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Floating House SS Irwell Makes a Strong Case for Downsizing as Cost of Living Spikes
Downsizing isn’t just about being more mindful of our impact on the environment; if it were, it would probably have only a handful of adopters. Downsizing is also about reducing one’s footprint and, with it, daily expenses.

Floating House SS Irwell Makes a Strong Case for Downsizing as Cost of Living Spikes

SS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent homeSS Irwell is a 52-foot narrowboat that's being used as permanent home
With the 2020 international health crisis, downsizing to something like a tiny house or an RV, or even a floating home has also brought a new type of freedom, the kind that regular home owners can only enjoy on vacation. It is this kind of freedom and the reduction in daily expenses that makes even the most unglamorous mobile home a solid example of downsizing.

Take SS Irwell as an example: it’s a narrowboat that’s moored in Birmingham, currently owned by Georgia Hunt and partner Kieran Pearson. They live on it permanently, together with their pooch, and while living conditions are far from glamorous, they would never even consider going back to paying rent in the city. Not right now, at least, when the cost of living and the housing crisis are spiking.

Speaking to The Sun, the two say they bought the narrowboat last year, after saving up money during their last year at the university. She is a PR specialist and he is a crane worker, so they have the kind of jobs they can either do remotely or from anywhere else. They’d grown sick of paying rent for something they’d never own. The idea of a floating home came to them as the perfect solution: it would be their own, it would get them to travel more, and it would be less expensive than an actual apartment.

According to New and Used Boat, Irwell sold for £28,950 (approximately $31,100 at the current exchange rate), and the two tell The Sun that they had £21,000 ($22,600) in the bank when they decided to go for the downsized lifestyle. They have since invested a further £2,500 ($2,700) in the floating home by renovating it, but in the process, they doubled its value.

Not that they’re thinking of selling. Yet. The narrowboat may be a different life than what they’re accustomed to, but it’s a good one because it’s cheaper, cozier, and more convenient. For instance, the two say that they’re saving £1,160 a month in rent only. They no longer own a car, because they don’t need it, so that too helps with cutting down costs. Water is included in the mooring fee, while for electricity, they rely on the solar panels they installed on the roof.

For heating up the home and their shower water, the two use a wood-burning stove. It takes about an hour for either to warm up, but they’ve grown accustomed to waiting, they say. Wood is very cheap, but they’re able to get it even cheaper, because his father gives it to them for free.

The layout of this “good go anywhere livaboard boat” is traditional, with a saloon at the bow, a galley, bathroom and the 2-person bedroom. Propulsion is by means of a BMC 1.5 engine that was rebuilt in 2017. The original listing notes that other improvements were made under the first owner, including an alternator upgrade in 2017, new batteries in 2018, and new prop shaft and propeller in 2016.

The 52-foot (15.8-meter) narrowboat has a steel hull by Dave Thomas and is “cozy,” according to the current owners. Their remodel included a repaint, new flooring, new appliances in the kitchen, a new sofa, a new plumb-in toilet, and new light fittings and curtains. Everything else is as it was, and photos in the gallery will show that, while Irwell is a comfortable home, it’s not particularly fancy.

There are downsides, of course, and they go beyond having to wait an hour for the heat to spread to the entire home or for their shower water to warm up. Georgia mentions the cramped space, the lack of a bathtub, or the complete absence of mirrors. Still, at the end of the day, they don’t regret the switch: “The best thing about the boat is having the liberty to move anywhere we please,” she says. “It is such a cool, alternative way of living and allows us to see way more of the UK than ever.”

Plus, if they do decide to sell, they stand to make a profit. #winning!

Editor's note: This article was not sponsored or supported by a third-party.

 
 
 
 
 

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