. The owner was moving two floors up so we knew where she lived 🙂

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  11. Great post. You certainly live in a lovely part of the world. There are, as you say, many advantages to apartment living – as well as some disadvantages. It’s interesting how your concept of what space you need changes over time.

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    1. Thanks Jo. We learnt years ago living in a motorhome fulltime and then out of a suitcase that we needed very little. Wanting “stuff” is another ballgame as I started purchasing more clothing. Oh well, now that less money was being spent on travel as girl has to have her vices 🙂

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