Encumbered....

posted on: Friday, 28 August 2015

When my husband and I were first together, I moved in to his one bedroomed flat. The whole place was so little that I could pace the entire length of it in a handful of steps. I loved it. It was my first chance to play house; fresh out of university, I used to arrange furniture and plant bedding plants in the garden and generally pretend I was a homemaker. With an ironic smile. In those days, we shopped for food together, planned meals and managed the budget, eating out only occasionally. We had friends round for elaborate dinner parties and used hand-me-down china and borrowed chairs. This pre-dated Ikea, after all. Then, as our careers changed and we could take on more, we predictably traded up. When we married we bought a Victorian town house and so it went on; I've written about it more fully here.


As time went on we set about accumulating more and more stuff, until after two children and over ten years together we bought what was meant to be our dream 'forever' house. An old farmhouse that became the love of our lives and the bane of our lives. I've written about it many times, for example here. At time of writing, that house is in the middle of major building work. Last year there was a nine month stretch which generated more issues than I thought possible. Old houses have secrets. Oil leaks and delays, boring tanks and pipes, not much to get excited about. Now - this stage - we assured ourselves we were i) in the home stretch and ii) doing the fun part. Last year was all about utilities and services; this year it's about knocking walls down and actually realising the dream that my husband has been cultivating, with an architect, for years. It definitely his baby. I am the stylist, which is why I haunt Pinterest like a lost ghost, looking for the perfect kitchen that captures both function and charm.

But we can't live there right now, even though I tried to create a makeshift kitchen and strictly speaking, it is possible to bypass the worst of the building site. As the house used to be two houses, we have two staircases, so there is an 'up and over' option. It makes for a high step count. I ask myself daily whether we should have just knocked it down and started again. It would have been easier and cheaper. Old houses have secrets. I couldn't bear to do it.

With a smattering of First World problems; we are camping out somewhere else, furtively returning to the house each day to check progress and collect an ever-growing pile of things that we 'need'. In actual fact I am staggered by how much we supposedly need and how many items we are now schlepping across town. All of that stuff that we were so encumbered by - I am one of the millions who have bought 'The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up' - is missing. The message in that book is that (in a nutshell) you should not keep anything that does not make your heart sing. Well, my ten year son's old rugby boots don't make my heart sing, but they are necessary. I am not sure the magic of tidying up fully extends to family life. Especially the kind of established family life we live. We are years in, well past the days of plastic crockery and cutlery, now into the teenage maelstrom of personalised phone chargers (who stole mine?), hockey sticks and padded bras. Why do they make bras that are so padded?! Seriously, these things could stand up on their own. I digress...

In those heady days of our early coupledom, we needed very little. Now, we need a whole lot more. I find this somewhat depressing; I have become the woman who yearns for simplicity. I see young newly weds and want to whisper in their ear: 'stop buying stuff; travel instead!' There is no doubt that holidays have brought us more joy than stuff, any day. Even after having children.

And so what to conclude? I need to declutter my house before we move back into it. We have evolved in to a high maintenance family and I am not sure I am proud of that. Modern life bites again! Less is more. And is it the dream house? The forever house? Not sure. When you have seen a house this undressed, it changes your relationship with it. It tests whether it's really love, or just infatuation! That house; it's no cheap thrill. It's a long term deep commitment that is presently costing us lots of time, money and stress. But one day...one day...it will all be done!


3 comments :

  1. I hear myself agreeing out loud to this Lou. Over the years I, along with my daughter have moved many times, some through choice, mostly necessity. My husband on the other hand lived in the same house for over 30 years, he has a lot of "stuff" I do wonder how many sailing/ski/riding coats, tennis rackets and travel bags one person needs but he is reluctant to part with any, so they are currently stored in a shed! The whole build issue is as you know something I am going through too: one day, one day it will be finished and the dust will leave us..... The piece about the padded bra made me giggle, my daughter seems to buy things that resemble mini airbags! Ho Hum such is life. Have a great weekend x x

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  2. One day, hopefully soon, it will all be done and you will love it. As for the stuff....well, I fear that decluttering is a constant process. As soon as I think "Wow, I have seriously decluttered. We are almost MINIMALISTS now" then we move (don't ask) and I realize that during the process, we somehow acquired even MORE stuff.

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  3. Hopefully soon you will have the dream home completed, and it will once again return as being your dream home and forever home. I know you are not very personal and dont often share images of your personal life but would absolutely love a small before and after post on the home!

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