For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moving times

The biggest challenge at this moment is that the new house doesn’t have half the space that we have now. I think I’ve mentioned that before.

Here we have a garage, a huge boiler room, a huge utility room, a huge kitchen, a large living room, a spacious bedroom / office, a big computer / educational room, a king size pantry and a cloak room with storage space. Upstairs there are 3 huge bedrooms, a single bedroom, three massive walk-in cupboards and a bathroom with a storage room behind it.
The new house has a spacious garage, a large living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a downstairs toilet and a Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs. Upstairs there are three double bedrooms, one boxroom, an airing cupboard and a bathroom with bath, toilet and shower.

In the course of the thirty years that Ken and I are together we’ve gathered an incredible amount of stuff. And every time we moved, we moved to a bigger house. When we moved from Holland to here we threw and gave so much stuff away it was almost embarrassing. Still, we needed a fifty cubic meter removal van to shift what was left over. But all those fifty cubic meters easily fitted into this vicarage. However, in the past four and a half years we’ve somehow managed to fill the place to the rim.

By all standards the new house is classed as big. Also, the garden is fenced off and has plenty space for both dogs and trampoline. It’s good to look at all that and realise that this new house has everything we need.
The only conclusion I can come to is that we have (far) more than we need.

That’s all very easy to type down, but downsizing within the space of a few days isn’t easy at all. Especially as we've already been chucking things out in a big way. Now, I’m going through everything again. Do we really need this? And if yes, where can it go? There is of course the storage. But the reality is that our next - and hopefully more permanent - house is unlikely to be much bigger than the one we’re moving to now so I want to make as little use of the storage as possible.

As usual, I have a plan. And as it happens, it’s quite educational ;).
We’ve drawn a floor plan of the new house on squared paper. Then we’ve measured all the furniture, drawn that on the same scale and cut it all out. Next everybody has been looking at what they wanted in their rooms and how much would fit in. Over the past two days Myrna and Owen have packed up their stuff and we’ve moved as much as would fit into Old Faithful (his third house move and he’s still going strong!). The big things will be done by the official movers, later. I’ve done most of the kitchen and I’ve created storage space in the garage.

So now we have the situation that we more or less have - or know what we want to have - in the new house, but this one is still very full. But knowing that what we really want is already in the new house makes it slightly easier to decide to do with what’s left. There’s still quite a bit to go in storage, but I’ll have another look at it before the movers come. And the rest will go either to friends, to FreeShare, to the carboot sale, on the fire or to the dump.

An important part of this whole process is the cleaning. This house is very difficult to keep clean. It’s old and drafty and then there’s the coal dust from the solid fuel Rayburn throughout the whole house. Obviously, it’s sensible for practical and health reasons to clean things before you pack or move them. But also, by consciously looking at each item again, we get another chance to decide if we want something to remain part of our lives. Or has it served its purpose? Do we still need that particular item to keep a certain memory or has the memory become part of us? The cleaning helps to symbolically prepare for a fresh new start.

Today I did ‘the last round’ in Myrna’s room. I had not been looking forward to it, because her room - like Owen’s - was a tip. The only way I could do it was to switch off my disgust and go into automatic mode. Myrna had done a lot of packing and sorting herself, so I knew that the things she values most were already in the new house. I said to Myrna I’d rather start off by myself and she happily left me to it. After a while I discovered I was quite enjoying it, strangely enough. I managed to gather another two bin bags full of rubbish and I had to change my bucket of soap three times. But now the room looks cleaner than it’s looked for ages and it’s nearly empty.

While I was cleaning away - ”wax on, wax off, Daniel-san” - I discovered I wanted to take charge of the housekeeping duties again. With me writing and translating, it was Ken’s task to see to the daily household duties and it has really done me the world of good not to have to think about it at all and not to interfere. But from the state of Myrna’s room - and I’m mentally preparing for Owen’s room, because I know that’s even worse - it’s obvious that Ken doesn’t take pride in keeping it clean and tidy and I know he hates having to negotiate with the kids about keeping their rooms in an acceptable state.
It’s not my favourite task either, but after seeing what it’s like now and having noticing that Myrna was really pleased I was helping her, I thought we’d all be happier - and healthier probably - if I take on that responsibility again.

Moving into the new house will be a good moment to make new arrangements, to work out new schedules. We will no longer have a separate computer room, so Ken has promised the children they could have their own computers in their rooms. It’s something I’ve managed to avoid up to now and I am still very reluctant. But I’m willing to give it a go, although I have set a few conditions.
First: All computers will have Watchdog and there will be no negotiating about extra time.
Second: Every other Friday we will have ‘room inspection’ and if the rooms aren’t tidy and clean, the computers will be shut down until they are.

I asked Owen how on earth he managed to get a medal in cadet camp for the cleanest and tidiest room.
He said: “Well, I’m a totally different person in the cadets then when I am at home.”
Me: “How do I get you to tidy your room here, then?”
Owen: “Discipline, Mum, discipline.”

So that’s what he’ll get from me from now on. :))

And the difference between these two children became all the more apparent when I talked about it with Myrna. She said: “I like my room a bit messy, but I still want it to be clean. But you need to help me cleaning it, because if you don’t I just get distracted. Cleaning is much nicer when we’re doing it together.”

Another major advantage about the new house is that it is so much easier to keep clean. It has gas central heating (no more coal dust!), double glazing everywhere and it’s well maintained. It’ll be a whole new experience, for instance, to clean the window sills without having to be careful not to wipe the paint off or punch holes into the wood.
Ahh, the more I think about it, the more I am looking forward to moving!


Anonymous said...

We have that thing with being careful with the window sills here :) It's funny how one gets around a house's flaws and delicate bits..and how it does shape us too.

Am thinking of you during this transition time and sending love and smiles.

'EF' x

Wobblymoo said...

We downsized from a large house with 3 reception rooms and 4 large bedrooms to a 3 bedroom bungalow. It was a very useful exercise in getting rid of a lot of stuff we just didn't need. I am grateful we had a couple of weeks to move though, a few days would be pretty tough.

Ruth said...

Are you there yet?

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