Our apartment – before!

Quite a while ago I realised I’ve never shown proper ‘before’ photos of our apartment. We moved in exactly 7 and a half years ago to our apartment which was a typical Dublin apartment. It wasn’t well looked after, but that reflected more on the previous tenants than our landlord [who lives abroad and used an agent to lease the apartment on his behalf, so he never saw the apartment between the time they left and when he visited 2 years ago]. With our moving date fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to share the photos I took of our apartment the day we moved in. 
Please keep in mind I took these photos before I even had the notion of a blog in mind, so they’re not great photos. They’re not taken from the best angles nor did I step back far enough to get proper pictures of the rooms and I didn’t even understand how to shoot brighter pictures, but still, you get an idea of what our apartment was like roughly 1,000 projects ago 🙂 …

I was lucky enough to capture this photo of one of our many storage heaters in its natural habitat.

For a long time I kept the apartment the way it was, until I slowly realised it’s okay to put the artwork and knick-knacks away. Then I crept in and repainted. And then chose bolder paints. And started to repair stuff. And then I started [carefully] dismantling stuff and packing them away and making the apartment a bit more homely.  

Just one photo of the hall and one of the then spare bedroom. It’s so strange seeing Cora’s room with a double bed in it – I’ve gotten used to it being her nursery. Both of those lamps on the window sill were broken so I brought them to the electrical recycling center soon after moving in. 

Our bedroom. Those lamps were broken as well. There was a bit of a broken theme going.

And last but not least, the bathroom. It needed some special help as whoever painted it before us hadn’t used bathroom-appropriate paint and the walls were patchy from the moisture. The colour on the walls wasn’t too bad, but in combination with the flickering yellowed bathroom light, it felt like we were in a horror movie. I later painted it in a less murdery shade of grey and in a mid-sheen paint to help combat the sweaty walls. 
I also managed to buy toilet paper. And I’ll make sure to leave the next family an actual entire roll when we leave. 

I really can’t believe how much work went into bringing our apartment back to a good place. There were many projects and repairs, but I loved doing every one of them. So many projects that it fuelled a blog! As much as it may sound like I don’t like our apartment, it’s been a huge part of our lives. Robert and I moved in when we were 23 and 24 years old. We graduated college together while living here. We got engaged, we got married, we traveled the world and we had Cora. I’ve been offered many design opportunities from sharing projects that happened around our apartment. Even though it has a lot of downsides [you can’t shower for more than 10 minutes, the water pump is so loud it wakes our neighbours and you can’t turn the radio on if the hall light is on at the same time], it’s still been such a big part of our lives. We’ll be sad to leave, but at the same time, I do feel proud to be leaving it in a happier condition for the next family to enjoy.

To see what our apartment looks like now, check out my home tour tab!

The reality behind our big move

While us moving to Canada is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, it’s only recently that we decided to move because we had to. Real life isn’t straight forward and while I do enjoy sharing projects, accomplishments and other lovely things, I also think it’s important to share when the shit hits the fan. Maybe it’s even a bit more important. Because real life is messy and you can’t slap an Instagram filter on it or slide the beautify bar to over 9,000.

This time last year I shared that our landlord was hoping to sell our apartment, but he delayed selling it as I was weeks away from having Cora at the time. In order for it to make sense for him to keep leasing the apartment, he said he would have to increase the rent. There was new legislation put in place earlier in 2016 in an attempt to cap the ridiculous rent prices, so landlord’s couldn’t increase their rent by more than 4% and no more than once every 2 years. Our landlord increased our rent by 20% for the second time in a year. It was the top of what we could afford but we strongly felt that if we challenged him on raising the rent so high, he would change his mind and sell the apartment.

It was against legislation to increase our rent so much and for the second time in a year, but we didn’t have much choice. Rent in our area [and across Dublin] was skyrocketing and what other landlord was going to accept us with an impending baby and two cats? No one. Plus, moving apartments at 9 months pregnant wasn’t something either of us particularly wanted. We accepted our new rent hike and got on with it.

After Cora was born, we started looking for somewhere to buy. For anyone outside of Ireland who may not be aware, there was [and still is, probably even more now] a housing crisis in Ireland. I don’t know how it started and I’m not great with those type of facts so I’m not going to pretend that I know it all. All I know is there aren’t enough houses. The price of available houses are beyond affordable. There aren’t enough places to rent and whatever places are available are appalling.

Here’s a cute photo of Cora to break up all the depressing paragraphs. 

I mean it when I say the period we were looking at buying was one of the lowest times I’ve ever been through. I started to feel so hopeless. For example, we found a house for €265,000. It was basic and the kitchen and bathrooms were haggard and needed to be completely redone, but for me that was almost a selling point! Imagining all the projects was making my head spin. I’d called to inquire about a viewing and the agent on the other end of the phone would say “… Just letting you know the current bid is €335,000“. The house had been on the market for 8 days. Every house we inquired about was in a bidding war. And there was no way we could keep up. The government failed horribly at attempting to help by offering €10,000 to first time buyers. This just drove the asking price of all houses up by a further €10,000. Minimum.

Call after call after call. Weeks and weeks and months went by and it was getting worse. We were getting nowhere and we felt so overwhelmed.

I was so overwhelmed that I ended up in a very bad place for a long time and was sent to therapy [I’m quite good at hiding things and deflecting attention to everyone else, but what made me go was when Cora saw me crying and looked upset at the sight of it. That tiny baby made me look after myself now more than ever]. I went every week for 3 months and I will say that if you currently are or you know you can go to bad places in your mind, please strongly consider going to therapy. The only way I can describe it is like decluttering and organising your mind. It takes time, but anything involving your mental health is beyond worth it. It took me months of therapy before I felt like ‘me’ again and before I felt like I was worth being allowed to be happy.

Around this time, one afternoon during one of Cora’s naps, I Googled ‘Ottawa’. Robert came home from work that night and all I said to him was, “what about Ottawa?” He looked up at me and said, “Let’s do it“. It happened that quickly. Like we were talking about ordering takeaway. Our initial decision, I should say, was easy.

As anyone who has emigrated will know, there are epic levels of paperwork involved. Robert had to apply for an IEC VISA [International Exchange Canada] to work, and he in fact had to wait and was in a pool to be invited to apply. That was nerve wrecking as there were only a certain amount of spaces available and we applied far outside that number. He was luckily offered a spot to apply so we applied, plus document signing and notarising and police certificates and 4 passports later, we were ready.

Another major reason for us to move was childcare. When Cora was a few weeks old, I called a few creches hoping to book Cora a place for daycare when I returned to work …

I’m afraid the only places we have available are in January at the earliest.
Oh that’s no problem, I’m not looking to return to work until April.
No, you seem to misunderstand. I meant January 2018.”

I’ve not been able to return to work because we can’t get Cora into a creche nearby. The cost of her going to daycare was also going to cost my entire monthly wages. It didn’t make any sense and I couldn’t go back to work so I handed in my notice [and gave my job to the incredible temp who had been covering for me].

Before we decided on Canada, we looked at renting another apartment as we were certain our landlord was going to sell. Buying was tough, but renting is near impossible. The average rent in our area is now €2,500 per month. That is the a.v.e.r.a.g.e. Meaning there are apartments going for more than that. The apartment we’re moving into in Ottawa is the equivalent of €1,000 per month. And is bigger than our current apartment. And better. I don’t know how people are doing it.

I’ve daydreamed about moving to Canada every single day since my family and I moved from Canada to Dublin in 2004. You may think I’m being overly dramatic, but thinking about something like that every day is very draining. Canada seems like a dream now. You know how some people felt about Avatar after it came out? That’s how I felt about Canada. Unobtainable happiness. I’ve thought about moving back to Canada every day for 13 years. And it’s been exhausting. And in case anyone thinks I’m the only one behind this move, Robert has been obsessed with things like hockey and snow and ice skating since he was a child [all of which is very un-Irish]. He’s a better ice skater than me.

There are many more reasons why we’ve decided to leave, but I don’t want to get into it [I did, and it was 4 more paragraphs, which I deleted] but we’re taking all of this as a sign that it’s a good time for us to move. We could very well move back in a few years, but for now, Ireland and us need a break. Maybe we’ll appreciate each other a bit more after some distance.

Big news for us …

For a long time I’ve been that duck analogy; attempting to look like I’m calmly paddling on a lake but in reality, my little feet have been paddling furiously under the water. After months [and in reality, a lot longer than that] of dreaming and planning, Robert and I are excited to finally share that we’re leaving our Dublin apartment and are moving to Canada. In 2 weeks!!!

Our rented apartment here in Dublin is sold, Juniper and Toshi are caught up on their vaccinations and vet checks, we start packing this week and we already have an apartment waiting for us in Ottawa [which I cannot explain how excited I am to see IRL].

We’re so excited, but I’m very nervous now. Really nervous. Like, wake up at 04:00 every night and think about the many ways of WTF are we doing?! kind of nervous. I know it’s natural, but I can’t help it. I’m probably so nervous because it would be so much easier to do nothing. It would be easier to stay and not move. And it has been. We’ve done that for a long time. But the reality is it’s no longer easy for us to stay. I’ll share why we’re moving in my next post because it’s the real life behind our move. But for now, we’re excited.
And nervous.
Very nervous.