Why this Durban family swopped their four-bedroom house for a bus and hit the road
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*This article first appeared in our Property360 digital magazine
Who decided that a home had to have four walls and a roof, and be built in a certain style? Who decided that the bigger your house, the more status you have?
And who decided that you have to work yourself half to death in order to have a pile of stuff – most of which you can never get to actually enjoy – to mean you have made it in life?
These are the questions the Jooste family of Durban pondered for many years and which, ultimately, led them to make a massive life change – moving from a traditional house into a bus.
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For the family, the idea of “living small” began as a joke. That is, until 2018, when it started to become more of a decision.
It was at the end of that year that Liezel and her husband Jacques, and their two children, Colby, 17, and Calisra, 12, decided not only to downsize drastically, but to swop a brick-and-mortar home for one on wheels.
“Our decision to go small was based on a few factors,” says Liezel. These included the cost of housing as the family was paying “huge amounts” of rent each month, and the minimal amount of time they actually spent in their home.
“We were almost never home, and to pay all that money every month for a house we only ate in, cleaned and slept in seemed like a huge waste.” The family was also considering the environment and their quality of life when they chose their new lifestyle.
“I wanted to play my part in reducing my footprint. I was raised to love nature, and if each of us does a little, it can go a long way. “We also wanted to reduce our stress levels and have more freedom. As a mental health advocate this is extremely important to me,” Liezel says.
Putting plans into action
The Joostes started their preparation by moving from a large four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom flat, going through the downsizing process one step at a time.
“While living in the flat we purchased a caravan so we could save even more on rent and also started saving up for a bus. During this time we continued to downscale.”
In June 2019, after sorting out a few things with their caravan, the family plus their two miniature pinscher dogs, moved into it. They increased their drive to save money and look for a bus they could eventually call home. Once they had found their bus, a deal was arranged whereby they swopped their Jeep for the 32-seater and they collected it in January this year.
“Since then, we have been working on converting the bus into our home. We have been doing all the work ourselves which actually makes it even more special.” While the bus is not 100% ready, the family has just sold their caravan and will be moving into it next week, finished or not.
Liezel explains that the family’s daily routine in the caravan has been the same as it would have been in any “normal” house. Life in the bus, though, will be “a bit different as it is mobile and will give us a lot more freedom”.
“Our kids are still in a traditional school, and we still have work where we go every day, but soon we will get to choose where we spend the night and could wake up to a different view every morning.”
She adds: “We have raised our children to be open minded and have involved them in the decisions and processes since the beginning. And each step has been met with a lot of excitement. The children did not have to adapt too much as, as long as we explained everything to them properly, they embraced it. It really is all about one’s mindset.”
On this note, Liezel says: “I choose not only to live in a tiny house, but have a home full of love and a life of freedom and joy.”
Saving money, planet among benefts
Liezel Jooste says there are so many pros to their new lifestyle it is hard to mention them all. But the main ones are:
Quality of life: Living small and letting go of all the “stuff” you think you need reduces your stress levels immensely. Only once you start making the changes do you realise that you actually don’t need most of the stuff you think you do.
Saving money: The monthly expenses of being in a tiny house are a lot less than those of a traditional house.
Freedom: If your tiny house is on wheels, like ours is, you have the freedom to go anywhere anytime – and you have your house with you. No more planning for that trip down the coast – just start up your engine and off you go.
Helping the environment: By living small, you reduce your footprint. We use less power and also plan to be completely off the grid soon, so we will not use traditional power at all. You also use less water. At the moment, we use an average of only 20 litres to 25 litres of water a day in the caravan, and that includes showers for all four of us. Only the laundry uses more water. Once the final plumbing is set up in the bus, we will use even less.
Better family time: Being in a smaller space together means you get to spend quality time with your family.
Life skills and values: It teaches everyone more respect, understanding, compassion and patience for those around them. It also helps to teach children the importance of helping out and doing their part – a much-needed skill in this day and age. We have not experienced anything that we could call a negative as yet. As long as you are open minded and willing to adapt, the things you may see as inconveniences in the beginning become part of your normal lifestyle and daily living.