I thought I would start doing these personal update blog posts because I know loads of you are interested in what goes on behind the scenes and in day-to-day life.
My business is so much tied up with my life and the two cannot really ever be completely separate. I’ll never share absolutely everything because a lack of boundaries can be dangerous, but when it comes to talking about the essence of how we are living our lives and what we are doing to be able to have more flexibility and freedom, I feel those are important things to share about.
The quick version of this blog post is that we’re selling our house and downsizing dramatically so we have less outgoings for a while. I’ve gone into detail about why this feels right for us, so read on if it’s something you’re interested in.
Some background information…
As you may or may not know, Kieron got made redundant during the early months of the pandemic in 2020, right before we had little Logan. Kieron’s heart wasn’t in engineering any more, but he wasn’t sure exactly how to move forward or what else he might want to do yet. So we decided he would be a stay-at-home Dad for a while and we’d see if my business income would be enough to allow us to do that.
We also had plans to travel in our campervan which we’d bought pre covid, and finally had converted in spring/summer 2021. Europe/the world didn’t quite open up the way we’d hoped, so all we’ve done in the van so far are a few UK trips. We knew if we did want to travel, KP would probably leave the world of work for a while anyway, so that was one factor in him not getting another job.
We were already toying with the “what if’s” and the “why not’s” as well. “What if my business could support us really well?”. My heart is very much in my business, and whatever shifts I have to take over the years, the freedom it allows me outweighs anything else.
And It has been fine, a year and a bit later and we are still happy with our decision, there hasn’t been one single month that we’ve not been able to afford to pay the bills as well as buy a few ‘nice to have’ things too. We LOVE the flexibility of both being at home and completely setting our own schedule.
BUT, we haven’t been able to actually save any money, and that feels like a huge thing that’s been missing. We did spend a chunk of money that Kieron had saved while he was still working on converting our campervan. We figured it was necessary for traveling and for holidays, and it’s a big asset that’s worth more now it’s complete.
I don’t think either of us realised *just how much* having one income would mean I’d have to work though. Along with a tonne of other things health wise in the family going on in 2021 it has often felt like a bit much. I was (am) working enough so that I can pay for everything we need to pay for, but also, that’s really hard with a toddler who needs his Mum really often too, even with Kieron at home. He is often pretty wakeful at night and only wants me. Sleep training and that sort of thing don’t feel like an option for us, so it has definitely been a challenge.
I’m being gentle with myself. It’s a lot of new responsibility all at once so I am really aware that I’m doing extremely well considering all the challenges.
I’ll also never forget the privileges I have for being born into this body, in this country, in this time in history, into this life where my challenges are significantly less than the challenges that others face.
Where we’re at right now…
So, this brings me to the Christmas period just gone where I finally had some proper time off after our decision to have the one income!
We’d been tootling along, everything fine, but like I said, not really able to *get anywhere*. It felt like we’d be stuck right where we were, in this hand-to-mouth cycle financially.
I’d already identified that I couldn’t work in the same way I’d always been working before having a child. It’s something you can’t really plan for, because every child is different, but also every Mum and every parent is different! People can advise you on what it’s going to be like, but it’s a learning curve and you just have to feel your way really.
I realised that my previously laid back approach to timelines with projects wasn’t going to work for me any more. In the past, if projects stacked up a bit, it was no big deal, I always caught up. But it has just been so damn hard to catch up in the past year with anything that’s gone on longer than planned. It’s not really anyone’s fault, I’m just glad I realised that I needed to change the way I was working.
So I toyed with really strict timelines and no set deliverables instead. Enter my 2 Week Design Intensive (as well as a few other new services) – and my God, it was night and day. Getting the project completed and out of the way during 2 weeks has just been amazing for keeping a clear head.
I still have my full branding process available, but having these supporting services with very set timelines means I can book less of the larger projects leaving more space to complete them and allowing me to be fluid still. They are the projects where I’m working with multi-layered businesses that perhaps span different industries. They do need the space and time for creative thinking and I can offer that when I know exactly (or near enough) when the other smaller projects are ending.
Sorry, back to now…
Over Christmas we’d got to talking about the future as you do. We talked about how the house we’re in is wonderful, we’ve renovated the whole place over the last decade, including major lansdcaping work and the garage built (my studio office is above the garage) and we do love it, but there are things that we’ve always wanted that just aren’t possible with this house.
I think the past few years have been seriously perspective altering. Finishing the renovation of the house once felt like the ultimate goal to me, but we’ve surpassed that now, and after becoming a Mum I’ve realised that it’s not all about how the house feels decor wise. That is important, but almost more important is how the house functions for us as a family and how we see our lives in the future.
Having Kieron at home and being as flexible as we are has brought those loftier dreams to the surface. Like, could we actually do these crazy things we dream about?
Things like owning land to raise a few animals on to give Logan a little slice of what Kieron had on the farm he grew up on. Having the space to perhaps have holiday lets as an income stream. Building our own house from the ground up. Living by the coast. Where could we move to while we’re not tied down by employment and schools locations?
A smallholding for sale sparks a whole host of thoughts
This all ramped up a bit when we saw a smallholding with 14 acres, a farmhouse, and farm buildings available for 450k in Pembrokeshire. Pembrokeshire is where Kieron’s parents live, so it was a place we’d always considered we could move to.
The smallholding was a fantastic price for what it is, and we wondered if we could afford it. So we had our house valued and were pleased to know that it’s now worth a lot more than we thought. It was bought for 140k and is now worth 400k after all the work we’ve done to it and the current housing market.
400k is not 450k though. We looked into mortgages and with me being self employed, on maternity leave recently, and with us having only one income, the bank would not even consider giving us anything more. And in fact, because a mortgage is paid off when you sell, and you take out an entirely new one on your new property…it wasn’t even an option for us to buy anywhere else at the same value. We wouldn’t even be able to get our current mortgage again (don’t get me started…?).
We realised that if we wanted to move to a different property any time soon it would have to be somewhere that costs much less and would involve downsizing.
It sparked this whole discussion about how we were going to begin making our dreams happen if our only option was to downsize. Was that too much of a step backwards? We looked at house prices in other countries – take Canada for instance; if we moved to Nova Scotia we’d have enough left from the sale of our current house to buy somewhere with land out there and be mortgage free. And that sparked our thoughts about mortgage freedom and how great that would feel for me…how much less stressful day to day life would be.
Canada ended up being too far – being that far away from family now that we have Logan felt like too much.
But we thought about other ways. Perhaps downsizing drastically in the short-term would hugely benefit us in the long run? We do own over half of our house, so we thought about what we could actually do with the money left from the sale. How could we continue to live with this flexibility but begin working towards the future now, with projects for Kieron to get stuck into?
So what’s the actual plan then?
What we landed on was this: We can buy a big caravan to live in for a while…and buy a project house to renovate. That would still leave us some money to actually do those renovations, and I’ll just need to earn enough money to pay our much smaller outgoings, and can save whatever extra I have.
We’d flip the house, the idea being that we’d make a profit on it…and once it’s sold there’s no mortgage to pay back so the cash will be all ours. Having a towable caravan means we can then repeat the process, moving the caravan to the next site, hopefully increasing our cash pot again.
The end game is to have enough cash to buy some land and build the house of our dreams. By the coast. With room to have animals and holiday lets and whatever else we can dream up.
It’s a risk, as any investments and drastic plans are. But while Logan is young and not in school yet, and while we’re relatively young (and stupid?!!) it feels like it’s now or never.
We’ve gone through the renovation process once, and we won’t need to do everything ourselves as we’ll have enough money to pay for the big bits of work. It’s a plan that both Kieron and I are really excited about. In fact, it’s the only plan that we’re both fully on board with out of the many we’ve pondered. We’ve both always been interested in property, renovating, self-building etc.
And when we say caravan, what we mean is this baby. Perhaps not this exact one, but something close that’s towable with a pickup type truck, that gives Logan a bit of space to play and a separate sleeping space. Oh, and we are keeping our little campervan too – a studio space for me, plus we’ll still need holidays.
Downsizing in this way actually feels so expansive. I am really looking forward to consolidating all our belongings down to the essence of what we actually need. We don’t buy a tonne of stuff, but there is definitely a lot of sorting out to do.
We’re under no illusions that this is the easy way. My God, it really isn’t. But here we are, house on the market, excited and anxious to step into this new phase.
Living small for a while so we can reach our dreams a little faster and way more flexibly.
Wish us luck!