The Chalet ~ Maybe Dreams Do Come True?

After sharing our housing dream I feel the need to clarify something. Living in a yurt, mortgage free, is a means to an end, not the end. Our "quest" to live in a yurt or another small space is not a search for the perfect house or greener grass.

It's the desire for our housing to reflect our values and enable us to accomplish some of our bigger dreams

We know the kind of life we want as we guide our children into adulthood. We want freedom and flexibility, spending days together as a family, doing work we love, adventuring. Lowering our housing costs allows us to do the things we want to do. 

And moving to Quebec is not about finding that one true place we belong but about living in a place that meets our criteria for family promixity and adventure, allowing us to pursue our dreams, wherever they may take us.

So, with that all out of the way, let's move on to the chalet we're renting for the winter.

The chalet is small, 750 square feet small. It's size was one of the most attractive features for us.

Actually having to live in a small space for a season will help us downsize even more (duh) and give us a glimpse into small scale living with a family of five. If we really hate it, it's better to find out now than after we've sunk the remaining of our savings into building a yurt.

Also, smaller houses are cheaper to rent and cheap is comfortably in our price range.

Before we made the journey north, at the beginning of October, to find a place to live for this next stage of the journey, we made a list together as a family of what we wanted in a house. During one of our summer hikes we talked with the kids about what houses cost to rent, what our budget was, what our family goals and dreams are (they are well aware of this last point, we talk dreams and goals lots!).

In light of those considerations we asked ourselves, "what do we really need/want in a place to live?", especially since our next place is a rental and will be temporary.

Here's the list we came up with:

  • 2 bedrooms, one large enough for three beds (in some configuration) for the kids. The bedroom for Damien and I needn't be large at all, I'm not a "the master bedroom is my sanctuary" kind of person. Nature is my sanctuary.
  • Kitchen with appliances, clothes dryer and dishwasher optional.
  • Studio/living space - any combination of dining room, living room, family room. This space is really the most important. We need room to craft, sew, draw, learn, read, and do the messy stuff we do. Not lots of space mind you, but enough.
  • Storage space for outdoor gear.
  • Yard and outdoor space for the kids to play and room enough to park our trailer.
  • A bathroom of course.

Bonus features we would love:

  • Wood burning stove (we knew this was actually possible in a timber province like Quebec).
  • No carpet.
  • Close to the mountains and nature.

Here's what we found:

  • A recently updated, furnished 2 bedroom chalet whose interior is all naturally finished in Gaspésie wood floors and slate tiles.
  • 2 bedrooms with all the beds we need and space for kids to store their stuff.
  • An open concept kitchen, living room, dining room. The kitchen has ample space for me to cook and a bar which will mean the dining room table is available for school and crafting for most of the day.
  • A living room complete with a wood burning stove and a supply of wood (included with rent) and a built-in desk, perfect for mama's command central.
  • The chalet has 3 sliding glass porch doors leading onto a wrap around desk that overlooks acres of land at our disposal. Beyond the bank of trees is a river.
  • Our driveway (ploughed in winter - trust me this is a big deal in snowy QC) is off the only road leading into the Parc de National de Gaspésie. We go out our driveway, make a turn, drive for 45 minutes and we are in the heart of the Gaspésie mountains. If we turn the other way we are ten minutes from town. Mountains, civilization. Perfect.
  • There is ample room to park our moving trailer, which will remain mostly filled for the winter seeing as the chalet is furnished.

Full disclosure. There is no way we can live and store all our gear in a 750 sq foot space. We will be taking our trailer with us and it will be our gear (and craft?) storage. We will be storing our furniture (not needed in a fully furnished chalet) at a cousin's barn in NS.

I drew our housing dream a couple years ago, while we were in the angst of making the decision to leave Maine, a place I love. I was going to have to give up a lot - Damien's secure job with excellent benefits (security), our home and our community (familiarity and friends) - in order to gain the freedom we needed for the next stage of family life.

I needed to dream big, something I don't usually do, about what I hoped for in exchange for that sacrifice.

This is what I drew:

The chalet we found to rent is so close to this picture I drew two years ago, it's uncanny. It's too coincidental to be coincidence. 

And here is the icing on the cake - we have to be out by the end of May next year. Why is this a good thing?

We'd like to travel next summer, go out west if we can. Now we have the total freedom to live exactly where we want to be for the winter with the very real possibility of traveling next summer - adventuring together. Dreams becoming reality.

We know there will be difficulties to living in a small space, like where to put the kids' medieval castles (seriously). Not to mention the huge challenge of moving to a French speaking province. This adventure is not without a lot of what if's and the accompanying trust we must have to keep moving forward.

But the way this chalet rental came together was another confirmation we're on the right path. It felt like a gift from God, "I've heard your request, I have the perfect place in mind".

I haven't even described the process of finding it, which was basically a chain of events starting with stopping a perfect stranger on the road to ask if he knew of any rentals in the area. In a small, close knit community like this there are very few houses advertised for rent, you just have to know someone.

At every stage along the way - leaving Maine, renting out our house there, establishing our income while living in Nova Scotia this summer, and now finding what we needed to live in Gaspésie - we are flabbergasted by God's goodness to us.

We have worked hard and there have been setbacks since we started dreaming this journey nearly three years ago. We sketched out long term plans and tried to be wise with our resources but every step of the way we have seen only what's directly in front of us and have had to trust for everything beyond that point.

It's been one step at a time. And as we have lived this story the pieces fall into place in ways we couldn't have imagined or anticipated.

And what happens at the end of our rental term? Who knows. It's all part of the adventure but at this rate, I can't wait to see what unfolds.

PS. We'll be replacing the chalet couch with our trusty futon and opening our home to couchsurfers again. Anyone up for a cross country ski visit in a winter wonderland?

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  • Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds

    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds on Nov. 3, 2011, 12:13 p.m.

    The chalet looks so cozy and wonderful. It's amazing what GOD can do for us when we get out of the way and let him. It is so fun following your journey into this new life with more freedom (albeit less security). You are DOING something that most of us will only ever dream of doing. I can't wait to see where you and your beautiful family go.


  • Granola Girl

    Granola Girl on Nov. 3, 2011, 1:08 p.m.

    Depending on when you are "out West," and which exact "West," our cabin will be sitting without the 5 of us. It is about half the size of the Chalet (380), but it is in the heart of the forest near volcanoes. There are only about 2 days in August that we will be in it while we hike through, since the PCT is less than 20 miles from the house.


  • heather

    heather on Nov. 3, 2011, 1:26 p.m.

    sigh... maybe you stopped god on the side of the road that day. i know this is a dream come true for you, but i also know you've really done your part and worked hard and wise for a very long time. don't forget to pat yourselves on the back too, okay? well done friend. ;)


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 3, 2011, 1:45 p.m.

      Someday I'll write about that too... the hard, hard work of making dreams reality. The tears I've shed, the compromises we've made, the risks we've taken, the loneliness I feel in the journey - those are all just as much the reality and are very much a part of this story but I can only tell bits and pieces at a time. Thank you friend for your encouragement.  


  • Emily

    Emily on Nov. 3, 2011, 1:46 p.m.

    This IS a dream come true, my friend. Call them "happy coincidences", but I do think that many times we are led to where we need to be, have certain people come into our lives. Even those little details, the things that were important to you and would be added bonuses were important enough for you to be given. Intentions, prayer, hope, faith, trust, the fruits. Sweet blessings (LOVE) manifesting before your eyes.

    I'm thrilled for you.


  • San

    San on Nov. 3, 2011, 2:44 p.m.

    I just love reading your posts, having recently discovered you via simple home school. I wish you well with the move and look forward to reading of your adventures along the way.

    God Bless



  • tara

    tara on Nov. 3, 2011, 3:18 p.m.

    It's beautiful, Renee. I am really enjoying watching this journey of yours. Thank you for sharing it all. That drawing of yours is an uncanny prediction, isn't it?


  • Sandra Livingston

    Sandra Livingston on Nov. 3, 2011, 3:19 p.m.

    I am so happy for you all..You are truly Blessed! It is going to be WONDERFUL! Go slow and breath it all in!


  • 6512 and growing

    6512 and growing on Nov. 3, 2011, 6:16 p.m.

    Your new home looks lovely. Congratulations. Our family of 4 lives in an 800 sf house, and it's all good. There are so many benefits to living in a small place. Enjoy the journey!


  • Naomi

    Naomi on Nov. 3, 2011, 7:30 p.m.

    While I am content where I live, part of me is having a hard time not being jealous. It has so much more open space then our place! Moving into a small space is a battle of the wills at first (mixed feelings within oneself about small home living) but I'm sure you will love it!


  • Renee Siff.

    Renee Siff. on Nov. 4, 2011, 1:16 a.m.

    Boy would I love to take you up on the couch surfing adventure. But room for 2 Siffer-kids and a Siffer-dog (not to mention the drive) seem a little too far fetched. Sounds like it will be a delightful winter for you all!!


  • kelsey

    kelsey on Nov. 4, 2011, 5:33 a.m.

    What a beautiful home --even if it is for the short term!!

    My husband and two children live in 650 sqft. I always think its funny to see "small" home plans for 1000 sq ft!!! Our children are young (2 and 6 months) so its a different situation... we havent accumulated the amount of craft supplies and toys that older children will have- though I often think of it as a good challenge and a good lesson on what is really important in life. we are constantly assesing what we really need and how we can build/redesign things so that they work better!! That being said we are in the process of scheming our "next life" plans-- about 1000 sq ft on a cooperative farm here in the fraser valley. This small little home with its much lower than average monthly costs has allowed me to be at home with the kids and for my husband to pursue the self employed carpentry business that he loves. but it is getting tight and it is keeping us from having land outside our back door for our children to play in! Cooperative ownership offers us a home on a beautiful 20 acre farm living surrounded by people who are as good as family to us- the possibilities of having animals and growing food and homeschooling in this environment have me very excited! (sorry for the long winded comment- I just had to say good for you for making it happen and making the sacrafices you must have made it will be worth it im sure!)

    and thank you again for sharing it all with us- you are an inspiration in many ways!



    • renee

      renee on Nov. 4, 2011, 10:21 a.m.

      We love cooperative housing arrangements and have looked into co-housing developments over the years but nothing has ever worked in the communities we were living. Good luck with your plans also! I checked out your flickr, oh my I miss the west coast mountains. 


  • Kika

    Kika on Nov. 4, 2011, 2:46 p.m.

    Looks like a nice place to stay over the winter. I love that you shared how this stage of your dream ended up looking uncannily close to the picture you drew. I was just discussing this idea with my youngest brother, encouraging him to dream and write those dreams down - and sharing how I've found when I have put pen to paper and written down my dreams/goals with specific dates in mind, even when they felt impossible - that many times I've later looked back and realized that those goals were accomplished!


  • Spalva

    Spalva on Nov. 4, 2011, 3:03 p.m.

    Super cute! Congratulations!

    But, I kept thinking, "Welcome to European life!" :-)) We've never been in a space bigger than this. That kitchen looks huge to me! (I mean this without any sarcasm)


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 4, 2011, 5:11 p.m.

      So true! Sometimes when I think "good gracious, how are we going to do this?" I remind myself that most of the world, Europeans included, lives in smaller spaces. But a house this size is not normal for the average middle class North American family. We're hoping this experience will help prepare us for that European trip we want to take with the kids when they are all teenagers - another dream (smile).


      • Spalva

        Spalva on Nov. 5, 2011, 3:18 p.m.

        Plenty of time to finish our 750 sq. ft. house on the coast (Brittany) and offer it up to a nice family looking for a place to stay! (yes, we'll need that many years!)


  • Jennifer

    Jennifer on Nov. 4, 2011, 4:19 p.m.

    It is so interesting to read your thought processes behind this huge shift your family has been making. It's really refreshing to see folks doing something different and extremely intentional and bold with their lives. Your posts are always thought-provoking.


  • Beth Wagenius

    Beth Wagenius on Nov. 4, 2011, 6:02 p.m.

    I just love the design of this house. Small yet it looks so spacious and open. But then I've always loved open floor plans. You should be nice and cozy this winter!


  • Heather

    Heather on Nov. 4, 2011, 7:02 p.m.

    What a lovely home! I also love the white sideboard!

    Our family of four (mama, papa, 2 year old, and 7 month old) live in a 700 sq ft apartment and sometimes i feel like i am going to lose my mind -- a few toys on the floor, or a basket of laundry waiting to get put away and it looks like a bomb went off...and never ever enough storage. We are in an almost constant state of reorganizing/ i really appreciate your disclosure about the trailer storage, because sometimes (especially when i reflect on all the other parts of the world in which our apartment is considered big)i feel really inadequate: If i could just be more organized, tidier, more detached, etc, then it would be easier to live here....

    But ultimately it is a very small inconvenience to achieve our goals: me staying at home on my husband's modest income, and big plans for our own "life 2.0" once we get out of the "trenches" years with our small children: mortgage free, debt free, less working for my husband, and all of us traveling and learning together.
    It's such a joy to hear about all of your hard-won accomplishments and blessings along your journey. Looking forward to hearing more (maybe some small space living tips if you come up with any). All the best to you and yours on your journey to Quebec.


  • Rachel Wolf

    Rachel Wolf on Nov. 4, 2011, 8:40 p.m.

    Renee, What a beautiful space. And the white hutch is lovely by the way. I would love to hear how you make crafting and messy homeschooling work gracefully in a small space. We are dreaming of our next home right now and craftiness seems to get in the way of my small-space ethic. Hugs, Rachel


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 4, 2011, 8:46 p.m.

      Rachel, tell me about it! It's been one of my concerns all along with small space living - what about the crafting! but I figure we won't know how to work it out until we actually try. My philosophy is usually to figure out all the details first but in so much of this move I have to just say, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.  But I'm thinking one strategy might be project-on-the-go bins and our usual nightly clean up will become more important than usual. I am curious to see how it all works out myself! And yes, I LOVE that white hutch. I've always wanted something like that. Now I get one for a short season of my life, how fun. 


  • shawna

    shawna on Nov. 7, 2011, 3:49 a.m.

    this post makes my heart pitter patter. you're stirring up dreams that have been a bit squished lately! thanks for that. :O) and what i wouldn't give to live in a french speaking town. it has been on my list since bella was born.


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