Today we moved out of my dream house.
Except that it wasn’t.
For 7 years, I’d driven past this incredible mansion and admired it. Coveted it. I’d amused myself by wondering about the sort of people who lived in it, what they were like, how they earned their money and what they were eating inside that huge, beautiful building- I’m weird like that (and I’m ALWAYS thinking about food!) I especially loved the little round window above the beautiful black front door. It reminded me of a hobbit hole and I thought that anyone who lived there couldn’t help but be ecstatically happy every single day.
When we started looking for a property to rent 18 months ago, and this popped up in my search engine, I knew we were going to live there before we’d even been to see it. I mean, come on- how many people actually get an opportunity to live in their dream house?! Who cared that it blew our rental budget right out of the water. Who cared that the running costs would be sky high? This place was MINE.
The house is stunning- a Victorian era mansion. Turns out, the building was once one big house, but has now been split into three. Our wing (yes, we lived in a wing- tick that box right off my bucket list) had huge ceilings, large authentic sash windows, a big kitchen and a real log burning fire. Oh, and high-speed internet. After 14 years living on a boat, I was in heaven.
For about a week.
Why did we rent a house in the first place if we like boatlife so much?
We rented this house for two very specific reasons. The first was to help homeschool our daughter through her GCSE exams. The exam centre is just down the road and the centre also provides GCSE English lessons once a week which helped her (and me) cover all the relevant information she needed to know. Not easy when you’ve only got 8 months to cover a two-year subject plan. By moving somewhere where she could get to the exam centre, she was able to get a break from my teaching (or trying to ram the information into her brain) and see an ACTUAL teacher (is that cheating in the homeschooling world?!) Plus she got to talk with other homeschooled students which was definitely an advantage to a friendly and sociable child who missed the interactions of school.
The second reason we rented a house was to look after my mother-in-law during the winter. She lived on a static caravan park which closed between the beginning of January and beginning of March every year, so she needed to find somewhere else to stay during that period. The year before, she’d lived on the boat with us….. let’s just say we were more than happy to rent a house for 6 months in order to have a bit more space between the four of us. Our boat is big…. but not that big!
However, as you might know, she sadly got very sick the week we moved into the house and she never recovered. The first 3 months we lived there we spent most of our time at the hospital. It was a weird and horrible time and it most definitely tainted how we felt about living there, not that any of it was the house’s fault. But going through that process of losing someone we loved is what kicked us out of our comfort zone and got us rethinking about our priorities and life goals, and the house was definitely a part of all that.
So those were the reasons WHY we rented a house and there was definitely a certain novelty to it. I enjoyed cooking in a bigger kitchen and I LOVED being able to get my shopping delivered to the front door. (Man, I’m really going to miss that!) Parcels turned up on time and if we weren’t there our very friendly postman left them somewhere safe for us. And when the first storm hit that winter, I snuggled up into our bed and was perfectly content not having to walk to the boat in the rain or be kept awake all night by creaking ropes. We also loved having a log fire and throughout the winter we used it pretty much daily (that’s partly because the heating in the house was bizarre- downstairs was always cold but upstairs was boiling!)
So there were (are) some major upsides to house life, yet I’m sitting here on the boat, in the rain, perfectly happy to never go back to that house again. Why?
It’s a difficult question to answer, and of course everyone would have different reactions to the same situation, but here are our top reasons for wanting to move back onboard:
- We missed the boat. We only went out on her once last year and we missed waking up to the incredible view across the harbour.
- Retirement. By moving out of that expensive rental, turns out I could quit my job! Uh, let me just think about that….
- Minimalism. The longer we lived in that house, the more stuff we were slowly (quickly!) acquiring. It was terrifying.
- Baby Bird- Her new college is pretty close to the boat, meaning it’s easier for her to get herself around when we’re not there. It’s also easier for her to meet her friends, be able to go to places and get a job. Bonuses all round.
- No more drafty rooms! I’d forgotten how bad single glazing was- and how much wind an ill-fitting door can let in.
- Safety. After a horrible experience when someone broke into our garden and started messing around with our motorbikes, we never really felt safe there and we hated leaving the place when we went on holiday.
- The simplicity. There’s something about having less space that just makes me more grateful for it.
- It feels like home. The boat isn’t rented. It’s ours, and if we want to make a mess, we can. The house just never felt like home.
- The peace. On the boat, we don’t have barking dogs, screaming neighbours or a road right outside. Of course, there are houses which don’t have this either, but for us there’s just something special about the peace of the water.
As I was cleaning out the oven in the house yesterday, it was easy to find a million reasons not to want to be there anymore (most of them had to do with the oven!) but in reality we were very lucky, and privileged, to have had an opportunity to live in such a beautiful building, if only for a short while. Most people never get a chance to even look inside their dream house, let alone live in it. So for that we are very grateful.
So how did this house change my life?
I guess a better way of putting it is that our life goals changed. By going through the process of re-examining what was important to us, where we wanted to be in 5 years time and what we wanted to spend our money on, we quickly realised that we were no longer interested in paying out a lot of money on rent. The thing that matters most to us is time, and so we found ways of being able to find more time together and to do the things we’re passionate about.
By removing the expensive house and associated bills from our expenses, we were able to substantially improve our quality of life as I was able to leave my job. This means we can now spend much more time together, we can do things we enjoy doing and we can plan holidays without me needing to worry about whether or not I’ll be allowed the time off. For us, this was so much more beneficial than living in a posh house.
I guess the point of this post is gratitude, and also being accepting & open to the fact that sometimes your dreams change. Before we moved there, we didn’t own our beautiful motorbikes, hadn’t ever set foot inside a motorhome, and certainly hadn’t considered me retiring within 18 months! I’d have laughed at you if you had told me what would happen- yet it did.
Moving into that house was part of a chain of events, which slowly bought us to the realisation that we prefer a simpler life, a less wasteful life and a life where we’re not spending a ridiculous amount of money paying someone else’s mortgage! I’m not sure if we would have reached that conclusion so quickly if we hadn’t moved. Also, by living in our ‘dream house’ and realising it’s not what we want, we can’t ever say “ah, but if we lived in a bigger house we’d be happier/ calmer/ richer/ thinner”, because we KNOW that’s not true. Trust me, I was convinced I’d do yoga every day (in all that lovely big space) and I’d go to the gym every other day and I’d cook three course meals every night, full of healthy, fresh ingredients that nourished our bodies & souls.
But it didn’t happen. We were still busy, stressed, occasionally snappy & tired and resorted to convenience foods & takeaways far too often. I DID do yoga… about six times in 18 months. I also cooked a couple of three-course meals… as long as you count crisps and dip as a starter. And I weigh pretty much exactly the same as I did when we moved in. Which I guess is better than weighing more! 🙂
Are we ever going to live in a house again?
Of course! We’ve already bought our future homestead in France and that has a lovely house on it. But for now, our main base is once again our lovely boat. All three of us are loving being back onboard. It just feels like home. We feel confident that even though we’re travelling for most of the summer, we will still find time to use the boat in the best way it’s meant to be used: To explore, to have fun and to watch the sun set over the horizon as we sip a glass of something cold.
I’m in no way saying don’t go for your dreams. On the contrary, I’m saying DO go for your dreams… but always be open and accepting to the possibility that those dreams may well change, and that change could open new doors you never knew existed. Having more doesn’t necessarily make you any happier/ more content/ fulfilled. I actually believe that having less does- certainly for us. And maybe the same is true for you too.
Have you ever fulfilled a dream, then realised you wanted something else instead? Let me know below- I’d love to hear your experiences.