Last week, my husband Jared and I made the sudden decision to move out of his ancestral home and into our own rented space. The idea first came to mind shortly after our daughter was born, but we’ve only recently begun to bring it to fruition. A huge part of this was due to concerns regarding his hemophilia and seizure disorder – not just our own, but his family’s as well.

For more than four years, we lived under the same roof as Jared’s parents (my in-laws). The house was large, and living there was convenient. We had most of the things we needed to survive. But as we got older, our yearning for a space of our own grew stronger. We wanted privacy for our own little family. We also longed for the experience of arranging our living spaces according to our needs. In addition, we felt that we were already getting older. It was about time for us to learn the crucial life skills necessary to maintain a home.

We approached several mentors regarding our dilemma. After learning the specifics of our situation, almost all of them advised us to try moving out of the ancestral home. Not only would we learn new skills, but our family unit would also grow stronger. Of course, we wanted that!

After years of planning, hesitating, and finally gaining the confidence to leap into the unknown, here we are!

Accent wall with photos in our rented condo unit
Our peaceful little nook in the common area of our rented condo unit.

Allow me now to share three valuable lessons I’ve learned from this move:

I gained a new (should I say more realistic?) perspective on the value of money.

Growing up, I’ve always had a soft spot for stationery and writing materials. As I got older, this blossomed into a love for fountain pens. I fell in love with the way their precious metal nibs would glide across paper as I wrote.

The only issue with fountain pens is that they’re expensive. Money experts often give one solid piece of financial advice: “Don’t spend more than you earn.” But in my case, a single fountain pen could cost well over half of my entire monthly income.

 When I lived with my parents, I could afford to buy fountain pens every so often because they paid for my living expenses. I didn’t have to do groceries, let alone pay any bills. I managed to continue this habit when I moved into my husband’s parents’ home because they helped cover our expenses as well.

Eventually, my husband and I started a family and opened our own business. These came with added costs, which we had to shoulder by ourselves. I found myself struggling to sustain the expensive habits I had built up in my youth – but as long as someone was helping me, I couldn’t let go of them.

After we moved out, I got to compare the price of my fountain pens to the prices of household needs. Imagine my shock when I found out that just one “inexpensive” fountain pen would have covered the cost of a water purifier we can use for years, and the repair of a broken sink! Realizing the opportunity cost of my expensive habits helped me gain a new perspective on money. Hopefully, this would help me make better decisions based on my current top priority – my family’s needs.

I began to take initiative for cleaning up after myself.

I’m no stranger to being called messy. As a self-identifying creative, messes naturally seem to follow me wherever I go. It’s not that I want to be messy — I really don’t! I just struggle to follow organizational systems for even the spaces I want organized. I also grew up in a family of hoarders and struggle with letting go of sentimental objects. These “special things” ultimately pile up and cause inevitable clutter.

But for some reason, messes are more annoying when you see them in your own space. Your place is your haven, and you want it to look and feel immaculate. This became especially true for us when we moved into our little condo unit. We’ve become so much more conscious about dirt and clutter because the lack of extra space draws attention to every tiny mess.

One bright side of this? Our newly formed cleaning habits have rubbed off on our daughter as well. At the mere age of two (going on three), she’s already picking up the habit of sweeping away food crumbs and other messes. As her parents, we’re really happy that she’s learning to take initiative for cleaning up. Studies confirm that intrinsic motivation is the best driving force for achieving goals and accomplishing tasks. As kids, my husband and I struggled with housework because we didn’t see them as important to our well-being – we only saw them as “hard” and “burdensome” chores. (This couldn’t be farther from the truth!) In addition, other people would always do things for us, and sadly, this contributed to our inability to learn.

I’m developing better working habits.

My first attempt to work in an office setting did not go so well. I was insecure about my abilities, and I grew depressed as time went on. I also had a hard time sticking to a specific schedule. I eventually quit after getting pregnant with my baby girl. At the time, I was also determined to “master of my own time” with my very own small enterprise.

When Jared and I started our own business, I was able to breathe easier. But without a sense of discipline, it was hard to stay on top of our daily task list. Having to deal with irate clients complaining about slow service also triggered my anxiety (and my husband’s psychogenic seizures).

After the pandemic struck, many small businesses struggled to operate – including our own. This led me to reflect once again on our family situation – the state of our finances, our plans, and the investments we wanted to make. There was an obvious gap. Given our current business model, income from our online store wouldn’t be enough to keep us afloat for much longer – especially if we were to buy our own house like we always wanted.

I decided that I would pursue my childhood dream of becoming a lawyer. But, for this to happen, I would need to save money for law school tuition. I could do so in two ways: 1) increasing our income and 2) living more frugally.

Given the current state of the world, I know we can’t rely on our business alone for our daily needs. I would need to start working again. And while I’m working a full-time job once again, I need to confront my demons head-on. I must actively work on my mental health so I don’t break down at work. I recognize that I might still struggle, but I must face every challenge squarely and develop good coping mechanisms instead of avoiding them.

As for living frugally – so far, living in our own space is teaching me exactly that. I’m slowly learning to live within my means, now that we are fully in charge of our budget.

A Big Change With Huge Benefits

Moving to our own space is a big change. Jared’s therapist tells us to take things easy, as all life adjustments are meant to be taken slow. Aside from having to recover our budget, we think we’re doing all right.

Though we lost our familiar comforts back in my in-laws’ place, we’ve also gained new strengths and skills. And that’s exactly what we need now to become the best versions of ourselves – both for each other as spouses, and for our growing daughter.