The upside of downsizing

Louise Engelbrecht and Val Budd

Auckland Council’s desire to fit more people into less space, as well as the need for affordable housing is bringing more apartments, townhouses and semi-detached blocks to the area. Hibiscus Matters spoke with two residents who have downsized.

Around a year ago, Louise Engelbrecht exchanged a four-bedroom house with a big garden for a 170sqm townhouse with a pocket-handkerchief backyard and says the move has been a positive one for many reasons.

“I am very conscious of my environmental and lifestyle footprint, so having a garden to water and maintain, while it was therapeutic, did not suit me any more,” she says.

She made the decision to downsize consciously, wanting to make more time available for experiences such as cycling, travel and socialising. She also wanted to own less material things.

Louise, who works fulltime, says she is enjoying the smaller garden space, finding it just as rewarding. “It’s easier to make it pretty, you can control it and it’s easier to maintain. My weekends used to go into the garden and house – there was always something to do.”

She says the hardest part was reducing her things, which took a few months – “the bigger the house, the more stuff you accumulate”. She still has regular clearouts to the local op shops.

Two or three adults live in Louise’s two-storey, two-year-old Millwater townhouse, as her grown up children come and go. She also has a dog and two cats.

“As my kids are older, you don’t need to create a family home for them – they are more like flatmates,” she says.

Neighbouring townhouses include families with children and one has three generations living there, so Louise says smaller spaces work for them also.

“I still get a lot of privacy and not much noise,” she says.

Louise’s advice for people considering downsizing is to choose something with enough storage, and well designed to feel more spacious. Her place has a small deck that turns the little garden into an extension of the living room.

It also has a good-sized garage, where her bikes are wall-mounted, and which includes the laundry.

“Having a small place at this stage in my life is a joy,” Louise says. “The only thing I miss is the view.”
Val Budd shifted to an apartment in Kensington Park, Orewa, eight years ago after the death of her husband.

“I was looking for a property that was less bother,” she says.

Her home is a ground floor, two-bedroom apartment of around 120sqm with a good- sized deck.

She says there are many bonuses of living in an apartment, with a big one being security. Visitors can only access the apartment block if they are let in by residents.

“I love knowing there are people living just down the hallway, so if I want company I can go out the door and find it,” she says. “But people also respect each other’s privacy.”

Val enjoys caring for a garden and has turned her deck into a space for potted plants. “Plants, but no lawns!” she says.

The deck also provides an outdoor room in summer – an extra space to socialise and barbecue.

Another bonus of a small space is low heating bills in winter as a small heatpump warms the entire place.

Val says she didn’t have to reduce her possessions much for the move from her former four-bedroom home – and she even has space for a big lounge suite and her piano.

“There was room for me to have 16 people here for Christmas dinner,” she says.

Val says that while her apartment has generous spaces, many two-bedroom apartments being built now are far smaller – some even less than 100sqm.

“Look for a good size footprint, and good flow,” she recommends. “I grew up used to the quarter acre section but things are changing.”

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