Living without the constraints of a traditional mortgage is something that most homeowners just dream about. We’ve all watched with interest the various TV shows showcasing ‘small house living’ with all its advantages and disadvantages. But is it really possible to live happily in a tiny home and how many of us would even know where to start? Mary O’Brien meets Jamen (25) and Emma DeMarco (23), a recently married young couple of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, who have chosen to buck the trend and live mortgage-free in a converted bus in West Cork.
Jamen, a self-employed window cleaner since leaving school at 16, has always lived frugally. He was camping by the beach in a Mercedes Sprinter when he and Emma started dating last January. “We realised pretty soon that the Mercedes wouldn’t work if we got married,” says Jamen.
An overgrown site donated for use by a friend and a bus bought for €700 solved that problem. Jamen had picked up some building and joinery skills through volunteer work with his Church and so set to work at making the bus somewhere the young couple, who got married last October, could call home.
Emma was away travelling and volunteering in Africa for a few months while Jamen worked on the bus.
“I put the stove in, got a folding bed, and started work straight away,” says Jamen.
“I built the extension around the bus for support, extending the length by 1.5 metres. I then took the roof off the bus and built 1.5 metres upwards,” he explains, “creating room for the bedroom, wardrobe and storage space.” Jamen also added in some windows and spent most of his budget on insulation. The final building costs came to €5,000.
Although 25 square metres of floorspace might be small by most people’s standards, Jamen and Emma feel they could live in an even smaller space and still live comfortably.
More recently, the bus acquired the luxury of electricity and running water. There is a shower with hot running water and a compost toilet.
“We’re encouraged by the Bible to live simply,” says Emma. “But it’s also about time,” emphasises Jamen.“If we live simply we can spend more time with each other and devote more time to preaching our faith.”
Emma is originally from The Netherlands but Jamen, who has Italian heritage, was born in West Cork.
In Ireland, there are around 6,000 ‘publishers’ in the Jehovah’s Witness faith. A ‘publisher’ is someone actively involved in spreading the word of the Church. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in a simpler church. One of the key differences to other Christian faiths is the use of a different Bible. Meetings for worship are held at Kingdom Halls.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are best known for their door-to-door preaching and refusing military service. They believe that the destruction of the present world system at Armageddon is imminent, resulting in a new world order.
“We just live by the Bible ourselves, as much as we can,” says Emma.
Jamen’s job as a window cleaner means he can also make time for door-to-door preaching work during the week. “People are definitely becoming more open to it,” says Jamen. “Nowadays even the older generation will sit down and have a chat with you.”
“There are no rules,” says Emma “but we try to get people interested in the Bible.
“We try to live moderately, to be decent people and look after other people. We take or do nothing in excess, drink moderately and don’t do drugs and have respect for other people and our own bodies,” explain the couple sincerely.
The couple have now decided to buy a caravan, move to the West of Clare and live completely off grid. Jamen will return to West Cork every few months to keep up his window cleaning round here. The bus has been sold to Inch Hideaway, an Eco Sustainable camping company in East Cork.
“I will really miss the bus but it’s another adventure and I’m really looking forward to it,” says Emma.