Life Redesign

There are two ways to be rich, one is by acquiring much, the other is by desiring little. Jackie French Koller

In 2010, I lived with my 12-year-old son Billy in Aix-en-Provence in a tiny apartment on the fourth floor of a 17th century apartment block for six months. I’d just sold my home and almost everything I owned in Sydney and life had been rather challenging, so it was the greatest sense of freedom to live in a small, cosy place with very few possessions or worries and just write every day.

After this experience, I knew I’d attempt to re-create that kind of lifestyle in Australia, although it took a few years. I returned to live in Melbourne in 2011 and bought a townhouse in South Yarra. While it was a great home in a fantastic location right behind Chapel Street and Prahran Markets, it was too big and it lacked the sense of community I was craving.

Within five years, I’d sold the townhouse and just two months later saw the ad for a new development in Clifton Hill. It was a fortunate stroke of serendipity. I was visiting a friend in Abbotsford and noticed the poster. I raced home to check out the website, booked to attend a community consultation, registered my interest and eagerly completed the numerous surveys asking for input on features and design. I knew from the get-go the place was meant for me and meant to be.

What’s for you won’t pass you by. Sarah Wilson

I’m passionate about many aspects of living here from design and aspect to location and community. Firstly, I absolutely love the apartment. At 83 sqm, it’s compact yet at the same time spacious and open. It’s north-facing so I get this beautiful, ethereal light coming in. It has a quaint, picture-postcard outlook over the heritage rooftops and chimneys across the road. Some early mornings as I wake up, I see hot-air balloons drift by and at night the moon shines right through my bedroom window. That’s pretty special.

As I was down-sizing from a rather large townhouse and living the nomadic life for a couple of years while my home was being built, I decided to sell or give everything away. I’m a minimalist and not too sentimental about things. I turned up to my new apartment with the bare minimum – a couch, a bed and kitchenware, and that was about it.

It was exciting to start with a blank canvas. A friend who is a theatre designer offered to design and furnish the place with me. I gave him a budget and no real brief except that 80% of what I bought had to be vintage or seconds. He knew exactly where to get the best furniture and art in Melbourne (Leonard Joel, Angelucci, Chapel Street Bazaar and Waverley Antique Bazaar).

Good design doesn’t date. Bad design does. Paul Rand

When it comes to living minimally, every single thing I own has earned it’s right to be there. There’s no surplus and still plenty of space in the cupboards. I can lock up and leave at any time and I regularly rent out the whole apartment on Airbnb when I’m not here. And when I am here, the spare room gets used a lot with family and friends visiting from interstate. This month alone, I will have had three lots of visitors!

My latest project was to create the balcony garden to bring the outside in, while creating privacy from the street front. That took quite a considered approach and I’m really happy with the outcome. On the subject of gardens and greenery, the Yarra river is just a two-minute walk away with many trails to explore. I’m at my happiest in nature amongst the trees by the river, either alone or walking with my friends and Mimi (the dog I care-share with my good friend and neighbour Donna). Another great friend Deb lives around the corner and we share a community garden at Collingwood Children’s Farm. We ride our bikes there and dig, plant, water and talk. It’s better than therapy.

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. William Wordsworth

We drink coffee and eat at Tarda the cafe right below my apartment, Uncle Drew’s Café around the corner and shop at Flower of Sorrento on Spensley Street, Terra Madre in Northcote or the many small businesses on Queens Parade or Smith Street. My favourite pub is Some Velvet Morning on Queens Parade. Donna thrashed me at Scrabble there a few months ago while Mimi looked on. I believe it’s high time for a re-match!

I love community and it was a prime reason for choosing to live here. I moved location a lot as I was growing up, as my father was a stock and station agent. In all, I’ve lived in 10 cities and towns and 22 homes in my life. I’ve not lived in the same town as my parents or siblings since I was 20. Sometimes I envy my Melbourne born-and-bred friends who have that family connection and family home here. But mostly I’m grateful for having an itinerant life. It’s made me resilient and able to make friends easily and it’s why I enjoy the community aspect so much. Also, the community room is right next to my apartment, so I must love it!


We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community. Dorothy Day

So what makes the community here so special? Firstly, we all live here for the same reason. We value community and have ‘common unity’ (the two words that make up the word community). We share a common goal to have some kind of positive impact in the world. The community is being built quite organically. Different people put their hand up to organise the things that interest them most. There have been working groups established to address issues such as extra bike racks, waste and environmental impact and the gardens. One resident recently started a ‘register of things’ that we can borrow from each other. We also have a resident caterer and she’s generously stocked the community room with all the pots, pans and utensils for community cook-ups. We’ve had art classes, wine-tasting and regular pot-luck dinners in our community room.

Early last year, we found a yoga instructor to come in two mornings a week to teach yoga. We have a hardcore group of about six people that come regularly and invite people to drop-in to try it out. A couple of us started a committee for the community room so we could agree on the booking system and guidelines for use as well as community events we’ll host. Our main way of sharing and connecting is via our private Facebook group.

I’m also a part of the broader Clifton Hill community and eco-system our apartment block exists in. I’ve never lived in a location where community is so paramount and where everyone cares so much for each other. The Clifton Hill Good Karma Network on Facebook has over 3,000 members! It’s a place where people share things, information, recommendations and events. I’ve had lemons delivered to my doorstep and given away various items I didn’t need through the network. Last Christmas, my whole family came to visit for a week and I was able to accommodate them all for free in various local houses where pet-sitting was required.

For me, downsizing and living small and simply has been the perfect response to our complex consumerist world. It’s been one of the happiest life decisions I’ve ever made. I realise my approach is not for everyone, but perhaps there are some ways you can live with less more simply. I’d love to hear about them.

Carolyn Tate is the author of  The Purpose Project. She’s passionate about bringing purpose and meaning to everyday life for everyday people in the workplace. Find out more about her work on LinkedIn and website.

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