I awoke this morning in our new house in Trim, Co Meath and it took me a moment to adjust to my new surroundings. Space! So much space! Our previous apartment in Chapelizod was the same size as the sitting room and kitchen alone in this three bed semi - and yet it's costing us hundreds less a month.
I've lived in various places in Dublin over the past six years, all with one thing in common: ludicrously expensive rent. For the first few years, I turned a blind eye to the fact that most of my wages were ending up in a landlord's pocket. I tried to ignore the fact that I was paying through the nose for space that you couldn't swing a cat in (how weird is that phrase when you think about it). I invested in blow fans and extra blankets to counteract the basically defunct heating in each apartment. I did all this, because, well, Dublin was fun. And exciting.
I moved up because I had been offered my previous role of Online Editor for VIP Magazine, and having lived at home working for my local paper in Enniscorthy for the few years prior, I was thirsty for an adventure. And Dublin was a well to drink from.
Life was a never-ending carousel of press launches and fancy media events, boozy gigs and nights out. I was probably burned out, but I felt so alive and it made the crazy rent and dingy apartments worth it. Even when the rent increased year by year, I kept convincing myself that it was worth it. But things have changed. This pandemic has taught me that, in fact, it's not worth it. Even when everything opens back up again, in life post-Covid, I can't ever be convinced again that paying €850 a month each for a tiny one bedroom flat is worth it. I still adore Dublin, don't get me wrong. I still view it as exciting; the never-ending stream of fun stuff to do, the funky new restaurants, the dive bars, the gorgeous suburbs - but I don't need to live in the city to enjoy it. I've learned of a brand new phenomenon called...a commute. *Coughs*
It took stripping back all of the nightlife and brunches and hipster-tastic restaurants over the past few months to realise that, maybe it won't be so bad to get an hour-long bus up to the city, if it means I finally have a real home, a home that I can put roots down in. One episode of a podcast, and I'm back on O'Connell Street. Yet the difference is that I am now living in a spacious, modern house. With a garden. And a dishwasher. And a BATH. (Please do me one thing - never take having a bath for granted.)
With all the time spent at home during lockdown, we began to crave a bigger space to live in, so we browsed commuter towns on rent.ie. When we spotted this place for €400 less a month, it was a no brainer. So far, the landlady has been nothing but pleasant to deal with, and maybe it's just my experience, #NotAllLandlords and all that, but my dealings in Dublin were always disheartening. Take one place, that was over 800 a month each - the furniture that was left for us was in such bad condition that my boyfriend took pity on us and surprised us with replacements. I mentioned to the landlord that our kitchen table was essentially a stained wooden block, and that our chairs had broken legs, but was met with the delightfully arrogant reply that these pieces were, in fact, "antiques". Ok, Karen.
In another place, the previous tenants had scarpered months prior, leaving the place filthy, and the landlord thought taking a measly amount off our first month's rent would justify us scrubbing it from top to bottom, having the carpets professionally cleaned and removing the rotting meat left in the freezer. Pure apathy.
So, I am starting a new chapter, living in this historic town. And so far, I love it. Trim is adorable - there's a real sense of community spirit, there are loads of lovely-looking cafés and pubs and of course, the famous castle - where Braveheart was filmed - is just a short walk away. Leaving Chapelizod and Phoenix Park behind was slightly sad, as I did adore living beside both, but I have zero regrets. I can visit anytime when lockdown has ended. But now, in the meantime, I may actually be able to save for a mortgage, with plenty of room to swing as many cats as I want. There are rare silver linings to come from this pandemic, but one of them is that it has taught us to do what's best for you and your peace of mind. Life's too short to settle for bank-account-zapping apartments that just aren't worth it anymore.