Living with Heart

Downsizing for Health – Decisions, Pain, Placentas and Parenting

We are accidental downsizers – we fell into it and it seemed to fit – like a glove that we shrunk to cocoon us.

Somewhere around 2011, HotY (Husband of the Year) and I started talking about moving to a house that was less. Less maintenance, less room with less things to keep clean and less space to put things in. Less for me to do and less for HotY to do on the weekends. Just less.

I’d been unwell for a few years by then and it was dawning on us that – although I was working part time then – my inflammatory arthritis wasn’t going away. It was sticking and not moving and I was getting angry and I was wanting to change ‘it’. But the health cards we are dealt can’t really be changed. You gotta play the hand you’re dealt, with as much cunning and stealth as you can.

The big old house had been a wonderful place for us – our kids had grown up in a pocket of 50’s utopia where they ganged together with the neighbouring kids and took on the world while riding a wheelie bin down the hill. Oh the memories. But at some stage memories aren’t enough and a decision has to be made to move on and to stay in the “state of becoming”.

To quote Bob Dylan “You always have to realise that you’re constantly in a state of becoming, and as long as you’re in that realm, you’ll sort of be alright”. This really resonates with me. I want to keep moving, keep evolving, keep learning all sorts of ‘becoming’.

Our big old house was just that – really big and really old. It had grown with us and aged with us as well. It had seen all the parties we’d celebrated – it even had Gem’s placenta buried under the concrete slab we had laid when we renovated. (OK – I am aware that sounds really whacko weird but it’s the god’s honest freaky truth). I was handed the placenta when I left the birthing centre and didn’t know what to do with it – so I stuck it in the freezer for 4 years – as all sensible people would do. I can tell you’re laughing and when I look back …no words. But what comes next is even worse – or better?

When we renovated – thinking that we would live in the big old house forever and health problems would never linger, it seemed natural (and really really creepy) to bury the placenta under where Gem’s bedroom would be. Holy Shut the Front Door and don’t tell the new owners. Every time I catch up with our old neighbours this story is retold and laughter abounds. And who are they laughing at?

Apart from what lies beneath, in the big old house there were more wrinkles than you could poke a stick at. And, quite literally, you could poke a stick through some of the gaps in the painting. When we eventually bit the bullet and painted the house the painters used 15 pallets of spac filler! If I ever drive by it now I know it is truly held together by ‘No More Gaps’.

The garden took about 4 hours a weekend to maintain and the stairs were becoming a problem for me, not to mention the 6 sitting areas we had to keep clean – it was too much.

So we started floating the idea of moving in a proactive way rather than a reactive way. Move then, when we could make the choice rather than wait until maybe my health would make the decision for us.

By this stage, I resented the house to the point of almost hatred. It felt like a massive millstone around my neck. Every day when I walked up the steps I would look at all the ways it was falling apart. Falling apart a lot like my body. It took me 2 more years to get HotY fully on board and for the move to happen.

So we looked at a few smaller houses and quickly realised that this solution would still have all the problems of the big old house. And then, after one spectacularly large Dizzle party we woke up frazzled (not dazzled) and looked at each other and said ‘Why? Why would we want to move into a smaller house with the massive personalities that were flowing with us?’. It didn’t make sense.

So we floated the idea of NOT moving to a smaller house. Instead, moving to 2 units and physically separating our kids from us. By the time this actually happened Gem was 18 and Dizzle was 19. These 2 units would have to be in the same building so that we could still be a ‘family’ and share meals but would be separate enough to allow them some space to develope ‘adult’ skills and do their secret university business in a protected place.

It seemed like the perfect, if unorthodox, solution for us. And it was. So now, at the end of 2016, Hoty and I live in a 96m2 Parent Land unit and our kids live in a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom Party/Study Land unit a few floors below. It has been this way for just over 3 years now.

Gem & Dizzle come up for dinner most week nights and then they magically GO BACK to Party/Study Land. It is the most awesome thing. How many times have you just thought to yourself ‘geez I wish my kid would just be here for the nice times and then go somewhere else for the rest of the time’. Yeah – I hear ya.

I never have to see if they do their washing, if they change their sheets, if they wash their cereal bowl, if they iron their clothes, if they cross-contaminate white shirts with black trousers when washing. It’s is totally plausible deniability.

And I cannot express how much this living arrangement has improved my relationship with my son, in particular. Gem and I have always had a smooth rapport while Dizzle and I have a more fractured rapport. Dizzle and I would have screaming ‘wake the neighbours’ fights about the state of his bedroom, the amount of time he was drunk, hungover blah blah.

We now have civilised trolling sessions over a meal.

We now have discussions about life, politics and how much Gem & I love Clementine Ford and how much Dizzle dismisses her as a ‘feminazi’…gggrrrrrr. He can reel me in like no one else on earth and it’s because we are so stuck in being similiar.

And always, at the end of the meal and discussion, Gem & Dizzle go back to Party/Study Land.

So it has definitely delivered to HotY and I a level of peace and that all important control over our environment. OK – so the control is for me but it does soothe me.

Of course, you’re wondering how we went from a big old house to a 96m2 unit? Next week I’ll delve into the culling process that took 2 years…..

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for taking time to listen and to hear. Thank you for seeing my life through my joint perspective.

  1. I so enjoyed reading this Michelle and what a great idea, we have two teens and wow, I could really go for this idea!! Ha ha ha, keep writing as it makes such an entertaining read. <3

  2. How sensible are you?! Great solution, particularly for those of us with arthritis. Great writing style.

    • Thanks Denise – it was a painful process but also the right one for us.