From One Day, to Day One – The Renovation Project

Three years ago I moved to Auckland.

… Skip a lot of back story because today is not the day for that.

Onto the part where I tell you that I worked my f*cking butt off to become the only employee to join the management team within 3 months. I then ended up running a store for the company I was working for. I had a boss that saw and believed in my abilities and it made all the difference.

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An extremely hard decision. Declined an offer to attend Massey University to finish my studies, in order to work full time to afford to see my children.

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Within my first weeks I worked 6 days hard labour setting up 3 new stores across Auckland.

This story is not about my career. I’m just making an attempt to portray the fact that I worked long hours, including while pregnant, leading my team, developing new staff, and accelerating my learning and skill set to put me in the position to be able to provide for my family.

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A coffee table I refurbished and wrote a poem on with chalk. I’d worked every weekend for months and then my shifts changed so that I got Sundays off. Sunday is still my partners only day off and we try to keep them as family day.

The hard work paid off!

I was able to go out hunting for a place that would house between 2-7 people on any given day. 2 because at the time it was just my partner and I, we hadn’t had our daughter yet, and 7 for when my big kids were staying with us.

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We managed to secure a great little place, at a semi-reasonable rate (for Auckland) close to family and my work.

But then the baby came along, and for reasons beyond me, I never got the chance to move my children up as I had always hoped. My plans to return to work changed. Her arrival had triggered a release of emotions and anxiety that I had been holding in for years and it crippled me.

Even though I returned to work briefly (for a new company that poached me!) I quickly realised I needed to take some time out to try and get my mind right. Plus I’ve always been at home during the early years with my children and because of my inability to be with my older children, everything in me wanted to  be at home with this precious new baby. Waking her every morning before the crack of dawn so that I could make life work when we were barely sleeping as it was, just hurt my heart.

With my mental un-wellness in full effect we came to the conclusion that for the next few years, I will be a stay at home Mum.

So here I am starting at the bottom again. No high trafficking blog that pays me to write, no 9-5 career giving me a hand with a nice little paycheck. Heck, I’m not even eligible for help from the government. All I have is my little family and a head full of ideas that may or may not pay off in the long run.

Around about January 2017 my partner and I were driving through the Coromandel Peninsula. My older children had just flown home to begin the new school year and it had been about 6 months since I had been working. As we were driving we were having a discussion about life. As you do! I started explaining how tight our finances would be from this point out, and I felt as though it was my fault. I’m the one with baggage.  It’s my brain that turns on itself daily. I bring the extra mouths to feed. I’m the one not earning a paycheck.

My partner… being the loving man that he is wouldn’t have a bar of that and reassured me that we were completely fine and we would find a way.

As we continued our weekend adventure driving around exploring new beaches and enjoying the break from reality, basking in the sunshine, an idea came to me. Clear as day.

New Zealand housing is the most unafforable in the world. This counts for renting too. Particularly in Auckland. On a single income, it’s almost impossible! The average price of a rental in Auckland is $528 per week for a 3bdrm home. For someone starting out working, an average 40 hour week income is $504. An adult minimum is $630. When you’re adding in food, transport, (children!), power, phone and who knows what else… you’re left with a horrible reality. We are fortunate enough that  my partners income is reasonably above that but even so, the struggle is real.

So here’s what hit me.

We live near family. We LOVE being close to them and they never wanted us to leave and go off on our own in the first place.

We were on our way to struggling to keep a house that wasn’t going to serve our needs in the long run of life. As I saw it, we had 2 choices – Keep paying for the rental property and get closer to being lost in a cycle of debt, never progressing any further in life because financially we were stuck. Or suck it up and talk to our families about the possibility to come home, renovate the sleepout, contribute to the running and upkeep of the household physically and financially, whilst saving to be able to 1: purchase our own home, 2: fly between the North & South Islands of NZ regularly to be with the children, 3: not work ourselves to death struggling to survive.

The second option seemed to make more sense, so we sat down to do some math, worked out a 5 year plan and approached our family.

I am forever grateful that my MIL responded so positively. In fact, our entire family did. My Mum, Aunt, Uncle, our cousins, friends, siblings. I hear that my partners Nana in Tonga began to cry tears of happiness when she heard we were coming home again. They have not judged us, but been accepting and willing to help us.

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I am in love with this family ❤

My children are also our biggest cheerleaders which I appreciate to no end. They know how hard it was for me to walk away from a home that housed all of us after working so hard to have the ability to get it in the first place, and they constantly reassure me that the end result of achieving our goals is absolutely worth the sacrifice. Children are wise beyond their years…

I also know that I owe my partners brother a huge thank you in some way, as it was him that gave up his space to allow us to move in and take over.

I’m sharing a little example of how it works traditionally with a Polynesian household, below. It’s very common in many cultures really. I was raised in a household where duties were shared among the generations and having lived for so many years away from support (away from my parents from 14, out on my own by 17) I understand just how much a system like this can be beneficial.

Kin groups were also the basis for Polynesian social hierarchies. In general, people traced their ancestry through the male line, a system in which children belong to their father’s lineage (patrilineality). After marriage most couples resided with the husband’s family (patrilocality). Thus, a typical family consisted of a senior male, his sons and grandsons, their spouses, and the group’s unmarried children.

^So that situation right there, that’s us now. Except our senior is female.

The idea appeared in January but it wasn’t until September that our lease on the rental was up and we were able to move on. So we spent our time enjoying our space and getting used to the idea of downsizing and joining the small space living gang. The second to last week of August my brother in law moved back into his bedroom in the main house and we set to work trying to stay positive that we had made the right decision.

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My face after the first time seeing our new ‘home’. I wanted to run away and change my mind but too late!

We had one Sunday that weekend to get in there and start prepping the place for our modest makeover. We pulled up rank smelling rugs, scraped leftover carpet tape, removed staples and random phone lines, took down moldy curtains, wiped down moldy window frames, I personally collected over 2 handfuls of DIRT from the front door railing, my partner took on the bathroom…. and WOW. He’s my hero! You’ll see why. We scrubbed our tiny space for 8 hours straight. It barely made a difference but we walked away proud of the little impact we had made and hopeful that we could turn the place around.

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Wallpaper running away from the walls.

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A rug that had started to grow mold. This made me want to cry! But I figured out the culprit and my partner fixed the issue.

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Before we moved my partner lived in here. He thought it was a perfectly ok idea to have a dart board right there. A million pin holes later! Honestly, that entire area (and others) were full of them.

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The photo doesn’t do it justice. The smell was worse.

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It’s a freaking miracle.

You can see why I’m singing hallelujah over the bathroom, right?

This small (mammoth) eight hour cleaning effort ended our Day 1 of the renovation project and began my new love affair with sugar soap wipes.

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I’m not even kidding. They’re fantastic. They made a long process *that* much quicker and easier to get through. I’ll be using them for E-VER-Y-THING.

We gathered up our cleaning supplies called it a day and much to our exhausted souls’ despair, headed home to figure out what to make for dinner.

Total Spend to complete Day 1: $76.46.

(In reality $40 but I lost the receipt to break it down properly.)

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