Yesterday I spent the day at home studying for my Master’s degree while kids went off to the child minder.
It was glorious, the sun was shining, and I was motivated to work. I spent the day analysing my husband’s response to my job analysis and writing it up.
It was absolutely silent, and I wasn’t even tempted to put the radio on as I usually would. There were no kids shrieking “I want the yellow bowl”, no colleagues discussing their weight loss, no phones ringing and people shouting down them. It was lovely.
I made myself a sandwich that hadn’t been sat around all morning, and for my afternoon break I made a cup of tea, wrapped myself in a blanket and sat on the garden swing in the sun. I could get used this. I always assumed I’d be really bad at home working, but a combination of factors motivated me yesterday, not least the fact that it didn’t feel like work. I always wondered what that felt like in a job, and this is it.
There are, however, a number of dependencies which made yesterday a success. One: the house was tidy. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to relax. Two: I was enjoying what I was doing. I’m not sure it would have felt so lovely were I wrestling with Excel spreadsheets. Three: there was no one else around. For some people, freelancing or working from home means fitting it around looking after children. I’ve also tried to study while they are around and I am nowhere near as productive.
My experience made me think of a book I bought DH for Christmas, My Cool Shed. Within are pictures of various sheds, hideaways and bolt holes where people work, play or just get away from it all. Admittedly some of these ‘sheds’ are bigger and more luxurious than my house, but DH and I fostering a dream where we could each have our own little place to go, somewhere you can put something down and know it will be in exactly that same place again, somewhere where your books and papers remain felt tip free. We both crave our own space, and at the moment we have to find it retiring to our tiny bedroom, using ear phones to block out the sounds of the children wrestling with each other. The beauty of the shed is that it needn’t be too expensive, nothing like to cost of a real extension. That said, even a shed is out of our price range at the moment, and living in a rental property I wouldn’t want to invest in anything that couldn’t be moved.
So I will continue to dream about my little white washed shed, with large windows, and crochet blankets aplenty. And maybe by the time I can afford it I will also have a home working job I can do it it.
We live in a rented house. Yes we are mature married adults with two children and we don’t own a house. This mostly doesn’t bother me. In the current climate I am glad we didn’t listen to the family members who insisted that we get one of those 100+% mortgages a quite frankly we’d be screwed right now.
It bothers me sometimes. I can’t think of any of our friends who don’t own their own house. Every now and then I have a bit of a freak out thinking “OMG we’ve got no mortgage we are going to be working until we’re 105 or else we are going to be destitute on the street “. But my issues have only ever been financial ones. The last two flats we lived in were fab. The first one was a raised ground floor Victorian flat. It had an avocado bathroom suite, which let me tell you, I loved. As I went blinking and bleary eyed into the bathroom to do my morning ablutions I was soothed by the calming green and wood panelled bath, rather than a glaring white thing. The flat was in a fashionable area of town, with leafy avenues and poncey shops. The alcoves either side on the marble fireplace were bowed with the weight of our books. I loved it. Our last flat was On the first floor of a beautiful Regency villa. The living room was over 30 long and had 4 original 9ft sash windows. The flat was lovely and bright and big, and we had furniture and wicker baskets slung casually around the rooms, and our furniture was just the right side of shabby chic. We bought a massive 4 seater sofa, which conveniently hid all of Betty’s toys behind it. Both these flats were minutes walk from the fashionable town we lived in. In both these places I felt completely at home.
Both flats were sold from under us. The first when Betty was 3 months old. The second when I was 6 months pregnant and had a toddler. We were devastated. We now live in a boxy new build, nearer to the not-so-fashionable city, in walking distance of a Co-op and the school. One the upside we have central heating and double glazing. Our energy bills are next to nothing. We have a garden for the kids to play in. We have two floors; no snotty cow above us stomping around in her stilettos; no slacker below us, filling our flat with the fumes of stale marijuana. But this house feels a small and boxy, we are crammed into a suburban development in the middle of more suburbia. Our 9ft sofa that was dwarfed by our old flat now looks monstrous, and the shabby chic furniture looks shabby shit against the magnolia walls and plasticky doors. But mostly, it has no soul. It’s definitely what you would call a ‘first-world problem’ to feel depressed by a house, especially a brand new one, but I can help but feel a little down about it sometimes. DH feels the same. The house almost sucks the soul out of us. What an awfully trite complaint, hey?
Anyway, there is a point to this soul bearing, and it is that in this house more than any, we have had to work at making it feel like home. We can afford to move. We’d be mad to. Our landlord isn’t going to sell anytime soon, we have a garden, and a garage, it’s near Betty’s school, and needs absolutely nothing doing to it. Flat no.1 that we lived in hadn’t been decorated or remodelled in 20 years. We just have to make the best of it. But making a place feel like home when you have a constant sense of impermanence is hard. Much of it depends on the flexibility of your landlord, but you have to find ways of making the house feel like it is your home, adding your stamp without the stamp duty.
The reason I’m writing this blog post now is because recently I was discussing the issue with another blogger Life of an Expat Parent and she decided to host a link up. We want to have a series of posts about how to make a house a home. Most home style books and blogs rarely take into account renters and the lack of permanence and control we have over our houses. A lot of the crafting I do is to this end. Some of this will be familiar to my die hard readers, but to those who haven’t been following my blog I hope I can offer some inspiration.
Cushions are a really easy way add a bit of your own style to a house. I prefer an eclectic assortment. I say assortment; I have two currently, but am working on more. Cushions are really easy to make yourself, and simple cushions in bright fabrics can be a quick crafting win. These two took a little longer, more details on the heart cushion here and the wolf one here.
This cute chalkboard is great for keeping track of your shopping list, writing messages to other members of your family, or just doing seasonal drawings. It’s easy to make and easy to put up and take down. For the record, toothpaste is meant to be good for filling holes left by nails (caveat: I’ve never tried this!).
We’ve had this stool since we lived in flat number two, where we could afford to have random pieces of furniture strewn around. Now it just gets moved around the kitchen out of the way according to which cupboard I need to get to. Or else the baby takes it so that she can reach something she shouldn’t have. We originally bought it from an antique shop but I expect a forensic analysis of the paint samples would date it to circa 1990. Anyway, I thought it was time to tart it up.
A lick of paint and some easy crochet circles and it looks fresh and bright to match our new, modern and often messy kitchen.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the vintage/retro/nostalgia fashions that are popular now, nor am I a fan of ultra modern or contemporary fashions that will date. I am really inspired by the bright fresh colours and Scandi sleekness of By Frydd, and the eclectic mix of decor in Modern Vintage Style by Emily Chalmers.
And this one is on my wish list:
And finally for cheap furniture and accessories that aren’t completely devoid of style you just can’t beat Ikea. So in essence, renting a house doesn’t mean you cant make it feel like home. There’ll be more from me on this. My home is still a work in progress.