Caroline Bloor recently sold her family home in favour of a traditional two-bedroom cottage in Kent.
It had always been my plan when my daughter left home to downsize from the practical 1960s three-bedroom semi we’d lived in for most of her childhood, to something with more character in the middle of town. Our family home had served its purpose – now I only ventured into the spare bedrooms and conservatory to clean them, or went into the garden to cut the grass!
I wanted somewhere cosier, easier to maintain and better-suited to the next phase of my life. So, last January, I put the house on the market for £425,000. I’d known that leaving my neighbours would be hard, as we’ve become friends over the years – and it was. But the hardest thing about downsizing was parting with two-thirds of my furniture and possessions.
I set up a WhatsApp group for my extended family called ‘Caroline’s clearance sale’ and took pictures of everything that needed a new home. Passing precious things on to people I knew made it easier, but I did sell some items through a local auction house and all the charity shops nearby benefited hugely. By mid-April I’d had just six people round to view the house and no offers. The feedback was frustratingly vague (‘too small, too much work needed, just not for us’) and, in the end, I asked one of the estate agents for her honest opinion about why the house wasn’t selling.
She told me the decor felt ‘a little dated’ and ‘tired’, and suggested that quite a few ‘treasures’ could be put away temporarily. That evening, when I got home from work, I stood in the living room doorway and looked around with fresh eyes. She was so right! The place was full of other people’s things I’d inherited or been given, all treasured, but displayed without any real thought to the impression they might give. It was an epiphany.
That weekend, my daughter and I went through the house like a whirlwind. The kitchen was easy: we removed everything from the surfaces except essentials, buying an inexpensive red toaster and kettle and red tea towels for a splash of colour. The living room was the main focus of our efforts. We removed all but a couple of modern ornaments, changed fading paintings for bright prints, washed the sofa cushions and, less successfully, the curtains, which shrank unevenly. Not to be put off, we rushed down to Homebase and bought the cheapest new curtains we could find and a rug in a complementary colour. It was £65 well spent and my daughter later took both for her new house. The effect was amazing. Everyone loved the new look!
Offers at last!
The update produced a flurry of viewings, resulting in two offers, just three weeks later. I accepted an offer of £400,000 from buyers with no chain. Within a week, I’d found the perfect place: a stylish 1890s character cottage five minutes’ walk from the town centre. It’s been beautifully decorated, and has a woodburning stove and fabulous colonial-style shutters. With a surprisingly hassle-free chain of four, I was able to move in last October. It really does feel like the start of a new life stage.
The move itself – including estate agents’ fees, legal fees for buying and selling, full survey and removals – cost me around £15,000. With the equity I released from my house sale, I paid off the last £20,000 of my mortgage, and invested another chunk in a stocks and shares ISA to boost my pension pot. I could have put away more but I wanted to spend some cash on things I’d always wanted to do, like enrolling in a creative writing course and travelling more.
There are so many benefits to downsizing and living in the middle of town – from cheaper council tax and energy bills to the money saved on parking and the fact I’m getting fitter walking everywhere. And I’ve mitigated my sadness at having to get rid of so much of my old furniture by getting new things that are totally my style. My daughter recently came home for a week and although her room now is tiny, she loves the house as much as I do. ‘It’s much more us, Mum, isn’t it?’ she said, and she’s right.
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