Friday, August 10, 2007

Living the Dream

This is post number 5 in a series about my journey toward a simpler lifestyle. Not that there is much "simple" living going on during this particular time. LOL.

If you haven't read the first 4 posts, you might like to do that first:

Post 1: A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step
Post 2: Joe Dominguez
Post 3: Tracking Spending
Post 4: You Cannot Steer a Stationary Ship

For years, whenever we drove past this farm, DH and I would simultaneously turn to look up the driveway, wondering if we'd ever make the move to live here. Then we'd laugh about the fact that we'd both done the same thing and wonder out loud as to whether or not we'd ever build a house here. It was obviously a dream deep within our hearts to have our own home, here on our own farm.

At that time there was actually an old house sitting here. A VERY old house, built in post-war times with a hodge podge of materials and moved piece by piece from the other end of the farm to here. Some people were quite upset when we knocked it over but the reality was that it would have been VERY expensive to fix and even then we would have ended up with an old home, built with low quality materials and no 2 doors the same size. The last person to live here was quick to defend our decision, pointing out how bad the condition of the place was even when she'd lived there 20 years before. It wouldn't have been safe either - a puff of wind blew over two of the walls of the outside toilet and garage that we had been considering leaving standing. In the end the whole lot was dismantled, bulldozed and buried in a hole.

Once the house had been bulldozed and the site prepared for our transportable, it became quite apparent to those around us that something was happening here. We then got a lot of comments about what a beautiful spot this would be to live and that a lot of people had driven past and thought it was such a shame that no one lived here.

The way we deliberated for years over whether or not to build and move here, you'd think making that decision was going to be the hardest part of the process. :-) Unfortunately not. Once the decision was made to build and move, we had to make the choice between building a more solid brick home (on which there was a 3 year wait for builders at the time) or spend half the money and less than 12 months building a transportable home.

Then we had to decide on a design and a company that we wanted to purchase our home through. That was easier said than done as well. We narrowed it down to 2 companies but we hadn't come across a design that really suited what we wanted. In the end I sat down with an outline of the largest single lift home we could have and designed our own!!!

Designing our home was a bit of a surprise for me. Up until that point, where I would live had always been decided for me. My first flat I agreed to without having ever seen it (my parents viewed it on my behalf). Our first home as a married couple was a house owned by DH's parents in the town (rental was scarce so we didn't have any other options) and then when we moved into the farmhouse, it was expected that we would live there for at least the length of our working lives. Now, I had the opportunity to actually *choose* a home AND choose all of the colours for both inside and outside AND I got to draw up the design as well. It just wasn't something I'd been expecting to ever do (especially the design my own part).

Talk about overwhelming!!! So many decisions, so little time. There's nothing like drawing something on a piece of paper and hoping against hope that it's going to look alright when it's built! Too bad if it doesn't cos you're going to have to put up with it for a VERY long time. The pressure!!! Add on to that the fact that we didn't qualify for a regular home mortgage as we were placing the house on acreage - so we had a bit of rigaramole trying to work out finance as well.

Hang on a minute - what happened to our plan to simplify our lives? This sure doesn't feel all that simple!!! But it is all part of the bigger picture to get to where we want to be in life. I think it is a part of simple living to KNOW what you want or what will make you happy and to chase after that. I think many people in our society chase after money with an expectation that more money will make them happier. Whereas many who move down the path of Simple Living recognise that money alone ISN'T going to bring them happiness.

The farm didn't do all that well financially in the year leading up to signing the contracts for our house and we spent many times scratching our heads wondering if we were doing the right thing. It was something we prayed about a lot and God kept telling us to trust him. That can be easier said than done at times! :-)

Just as we were about to head over to Adelaide and sign the contract, our eldest son got sick and ended up in hospital. We had to postpone the contract signing and hope it didn't affect our quoted price. DS recovered and we got the contracts signed. Then came the fun part - looking at tiles and paint colours. The funniest thing about our tile choices was that we visited the tile place several times and had settled on what we like within the range that was covered by our quote. Then on the day we went to record all the selections, we took one final look and completely changed our minds in about 2 minutes. LOL. All those hours of looking and deliberating, only to spot a different tile that we hadn't spotted on our other visits and decide that that was the one we actually wanted.

This is a photo of the tile we ended up choosing as a border tile in our bathroom. The blue underneath is our tablecloth, not the colour of the wall. I have a spare tile floating around. :-) It is soooo much nicer than what we had chosen before so I'm really pleased we spotted it, even if it was last minute.

Most of our colours, we selected to be very neutral so that we could add colour or change colours with a few accessories. We have a lot of cream throughout the house. Even our ceilings are a cream colour rather than white. We had them painted a half strength of our wall colour. It gives the home a much softer feeling than white ceilings do. That was an idea that we copied from one of the display homes we looked at.

This is our bench top. What we had originally chosen was no longer being made by the time we chose our colours so we had to make a very fast decision on what to have. Somebody commented to me that it was a very "Jodi" colour. I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not but I like it and I guess that's all that matters.

It took a bit of a balancing act but we wanted to build a *nice* home for a reasonable budget rather than a *cheap* home for the least amount of $$ spent. One of the misconceptions of simple living is that it involves living as cheaply as possible. For some people this is the case and for most people I think frugality is an important part of achieving the type of lifestyle they like. But even frugality is about *mindful* spending in my mind rather than simply *cheap* spending. We spent extra on insulation, a solar hot water service and a recycled water system. All of these things fit well with our values and reduce our consumption of water and electricity. We also made a few choices on extras to turn our house into a home. Colourbond for the roof and guttering etc, a rendered finish to give the house a more solid look and some decorative touches like a nicer wood trim and more decorative doors etc. And a spa bath in the bathroom. :-) Now we don't need to go away in order to have a retreat. Can only use it when we have enough water though - we don't have any piped water here, just our own stored rainwater.

The drama didn't end once all the colour decisions were made though. Just when DH was about to begin dismantling the old house, he had an accident where his motorbike hit a kangaroo and he broke a couple of ribs and his collarbone. Now how we were going to get done what needed to be done? Thankfully some friends came to the rescue and had a house dismantling day.

I'll never forget the day we travelled to Adelaide to have a look at our partially built house. I was so nervous I thought I was going to wet myself. LOL. What if we hated it? What then? We walked inside and there were building materials everwhere. Doors lying against walls, not yet installed.... well, you can imagine what a half built house would look like. That day I fell in love. I loved it so much I almost cried. Our house! Our home! MY creation! Our dream - in the flesh. It was real! It was happening. And I LOVED it!!! I think it's like when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time. Suddenly all the horrible moments of pregnancy and birth seem to vanish into thin air. That's how I felt about all the dramas we'd had leading up to that moment.

I look at our house now and wonder how on earth they drove that 500km on the back of a truck!!! It's kind of mind boggling really. But I saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I thought it was going to slip off the back of the truck as they manoevered it into our yard. Funnily enough (well actually it's only funny in hindsight because it didn't happen), the guy driving the truck thought he was going to lose it as well. You could actually see the whole house slip sideways as the truck tilted on an angle! My baby splattered all over the highway would NOT have been a happy sight. The trucking guys suggested that next time we might want to order a smaller house. DH just laughed - we weren't planning on there being a next time!!!

Because we were only moving 10km, we moved ourselves. It was quite a few weeks between when the house arrived and when we could actually move in. The painters came and rendered the outside for us. We needed the electrician to wire everything in and install our solar hot water service. The plumber had to come and install our recycled water system as well as connect the house to both that and our water supply (rainwater). Then the electrician had to return to wire up the recycled water system. Floor coverings needed to be laid. A makeshift fence had to be put up so our 1 year old didn't end up down on the highway. DH laid some roll-out lawn so the kids weren't playing in a dust bowl or mud bath while we attempted to grow lawn. The list of tasks seemed endless.

So while all this was going on. I was moving our gear in, 1 ute load full at a time (we had a 4-door ute as our family vehicle at that time). There is nothing like having to pack and cart all your belongings one load at a time to make you realise how much STUFF you have. We had only been living in the farmhouse for 5 years and although we added 2 children in that time, I hadn't realised how much STUFF we really had.

DH likes to remind me of the day I moved the contents of our pantry cupboard. We had been trying to use up as much of our food on hand as possible so that we didn't have to move it all. When it came to packing it all up - I still had 4 reasonable sized boxes of pantry stuff. When I put it in my pantry cupboard - it looked almost bare. I said to DH on that day, "I never ever want to fill this pantry up with food". I knew it would take a LOT of food to fill it. Guess what....said pantry cupboard is full!!!

One of my simple living goals has been to reduce the amount of stuff that we have. This house is smaller than where we were living and we have no alternate storage space (not even a shed) which I think has been a good thing for me. Any stuff we have is right in my way - it's a good way to encourage decluttering. I know I'm still a work in progress in this area and recently I've been trying to get back into regular decluttering efforts. I really LOVE the idea of having less STUFF. And all the time I'm decluttering, I find I'm much less inclined to go out and buy more stuff to add to our home.

The first night we slept here was awesome. We were living our dream! What a fantastic feeling!!! :-)

Next Instalment: A nervous breakdown? That wasn't part of the plan.....


emma.jean said...

Congratulations, Jodi! I especially loved your description of seeing your half-built house for the first time... :)

lightening said...

Thanks Emma. :-)

Susan said...

really enjoying reading all about your journey. look forward to the mext installment!

Lisa said...

You write so well Jodi :) I can so relate to your decluttering efforts. Mine are very stop start, but I am definitely trying to buy less. I think it is a good way to at least feel I have some control.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing - would love know what the inside plan of your home is like seeing as you designed it all yourself! Clever girl!

lightening said...

Thanks everyone. I'm glad you're enjoying my "journey". :-)

The floor plan is basically just a mix up of other house plans (well I guess that's obvious). We were going from a 180m2 (approx) home to 150m2 home so I wanted to make the best use of space possible. Perhaps I can take a photo of the floor plan so you can see - give me a few days and I'll see what I can do. :-)

Lisa said...

L, this is exactly where we were about 5 years ago. We wanted something that suited us, something that would enable me to leave the workforce, and we ended up designing our own place and building it ourselves from scratch. It was one hell of a journey! Now at least when we see features that could have been better designed - they're our mistakes and not someone elses! I'm enjoying reading about your journey. There's so much here for me to think about and apply to our lives here. Thankyou.