Home has been somewhat redefined for our family over the last couple of years. Paul is from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire then Cornwall, I am from Lancashire. We met in London then after a few years moved to Kent where Chaos and Mayhem were both born. When Mayhem became seriously ill we were lucky enough to be visiting my family in Lancashire and as he was hospitalised for over a month in Alder Hey, Liverpool, we were blessed with having their amazing support; Being so close to ‘home’ was just what we needed at that stressful and emotional time. In Alder Hey I was in our little booth in the Cardiology Ward with Mayhem, and Paul was just five minutes walk away with Chaos in the amazing Ronald McDonald House, both became a second home as we were ‘living’ there for such a long time.
Mayhem’s illness is the reason that we packed up our belongings and left our busy working lives and home in Kent, in search of a some well needed quality family time. Whilst Mayhem recovered we had the chance to spend some amazing family time together and travelled, living in Portugal, then Spain. At the end of this month it will be two years since the anniversary of his operation to remove the tumour and life for us is changing again.
Living a more simplistic life, not competing against society, spending money on clothes and possessions and enjoying being outside, exploring our environment and living in nature was so very idyllic. We chose to spend our savings having family time together, but spent them we have. We don’t want it to end but need to get back to work and earning money to support our family. During July we headed back home to the UK, to Lancashire to visit family, friends and predomanitely to sell, sort and sift through our 80 square foot storage container.
The task was indeed immense. Oh my, so much stuff! It is hard to imagine how much you actually accumulate. We had a two bed flat in Kent, rammed full. Before we put our possessions in storage we got rid of a load, and by that I really do mean tonnes of useless stuff, given to charity, sold on selling sites and dumped at the tip. It was only when we stepped back and looked at all of our possessions that we realised that our materialism was out of control. I had enough clothes and toiletries to run my own department store and the boys, ditto. Paul didn’t really have that much stuff, apart from his treasured skateboard videos/t-shirts and at least ten identical pewter tankards from his rowing days, oh and all of the parifinalia for his two bicycles. Even though we thought that we had only kept the things we actually wanted when we revisited our storage container we were again amazed at what we had actually kept.
So many unused or unworn clothes, the wrong size, the wrong look, out of date, out of style, out of control…just too many! Yes, I’m the guilty party here. The majority were bagged up and taken to a local shop that pays 45p per kilo, some to charity and some sold on eBay. Who really needs five different coats, only two of which you actually like or ever wore? Yes, it is nice to have a variety of clothes, to look nice and dress for the weather, but when you have limited space practicality takes precedence and so the clothing culling began!
It was one thing that really hit us smack bang in the face when we returned to the UK. After living in the Portuguese and Spanish campo (countryside) and getting back to basics was that we only spent money on our essentials. The need to have the newest, the greatest, the best label, car, toy, outfit, make-up, hairdo…were all pretty irrelevant, but in the UK they are a major part of everyday life. It shocked us both to witness and remember how very ‘convenient’ life in the UK is, but equally how very difficult too. We bought a second hand car and caravan whilst there as you generally pay a fortune for such things in Europe.
Why is it so much more expensive…because…and here’s the thing…people use their cars, caravans and pretty much all of their stuff, until it breaks, until it cannot be repaired anymore, until it has completely died and death and worn away to nothing. A five, ten, fifteen year old car is not frowned upon, not at all, it is normal. People do not judge you by the age of your car, the label of your clothing, or the size of your TV. It is indeed an easier life as you do not need to compete. Just enjoy. Oh and of course the English Summer. Lancashire is indeed so lush and green for one very good reason, the rain. Oh my, it rained every single day. Torrential downpours, drizzles, showers and constant rain, every type of rainfall you can imagine, we had it. Not quite the 40º constant sunshine we had come from!
After a month we finally had enough sold through the plentiful online sites and made numerous trips to tip and charity shops that we were happy with the little that was leftover. We packed up our car, named ‘the beast’ by the boys, as it is rather large and needed to be to pull our laden caravan, hitched up and headed off for the ferry. More about our Road Trip here.
So what next? After realising it was time to get back to work we wanted to use our skills and training as teachers but in a more free and simplistic way and still spend as much time together as a family as we could. So we’ve decided to continue our search for a more simple life and have headed back to live and work in Portugal. No housesit as yet, this time, but we have the caravan to live in until we find our place. One thing we have realised, which I am sure that most of you already know, is that it really doesn’t matter where we live; as long as we have our family together, we can make anywhere a home.