The Breeze’s Robert Scott: We’ve downsized and sold our family home to become apartment dwellers

''Kids have always been part of our relationship and subsequent marriage. After 24 years together, we are now getting back the time we missed out on at the beginning,'' says Robert.
Robert Scott The Breeze and Carmel Murphy

It’s confession time at Robert Scott’s place.

The Breeze radio host and his wife Carmel Murphy are talking about how they’ve recently downsized from their family home to an apartment and Robert reveals decluttering was tricky for him because he tends to be a bit of a hoarder.

“Cassettes from throughout my 35 years in radio, posters I had on my bedroom walls in the 1970s and 1980s, cards from my first birthday… it’s hard for me to let go of things,” he admits.

“But moving to a much smaller place, I just had to get rid of so much stuff.”

“He’s terrible, he keeps everything,” adds Carmel (46).

“He even had diaries from years ago that he had written in every day.”

“I had about six from 1980 to 1986,” confirms Robert.

Then he adds in a whisper, “Actually, I’ve still got those.”

“You haven’t!” exclaims Carmel.

“They don’t take up much room,” mumbles Robert (53).

At that, Carmel rolls her eyes.

“There’s storage downstairs so we’ve all got a memory box of things we could keep. There were things I didn’t want to part with, like the kids’ first shoes.

“I don’t know what went in Robert’s box but clearly he couldn’t part with the diaries.”

“The thing is, they’re so boring,” says Robert.

“Stuff like, ‘March 3, 1981: Met up with the guys, went for a drive around the square, got a hamburger. Had an early night.’

“It gets a bit more exciting when I met my first girlfriend, but oh my God, the emotions of a 17-year-old boy are just cringeworthy. Now I look at it and it’s so sappy and soppy.”

“And still, you’ve kept them,” says Carmel.

“Yep!” replies Robert.

Decluttering was crucial when the couple decided nearly two years ago that the time was right to sell the Auckland home they’d lived in for 13 years, and where their children Sam (22) and Molly (19) had spent most of their childhoods, although it took 18 months to find a buyer.

“With the kids being older and more independent, they had much busier social lives than us and were hardly home,” says Robert.

“We were rattling around in the house thinking, ‘What are we doing? Why do we need this much space?’

“Also, we have a bach on Waiheke Island that we try to get to every other weekend so we just didn’t need to be spending our time cleaning and maintaining both places. Moving to an apartment just made sense.”

However, unlike couples who downsize because their kids have flown the nest, Robert and Carmel’s offspring were still firmly ensconced at home, with no plans to go anywhere.

Molly, now in her first year at university, was finishing school and not ready to strike out on her own.

Sam, who works in retail, was also still at home with no plans to go flatting. However, his parents decided to give him a little push towards greater independence.

“Some people might say it was a nudge – others would say it was probably more of a rocket,” says Carmel, explaining they’d told Sam he’d need to find somewhere of his own once the house was sold because they were only planning on buying a two-bedroom place.

“Some people have said, ‘Oh poor Sam,’ but it was time for him to spread his wings.”

Adds Robert, “I think it has been the making of him. He flats with a friend about six streets away and his place is immaculate. I think he’s enjoying his independence now.”

While Molly still lives with her parents, Robert and Carmel are managing to find time for themselves.

“We became parents very early on in our relationship – it was only a matter of months after we got together that Carmel became pregnant,” explains Robert.

“Kids have always been part of our relationship and subsequent marriage. After 24 years together, we are now getting back the time we missed out on at the beginning.

“You put all your time and energy into growing your children into adults and then all of a sudden you have time to yourselves again. It’s like coming out the other side.”

Robert, Carmel and Charley are all loving apartment living.

Moving to a brand new fourth-floor apartment in an inner-city suburb has not only heralded a new stage in their relationship, but allowed them to make some lifestyle changes.

“It’s a bit of a reset for us, and has made us conscious of things such as sustainability,” says Carmel, who works in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Having a new place closer to town has made us think about what we can do differently. One thing is going down to one car and using public transport more often. And we are so close to restaurants and cafés we can walk everywhere, or it is very cheap to get an Uber.”

Robert’s planning on getting the bus to work. “It leaves from down the road and costs $2.”

They no longer have a garden which is fine by Robert – “I hate mowing lawns,” he declares – but they do have a balcony where they can sit in the sun and enjoy fabulous views across the harbour.

Plus, they make frequent visits to a nearby park to take their Wheaton terrier Charley for walks.

“One of our biggest stresses about moving to an apartment was whether it would work with Charley,” says Carmel.

“She barked quite a lot where we used to live because she had good visibility of the street and would bark at anyone who went past – kids, scooters, the postie.

“We thought, ‘She won’t be allowed to do that in an apartment,’ but it’s been okay because she doesn’t have those triggers here to set her off.”

Because it took so long to sell their house, it’s only been a few months since Robert, Carmel, Molly and Charley moved in, and they’re still waiting for a new sofa and custom-made entertainment centre.

“It does feel a bit like we are camping out and it will be nice not to sit on bean-bags,” admits Carmel.

“But we love the design of the apartment, and the location and it’s exciting being here.”

And a few months down the track, Robert is coping well without all of the belongings he had to ditch.

“The hardest thing to let go was a toy Mamod steam tractor from the 1970s that you used to use meths and

a flame to get going. It was a gift from my dad and I was emotional about letting it go but I hadn’t played with it for years. I sold it to this guy on Trade Me who had tears in his eyes when I got it out of the box, so I know it has gone to a good home.”

He employed Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo’s method of asking himself if each item he was sorting sparked joy and if it didn’t, thanking it and then either throwing it out, donating it or selling it.

“It really did work – it took the emotion away and despite being such a hoarder, I really don’t miss anything.”

And anyway, he still has his diaries.

“I can get them out and read them anytime I need a laugh.”

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