Housing Crisis

Given the title, you might expect today’s post to examine falling real estate values or the number of homeowners defaulting on their mortgages. But no – rather than discussing such heavy-hitting issues, I’m simply writing about the fact that my husband and I have to vacate our flat in four days and have no place to live.

The backstory is long and complicated, but to summarize: DH left his job, we gave up our flat (thinking we’d be leaving the UK), DH found another job, we now need a new one. Unfortunately, this turn of events transpired just weeks before our lease was set to expire, prompting a frantic search for accommodation in the expensive and competitive rental market that is London. (We were told by an agent that it’s the tightest market they’ve seen in years.)

And by competitive, I mean that any new listing that’s in decent shape, and a decent location, is immediately pounced upon by some equally desperate soul. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, “That was let 30 minutes ago,” or “That one lasted just a few hours.” In a particularly heartbreaking instance: we found the “perfect” flat, and made a full-price offer on the spot. By the time our agent drove the 10 minutes back to his office to submit it, the couple who had seen the place just before us had arrived to put a deposit on it. It feels like we’ve been one step behind the entire time.

However, I’m not writing this post just to whine about our spectacular failure to secure new accommodations; I actually have a point to make regarding minimalist living.

The point is, we are not in a panic. Why? Because we don’t have a lot of stuff. Yes, we now have more than the two duffel bags with which we moved last summer (it’s hard to live without any furniture, plates, pots and pans, and cleaning supplies). But the amount is so little, and the value so low, that we’re not too worried about it. We can stash it in a small storage unit, or a kind soul’s garage, until we sort things out. To be honest, I wouldn’t lose that much sleep if we had to leave it on the street (I am frugal, though, so I’d prefer to avoid replacing the necessities).

If we had a house full of designer décor and furniture, I’m sure I’d feel differently. I’d be spending this week arranging movers, stressing over an appropriate storage solution, and paying untold sums of money to protect and transport our precious stuff. I’d be lying awake at night wondering if our sofa, or our art, or our vases would be secure from theft and safe from damage. Furthermore, I’d have to worry about finding a new home large enough to hold it all.

In a few days, our two chairs, coffee table, mattress, and handful of boxes (in addition to DH and I) will be adrift on the streets of London. Okay, that’s a little too dramatic: the stuff will probably be in storage somewhere, and we will be in a hotel. But instead of letting the situation cause distress and disruption in our lives, we will go with the flow, take each day as it comes, and be grateful that we live lightly enough to weather our own little housing crisis.

I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again: life is infinitely easier when you have less stuff!

47 comments to Housing Crisis

  • Mia

    So sorry to hear about how hard it is for you to find a flat right now. Indeed, it’s a good thing you have very little stuff. By the way, have you looked into subletting? Furnished apartments? Craigslist or similar sites? I don’t know how things work over there in London but these are probably some of the short-term solutions we would consider here in Berlin before going to a hotel. Anyway, really hope you find a place soon!

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks, Mia! We’re looking into short-term (furnished) lets this week — but still holding out hope of finding a place last-minute. :-)

  • tom

    The London housing market is horrible. I’m going through something similar in London as well, I’ve really struggled to find the next place.

    • miss minimalist

      I feel your pain, tom. And it doesn’t help that 90% of the “available” listings on rightmove and findaproperty are already let!

      • tom

        Or scams. 419’s with Western Money Union, requesting a scan of the receipt for the money you’ve sent yourself so they can yoink the money on your behalf in another country.
        It’s tough out there – good luck!

  • Julia

    Wow – so sorry to hear about your accommodation problems. We found just the same thing in Manchester last year – everything half decent was taken within minutes of it appearing in adverts. Well done for having so little stuff that you don’t have to worry about transport and storage, and good luck with your search. I’m glad you’re staying on over here!

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks, Julia — we’re thrilled to be able to stay! The funny thing is, we had no problems last year; now I realize that was just dumb luck.

  • Oh my–so sorry but so glad you don’t have the headache of having to move lots of stuff! Keep us posted!

  • Okay, somebody has to be first getting to those flats, so I’m believing that you will be the first to the best one of all! I agree with Beth, that it’s wonderful you don’t have so much stuff to be concerned about. I also understand your frugality and the fact that you don’t want to replace what little you do have. I’m in a predicament concerning my own housing at the moment and am not real sure what I’m to do. I’ve just been away four days to my son’s home which did help me make some decisions. I’ll post about it all soon. Looking forward to hearing the updates on your situation.

  • Carly

    I’m sorry to hear, hope you have some luck approach soon. Take care.


  • The great thing about being minimalist is the flexibility with which you can respond to unforeseen events. You are light and nimble. Good luck and do hope you find the perfect place soon!

  • Bravo, Francine, this is a PERFECT example of the many fruitful benefits of simple living: the fact you and DH are NOT stressed even though you must vacate your flat in 4 days with no place to go (yet) is quite admirable.

    I do wish you both well in finding a great place to live and will hopefully be “one step ahead” the next time you see a place that is fitting for the both of you. Please keep us all posted with your happenings!

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks, Nina! I do wonder if DH and I have been *too* laid back about the whole situation. We always assume things will fall into place, and aren’t very aggressive about making things happen. It’s a pleasant way to go through life, but not very effective when searching for a flat. ;-)

  • Zoe

    Other options if you need them might be a room in a shared house or a Youth Hostel? (yha.org.uk)
    Best wishes.

  • Francine I’m really glad to see that you are keeping a great attitude and mindset in a situation that I know can’t be easy for you or DH. Life also seems to be showing you that your lifestyle choice to not let stuff own you is working!

    Keep trying — it seems everything is super-competitive these days — and something will come up soon. Even if it’s just temporary till you guys find something you really want.

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks for the encouragement, Reggie. You’re right — if nothing else, this experience is great confirmation of the benefits of minimalist living. :-)

  • I am currently feeling snowed under and bogged down by all the ‘stuff’ in this house, my own and my three kids. I consider you very lucky to be so free. I can only imagine feeling so light. xx

    • miss minimalist

      Hi Michelle! I recommend starting with a One-A-Day Declutter; at the end of the year, you’ll be at least 365 items lighter. (I say “at least” because decluttering can often be addictive, inspiring you to get rid of much more!)

  • HK

    Wow, I’m so sorry about your situation, Francine. But, as you said, you don’t have to stress as much thanks to living lightly. I guess that would definitely make things a little easier. However, I still wish you and your DH the best of luck. Something will pop up, and I hope you’ll be able to pounce on it before anyone else!


  • Wow! Hang in there Francine! The strength with which you are handling this is a testament to your perspective and practice of minimalist living…something is bound to come along- thinking of you!

  • B&Bs are cheaper than hotels and you get breakfast :)

  • nicole 86

    i hope you will find THE right flat very soon. Minimalism is a great help for this tough time.

  • Oh gosh this sounds so stressful! But far less stressful than if you had hoards of stuff. Hope you find a solution soon!

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks, Holly! It’s a little strange — I feel like we should be more stressed than we actually are. I think we’re just assuming everything will work out in the end.

  • JLouise

    Yes, life is infinitely easier when you have less stuff, especially when you have to haul it around at a moments notice! It’s great that the minimalist choices you have been making are creating less stress and less complication as you decide the next choice you must make.

    I’m so intrigued by the fact you mentioned placing a “full price offer on the spot” for a rental. Are rentals in London usually very negotiable? A friend of mine was going to be moving to London in September (though plans have now changed) and I so enjoyed looking over the rental possibilities with her. She was definitely on a tight budget and we drooled over all the small (325 sq ft or even less) apartments available, some quite stylish yet in old, ornate buildings, it was fun dreaming.

    I hope you come up with a suitable, comfortable abode soon.

    • miss minimalist

      Hi JLouise! Surprisingly, yes, rents are usually negotiable. In London, they’re quoted by the week (which means, unfortunately, you end up paying more each month!). So if a flat is 350 GBP/week, it’s customary to offer 325-335 (unless you *really* want to make sure you get it, or know it’s underpriced relative to the market). Often, the agent showing the place will say something like, “Yes, it’s priced at 350, but I know the landlord will take 330 for it.”

      Re. the small (less than 325 sq ft) apartments — agents here have mastered the technique of making these look much larger in photographs. ;-)

  • Have you seen the youtube videos of Britain’s cheapest people? One of them is a young man who lives in his small van. Just an idea.

    • miss minimalist

      Jenny, I haven’t seen these, but I will definitely look for them! We’ve been joking about living in our Mini for a bit. ;-)

  • kris

    miss minimalist . . . Update please! Any luck yet in finding a place?

  • Jean

    Arrrggghh… Francine, this post brings back memories! Lots of changes around here too and much uncertainty. Thank goodness for living & traveling “light!” All good thoughts your way.

  • […] week, I wrote about my Housing Crisis – at the time of the post, my husband and I had four days to vacate our flat and no prospect of […]

  • CMat

    If we had a house full of designer décor and furniture, I’m sure I’d feel differently. I’d be spending this week arranging movers, stressing over an appropriate storage solution, and paying untold sums of money to protect and transport our precious stuff. I’d be lying awake at night…

    So, I enjoy your blog, and I do consider myself a minimalist. (Creds: my housemate and I share a 400-sq-ft studio flat; we sleep in the adequately-capacious closets, and the central area is bare. Previous: married, house, 1200-sq-ft with one entire room too full of ‘storage’ to enter.)

    But these sentences really rubbed me the wrong way. Instead of your (usual) helpful and sometimes thought-provoking, this came across as not only judgmental but also smugly-self-satisfied. It’s a “We’re so awesome, anyone with stuff must be so obsessed that they lie awake worrying, thank God I know better!” kind of way.

    I don’t know that criticism is desired? It’s your space! But normally I find you respectful (like “spaces other people would find cozy”, from memory so I may misquote), so this entry stood out. :/

  • Ashley

    Hey CMat, I have to disagree … my DH & I had a ton of stuff to move cross-country a couple of times in the past few years, and I *did* lie awake at night worrying about each big move as it approached. (Not that we had designer stuff, but it was OUR stuff, and that was enough for stressing about). I don’t think she was being smug at all – she was simply recalling how it is when you have a ton of stuff to move. I mean, her whole BLOG is about how clearing out gobs and gobs of belongings can release you from all that stress and worry.
    There are plenty of smug minimalist blogs out there, but MM ain’t one of ’em!

  • Tina

    It is always easier having less to carry around. I only once took more than I could easily carry and I was so sorry on an escalator. I normally travel with a wheeled carry-on and a tote bag. My small purse fits in my tote. In the middle of winter, I wear one sweatshirt and pack another, with gloves, and a hat and scarf. In summer, I wear a sweatshirt and carry a sun hat, a shawl and sunglasses. For a long trip, I bring an extra pair of nicer shoes and dark socks. Then I watch the people with two or five big heavy suitcases getting around the airport, ship or hotel.

  • Tina

    Once again, I have a bag full of things for Goodwill. I want to eliminate things we don’t use and don’t need. I have a display cabinet in my living room with things that are pretty and were my Mom’s or my MIL’s.

  • Tina

    When we moved from our 1400sq ft house to our 1600 sq ft condo, we packed up all our books, out of season clothes, and anything else we didn’t need right away and put them in the smallest size storage space. We got rid of a lot of furniture and old linens and stuff. Now, 14 years later, we are still giving away a bag or two every week to Goodwill. The biggest change is my son moved out and we store a lot of stuff for my mom who is in a nursing home nearby.

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