“As my husband and I built our dream home, we thought we’d live there for the rest of our lives. Our spacious 3 bedroom in Casey was designed exactly how we envisioned it.
As with any first house, effort and love was present and a lot of sentimental memories were created—from married life, to bringing our first child home.
Within a few years, it dawned on us that we faced a lifetime of large mortgage repayments, insurance, and utility bills.
It also started to feel like every spare minute of our free time was taken up by taking care of the house—cleaning, gardening, painting, renovating and household chores. Was this really our vision of life?
We began to ponder selling the dream home and moving into something smaller. But how could we with a 2-year-old? Would there be enough space or room for her to play? What would happen when she gets older and wants to play sports?
Today my husband, my 4-year-old daughter Sofie, and I live in a 2-bedroom apartment at ‘Infinity Towers’ in Gungahlin and we have never looked back.”
This is Cass Atkinson’s experience.
But how relevant is this to Canberra and people like her? We’ve seen a trend of young families looking to downsize to reduce their workload and enjoy their lives, just like retirees and empty nesters.
We spoke to Cass, and Will Honey, Principal at Independent Property Group Tuggeranong for their advice on downsizing with children.
Consider if it’s the right solution
In Cass’s case, she and her partner lived in their property for just over 7 years. They considered all their options before realising that it wasn’t working out. “We realised that downsizing was the best option for us. We decided that we’d rather have a bit more financial and personal freedom, so we could enjoy more holidays and have more time to do things as a family,” she says.
Whether your motivation comes from money or freeing up valuable time, downsizing may seem like the obvious solution, but have you looked at all your options? Selling any home is a big decision—especially when it has sentimental value.
“Before you put your home on the market, take a step back and consider whether downsizing is the right solution,” explains Will.
If your green thumb has turned brown, call in an expert or even better, rip it out—imagine a patch of synthetic grass with a beautiful outdoor setting or a playground that will blow your kids’ minds.
If you’re constantly tidying and the house still looks like a bomb went off, research a new home organisation hack or get rid of extra stuff you no longer use that’s creating clutter.
Get rid of stuff
Cass’s biggest struggle was getting rid of Sofie’s trampoline. “We had to do a lot of positive framing at the beginning to explain that while she would have to give up her trampoline, she would have a huge pool to swim in whenever she wanted,” she recalls.
She also took the opportunity to rehome a lot of baby toys, clothes and stuff they no longer have use for. “We had to shift our mindset to ‘if it doesn’t get used, it goes out’. It’s quite cathartic once you get the hang of it. We involved Sofie in the decision-making process, asking her what toys are absolute essentials.”
On moving day, Cass recalls a busy and long day. “The move took twice as long as expected. Moving from a house to an apartment is a lot fiddlier time-wise, especially when you’re stuck waiting for the lift to go up and down.”
Will says, “get rid of things BEFORE you move, not after. If you’re inclined, plan out where your furniture will go, with measurements on the floorplan. It won’t be exact, but it will give you a good idea of where things can fit. Get rid of old furniture if it’s big and treat yourself to a set of furniture to suit your new home. Also, pass the kids off to the grandparents for moving day.”
In terms of finding their new dream home, Cass and her husband made a list of features they were after—cat-friendly, close to daycare and grandparents, enjoyable, and ultimately a place with the lifestyle they wanted but hadn’t had before.
But of course, everyone’s happiness needs to be front of mind. “Sofie was quite upset about leaving our house and her bedroom, so we had to make sure that her new space was something special. When we found the perfect place for all of us, we made each visit fun for her. We created a happy association with the new place and built on by explaining that she could have a bunk bed and more space to play. I don’t think she’d go back now!” Cass says.
Will recommends having a ‘must haves’ list. “This is a great idea and will make your research much easier and more effective. Speak to an agent who is prominent in the area you’re looking. They will be able to give you an insight into how the market is performing and help you find that perfect home.”
Cass knew she would have to be smart with her new space and make the most out of it. “I bought Sofie a bunk bed with hidden draws to create more space in her room for her to play and also double as a storage solution,” she says.
Will says, “in a small space, it’s a good idea to find and use hidden spaces and choosing furniture that does more than one thing. Speak to other families who have downsized or go online to find great storage and organisation hacks.”
In Cass’s story, the saying ‘less is more’ has never been so true. Downsizing created the life they needed. “I can honestly say it was the best decision. We’re much happier in our little high-rise nest enjoying the views and our time together,” she says.