I opened the letter wondering why my landlord was writing to me. I read the letter three times before it fully registered. The place I called home was being sold and I had to move. I had two months to pack everything and find a new property suitable for myself, my husband and my two disabled children. 

It wasn’t until the week before moving that I realised something very important: the property I was moving out of was fully furnished and where we were going was just ‘semi furnished’.

The new house had no washing machine. 

For any young family this would be a problem but for us this had a serious impact on everything. My twins were just four years old, both disabled, one of whom had complex needs. With both myself and my husband full time unpaid carers we had no spare money to just go to a shop and buy a new washing machine. Every spare penny had been used to move house, pay deposits and removal companies and get everything prepared. There was no spare money to buy a washing machine despite the fact it was an absolute essential item. 

Despite leaving the old house with as many clean items as possible it wasn’t long before things became critical as far as laundry was concerned. 

My son had a seizure and his bedding was covered in vomit and bodily fluids. He vomited on his pyjamas which added more to the pile. Towels were used to help clean up after his bath...more dirty washing. Incontinence created yet more washing. Fine motor difficulties resulting in food going on clothing at every meal making more washing again. Then my daughter had one of her many nose bleeds and the washing basket was overflowing within days! 

That gap in the kitchen were a washing machine should have been became a sight of stress and upset. 

As more bin bags filled with smelly, dirty washing my mental health began to decline. 

Saving up was taking too long. My children were running out of clothes. Bedding was becoming scarce. Towels were having to be reused because I couldn’t afford to buy new and even if I could they required to be washed before use and I had no means of doing that. 

We had moved to a new town and didn’t know anyone well enough to ask them to do laundry for us. Family lived too far away and didn’t drive. Laundrettes were not accessible with two disabled children. 

Not having a washing machine started to impact on everything. 

We stopped going out because what clean clothes we had left were old and didn’t match. We couldn’t have anyone visit as the smell from dirty clothes was awful and the bin bags of washing made the house look untidy. 

We became isolated.

Our health began to suffer both physically and mentally. I didn’t even want the children to play in the garden or at the park in case they got their clothes dirty because I had no way of washing. I did buy detergent and hand washed what I could but without a spin function this left soaking wet clothes all around the house causing dampness. 

The stress became unbearable so I began looking into extortionate pay weekly options just to get us a washing machine. I would have ended up paying over twice the price leaving us in financial distress over and above everything else but what choice did I have?  

We did get a washing machine in the end, thanks to a charity. Without them we were heading down a road that was causing everyone to suffer. Our lives were restricted, our children suffering, we became anxious about what others thought of us and we found ourselves trapped financially. 

It’s easy to take for granted a basic appliance until you don’t have one. As a family with two disabled children a fridge isn’t just somewhere to keep our milk cool, it’s a lifeline to keep medicines at a useable temperature. An oven is much more than somewhere to warm a pizza it’s where the only food that my daughter eats gets made because making it any other way means it doesn’t look or taste right. A freezer isn’t just a convenience to keep ice cream in, it’s a means to stock up on food when my child has come home from yet another long hospital appointment and I haven’t managed to go shopping again. 

And a washing machine...well it’s not just something that loses socks but a vital, essential appliance that enables my family to get though another day of smearing, or seizures or nose bleeds. It allows my family to go out, let’s the children be independent with eating and keeps them in school uniform the same as their peers. It’s more than a washing machine...it’s vital to our physical and mental wellbeing and crucial to life with two disabled children. 

Charities that provide such items change lives. They empower families like mine to cope. They enable, encourage and enrich lives daily. They give hope by showing they care. 

It’s more than a washing machine… it’s showing families that someone cares. 

Read more about Turn2Us' #LivingWithout campaign 

Read more of Miriam's blogs over at FaithMummy