My family of 5 moved from Knoxville to Brooklyn. Our cost of living has doubled, but it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.

My family of 5 moved from Knoxville to Brooklyn. Our cost of living has doubled, but it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.
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A family of five stand in front of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Lisa Miller and her family moved from Tennessee to New York.

  • Lisa Miller moved from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and three kids.
  • They moved to pursue creative paths, renting an apartment sight unseen. 
  • Miller said her family has never been happier, and she gets to date her husband again.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lisa Miller, 36, a photographer and content creator who recently moved from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and three children. It has been edited for length and clarity.

My husband was born and raised in Tennessee. He’d never lived anywhere else. But I’ve lived all over the place. I’m originally from Detroit and have lived in Virginia and Georgia. I moved to Tennessee when I was 19, and we lived in Knoxville and Nashville.

I stayed there because of my husband and our family nearby. But nothing was keeping me in Tennessee other than it’s just where we’d lived for so long.

I’m a creative person, and I work as a photographer. My kids just so happen to all be creative people and artists in some form. My daughter’s a dancer, my middle son is a filmmaker and an artist, and my youngest son is an artist and a pianist. However, there’s a major lack of opportunities in the arts in Tennessee.

My daughter decided to stop doing competitive dance and go after this pre-professional dream as a teenager. She just turned 15 last summer and applied to a couple of dance programs. She auditioned for Joffrey Ballet’s summer intensive, and she got it and spent three weeks of her summer in New York in 2023. I’d also gotten published in Flanelle Magazine for a fashion editorial.

Our life kept taking us to New York for her dance and my career opportunities. So, we started to talk about the possibility of living in the city.

We fell in love with Park Slope, Brooklyn

A family hold hands and walks through their lawn in front of a blue house.
The Miller family at their home in Tennessee.

My littlest is on the autism spectrum, and he is obsessed with all things New York and the Statue of Liberty. That inspired us to visit New York in 2022, and we decided to stay out of Manhattan and get an Airbnb in Brooklyn.

I just happened to come across Park Slope. It has a family vibe. Everything is walkable and accessible, like in Manhattan, but just a bit quieter.

We fell in love with the area. It was a good fit, but it wasn’t until about a year later that we decided to consider it seriously.

I brought up moving when my daughter had officially decided not to do competitive dance. We thought, “What if we look at some opportunities for her that aren’t in Tennessee?” Because if she wants to go that pre-professional route, she can’t do that there.

They have options for dancers to live in New York City, but we were unwilling to do that. We’re a tight-knit family. So we couldn’t imagine letting her go alone.

In September 2023, we started looking into some opportunities, and she joined a pre-professional program. We decided if she’s going to have this opportunity, why don’t we sell our house and go?

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We quickly sold our house in Tennessee and found the perfect Brooklyn apartment

The market is great in the Knoxville neighborhood we lived in. We bought our house before the market was nuts, and we talked to an agent and found out what we could get for it. We had three bedrooms and 2.5 baths, but we also used our bonus room as a bedroom. Plus, we converted our garage into a studio.

We thought, “If we can make this happen quickly and get the profit off of our house that we think we can, this would be a great nest egg for us and give us that security to start over in a very expensive city.”

We put our house on the market, and it went quickly. We listed our home on October 6, and it was under contract by October 8.

Our lease in Park Slope started in November because we found the perfect apartment.

We looked on StreetEasy, and I set up a lot of search parameters that it would email me when something came on the market. We were thinking we’d end up in a three-bedroom.

A friend I made on a Facebook group local to our neighborhood sent me a listing for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. We originally planned for my boys to share because they are only 14 months apart, but then we found this place in our price range.

We jumped on it after a virtual tour. We talked to the agent, and two days later, they had our money, and our lease was signed.

A family of five stand in front of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Miller family in Brooklyn in 2022.

I was totally nervous about it, but the agent did a good job of walking me through the property. I asked a lot of questions. We spoke to the landlord. Being able to rely on someone who used to be a broker in New York, knew the neighborhood, and could confirm the apartment was on a good street also made me feel better about it.

Living in an apartment was a little bit terrifying at first, but now we love it

My husband and I went to New York at Thanksgiving and had everything moved in. We had the apartment set up, and we were just ready to get to our routine and get to our stuff and unpack.

We anticipated downsizing because we have five people and a lot of stuff. We had an acre and a half in Tennessee, and we had a shed out back for storage and a crawl space. Our Brooklyn apartment has the same number of bedrooms but about a third of the space.

So before we moved, we sold a lot of our stuff. We only kept our couch, which we love, and some dressers and kitchen stuff. Selling our stuff helped fund our move.

We officially moved on December 26. The kids and I flew to New York, and my husband drove. We had two cars but didn’t need our big SUV, so we sold it.

Living in an apartment was a little bit terrifying to me. We haven’t lived in a townhouse or an apartment since we were in our early 20s. I forgot what that life was like, and kids are loud. I just felt like there would be a level of uncomfortableness with apartment living.

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But so many people live in an apartment in New York City, and you don’t even hear the noises. You’re not disturbing other people. It’s just a fear of being in an unknown environment, but it’s become seamless and totally normal.

It’s an old building. Part of my content on TikTok is decorating it and updating it. We’ve invested our money into making it what I want it to be because design is something I have done before. We love it.

@lisamillerinreallife

Here she is! #movingtonyc #fyp #nycapartmenttour #apartmenttour #newyorkcitylife #nycmom #newyorkcitymom #nycvlog #nycfamily #brooklynmom #brooklynapartment #brooklynapartmenttour

♬ Big Band Jazz – Swing Era, Intense, Gorgeous(1032830) – Ponetto

We’re paying about twice as much a month as we did in Tennessee

Our rent is a little over $5,000 a month, so we basically pay three times what we paid for our mortgage. But our utilities are about a third of what we were paying in Tennessee because our heat and gas are included in our rent. We just have my husband’s little car that’s paid off, and we’re not spending on gas because we’re not really driving anywhere. We don’t have homeowners insurance. Our groceries are about the same. So we’re paying about twice as much a month by the time everything is set and done.

We call this our honeymoon phase, so we’re eating out more than we normally would because we have all this food at our fingertips. But for our family of five at a restaurant, it’s typically a minimum of $200 to $250 versus Tennessee, where it’s maybe $100 to $150. We always cooked at home before. We ate out some, but not nearly as much as we have been. We’ll get back to that.

My daughter’s dance is probably relatively close to what we paid before, but my boys’ extracurriculars are more expensive in New York. We’re definitely not saving money on anything other than gas.

But we prepped for this financially, so it has surprised us that it’s not quite as big of a leap as we were even prepared for.

We haven’t looked back

It’s been the best decision we’ve ever made for our family.

I was nervous for my kids, especially having a middle schooler and a high schooler. My daughter ended up at a performing arts high school that she had to audition for. My middle school son goes to a charter school that is arts-focused. And getting my youngest into some sort of special ed program was seamless.

The schools they’ve ended up in are incredible, and we feel a lot of support. There’s more focus on social-emotional development in New York than Tennessee schools.

@lisamillerinreallife

He said “My heart is pounding!” 🥹 Everyone was so kind. #movingtonyc #nycapartment #newyorkcitylife #fyp #nycmom #newyorkcitymom #nycvlog #brooklynmom #brooklynfamily #ditlnyc #newschool #foryou #nycfamily #nycschools

♬ Wes Anderson-esque Cute Acoustic – Kenji Ueda

My husband and I have also had more fun than we’ve had in a long time. We’ve spent more time together than ever because we’re not in cars, going in opposite directions. My husband works fully remotely as well.

We get to date again, which has been fun. We’re both foodies, so we have many date nights trying new restaurants.

The best part of the move is seeing my kids and family thrive and feeling like we’re in an environment supporting our lifestyle and belief system. While it has been a big change, we have all adjusted much quicker than I imagined.

And the opportunities for my work here are pretty exciting. In Tennessee, my focus was originally families and kids and then I leaned really into women’s photography and boudoir.

Once I started coming to New York, it morphed into branding, headshots, working with models, and some fashion stuff. Now that I’m here, I plan to focus more on working with artists, creatives, branding headshots, and dancers.

We are in the right place at the right time

I’m the happiest and feel more settled than I’ve ever felt. And I think that comes with age and experience in life, but this move was pivotal in me feeling like we are in the right place at the right time.

I had a lot of fears. Moving your family so far from everything they know is scary. We did have some naysayers, but it wasn’t for nothing. Every day, I wake up feeling grateful for our decision, even though it was a huge leap of faith.

I know this is a cliché quote, but I truly have leaned into, “You get one life.” People constantly comment on my videos, “I so wish I could do this. My kid is creative. I’m creative.” And I just feel like if you can financially make things work, it is a city full of opportunity, especially for people in the arts.

A headshot of a woman with blond hair and a purple top.
Lisa Miller doesn’t regret the move.

As someone who grew up with no opportunities, it’s so important for me to provide my children with every opportunity I can. I was a foster kid with a lot of dreams and talents, and I’m also proof that it’s never too late to go after them.

I’ve been dreaming of living in New York my entire life. So, for me, living here at this point in my life as a mom, as a business owner, and now as a content creator, I’m just looking forward to experiencing things that I’ve never gotten to experience. Whether it’s in arts and culture or food or traveling, I’m just in for all of it.

Not doing this would have been a huge regret. Sometimes, you just have to take that leap.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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