What I Learned About Downsizing and Condo Living – The Inside Scoop
I realized early in the process that downsizing from my big-ass house and moving to a condo wasn’t going to be easy. Although it was the right decision at the time, I was overwhelmed by the jaw-clenching enormity of the job.
So I did the only sensible thing – I dug down deep, cried myself to sleep and jumped in with both feet.
Now here I am, six years later and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Surviving the downsizing experience and mucking out the memories could fill an entire book of hair-raising chapters. But, today, I want to focus on the culture shock of moving into an adult life-style condominium.
I’m not going to cover the more sensible details, like the importance of status certificates and reserve fund studies. You have lawyers for that. I’m here to expose some of the more grass roots survival techniques about condo living – the good, the bad and the ridiculous.
Here are some of my secrets, unplugged. Consider me a stacked-unit whistle blower of sorts. The following pearls of sand were taken from my blog series, As The Condo Turns…
Beware of Condo Envy
All condos are not created equal. There are usually a variety of floor plans available in every condominium building. While you may choose one suitable for your needs, there will always be another unit on a higher floor with a better view or more square footage etc.
Too often, when you meet other condo owners, the first thing they ask is, “What unit are you in?”
This is in an effort to establish pecking order and your placement in the hierarchy of the condo kingdom. It becomes an annoying obsession of comparison among the cotton-head community. Apparently, size does matter when it comes to condo envy.
So choose carefully, be happy with your investment and ignore the nonsense.
Become a Codger-Dodger
Okay, ladies – this is for your eyes only.
I don’t mean to be disrespectful, (well, maybe a little) but I have it on good authority that, as seniors find themselves alone in their wonder years, the older male species (aka codgers) are far more likely to be looking for new partners.
Many older women, on the other hand, seem to settle into their newfound single lives rather nicely. Oh sure, there are lots of lovely December romance stories about love and companionship. But, I’m talking about the women of a certain vintage out there who have no intention of taking on and training, yet another man in their lives, let alone an old codger.
So, for those women, becoming a codger-dodger is an important skill to master. They may be charming and seem harmless at first sight, but deep down, they’re all looking for someone to fry their bacon and scrub their skid marks. I’m just saying… stay alert!
Stand Up to the Bullies
As with any neighborhood, condo buildings will always have their share of crotchety old relics, who consider themselves guardians of the almighty book of rules – and condominium communities sure love rules!
During my time here, I have encountered our resident enforcers on several occasions. They’re easy to recognize by their distinctive hatchet faces and beady eyes. I’ve been told with finger wagging precision by the hydro police to remember to turn off the lights in the pool when I leave. A friend of mine was even asked by one of these self-appointed watchdogs if she had showered before going in the pool!
Now I realize that without rules we would have anarchy. But, without reason, we have stupidity. On a good day, I tell myself that these cranky old farts are simply misguided souls who need to get a life. On a bad day, I just want to tell them to go to you know where.
As owners, we own our units and everything in them. Common areas are shared spaces, not exclusive to a few obnoxious bullies. But, like any bully, if we ignore them long enough, they’ll eventually go away. If they don’t, it’s time to release the hounds!
Keep Your Floor Options Open
When we think of living in a condo, we often picture ourselves living high in a tower like Rapunzel. Whether we have long hair, short hair, or no hair at all – we can’t dispute the fact that the higher we go, the more spectacular the view.
The truth is that there are a variety of other options available – I myself have a ground floor unit. Although it was never my intended destination, it was love at first sight.
Living on the ground floor is like living in a house. You forget that you have all those floors towering above your head. Without any need to get out and shovel, weed or plant, you have gardens and trees to enjoy.
There’s a solid feeling about ground floor units. From a safety perspective, there is no elevator service during a fire, so what do you do if you’re on the 22nd floor? You take the stairs! A fireman’s ladder only goes to the 6th floor – 7th floor max.
So, although real estate agents will tell you to go high or go home, (the higher you go, the more you pay) remember the ground floor unit – the often forgotten gem of condo living.
Relax and Make Friends
I’ve heard many aging boomers say they could never live in a condo filled with a bunch of old people. Well, most of us still have a lot of juice left in the blender and there’s comfort in living among others who have been there, done that.
In my experience, people living in a condo environment are friendly and generous in sharing their backgrounds. It’s easy to meet new people and so interesting to hear the incredible stories of the lives they’ve lived – and it’s not all past tense, by any means. More and more zoomers continue to work and travel, with no plans to stop.
Living in a detached home can sometimes feel isolating, as we grow older. We may no longer go out to work and our social calendar may not be as busy as it once was. In a condo, you’re never lonely and there’s always a choice of functions to attend right in the building.
Enjoy the Almighty Garbage Chute
If you’re a homeowner, shackled to garbage day routines, you will understand my orgasmic state of mind every time I simply throw my garbage into a chute and walk away. No more schlepping my trash to the curb in my snow boots and pajamas. Great leaping refuse! Believe me when I tell you – it’s euphoric, blissful and sublime.
The bottom line is that living in a condo community means you have to adjust and compromise. You can’t always do things your own way. But, like anything in life, you learn to put up with the bad as long as the good takes up a bigger space.
Despite everything I had to give up by downsizing, I have come to love condo living and all the positive things it has to offer. I love the maintenance-free lifestyle and swimming in the pool during a snowstorm. I enjoy feeling safe and protected, making friends with like-minded people and living in a smaller space where everything has its place.
Keeping things simple works for me. It’s a good life, so, proceed with caution and enjoy the ride.
Are you thinking about downsizing your home? Are you ready to downsize to a condo? If you moved from a house into a condo, what tips about downsizing or condo living would you offer the other women in our community? Please join the conversation.
Pat Skene is a retired bank executive and author of several books for children. She keeps her imagination fed and watered in Oakville, Ontario Canada. You can read more of Pat’s humorous writings on her blog for boomers at Boomerrantz.com and follow her on Twitter @PatSkene. Please check out Pat’s children’s books here.