Downsizing: Fine in theory, but here’s how it can go in reality

Review: Anne Lynch’s downsizing project was stalled by the realities of the property market

Helena McCartan, Margaret Tierney Smith, Anne Lynch and Breege O’Connell on the first episode of Goodbye House

Helena McCartan, Margaret Tierney Smith, Anne Lynch and Breege O’Connell on the first episode of Goodbye House

 

How do you present the upside to downsizing? For Goodbye House (RTÉ One, Tuesday, 8.30pm), a piece of lifestyle advice programming that feels suspiciously like a stealth campaign to combat the housing crisis, you turn it into a pally competition.

Alleviating that awkwardly downbeat title with awkwardly cutesy children’s cartoon graphics, the first episode features an energetic woman named Anne Lynch, now struggling to maintain the vast property in Mayo to which she and her husband, recently deceased, retired.

Solicited by three friends to choose one of the houses they have each sourced for her, Anne doesn’t so much have to choose between properties as mentalities. Each friend lays out their argument for her on a spectrum between the morbidly practical to the fantastically unrealistic. Or, to put the matter in starker terms, between Swinford and the Algarve.

The more emotionally complex part of this deliberation is Anne’s decision to leave in the first place. “It was his dream rather than my dream,” she reasons of the two properties across 36 acres that she would rather exchange for a three-bedroom house near friends and family in turn-key condition.

The more emotionally simple part involves the egged-on competitiveness between friends as they advocate for their choices and trash-talk their rivals.

This they do in cheeringly Irish terms. “It was far from walk-in closets you were reared!” says one friend at the first whiff of notions in a Galway semi-D.

“Stall the digger on the home help, good woman,” Anne cautions Breege, a headlong fatalist, espousing the benefits of ground-floor bedrooms and ample room for a chairlift. “We’re all thinking that way,” insists Breege, chin held high.

This is why Anne’s best friend Helena is the star of the show: not because her suggestion of an apartment in Portugal overlooking a pool and just a stone’s throw from “the third best beach in Europe” actually turns Anne’s head, but because Helena has so cannily exploited the programme’s format to avail of a quick getaway.

“She’s just sucking up to you because you took her all the way to Portugal,” says Breege, the realist, somehow finding an extra edge in every syllable. But while Breege’s assisted-living ready cottage in Swinford (“actually the lake district of east Mayo”) does win out, there is one stubborn hold-out against downsizing. Namely, the property market.

A caption tells us that Anne has “stalled the digger” on her move, “until she receives a firm offer on her own home.”

Trading down is one thing, but there may not be as much competition among those currently willing and able to trade up.

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