For as long as I can remember, I’d hated that house. I whined and moaned, showing general dissatisfaction for the home we’d lived in for 12 years. Rooms were left undecorated for over a decade and we argued over clutter, space and storage. But that’s not to say we never cared for it. It was always clean and I did my best to make Monica Geller proud. We built the garden from the ground up – literally. We did everything ourselves. We cleared out rubble left behind by the builders, spent long summer days pulling up weeds, filled it with hard-core and compacted it down. We added soil, laid down decking and paving, made trellis and planted trees. For a few years, we even had multiple grow bags so we could grow our own veg. But the inside always felt like ‘work in progress’ – until we decided to sell it.
It was 2004 when we decided it was time to buy a house. The plan was to live in it for a couple of years, do it up, then sell it and go travelling. Unfortunately, life somehow got in the way. Procrastination, comfort, laziness – whatever you want to call it – a decade later we looked around and found ourselves staring at the same old walls. It was at this point we decided to take action. We decorated it from top to bottom and cleared out shit loads of clutter. We gave unwanted items to charity shops, donated clothing to homeless shelters and sold things on Ebay. And then we put it on the market. With 4 viewings arranged before I’d given photos to the estate agent – it didn’t even hit the internet. We had 3 viewings and 2 offers in one day – one of which was for the asking price – it basically sold the same day.
As much as I hated it, I’d never really questioned why. The area was a factor, and although it wasn’t the Bronx (that was the next street along), over the years we’d watched it slowly decline. Kids throwing stones at people’s houses and kicking footballs at people’s cars, while drunk people wandered through the street late at night, pulling at windscreen wipers and ripping off car aerials. Sure, there were worse places to live, but either way, it wasn’t what I’d signed up for.
Things slowly started to fall into place once the offer had been made official and I realised someone else would be living in my memories. I was overcome by an overwhelming sense of sorrow and I felt strangely protective over this house that was no longer going to be mine. I hated the area, but I didn’t necessarily hate the house. I hated what the house represented. It was a constant reminder that for 12 years I’d been in one place. I hadn’t travelled the world and I hadn’t found somewhere to live that made my heart sing. There were trips of course. My dream of visiting Australia and New Zealand had been made a reality, but as for our grand plans of taking off for months, maybe even years at a time – it had never happened. And it was only when I returned to the house a couple of weeks after we’d left, that I realised the other problem: it was small.
When we lived there I always felt trapped, like the walls were closing in on me and I couldn’t breathe or focus – both of which are distressing when you suffer from claustrophobia. Walking into the living room for the first time since leaving, and then into the kitchen, I realised how small it was and why I’d felt so penned in – there was definitely a space issue. I felt claustrophobic and couldn’t wait to leave.
On the day we moved out, I was upset. As much as it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to stay, there were certain memories tugging at my heart strings. Ian held me tight in his arms and I shed a few tears as I wondered about our future. Although I knew we’d made the right decision, the doubt still lingered over me – until we reached our new house. After a couple of days, it was as if our old house had never existed. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t miss it, I didn’t pine for it, and I didn’t miss the neighbours. It was like I’d never lived there.
We’ve been in our new house for nearly 2 months now, and I’m being challenged by a whole set of other issues. We’re living in a 1950’s bungalow that needs completely renovating, and some most days I can feel my sanity starting to waiver. Boxes, builders, storage and time are definitely trying my patience.
Next week, I’ll be sharing tips on how to deal with living full-time in a renovation project.