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Episode 9 - How I went from having everything to being essentially homeless overnight

(& what it taught me about business!)

Do you know what it feels like to have it all and lose it all in the space of 24 hours?  I do.

In this episode I share how I became homeless overnight thanks to a horrific house fire caused by an electrical fault in the roof of my home. I explain how I got out of the situation and what it’s taught me about business and life.

So, how did I become homeless?

How it all happened…

I’m going to be honest this is a story I don’t like talking about much but it taught me so much about what is most important in life, what it taught me about business and how I’ve taken those lessons forward.

OK here goes….

It was about 4:00 o’clock in the morning in the cold depths of winter.  I was fast asleep and my beautiful daughter who was two at the time was fast asleep in her cot in the next room.

I heard my husband get out of bed and I was kind of dozing and he called out to me. “Ness quick! Come here!”

Now we were living in a beautiful Victorian terrace house at the time and he’d gone into the bathroom to check on a weird cracking noise. . He stepped in and opened the doors to the ruo laundry inside our bathroom thinking maybe the cat had tinkled on the wooden floors of something – he couldn’t understand what the noise was.

He opened the euro laundry up and saw that there was a ball of fire behind the dryer. He shouted out to me – get out! I stumbled out of bed – like I said I was half asleep with no clothes on – I kind of fumbled into the euro laundry.

“What?! What’s going on? What are you talking about? It’s 4:00 o’clock in the morning…” I said

Clearly I wasn’t of much assistance. He ran out to the front of our house and grabbed the small trade fire extinguisher on the back of his work truck.

He runs back in, extinguishes this fire and then goes to flick on the light switch in the bathroom.

It doesn’t turn on.

“That’s weird,” he says.

He steps out into the long hallway and he tries to flick those lights on.

Now in that house being Victorian style we had down lights that ran all the way down the terrace.

He flicks the lights, again and again – and then looks up. We see a glowing orange ember inside the ceiling through the lights.

At that moment we realise there’s a fire in the roof of our house.

“Oh my God go and get Isabella out of bed – get going, Quick! Get out! GET OUT!” e yeHe

I panicked. (Which I realise looking back now – I am not good in emergency situations).

“Oh my god! I’ve got no clothes on, I need to get my phone, I need my keys!” I scream.

“Get Bella and get out!” Nick yelled.

I ran into our bedroom quickly threw whatever clothes on that I could find on the ground, I grab my car keys and then I yell to Nick

“I can’t find my mobile phone!”

“Just get Bella and get out!” he yelled.

I ran down to my daughter’s nursery.  I scooped my little 2 year old precious Isabella out of her cot , squeezed her tightly to my chest and just ran out the front of the house.

I got out the front and  I remember distinctly looking back at the house.  The entire street was still pitch dark but there were lights that were coming off the street lights and I could see smoke just billowing off the top of our house like something out of a movie.

It was the most horrific moment of my life.

We quickly ran and jumped into our SUV that was parked out the front of the house.  I buckled Isabella into her seat – it tooks ages, my hands were shaking. I leapt into the front seat and waited, waited for my husband to get out of the house.

It felt like he in the house for another 10 minutes looking for my mobile phone, and in reality he was actually probably only in there for an additional 10 seconds to me.

He came running out he jumped in the car – he’d found my phone. He handed it to me

“Call the fire brigade,” he said.

I looked at the phone and out the front window of the car – the smoke was getting thicker.

“Nick what about our neighbours??”

The fire was actually licking at our neighbour’s houses as they were all connected.

Nick jumped out of the car while I called the fire brigade. He knocked on the door of the neighbours house and i spoke to the fire brigade the fire brigade came to

And I’m watching my house just burning down.

Now it was at that moment that I had a couple of massive realisations.

The first realisation:

When we had moved house a few months prior I had forgotten to transfer the contents insurance from our previous property into the new house.

So as I was standing outside helplessly while the firefighters attempted to get into the property –  they were having some issues breaking down the front door because of the heat that was coming the fire was just ripping through the house the roof had collapsed they were really struggling to get inside to put the fire out.

So I’m watching them try to do that and I’m standing there with my baby and my husband cuddling me and I’m bawling my eyes out. I realise we’re going to lose everything we own.

The next realisation that we own nothing at this point and have nothing with us apart from my mobile phone ,my car keys, is when my 2 year old decides to do a poo in her nappy.

I turned to Nick and I remember so vividly just saying “Oh my God Bella’s done a poo.”

We don’t have any nappies because of course we had forgotten to pack the nappy bag when we ran from our burning house. A woman was standing next to me who was our neighbour – we didn’t know each other very well at that time but Nick had actually knocked on her door and woken her up because there was a risk that the fire was going to get once her property…

I remember her turning to me and she pulled out her wallet and she took $50 note out and she handed it to me and she put it in my hand. She folded my hand closed and  at that moment I had  gone from being this person that was really successful in my job, living in a beautiful terrace house in inner city Melbourne with everyone – a beautiful husband and daughter, a house filled with beautiful furniture,  I had designer clothes to be the envy of all in my wardrobe – and all of a sudden I was taking charity from a neighbour so I could basically change the nappy on my daughter.

It was a horrendous moment.

So we went and grabbed the nappies and the ambulance arrived.

The property we had been living in was rented through the local real estate.  They arrived a few hours into the fire fighting – about eight o’clock. My property manager handed me an eviction notice to sign and at that moment – I’d gone from losing everything to also being homeless. I felt sick.

Until that point I was kind of hoping that the fire will get put out and you know, maybe we’ll move to a hotel but then they’ll fix the place an we’ll be fine.

While we waited for the fire to be put out owners from a café around the corner said please come and sit down and have some breakfast. So we do that. The ambulance comes in and checked us over for smoking inhalation and those sorts of things.

So the reason I wanted to talk about that is that experience you know from going from having everything to having nothing taught me so much in the weeks that followed. From losing everything in that house fire we had to rebuild everything. Thankfully we had a little bit of savings in the bank because we’ve been planning to go on a holiday in the next week or so but we didn’t have alot – we were young family with a 2 year old.

We needed to repurchase everything we needed – new beds, new furniture new clothes, new pots new pans – everything, absolutely everything that you think about that you put into a house we needed . Not to mention the fact that we were also juggling a 2 year old in amongst all of this!

So what did this experience teach me about business

Here's what it taught me about business

#1/ Community is everything

In the weeks that followed, the community around us picked us up.

At the time as I mentioned I had just quit a contracting job and I was about to step into a permanent gig. Now even though I was just a major contractor in that previous company I built some solid friendships and relationships and my previous employer (this blew my mind) put out this whole call to the local workforce mentioning that there was a young family and that one of their workers had lost everything and all of a sudden I had all these people contacting us offering things that would help us rebuild our lives. Whether it was money or furniture – now we didn’t accept some of those things, some of them we did,  but the point of that is the charity that was behind their care, and the sense of community?  It was life changing for Nick and I.

Community is absolutely everything in life and any business and giving back is so important. Becoming homeless overnight has driven me to want to find a charity partner and provide my time and effort on an annual basis to a homeless charity and to be able to help others because the thing is – as we’ve seen particularly recently with coronavirus – crises do not discriminate.  They can happen at any time and your whole life can change in an instant. The famous quote goes “People will not remember what you do but they’ll remember how you made them feel,” and it’s so true.

I remember so distinctly at that time how incredible the community was in terms of their charity and their care and picking us up, and I absolutely remember how those people made us feel. It warms my heart just thinking about it.

 

#2/ Change is guaranteed in life – get used to it and keep going

Now you don’t have to be comfortable with change (I definitely wasn’t comfortable when I found myself in that crisis situation!) but it did teach me when things get tough you ahv e to pick yourself up and keep going.  Whether you become unemployed, or lose your house, or whatever – you should always be humble, be kind to others and be grateful – no matter what is going on.

 

#3/ Money isn’t everything

I know a lot of us say this and but often we don’t really practice what we preach. Don’t get me wrong I am a materialistic person – I love the good things in life. I love to have beautiful clothes and dine in nice restaurants, drink in fancy bars and do all those things… but that experience taught me that when all of a sudden you don’t have anything anymore, money is not the be all and end all.  The things that get you through when the going gets tough are determination and drive.

In those weeks that came after that there were so many things to organise there’s so many things to buy and as I mentioned I had this little 2 year old – I couldn’t just fall in a heap and ball my eyes out and curl up in bed and put the covers over my head and pretend that we weren’t in the situation we were in.

I had to keep going and so that experience is something that has really taught me determination and drive and to keep on keeping on.

 

#4/ Always have a back up plan

So we forgot to transfer our contents insurance to the new property. Like anyone I know it can be really easy to make those silly mistakes. I’m going to declare right now I’m terrible at admin – both life admin and business admin. It’s not my forte’ or strength, but it’s something that I’ve really had to get better at especially being a business owner.

This experience really  taught me that you really do have to plan in business for the worst and also make sure you’ve got a contingency plan so you could expect the best.

This isn’t about being negative or thinking in a negative mindset that things are going to go the way that you want them to, or that everything is going to fall away tomorrow, but the reality is bad things can happen.  And they can happen to good people.

In my instance that has meant making sure for starters I’ve got my contents insurance and all my insurance is sorted in life!

In a business sense, I make sure that I have got the backup plan.  I’ve got contingency ,I’ve got savings in the bank for a rainy day and I also always have a fall back option.

Now that’s not to say that if you’re setting up a business or you’re running a business that you shouldn’t throw your feet all in and take those bulbs risk as I think with risk comes reward and you know that old saying ‘no guts no glory’ is absolutely true, but you do have to make sure that you’ve got a backup plan because things can happen.

 

So, I’d love to know – what can you take away from this experience?

Have you ever had something like this happen to you?

 

I’d love to know – send me a message over on Instagram or drop me an Contact The Right Remark and let me know.