When you’re young you need a place to raise your brood (if you decided to have children). Perhaps you wanted a nice house or apartment to impress your friends to let everyone know you were doing well in life. You may even have been a social sort who just loved having parties and people to stay. Earning good money, you wanted space and to mark your territory.
Of course when you were younger you had the energy to mow the lawn, paint endless walls, scrub and wax the wooden floor until it gleamed.
The thing is, when you get past 60, you realise time is perhaps more valuable and doing that exhausting domestic repetition steals away from the fun you can be having, with the more precious years you have ahead. Those designer drapes and the latest shabby chic furniture imported from Italy seem to get lower on the list of ‘need to get’ and ‘must haves’.
Recently my mother turned 91. She lives alone in the house she has lived in for 45 years. Her husband died a few years ago, the stairs became too difficult to climb and the only people that decorate it nowadays are voluntary organisations and my brother who seems to act like a valet, readily available on the other end of the telephone. Despite endless falls because she can no longer manage the house, she still insists the only way she will leave the house is “in a box”.
My poor brother tried endlessly to get her to move to assisted living, but, being stubborn, she finds fault with every other alternative to staying in her home. The fear of dying alone in pain is surpassed by the idea of losing her oversized dinner set and collection of dolls from far off places she can no longer remember. Her emotional attachment to the bricks and mortar has almost transformed her sanctuary into her self-imposed prison.
Seeing the writing on the wall at 60, I gave 90 percent of my possessions and furniture away. Gone were the oversized paintings that required large walls to hang them on, endless chairs that people rarely sat on, drapes I would never hang again and enough kitchenware for an army. I didn’t even bother trying to sell them; I simply gave them away. It was so liberating that I realised for years I was just was paying for a building to store them.
I moved from a five-bedroom, two-storey house with steep stairs, endless cleaning and maintenance into a small, one-bedroom apartment with a lovely balcony to dine on and entertain guests. There is a gym in the block, a heated pool in the garden and enough lifts never to be stranded if one breaks down. There’s even a concierge who collects any parcels when I am not in.
I am still fit and strong and hope to be for many years but now I will never have to worry about maintenance and endless gardening that will eat up my life like a greedy time monster. I’ve downsized big time and am free to do whatever I want with the rest of my life.