…and other crazy things our kids made us do!
By Emiliana Hall from The Mindful Birth Group
Having 2 young children and sending them to childcare for roughly 60 hours of a 90 hour waking week didn’t sit well with us. Especially as neither my husband or I were in love with our jobs! When I finished maternity leave with our second child, we took drastic action to not have to work in jobs we didn’t particularly like to pay for the childcare we didn’t want to have to be using. We decided to downsize on all levels. James quit his job and I went part time in mine. We sold our 3 bedroom house and bought a 2 bedroom flat. We got rid of A LOT of stuff. We put some of it in storage for 3 months, then decided to donate/bin the lot as we realised we didn’t actually need it after all.
The 6 of us (Me, James, our 3 and 1 year old plus 2 cats!) moved into a flat which was less than half the floor space we were used to, but really, we only lived in a few rooms of our previous 3 double bedroom house anyway. We missed our 80ft garden some days, and when our 3 year old asked when she could play on her trampoline again it broke my heart. But that’s why we invested in the next part of the plan….our prized campervan conversion! We used some of the house sale cash to buy and convert a Mercedes Sprinter and it meant we could just hop in it on nicer days and head to the woods or beach if we fancied going further afield. No garden maintenance that we just didn’t have time to do, the world was now our garden. We even went and slept in our local woods in the Campervan which seemed a bit odd to some, but the kids loved the adventure and it was really enjoyable for us too!
In the first 9 months of having the campervan we travelled around Italy, Germany & France. We then explored Scotland for 5 weeks, something we could only do by not being tied to a great big mortgage and restrictive jobs.
As well as working 3 days a week, mainly from home (or the van!) I started my own business teaching hypnobirthing & offering doula support to parents. Helping parents like this brings me so much happiness, and I’m just very fortunate that people are willing to pay me for it too! Finding something you can train in and work flexibly compliments downsizing perfectly. Taking pressure off how much you earn and doing something you love to earn the bit you do need to pay the bills is a fulfilling way to live day to day.
For James, being with the kids instead of going on a daily 2 hour London commute and being desk bound made him happy – it was tough some days but no two days are the same for us so he wasn’t really a 5 day a week stay at home dad.
After 18 months of living the downsized life, our daughter is now close to starting school and so we had to think about a longer term location and house again. The kids loved our downsized life- they didn’t care about having a big house in the slightest! They had had their mummy and daddy to themselves a lot and every day was an adventure. So we didn’t feel that we needed to buy a house that would come with a big mortgage too. It was more important to still have access to great outdoor spaces and be walking distance to a great school.
We decided to move back to and settle in Tring because of the incredible outdoor areas available on our doorstep, and the lovely community feel of the town. We’ve moved in with the amount of stuff that fit into our 2 bedroom flat and don’t intend on filling it up any more just because there is more space! We also didn’t get a house bigger than we needed to keep the mortgage and bills cost down.
Now we are at home more, we rent out our campervan so that it generates an income too – we make multiple revenue streams rather than just rely on one or two ‘main’ incomes which we learned can make life quite stressful. I reach mums with my hypnobirthing teaching through 1:1’s, an online course, an album on iTunes and group courses. I’m a birth and postnatal doula. I also coach digital marketing to business owners. Again, spreading out the risk of having 1 or 2 streams of income really helps to take the pressure off – especially if you don’t love your 1 job!
James is now an estate agent in Berkhamsted so hasn’t got the drag of the daily commute eating into family time. He’s always had a personal interest in property and loves helping clients to find their next homes. It’s all about finding something that you’re happy to go to each day. The money will always be secondary if you haven’t got the bill pressure behind you.
We’d love to self build a home one day- nothing fancy, something that works for us and our family and isn’t excessive. Zero mortgage would be the dream.
Downsizing doesn’t have to mean you’re taking a step backwards. Yes, it’s a complete lifestyle change, but when the walls you live in aren’t suffocating you with mortgage repayments, you free yourself up to look at life a little differently and the things and people around you also get the best of you too.
It’s just about taking that first step and not worrying what people say/think! You only get one life, a home is somewhere that keeps you warm and dry – not something that should stop you living that one life.
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