Before you begin the process of renting your house to another family, shifting your whole life into the loft so that you can live out your latest dream and travel the world for a year with your family, you will wrongly assume that you are living a sort of normal, clean, unattached life.
You will have this illusion that possessions mean nothing to you, that you’re a hippy chic that could wipe around her relatively clean and tidy house with a bleachy cloth and be out of the door and on the next plane to Florida before the sun sets.
And oddly enough, other people will have this misconception of you too.
They will come round to your house for dinner, see a clean-on-the-surface house; but will never be allowed to venture into the bedrooms.
They may see a dog that has just been walked and so doesn’t sit there with her teeth chattering when someone picks up her ball.
Or they might see kids that have just been rolllocked and warned that if they get their phones out at dinner there will be hell to pay. And finally, they will see a husband and wife that always seem so relaxed and chilled but who actually downed half a bottle of rum before you arrived.
You and I have a lot in common. Let’s be friends.
The Reality of Renting Your House Furnished While You Travel the world For a Year.
When I initially approached Brian with the idea that we could leave everything behind for a year and take the kids around the world, I remember him asking me what we would do with the house?
“Rent it of course!” I had ever so smugly replied.
I recall him commenting that the cost of storage for all our furniture would be astronomical and again I retorted with my already thought of answer;
“No, we will just rent it fully furnished”.
(this post contains affilliate links. They cost you nothing but we make a small commission)
I honestly believed that we would just pack a few bits and pieces into a wine box- is there any other sort of box?- and pop it into the loft.
What could we possibly have that we wanted to keep or that we even cared about?
At the most, that old pair of maternity pyjamas that I couldn’t bear to part with ’cause they’re comfy (and still fit me actually) and the one royal Doulton teacup that your Aunty bought you for the Queens Jubilee.
I pictured us four, handing over the keys to our furnished house, our passports in hand, smiling and relaxed. Excited at the thought of our year of freedom. No more work, no more homeschooling. Just us four, smelling of coconut oil. And roses.
Three weeks it took us. Three bloody weeks. That’s a long time to put a pair of pyjamas and a teacup into the loft.
Luckily, Brian spent a weekend boarding out the roof space. Putting boards across the beams so that we wouldn’t fall through the itchy fibreglass and into the bathroom.
It was a good job he did.
The space that used to house three boxes of Christmas decorations, a rocking horse and my old nip and fluff books from the 1970s is now bulging at the seams. There’s a whole housing estate up there. A Chinese supermarket, and a charity shop.
Eighteen banana boxes.
The image of the hippy chic and the coconut oil was fading fast.
LIKE THIS POST? PIN IT!
Renting Your House. The Cleaning. The Packing. The Cleaning.
And yes we had help. My mum was an absolute star.
Mums are always the best at cleaning, aren’t they?
Sadly though, I don’t will willl ever hear Tessa say those words about me.
I didn’t realise what a sh*t tip my spare room wardrobe was before my mum attacked it with her bottle of bleach. She brought her own bleach with her from her own house. To spray those filthy skirting boards in the spare room.
I would have done it sooner, the cleaning I mean, but what’s the point in cleaning the house when you’re all still living in it? I would recommend that you don’t.
I tried it and it was a nightmare. One weekend I had a funny turn and I cleaned the pantry from top to bottom. Only to watch in horror when five minutes later my teenager lazily reached for a tin of beans -while at the same time texting on the phone – and proceeded to knock all the zillions of poppy seeds out of the container, filling the little cracks down the side of the pantry door.
I spent the next 40 minutes wiping them up, so it didn’t look as though we have an ant infestation. After that, I gave up and waited for the bleach police to arrive with her extra strong supplies.
How Renting The House Affected The Family.
Brian turned into a raving lunatic. We all did in fairness, but Brian. Well, let’s just say I’m surprised he didn’t make the kids go and wipe down the bark of the trees in the driveway with a bleachy cloth. Bloody filthy those trees. Filthy. Rotton. Dirty.
And me. The woman who ever so gaily announced that she would be leaving all of her ornaments for the new family to enjoy suddenly turned into a compulsive hoarder.
“Shall we throw away this piece of driftwood with a pebble as an eye or shall we leave it on the fireplace covered in cobwebs?”
“Oh no no no, that’s special. That has to go in the loft. And don’t leave the metal robin bird with the broken leg that I bought from the National Trust 10 years ago. He reminds me of my brother. Get that packed.
Another banana box, please.
“What shall we do with these old knickers that look like something Rose West would wear? Bin?”
“No, no, no. Pack them away, please. They’re the only ones I can wear in the middle of the month when I get my bloated beach whale stomach”.
The kids were no different. In fact, now at least I know where they get it from. Ramming broken bits of Thomas the Tank engine track into the box behind the Rose West knickers and then trying to camouflage it by putting their onesie that they got for Christmas on top of everything. It doesn’t fit now, so God alone knows what it’ll look like in 12 months time. Tessa will look like that giant kid out of the Ready-Brek advert.
The pantry was a nightmare. It’s not until you pull out the marshmallows that you’ve been saving for bonfire night for three years that you find the hidden gremlins. The Stowaways. The bits and pieces that were hoping to make it through another year without being booted out.
I tell you, for a woman who cooks spaghetti bolognaise and chicken in the pan twenty times a week, I certainly have a lot of dried shiitake mushrooms and orange blossom water. The newly discovered hoarder in me found it torturous to throw them into the open mouth of the bin. I’ll admit. I kept lots of things. Just in case. The Sichuan peppercorns, for example, lived to see another year. I searched all over Wellington to find those, and they cost me a small fortune. They went in with the Rose West knicks, the broken Thomas train and the fleecy pink rabbit onesie.
One word of advice. If you do ever rent your house furnished, get someone else – preferably your mum who likes to throw out all your stuff ’cause it’s filthy – to go through your photographs. Or even better just get a big black bag and tip them into it. Don’t do what I did. Don’t sit there crossed legged in the middle of the banana boxes blubbing over the photo of Sonny when he had his first burp.
Pity I didn’t remember back to when the actual photo was taken, Ironically I was also blubbing. Through sleep deprivation and the fact that I wasn’t able to cough without wetting my knickers.
I left the sofas, just. I mean, it did say furnished I suppose. But not before I had cleaned them with the leather wipes that I’d been stupid enough to buy the day before. Leather Wipes. In reality, just baby’s bum wipes with a picture of a posh couch on the front and six dollars for the pleasure. All they did was made the leather wet and then when it dried it looked exactly the same.
Once all the zillion of banana boxes were in the loft – I swear, I thought I could see one peeping out of the chimney – we started to tackle the garden.
“If it’s immaculate when they move in it will have to be the same when they move out.”
Brian in his slightly manic Jack Nicholson voice.
I must have heard that about twenty times a day in those three weeks. Immaculate? It was like a bloody palace. Even the basket that sits at the side of the toilet, the one that holds the toilet rolls, the ‘Which” magazine and my nose spray, was cleaned of all its worldly belongings. I’m telling you. It. Was. Gleaming.
Even The Garden Didn’t Escape.
Luckily the garden maintenance involved a chainsaw and some hedge trimmers. For some reason, under sergeant majors’ orders, the hedges had to have a nice tight haircut before the day of the big move. I’m surprised we didn’t have to polish the leaves. I convinced Brian to entrust Sonny with this job but Brian, who was far too busy building a safety rail along the deck to stop the little kids falling into the sheep field and polishing the wood basket, probably didn’t hear me.
He couldn’t possibly have heard me say:
“Shall we let Sonny cut the hedges with the hedge trimmers? Oh, and by the way, he’s got his earphones in and is listening to his Ricky Gervais podcast”.
Whatever. He didn’t answer. He just stood there – glaring at the sheep to see if they needed a good drenching of bleach – so I rammed the hedge trimmers into Sonny’s joyous arms and went back to my business.
There are only a few things that will keep a teenage boy quiet. One is Snap-chat with unlimited data, two is his Grandma’s fridge, and three is having free reign of the hedge trimmers with miles of hedge just sitting there quivering, waiting for the testosterone monster and his machine to attack.
Yes, Brian had a point. Yes, the hedge did look a bit bald in some places, and yes, we know its taken you seven years to fill in all those wobbly bits – but – it saved us a ton of time, and I for one was proud of my boy. Of course, I was. He’s my boy. The lad can do no wrong. Unless it involves poppy seeds. Anyway. It will always grow back.
It felt as though it would never end.
So much for just renting the house furnished and swanning over to my mums with our rucksacks – smelling of coconut oil.
Instead, we looked like the Hillbillies as we drove away from our bulging house. We stunk of bleach, chainsaw oil and banana boxes. Us four. A Man with a twitchy eye, a wife with a bulging belly and no knickers to soothe it, a teenage boy with ringing ears and quivering biceps, a teenage girl with an attitude, a confused dog with chattery teeth and three feral cats.
Hello mum. We are here to stay for a couple of weeks. The adventure begins.
PS. We LOVE Housesitting. Want to Try it too?
If you have been following met for a while, then you will know that we traveled the World for one year. While we were traveling, we did a lot of housesitting. We are constantly asked how we did this and if we can share the website that we used. So here it is:
The initial ‘looking part’ is free. You can oggle all of the beautiful houses around the world that are waiting for YOU to look after them. Take a sneak peek here! (As I say, looking is completely free, so gander to your heart’s content).
Then, if you are serious about using Housesitting as a tool to travel the world for free (as we do), you can use my exclusive discount code to save yourself 20% by Clicking here.
Still not sure about paying for a Housesitting membership? Remember that the cost of a yearly membership (approx $80 using the discount code above) will be paid back (and more) on the first housesitting night. It really is that simple!
Loved this post, and what an adventure – have an amazing time!
Thank you Jennifer 🙂
Awesome Liz – wish we could have helped ?
You helped massively by keeping Tessa entertained Leanne, thank you! x
Shit you make me laugh! Bum we never got a coffee in but maybe it was for the best. You’re doing it!!!!!! Legendary matey legendary!
Oh, my lovely!! I have been flying around and haven’t had time to call you… We will save it until next year… We will have stacks to talk about then I bet! Good luck with the house build! X
Still v v excited for you!
Love this post! Such funny moments mixed all together with emotion I expect. Loving the new look to your site btw.
I’m looking forward to reading about your first adventure.
Ah! Thanks, Sophie!xx
This was great to read. We have considered doing something similar for long-term travel. It’s awesome to see some of the logistics behind what goes into it.
hope I didn’t put you off, Kevin!
Wow! I’ve been traveling for five years, three with a blog and definitely thought about this option when I finally buy a house. Thank you for being so candid about the experience!
Besides I only live by myself in a small apartment, I did practically the same… It IS quite the adventure, and it is a bit emotional to leave your own house, your “home” behind. But it is definitely worth it, considering the adventure that waits for your from the moment you actually leave it 😉
I have been looking at being a housesitter these last few weeks and its interesting to read this from the point of view of someone letting out their property.
Oh, how I feel for you! We’ve done it twice. First time in 2006, when we packed everything into a storage shed and sold the house for a good profit – which in 2008 the GFC ate up. And then again in 2013, when we left for our current trip. This time around we sold more because from the first trip we had learned that there wasn’t enough worth keeping and paying storage for. This time I boarded up the garage to store tools and a few other things we feel are valuable enough (mostly for memorabilia sake). We worked extremely hard until the last hour – or actually beyond the last hour…
That kind of stressed me out. Mainly cause I am a minimalist or at least think I am. My mom has always been a hoarder and I like my stuff. But after many of us lost everything we owned after Hurricane Katrina came to New Orleans, I learned that stuff was just stuff and I try to get rid of most things that dont hold real memories.
I think though I would be like Brian cleaning and storing stuff cause I can get a bit OCD when putting stuff away.
Good luck on this great bucket list adventure with your family!
Oh you made me laugh today! I can just picture it. We have moved many times, so I know what you went through. But getting the house ready for someone else must have been something else. I loved the image of you sitting on the floor blubbing through mountains of photos – I do that each time we move – and conveniently forget the hard yards at the time. Have a great adventure!
I’m glad it’s not just me then!Thank you for your comment Jo x
Thank you very much for the honesty here. I must admit this is something that I have thought of doing from time to time.
We have never considered long-term travel and I cannot imagine what it must be like to leave your home, your belongings to someone else. I’m pretty sure I’d see a very different side of myself (and a possessive one at that) if I were in a similar situation as yours!
Hilarious – I am hoping to persuade my husband to do just this next year – but never mind 3 weeks of packing up, we are on YEAR FIVE of our downsizing and decluttering journey. Currently getting the photos we have decided to keep in one album. I threw out thousands 4 years ago (the ones you will never have out on the mantlepiece) and we are still sifting them. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now and we are well past the blubbing and oohing and ahhing stage thank goodness. Now it is agreed that one album, immediate family, in chronological order as a legacy for our children. And the Victorian/Edwardian ones of complete strangers that we don’t want but know they are special will form part of an archive project for someone else. What resonated with me was the contents of the pantry – we live on chicken traybakes and pasta dishes so why do I have 2 types of bloody quinoa in there? Baffling, as we had emptied it 2 years ago when the builders moved in and we moved out. I also think (hope) that the packing up will not be as onerous as it was for you because I have spent five years getting rid of stuff. Although stuff does seem to keep creeping in. Why is that? Who keeps buying these books? Oh, that would be me….
Haha! Thank you Coral! My pantry makes me look like a goddess in the kitchen but like you all we ever eat is chicken and veg! Keep your hopes up… where there’s a will there’s a way!
Amazing!! Loved your post. How did you handle landlord/property management type stuff while away? My husband and I are trying to plan a trip for my but are unsure if it’s worth paying a property management company…but may have to if there’s a potential to not have cell reception all the time. So many things to consider!
This was a fun read! I can relate so much to Brian, I would do the exactly the same about cleaning, its just the way I am, maybe because I am a Virgo but I do that with stuff I lend to my friends as well. Like if I lend them a bowl and they use it, wash it, then bring it, well it doesn’t matter! I will wash it once more myself 😀
Glad that you enjoyed it Steve! If you are ever in New Zealand give Brian a call and he’ll get the bleach out and a nice cup of tea…🤣