You may or may not have noticed that things have gone a bit quiet over here in Mrs Goodness land lately. That’s because we have been busy with the process of selling our house. The past 8 weeks have been an exhausting whirlwind of cleaning and fixing, open homes, an unsuccessful auction, negotiations, and a rollercoaster ride of anticipation, scary excitement, and necessarily quick changes in direction. Oh, and a bit of full-time mum doing a few days of paid work = zzzzzzzz. I’m pooped, and so Mrs Goodness has had to lay real low for much of this time.
Funnily enough, we had no intention of selling this house just 10 weeks’ ago! We live in a 100-year-old character house that I bought back in 2007 when I was single and sick of living in rentals. I got a 100% mortgage with the help of my parents who were prepared to put their house up as equity. For the first few years I had flatmates to help pay the bills. I had a job I loved and a good income. Then in 2010, I fell sick with depression and was unable to work enough to pay the mortgage. I tried to sell the house but was unsuccessful, so I moved in with my parents for a year and rented the house out. During that year my health improved and I also met my husband. He is 6’8” (about 204cm) tall, and not scrawny either I might add, so it seemed really serendipitous that I already owned a house with 11ft (3.4m) ceilings, a luxuriously wide hallway, and generous sized double bedrooms. Oh, and a double garage with double carport and extra parking – the perfect arrangement for a man who needed a BIG workshop! He approved 🙂 . So I moved back to this house with him, and since then we’ve had two weddings (we had a registry office one and then a celebratory one) and two children! We’ve had so many happy and love-filled family moments in this house, and it has given birth to Mrs Goodness and all my eco-experiments and ideas too. For a long while I thought we could live here forever.
Possibly from the outside, it looked like we really were living the dream here – we even have the dog and the picket fence! But the truth is, for the past couple of years my husband and I have both felt like we’ve been furiously treading water trying to keep afloat; living one mortgage payment at a time; dreading every creak, leak, crack, and call-out (why do plumbing problems always happen in the weekend?!); and frankly, we’re completely exhausted from it. The fear that any day we might start to sink has been so stressful, and it’s one that is hard to share with friends and family, particularly when things look so good from the outside…
I believe that our predicament is not unusual these days. We had two good incomes a few years’ ago, and we brought in enough money to pay the bills, the mortgage, save a little bit, and go out for dinner every now and then. Then we had children – after the first, we had enough savings to get us through a year of maternity leave before I returned to part-time work. After the second, we pulled just enough together to get by, and the plan was for me to go back to part-time work and leave the kids with their grandmother. Unfortunately, my employer wasn’t nearly as flexible and understanding about childcare needs as I’d imagined they would be, and I wasn’t as indispensible or valued as I imagined I was. I felt like I had to choose between my job and my kids (my youngest was 9 months’ old at the time), and so I chose my kids. At the time, it felt like a really difficult decision to make. I resigned from my teaching job, naïvely thinking I would be able to find another one, with flexible work hours and good pay, which would stimulate and extend my skill set, and allow for work-life balance – BAHAHAHAHAHA~!!! 😂 You are no doubt laughing smugly to yourself right now! Suffice to say, I have been working harder than ever this past year, looking after the home and kids and starting up Mrs Goodness and her little online shop, with no paid work in sight.
One night I turned to my husband and said, “What the heck are we doing? How can we be working so hard and feel like we’re getting nowhere? We’re so tired we can’t even enjoy where we are.” Let me just say, I don’t want you to think that my moaning was a sign of ingratitude, because it really wasn’t. We know we’re lucky, and how. We know that there are many people all around us (it is becoming more and more obvious and more and more visible every day) who are struggling to feed their children at all, who don’t have a home (let alone own one), who can’t get any work at all, who are incapacitated by poor health. We definitely know we are the fortunate ones. As we talked about our situation and our future, we felt like we’d been doing everything right, just as we were brought up to expect and expected to do, just as everyone else is doing, and yet it felt really unsustainable. Hanging on to the luxury of owning this house would have meant we would have had to compromise on so many other values we’d agreed were important to us, so we decided we needed to think outside the square if we were going to make things work for our family and our future.
By the next morning we’d decided to sell the house and embark on an idealistic, uncertain, eco-friendly adventure. Now, just 8 weeks’ later, we have sold the house and are getting ready to move out and into my father-in-law’s house across town. We are going to design and build an off-grid, passive, as-self-sufficient-as-we-can house with my father-in-law, by pooling our assets and resources. Our hope is that one day my parents will be able to join us too! Although there are so many unknowns in this plan of ours, we are super excited about our vision because even though our success is uncertain, we feel like this path has much more potential than the path we were on, to become a sustainable, fulfilling future for our family; one which is structured around our values rather than our income.
I look forward to being able to share our progress with you in this blog, in the hope that our successes and failures will engage and inspire you somehow.
For your interest…
A couple of years’ ago, I watched an interview of Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law Professor (now Senator). She talked about some of the problems facing the (American) middle class and it really resonated with me. I thought some of you may be interested to watch it, so here is a link to the youtube clip:
“Conversations with History: Elizabeth Warren” (PS. if you are short on time, skip to 38 minutes into the interview!)