Lorna

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In 2009, after many years of feeling generally sluggish and living with the pain of IBS, I decided to remove meat from the menu. I’d always wanted to become vegetarian, but being a fussy eater and growing up in a household that loved a variety of meat, I didn’t think I could do it. “What would I live on?” I often pondered. Somehow, a lifetime of Linda McCartney veggie sausages didn’t seem to light my fire.

But 8 years ago at the age of 30, Ian and I decided some lifestyle changes were in order. Reading reports that the saturated fats found in meat could contribute to a variety of illnesses, we wondered what we had to lose.  We could lead a healthier lifestyle and help save the animals. Winner, winner, veggie dinner! A few months after we eliminated meat we also cut out milk. This was a bit harder for me because warm milk was something I poured daily onto my morning cereal. Although now, just writing that sentence makes me want to vomit into my mouth. So, after I scrapped the cow puss from my morning routine, the only thing left was the melted cheese I liked on a pizza. If you’d have passed me a block of cheese or tried to feed me a cold cheese sandwich, I would have rammed it hard into your face. But to be honest, melted cheese on a pizza was something I found hard to give up and at the time, turning vegetarian was enough for me. I’d stopped eating meat, eliminated my morning milk fix, and I was feeling healthier than I had in a long time. I felt satisfied I was contributing to making the world a better place, and I suppose I was – to a certain degree.

Radiating Chaos Pink Rose

A Healthier Way of Life

Although our journey started out as a way for us to lead a healthier lifestyle, we soon noticed it crossing over into other areas of our lives. I scrapped my Benefit make-up and replaced it with products from The Body Shop. I swapped our clothes detergent for the plant based alternative Ecover, and I started cleaning the bathroom with my own mix of lemon and vinegar. I also stopped accepting cleaning products from our parents because they no longer met with my ethical values. If Ian came home with anything, I would give it back to him to return on his next visit. If I was present, I would decline whatever the item was. Although, this proved more difficult than I thought it would. It wasn’t the act of turning it down that was hard, it was the reaction of the person doing the giving. To begin with, I was met with sighs and rolls of the eyes, almost like I was a child with a new fad. And even though it’s become a little easier over time, I can still almost hear the ‘Oh for God sake’, as I politely decline something. But the thing is, these are my views. This is how I feel. I’ve never tried to force my views onto anyone else, and never would because it’s not my place. I have my way of living, other people have their way of living, and I’m fine with that. The world would be really boring if we were all the same, but unfortunately, the world is also full of people who roll their eyes at things they don’t understand.

Giving Up Dairy

Earlier last year, I became aware of how the dairy industry worked and the unethical treatment of the animals. Through my naivety, I assumed that by not eating meat and by buying products that were bunny friendly, I was making a difference – and I suppose I was. But the more I read about the dairy industry, the more it cut me like a knife. The overwhelming feeling of sadness bore down deep into my bones, and I knew I had to do more. This step was more difficult than I thought. Cleaning products and beauty products were all locked down, and even though I’d started to become more aware of the ingredients in food, I still found myself slipping. The skinny blueberry muffin at Starbucks, the cupcake from Waitrose with the thick raspberry icing and the mammoth caramel slice that Ian would bring home from work. My sweet tooth was slowly becoming a pain my arse because nearly everything I was craving contained milk and butter. There was still the cheese on a pizza situation as well. In fact, I only gave it up about 4 months ago, but the thought of it now makes me want to gag. And it was only a couple of months ago, we realised the rustic Rogan Josh sauce we liked so much also contained milk. I was devastated.

If you’re thinking about turning vegan, here are a few tips that you might find helpful.

It Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Be kind to yourself, and accept that you’re doing the best you can. You can’t change the world overnight, so don’t put pressure on yourself to scrap everything you own and replace them with new, vegan equivalents straight away. I waited until something ran out and then replaced it with animal-friendly alternatives. Cleaning products, make-up, shampoo, even clothes detergent. Whatever it was, I just had to tell myself I was doing everything I could with the finances I had available. With a little time, patience and research, you’ll get to where you need to be.

Research

Research and the internet will be your two best friends. Grab yourself a brew, get settled, and fall down the rabbit hole Alice in Wonderland stylee. You’ll find useful information on The Vegan Society website and also in magazines like Vegan Life and Vegan Lifestyle.

Food

It’s only natural that some foods are going to be harder to give up than others. I’ve been vegetarian since 2009, but it was only last year that I started to make the effort to move towards a vegan lifestyle. It took me 7 years to cut out cheese from my diet and I wasn’t even a cheese lover. A small amount melted onto a pizza was the one thing I struggled to give up, and it’s something I used to beat myself up over time and time again. This became easier once I found an alternative, and since then I haven’t looked back.

Food can be a bit of a minefield, but checking the ingredients on labels will become easier, and over time, so will finding vegan alternatives. Yes, some can be more expensive than non-vegan foods, but when I weigh that up against my conscience, I know I’m okay with it. I’m probably about 98% there with food, but I’m happy with the way things are going because I know I’m doing the best I can under my own personal circumstances. And most of the time, it’s because I’ve ended up eating something while I’ve been out, not realising exactly what the contents were.

I’ve also discovered that I love to bake – at least this way I know exactly what’s in my dessert.

Dairy Alternatives

With a myriad of vegan alternatives, milk is probably one of the easiest things to replace. With a variety of soya, almond, rice, coconut, oat, and hemp milk to choose from, there’s something to suit the palate of most people. We started off with soya milk back in 2009, then changed to almond milk earlier last year.

Meat Alternatives

Many supermarkets offer their own brand meat free products, although they are mostly aimed at vegetarians. Quorn and Cauldron still appear to be the main brands in the UK, and they’ve both recently added some vegan products to their range that might be worth looking at. I’ve tried the Quorn spicy burgers and vegan chicken nuggets which can be quick and easy for my lunch when I’m at home. Personally, I’ve always chosen Cauldron over Quorn, but a couple of months ago we discovered Cauldron tofu sausages contained egg. We’d always assumed that tofu automatically meant vegan, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. While we really like cooking with their organic original tofu, we’ve removed their Cumberland and Lincolnshire sausages from the menu and replaced them with Tofurky and Linda McCartney sausages instead. And although Cauldron has recently added vegan sausages to their range, they didn’t do anything for my taste buds except make me gag a little.

A quick search on the internet will help you find out the information you’re looking for, and if you shop at Waitrose, they’ve been good enough to make a list available with full details of their own brand products suitable for vegans.

Eating Out

Eating out can be challenging to start off with, but once you figure out what food is available it becomes a lot easier. Zizzi introduced a vegan menu last year and this is fast becoming one of our favourite go to restaurants to eat at. They do a mean garlic bread and a super nice spaghetti Pomodoro. These are my favourite dishes when we decide to eat out there.

Before we moved house, we were also lucky enough to have two local Indian restaurants that were good at catering for our needs. When we first started asking for our food to be cooked without any ghee (Indian butter), it was a bit hit and miss. But once they got to know us, they were happy to make any adjustments we asked for.

Clothing

The most obvious materials to avoid in clothing are leather, wool, and silk. Although unfortunately, it’s a lot more complex than it sounds. Other fabrics under the heading of wool also include cashmere, duffle, damask, felt, tweed and a whole host of other material that I didn’t even know existed! Check out this page that gives the lowdown of vegan and non-vegan materials.

Clothing was something else I struggled with. I wanted to discard everything straight away and remove anything that might include animal fibres. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to go out and replace everything I owned overnight.

If you have a leather jacket and worry about what to do, wear it until it needs replacing – a lot of people do this. You’ll always find someone who disagrees, but you must be kind to yourself and replace things within your own financial restraints. I only managed to replace my leather jacket in December, so the last thing I need to replace are my leather winter boots. Unfortunately, I’ve not been in the position to swap them out yet but they’ll be going for sure next winter.

Cleaning Products

You can go down the route of making your own mix of cleaner like I first did, or you can look for some bunny friendly, plant-based alternatives. Things have moved on a lot over the past few years, and you’ll find that many supermarkets own brand products are either animal-friendly, or they stock a range of branded animal-friendly products.

While supermarkets look like they’re moving forward with their own brand products, we always use Ecover. Dishwasher tablets, bathroom cleaner and toilet cleaner; washing up liquid, clothes detergent and softener. We can buy everything we need from their plant based range of products.

Beauty

Probably the most common names for animal-friendly beauty products in the UK are Lush, The Body Shop, Superdrug, and Marks and Spencer. For me, Superdrug doesn’t advertise enough the fact their own brand products are suitable for vegans. I have a whole host of products from Superdrug that I absolutely adore! BB creams, body lotion, facial wipes, eyeshadow and nail varnish. The list goes on. I used to use their make-up range B religiously, but then I started to struggle to find the foundation I liked, and whenever I asked about it, it was always being repackaged or rebranded and then the shelves started to resemble a jumble sale. I gave up in the end and went back to The Bodyshop, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find a foundation I liked. And although The Bodyshop aren’t completely vegan-friendly – you can find a list of their vegan-friendly products here. Over the past 6 months, I’ve been using Liz Earle and I’ve quickly become a huge fan.

Again, you’ll find some supermarkets own brand range of shampoo, conditioner and moisturisers are vegan-friendly, but always make sure you check their website or the back of the packaging for further details. Remember that not every company is part of the Leaping Bunny logo, but that doesn’t mean their products aren’t vegan.

Final Thoughts

I know this post doesn’t cover everything, but it was never intended to provide an exhaustive list of vegan products and retailers. There are plenty of other websites where you can find more in-depth information. This is more about sharing my vegan journey and the small steps that got me to where I am today. Something that started out as a healthier way of living has transformed my outlook on life and the way I approach things.

If you’re on a similar journey, you’ll find there are always people who don’t understand why you’ve decided to make the choices you have, but that’s just life. And there’s always going to be someone who tells you you’re not doing it right. But at the end of the day, it’s your journey. Do what feels right for you. For me, the journey has been a gradual process over several years and it was only when I started writing this post that I realised just how much of an effect it’s had on my life. I set out with the intention of leading a healthier lifestyle, which has ended up completely changing my life. Wherever you are on your vegan journey, I wish you all the best. I know you’re doing it for the right reasons.

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Having been an avid gym goer for 20+ years – 6 of which were spent in a teaching capacity – I’ve seen the inside of many different fitness establishments. I’ve been in council leisure centres, private health clubs, dirty back street gyms (tip: sometimes these are the best gyms you can find), hotel gyms, and personal training studios. In each of these facilities, you’ll find a bright and colourful array of people from all different backgrounds. There may be a variety of reasons as to why they exercise, but regardless as to why they’re there, which facility they use and how many times they frequent it, there’s one thing that ties everything together: gym etiquette.

That’s right: etiquette. Some things are common sense, other things just come down to being a decent human being and personally, I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they act in the gym.

If you look up the word etiquette in the Oxford English Dictionary, you’ll find the description: The customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group

Examples of other words to describe etiquette include:

  • Manners
  • Politeness
  • Decency
  • Decorum
  • Courtesy

As you can see, etiquette is just a fancy pants word to describe having manners. Like you were taught when you were a kid. ‘Don’t eat with your mouth full’. ‘Remember to say please and thank you’. ‘Don’t call other people names’. ‘Hold the door open for the person behind you’. You get the idea. So why, oh why, do so many adults act like a child missing a babysitter when they visit the gym?

I’ll apologise in advance that this may turn into a bit of a rant.

Carry a towel & wipe down equipment

If you’re a gym newbie, or perhaps even a seasoned gym goer, you might be questioning why you should carry a towel. Well, there’s a couple of reasons really. Firstly, to wipe the sweat off your body while working out and secondly, to wipe down the piece of equipment you’ve just finished using – including a mat if you’ve used one.

Every gym goer has seen it and unfortunately, it’s usually the men who are guilty of this. You see them finish a run, they’re sweating everywhere, and I mean everywhere – it’s dripping out of every pore. The treadmill looks like a wet dog has shaken itself over it, and yet, the runner casually strides off the treadmill leaving it swimming in sweat and walks over to the weights section. That’s right my friends. Not only do they leave the treadmill sodden, they then decide to sit on a bench leaving arse sweat, leg sweat and god knows what else for the next unsuspecting person. How can someone leave a tsunami of sweat juice on everything they touch, and think it’s acceptable not to wipe it up? This is just plain rude and probably my biggest bugbear at the gym. Please have respect for your fellow gym goers: carry a towel and use it.

Put equipment back when you’ve finished with it

This is probably my second biggest bugbear at the gym. Once you’ve finished using a piece of equipment, it’s polite and courteous put it back. I’m talking weights, ab balls, kettlebells, and mats etc., basically, anything that isn’t screwed to the floor. There was a sign at a gym where I used to teach that simply said: ‘If you’re big enough to lift ‘em, you’re big enough to put ‘em back’ – and rightly so. Again, the guilty party mainly seems to be the male of the species. The guys who are as wide as they are tall. The guys who have tiny little legs because they skip leg day to work their chest – again. We’ve all seen them. They come into the free-weights section, grab a set of 40kg dumbbells and do 8 reps before dropping them to the floor – loudly. They then make their way to the leg press machine, stick 100kg of plates on either side, do another 8 reps and then walk off. Nice. It’s like watching a toddler playing with their toys. They pick something up, get bored, and then move onto the next shiny object, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. While gym staff are there to help keep the area clean and tidy, it’s not their sole purpose. Their other duties include conducting inductions, putting fitness programmes together and possibly teaching a class or two. Apart from that, why should other gym users have to a) spend time searching for equipment or b) struggle to move your weights so they can use the leg press. And seeing as I’ve just mentioned it, most gyms also have a sign asking you politely not to drop the weights. It doesn’t make you look big or clever and it doesn’t make the girls swoon. However, it does damage the weights and make you look like an idiot.

Respect the headphone wearer

No matter how you dress it up, most people attend the gym for pretty much the same reason: to get fit and healthy. Whether it’s to lose weight, tone up, or build muscle, we all have similar reasons for being there. Some people attend willingly, other’s may be there because a medical practitioner has advised it. Regardless of the reason, there is one very important thing to remember – never interrupt the gym goer in the headphones. This person is in the zone. This person wants to get their head down and get on with their workout. They want to get in and get out – they don’t go to the gym to chat. Wearing headphones is the equivalent of a do not disturb sign. Respect the headphone wearer people.

Don’t be a space invader

Remember Dirty Dancing, with the whole my space, your space thing? This crosses over into the gym. If it’s quiet and there’s one person on a bank of treadmills, please don’t get on the treadmill next to them. It’s like when you park your car in an empty car park and then someone parks next to you. If it’s quiet, don’t invade someone’s personal space. And this isn’t just treadmill specific, it goes for any piece of CV equipment.

Ditch the mobile

Please don’t be the person who takes their phone into the gym and spends 20 minutes on a cross trainer talking. Even worse, don’t sit in the middle of the mat area chatting instead of working out. If you can’t detach yourself from your phone while you’re at the gym – you’ve got serious problems. It’s annoying for other gym goers who are there to work out and the fact that you’re talking super loud so everyone can hear, just makes everyone want to throw a kettlebell at your head.

Also, if you work out with a friend, that’s great. But please don’t spend your 30-minute stroll on a treadmill talking loudly about what Sandra did last night at Weight Watchers. No-one cares. And the fact that you’re talking about what happened last night at Weight Watchers, means you need to quit yapping and pick up the pace on the treadmill.

Don’t leave the shower area before drying off

The sign in the changing room that says ‘Please make sure you are dry before leaving the shower area’, is there for a reason. There is a wet area, otherwise known as the showers and a dry area, which is the changing area. The area where people get changed. The area where people are not wet. The area, where people should be allowed to get changed comfortably without standing in your pool of water as you stand at your locker, with your big hair dripping everywhere. No-one wants to break their neck by trying to dodge your trail of wet footsteps either. The footsteps that lead all the way through the changing rooms, because you couldn’t be bothered to dry yourself after your shower. Please take note of the sign.

Change your sanitaryware behind closed doors

I’m not a prude by any means, but some things really should be done in private. Changing your sanitary towel or tampon (please delete as appropriate), is clearly not a spectator sport and doing this in the middle of the changing room is inappropriate. Toilets, along with their sanitary bins are there for a reason. No-one wants to see you with your leg on a bench fiddling with your privates. I don’t think I have anything else to say on this matter – this pretty much covers it.

Clean up after yourself

If I accidentally knock over a bottle of foundation at the gym, guess what? That’s right – I clean it up. If I spill some of my smoothie onto the bench where I’m sitting, I clean that up too. It’s not difficult. It’s polite. People should be able to get changed without having to dodge a sticky pool of the latest super drink. Just as they should be able to use the vanity area without it being covered in a sea of Rimmel foundation. If you spill something that needs more than a bit of loo roll or paper towel, tell someone. Depending on the gym, there’s normally either an instructor or a cleaner hanging around.

Flush the toilet

I can’t believe I actually have to mention this, but on more than one occasion I have walked into a toilet and been left genuinely shocked and disgusted by the mess. I mean, come on. The toilet brush is there for a reason. A second or third flush wouldn’t go amiss either. To do something that would make the toilet from Trainspotting look pristine is a shocker. Grown women people. Grown women, who quite possibly have children. I dread to think how they’re raising their kids.

Please shower (and make sure you dry off before leaving the area)

I think this last one is more personal hygiene then etiquette, but I’m going to mention it anyway. Can someone please explain to me why, after spending an hour in the gym you wouldn’t shower? There are certain things I struggle to get my head around and wiping yourself down with a wet wipe after a workout is one of them. Not showering at all and just getting dressed for work, closely followed by showering but then putting your sweaty P.E. kit back on, is also another mind boggler. If you’ve worked out for an hour and feel the only thing you need to do is wave a wet wipe near your pits, you’re obviously not exercising correctly. I would suggest cancelling your gym membership and spending the time reading and drinking coffee in Starbucks instead.

Final Thoughts

So, at the end of the day gym etiquette comes down to having manners. Being polite and courteous by wiping down equipment, putting things away after yourself and having respect for your fellow gym goers. Leave things how you would like them to be left, flush the toilet after you’ve used it and just act like a decent human being.

Although these are probably my biggest peeves from being a gym goer, I’m sure there are other things I’ve failed to mention. If you feel I’ve missed something, please leave me a comment below.

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Having recently moved into a house that needs renovating – like, completely renovating – I feel compelled to share some wisdom on the subject. If ever you feel the urge to move into a property and live in it while doing it up, I have one word for you. Don’t.

For as long as I can remember, I thought it would be fun to renovate a property. Growing up, I was addicted to changing rooms. I would watch in awe as Linda Barker, Anna Ryder Richardson and Laurence Llewelyn Bowen (swoon) transformed ordinary looking rooms into extraordinary eye candy (pink flock wallpaper anyone?). As I got older I found myself engrossed in programmes like Home Front and Design Rules, which then progressed onto Grand Designs and Amazing Spaces. It was Anna Ryder Richardson who inspired me to study Interior Design – y’know, because we had so much in common. Seeing as she had once been an aerobics instructor too, I decided I could become an Interior Designer – because the two were quite obviously interchangeable. But when I realised my Diploma and my City & Guilds certificate weren’t opening any doors for me, I watched my dream fade away and reached out for the next shiny object instead. Until 2014 that is when Ian and I decided it was time to finally move. In the process of deciding where to live, the topic of property renovation came up again and instead of dismissing the idea, we decided we should just go for it. Finally, on 30th November 2016, we moved into our new house: a 3 bedroom 1950’s bungalow that needed completely renovating.

While the idea of property renovation can seem quite exciting, the reality is a lot different – especially when you’re living in the property at the same time. So, if you’re thinking of doing the same thing, here are a few tips that might help you in the early days after moving in.

Don’t plan any work until you’ve moved in

Viewing the property a few times compared to actually living in it are two very different things. It’s easy to look around and get carried away, starting to plan out in which order to do the rooms. In reality, it’s only once you’ve moved in that you can assess everything properly.

We had plans to renovate the living room first because that’s where we would be spending most of our downtime. Oh, how wrong we were. It wasn’t until we moved in that we uncovered the hidden secrets of the bedroom. There were holes in the floor and damp up the walls (hidden by the built in wardrobes) which in turn was rotting the floorboards and joists. Unfortunately, we had to sleep in there for a couple of weeks while we did a quick fix on the spare bedroom. We felt this was the logical thing to do because it gave us somewhere clean to sleep while we rebuilt the main bedroom. As it happened, the living room turned out to be the least offensive room in the house (apart from the bathroom), it’s just that the decorating left a lot to be desired. And the kitchen we thought we would leave until next year, is going to be ripped out in the next couple of months.

Expect the unexpected

If you can prepare yourself for the worst case scenario and be ready to deal with it, you’ll be just fine. It wasn’t until we ripped out the wardrobes in the front bedroom that we realised the extent of the problems. We’d braced ourselves for having to replace a couple of floorboards, but it was only when we took the carpet up and dismantled the wardrobes that we saw everything in all its glory. We ended up having to chisel the plaster off all the walls, pull the floor up and tear out the rotten joists. We’ve basically had to rebuild the whole bedroom: new joists, new floor, new plasterboard and new electrics. Everything has now been plastered and covered with two coats of cheap emulsion. I’m looking forward to decorating it and making it look pretty over the next couple of weeks.

Stake out an area (or two)

Living in a property that needs renovating can be a nightmare – especially if you work from home – and spending your time in a cold, ugly space can be depressing. There will be unpacked boxes, tools, and decorating equipment all over the place so you need to stake out an area – or two. Clear it, clean it and most important, make sure it’s free from boxes. For us, we chose the living room and the spare bedroom (where we’re still currently sleeping). After cleaning it from top to bottom, adding a couple of pictures to the wall and lighting some scented candles, the living room is where I find myself retreating to during the day. When I can no longer cope in my cold, make-shift office space at the back of the house, I stick the fire on, cosy up on the settee and work from a laptop. In fact, it’s where I am as I write this. With the fire roaring in the background and my pussy cat lay sleeping next to me, it may sound idyllic. But with the boiler being somewhat temperamental, and my heater not pumping out as much heat as I need – it’s the ONLY place where I can manage to keep warm! Plus, hunching over a laptop instead of using a desk is not really my idea of fun.

Unpack boxes as soon as possible

This may sound quite self-explanatory but stick with me. We have a lot less space compared to our old house. We don’t have an airing cupboard and we currently don’t have a wardrobe either. Although we have a clothes rail, we’re losing out on the shelf space that comes with having a wardrobe. And when you’re short on space, you find yourself keeping things in boxes. You end up rooting around in them as and when you need something, then tell yourself you’ll sort them out later <shakes head>. And being in a house that needs renovating, it’s easier to overlook that pile of boxes because everywhere is work in progress. What are a few boxes anyway? Compared to the circular saw and the pile of skirting boards that have taken up residence next to the kitchen, boxes will be the least of your worries.

I would suggest going through your boxes as soon as possible. Condense them down, throw stuff away, and take out any items you need before storing everything else in a spare room. The way things stand at the moment we have a bunch of boxes in the back room (which also doubles as my make-shift office), and I feel so overwhelmed I just can’t find the headspace to sort them out. I’m starting to think if I’m not missing anything, perhaps I don’t need those items anyway. In which case, Ebay and the local charity shops may be working overtime in the next couple of months.

Get out of the house

I work from home so getting out of the house is a must. I go to the gym in a morning or out for a run, so at least I have a couple of hours each day where I can focus on something else. If you go out to work then you’ll be out most of the day anyway. But if you’re at home, for whatever reason, make the effort to go out for a while so you can get away from the clutter.

Closing thoughts

We’ve only been in our house for a couple of months but I’ve quickly discovered that this isn’t for me. Not the renovation part, but living here while we’re doing it up. And being someone who hates clutter and wants Monica Geller as their BFF, I’ve questioned my sanity a few times since we moved in. If we were in the position to have a second house to renovate, somewhere I didn’t have to live, I think I’d be a lot happier. But sometimes, it’s only when you get the things you thought you wanted, that you begin to see other things more clearly. And while I’ve decided that this situation isn’t for me, it’s helped me put other things into perspective. But that’s another blog post altogether.

If you’re currently renovating a house while living in it, I’d love to hear any tips you have. Either drop me an email or leave a comment below.

*I feel I must apologise for the quality of the photographs. Normally I use a Canon 5D MKII, but due to the state of things at the moment, I’ve been shooting everything on my Samsung Galaxy S6!

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Thoughts on Moving House {A Personal Post}

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.

Our_House_005

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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