'I was terribly depressed emptying box after box'
Columnist and wine blogger Myles McWeeney, 75, and Laurie Cearr, 70, sold their 1,750 sq ft, 1930s Sandymount home roughly two years ago. "It was a four-bedroom house, but we had three reception rooms, a kitchen and we built on a lovely little sun room," says Laurie, who is general manager of Great Music in Irish Houses, "and we'd a lovely garden.
"It was actually a big house for just the two of us rattling around in it. We loved it, we absolutely adored our house. It was a real party house. We were always entertaining inside and out.
"We had got to the stage where we lived in the den and kitchen," says Laurie, "and Myles used to call the dining room and the drawing room the Christmas rooms." Still, leaving it and most of their belongings collected over 20 years was, she says, "a big decision".
"I had thought about it myself for a good while and I remember mentioning it to Myles a few years ago and he said, 'No, never, I'll be brought out of here in a box'.
"I hadn't been well for a couple of years," says Laurie, "and I was always removed from him and he from me, going up and down stairs and I think that was what it was. I said it to him one day and he just said, 'Yes, let's look'. It was a miracle to me."
"It was future-proofing," adds Myles.
The pair spent a long time looking, viewing over 30 apartments in Sandymount and further out to Killiney and Dalkey. "There was one thing that was an absolute definite must-have," says Myles, "which was that there had to be a convenience store within walking distance of wherever we moved. I didn't want to be getting in to a car to get milk at 10 o'clock at night. A lot of nice properties were nixed because of that."
"We wanted south-facing," he says, "because we wanted light and we wanted a balcony. And we needed to have three beds because we're both still working and we needed to be able to have somewhere that we could both still work. In the old house, I had a man shed in the garden and Laurie had an office in the house so I could go to work and she could go to work.
"There were lots of two-bed apartments and they were like boxes," says Myles. "What I found really, really distressing looking around was the lack of storage space. I think there should be planning regulations that insist on storage; either storage within the apartment itself or exterior storage space where you can put the stuff. For instance, I know it sounds crazy, I didn't want to buy a car but I had to buy a car to store my golf clubs. There is no room in an apartment to store sporting equipment. We had two sets of golf clubs and caddy cars and all the rest of it, so the only answer was to buy a car with a big boot. I didn't want to buy a car because one car is quite sufficient for the two of us, and there's an added cost in terms of tax and insurance."
In the end, they chose a three-bed penthouse apartment with two bathrooms and, unusually, a utility room, just off Sandymount Green. Their closing date and the moving-in date were luckily close together so they were able to bridge the gap with just a month or two of borrowed accommodation.
"We were very lucky," says Laurie. "I would be saying to people, Yes, be sure that either you can afford to take accommodation indefinitely or to try and make the [closing dates] meet."
The apartment came with definite upsides and a few downsides.
First, they say, it is low-maintenance - repairs are covered by their service charge - it is warm and it is very bright. But most of all, it is cheaper. "The difference is just amazing - there was annual maintenance on the house," says Myles. "There was the garden to keep up. There was property tax and everything that you can imagine. Our electricity bills are considerably lower, dramatically lower, and our energy bills - it doesn't cost as much to heat this place as it did to heat a 1,750sqft house. So there are savings - certainly the outgoings and insurance aren't anything like they were."
But there are other subtle benefits: "If we want to," says Myles, "we can turn the key in the door and go off for a week or a month without worrying something could go wrong."
"The other thing is security," he adds, "That is a very important thing about apartment living. It really is far more secure - particularly as we live on the top floor.
"We have almost a gated community, so we feel pretty safe here."
The downside is the lack of space both for serious cook Myles and for their belongings, which included his large wine collection. "When the movers came," says Laurie, "they couldn't believe how much stuff we had."
The pair arrived with huge amounts of crockery and glass and over 2,000 CDs. "They were sent to the Royal Irish Academy," says Myles, who also waved goodbye to 800 cookbooks and several thousand other books.
As Laurie now says: "The mistake we made was we brought everything here. We brought 250 boxes, we had to leave them in the hall outside and empty them. That was worse than leaving the house, that caused us a lot of stress.
"I was terribly depressed," says Myles, "standing out in the hall and emptying box after box after box. I never wanted to see another box ever again."
"The advice I'd give anyone is do your culling and do it and do it and do it," says Laurie. "Plan better than we did. We didn't pack in advance ourselves, we got packers in. Save yourself the pressure, the stress of it, the angst, the rows. Get rid of as much as you possibly can and make sure you have a good handyman."
"Laurie adapted far better than I did," says Myles. "I think she had wanted it very much, this idea of being on the flat. I found it terribly difficult at first always being able to hear telephone conversations. But I'm very happy here now. I just think it's a wonderful place to live."
"The fact that we took this decision," says Laurie, "and moved two years ago was one of our best decisions - apart from getting married - really and truly, as a joint decision, it was good."