We’ve been back in England for a year and a half, and now that we know we won’t be going back to Canada, it’s time for our next adventure. This time it’s as much out of necessity as desire… we have outgrown our apartment, so it’s time to move!
I lived in rented accommodation for 18 years before I married Tom and moved into the flat he had bought before we met. When we went to Vancouver we rented over there, and rented out our flat here, then moved back in when we returned. So buying a home is all totally new territory for me. It’s exciting and terrifying in equal parts!
When we were in Vancouver we had a 620 sq ft apartment – it had one bedroom, one bathroom, a tiny kitchen but a decent sized living room with a huge window and French door onto our balcony. Tom worked from home in the corner of the living room, next to the window. When the pandemic hit, I then also worked from home at our dining table, and then moved into our bedroom where I made myself a comfy little nest for working and studying.
Our apartment never really felt small – except for the kitchen, which was tiny. We had only one worktop about 30cm in width to prepare food and drinks, and considering Tom loves to cook and I love to bake we did struggle with the limited space. But the rest of the apartment worked well! I started following accounts on Instagram focussed on small-space living, and enjoyed learning how to adapt what you have and create multi-purpose spaces.
Now we’re back in Southport we have a two bedroom 790 sq ft apartment and it somehow feels so cramped! I know we’ve introduced a new person into the mix, which obviously changes things, but we have so much more room here than our last home, it’s weird how quickly we’ve outgrown it!
Having given it some thought, I think there’s two elements to this – first, you adapt to what you have, and second, you manage your expectations as to what your priorities are.
Adapting to what you have naturally occurs – once you have space, you tend to fill it. When we lived here the first time around, it was bringing together each of our things, and also wedding gifts – our spacious flat more than met our needs and we filled it accordingly. When we moved to Vancouver all we had was a few suitcases, so we rented a smaller flat, filled it with what we needed and it worked great. Moving back to our two bed has been a bit of a squeeze because we have all the stuff that was in here before, plus an extra human and all her stuff! Prior to moving in with Tom I lived in a two bed flat to myself, and then a two bed house with a friend – my belongings list grew and shrunk as to the surroundings I was living in. If we wanted to, we could slim down our possessions to fit our space better, but this brings me onto point two!
Managing your expectations as to what your priorities are – this is the more important factor in my mind. You know what is important to you in terms of values and what you want from a home, and you’ll make sacrifices in some areas to get what you want in others. For example, when we were in Vancouver we didn’t need a lot of space – we spent a lot of time outside of our apartment, and had a more minimal mindset for inside its walls. We knew it was small so didn’t bring things in we didn’t need, and when we brought in something new it was carefully considered and sometimes replacing something we’d get rid of. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we are minimalists, it’s more just that mindset of knowing your space and how you use it.
Tom still works from home, and I am a stay at home mum with Maisie, so we’re home a lot of the time too. Our space has to fulfil different needs than when we previously lived here. Right now, Maisie has the smaller bedroom with our wardrobe in it, and we have the larger bedroom so that Tom can use 1/3 of the room as his office. Our living room is our dining room/play room/lounge and also houses Maisie’s wardrobe. We really are maxing out every space in our home.
That’s the necessity side of things – we have outgrown our space. The flip side is desire.
As I said above, when you manage your expectations of your space you can adapt to what your priorities are – our apartment is great, it’s bright, has a lovely shared garden, is really close to an amazing park and playground, has a decent kitchen and big living space. If we wanted to stay in Southport, I genuinely think we could rethink layouts and reimagine the space to make it work for us. I know of families with two or three kids who have happily continued living in a one bedroom apartment, so I know physical space doesn’t have to be a limitation. We would have made a small space work for us in Vancouver, so we know it’s possible here too. But… having lived in Vancouver we experienced a very different pace of life and lifestyle to what we were used to in the UK, and we miss it!
Within a ten minute walk of our apartment we had two supermarkets, six coffee shops, a dozen or more restaurants, green space, good public transport links and a beach. Within 30 minutes by car or bus you’d be downtown with theatres, shops, and more food and drink. A further 20 minutes you’d be at Grouse Mountain, passing through Stanley Park on your way, where there was an aquarium. It’s cosmopolitan living, and once you’ve experienced (and enjoyed) it, it’s hard to go back! So although Southport is lovely, it just feels too quiet for us now.
So having made the decision that it’s time to move, we needed to figure out where to. We made a list of what we liked in our neighbourhoods, trying to find somewhere that aligned with the must-haves.
We have a few friends in Manchester, but neither of us are that familiar with the city and it feels a bit intimidatingly big. We’ve toyed with the idea of Warwick after a lovely short break there. And we’ve been told that Bristol is fantastic and fits the bill for our desires. All of these locations carry a heftier price tag than we can realistically afford, without being too far out of the city, and one of the real positives of where we are now is being close to family, so we don’t want to go too far.
Liverpool is a city we both love and used to visit a lot before we moved away. There’s areas of the city with lots of independent shops and cafes, there’s open green space, beaches close by, and people are generally very friendly there and love where they live.
After chatting to friends, and a couple of visits, we decided to focus our search around Sefton Park. Gradually our search area has got smaller and smaller as we’ve narrowed down neighbourhoods we like and that seem to have a decent amount of people our age and life stage living there as well as the amenities we desire.
There’s a lot more steps ahead on this adventure, so I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the first! Next time I’ll talk starting to browse houses, must-have lists for your home, church, and timescale.