Less is more

Possessions definitely weigh you down.

I’m not entirely sure why, but when I moved in with my other half I went a little mad. If we’re being entirely honest, I think she did too. We bought loads of stuff. We both love books and enjoy films. We both like crafty things (for her, knitting, crochet and a bit of cross-stitch, for me painting and models as you may have seen from the blog in the past). Neither of us like to see things go to waste, but she has the misfortune to have a somewhat profligate sister of similar size, so significant volumes of clothes have appeared here that would otherwise be in landfill after only a couple of wearings. The house, a two-bedroom mid-terrace affair, soon filled up and this year I have reached a tipping point. I want fewer things.

It has started with the books. I have two large bookshelves full of books (some shelves double-depth), two big boxes under my side of the bed and a similar number up in the loft. If I’m honest about it, it is unlikely I will re-read most of them. I’m slowly but surely trimming this down. The charity shops around me have been the main beneficiaries of this and my visits there have only reinforced my determination to get rid of as many as I can. Even as a book lover, I can see that there are simply too many books in the world. Or at least, in this part of the world. It’s perhaps a debate for another time, but I think that the world would benefit from fewer books (in terms of the range of titles) being published, and then fewer copies of those fewer titles being printed.

Many of the DVDs have also gone. I’ve sold what I can but the rest have followed the paperbacks to the charity shops. We’ve agreed to spend some time watching those in our collection and ditching any we won’t watch again. (Similar comments apply here to the books.)

Clothes which no longer fit are making their way to an Oxfam bin where they will either be sold on as they are, or if not fit for resale, they will be recycled into car seat stuffing among other things.

The recurring theme in all of this is the overproduction of stuff, and I am now determined to no longer be an over-consumer of stuff.

One of the other issues that my previous attitude has created (and I’ve only recently realised this) is that it made things difficult for my family at Christmas and birthdays. I earn my own money and I live in a society based on instant gratification, so by the time the big days rolled around I’d probably bought myself most of the things I would have liked. This year, this has changed. This last month or so has seen half a dozen of my favourite artists release new albums and in the past I would have pre-ordered them, but this year I have simply made a note and will suggest them to family when Christmas comes around. By which time, hopefully, there will be space to store them!


Moving Out

This weekend just gone was my last at Pound Cottage. From now on, any time I spend there will be as a guest (though I dearly hope that my mum won’t treat me that way) and not as a resident.

You will already know that Emma and I are moving in together, and in fact I am already ‘living’ with her at the moment (I’m staying with her family while our house purchase goes through).

While I have, therefore, already ‘moved out’, I have really only ever seen it as a temporary move. Pound Cottage was still my home, and 17, Tythe Close is merely somewhere I am staying, like a prolonged sleepover, or a holiday cottage.

The process of moving, of starting out on our own, and the preparations involved in that have taken up much of my time and mental energy recently, and have meant that I have done all of my thinking from a forward-looking point of view. It wasn’t until I started to relax on Saturday night that I realised that I had done almost no looking back on what I was leaving behind. It was a sad moment when it finally hit home that this was to be my last night of living there.

I was struck by how much I had come to see my home as an anchor. My feelings may well be magnified by the fact that this is the only home I have ever known (my room/house at university was a temporary measure, as Emma’s family home is now). This is the house I was in when I learned to walk, read, write, speak. This is the garden in which I played football endlessly, or so it must have seemed to my parents, whose lawn and flower beds bore the brunt of my relentless running and wayward shots. This is the field in which I had the majority of the few riding ‘lessons’ I have ever had. This is the quiet country lane up which I learnt to drive. That’s the garden wall which gave me the scar above my right eyebrow, and somewhere over there, behind the fruit bushes are the final resting places of Brandy, Peg, Robbie, Poppy, Nina, Smokey the rabbit, a couple of my sister’s guinea pigs, a budgie, and whichever chickens escaped the clutches of the fox long enough to die of natural causes. We probably even buried the goldfish somewhere in that garden.

This house has always been the centre of my life, and I think I will always consider it to be my home, probably even after my family no longer live there. It has always been a refuge from the outside world when I have had enough of school, work, people or travelling, and a base of operations when I am in a more outgoing frame of mind, eager to go to new places, see new sights and meet new people. I had personalised my room (many times over), and soon it will be bare, stripped of everything I want to take with me, and only containing a couple of redundant pieces of furniture and some clutter I have either forgotten or rejected as unnecessary.

The hardest thing though, is leaving behind my family.

Bits and bobs

Firstly, you may have noticed that my header image has changed. Like it? I took it myself, dontcha know! It’s a place called Orlestone Woods at the back of Hamstreet near where I (used to) live. It’s a fantastic place to go walking, particularly if you have a dog you need to exercise. It’s probably too late now, but during spring, around April time, there is a carpet of bluebells and on a sunny day it looks magical. I know that sounds very hippy-ish, and I would hate for you to think I’m going soft in my old age, but it manages to delight even a miserable sod like me.

Secondly, as hinted by both the paragraph above, and the recent posts on house buying, I have moved to Essex! This is a temporary step in the whole relocation process: I am now living with Emma and her family while the purchase of our house goes through. Thankfully, I have a job up here; I transferred within the wide-ranging Waitrose network a month ago, and though there are many things about Waitrose that cause me to sigh, curse and/or roll my eyes, there are also quite a number of advantages to working for them, not least the fact that they can accommodate me in giving me a transfer. It gives me one less thing to worry about while going through the process of moving house, something which regularly tops lists of “most stressful things you’ll ever do”. I’m pretty sure I saw one list somewhere that had placed it ABOVE divorce and the death of a close friend or relative (though I guess if it’s topping the list, it has got to be above those things…)

Finally, things seem to be improving at Forest too. A month ago I was giving up hope of us even making the play-offs, so alarming was our slump in form since February (there was a point, just before we faced QPR, when we could have gone something like four points clear at the top had we managed to win our games in hand etc.), and yet four wins on the trot, with fourteen goals scored and five conceded has secured us another crack at the play-offs. Emma and I went to the last two games of the season, at home to Scunthorpe (a 5-1 win) and away to Crystal Palace (a 3-0 win) and both commented that the games were actually rather dull, despite the fact that the Reds scored eight goals, had a player sent off and secured their play-off place, mainly due to the fact that Forest were in total control of both games, from start to finish. Obviously, Swansea present a much greater challenge than two sides from the bottom of the table with nothing to play for, but there are some encouraging signs to be seen.

House buying (part 3)

Having viewed a number of properties, and found one we liked, we decided to make an offer.

We started off with a figure below the asking price of the house we liked, on the basis that this gave us room to manoeuver during negotiations. The vendors then rejected this offer quite rapidly. Then we made our first mistake. We went back with a significantly improved offer almost immediately, and thereby revealed that we had greater funds than our initial approach had suggested (or so hindsight would imply).

The vendors rejected this offer too, and told us that they didn’t want to accept anything less than the asking price. We had already informed them that we wouldn’t be meeting their asking price as we felt that there was a small amount of work to be done on the house and so we would be deducting the estimated cost of the work from the asking price to create a new ‘ceiling’ on our offers. Their response was to give us a fourteen day deadline, after which they would be putting the house on the rental market.

We came to the conclusion that this was a ploy to rush us into raising our offer to something much closer to their asking price, and so we stayed quiet for those two weeks, and on the last day made them a slightly improved offer. As it turned out, they weren’t bluffing, and without even so much as explicitly rejecting our offer simply informed us that the house was being withdrawn from sale and let out.

Following this, we went back to the viewings.

Ten days ago, things took a turn for the better. We had already arranged a viewing for one house in Braintree, and Emma suggested that while we were in the area, we might as well view a couple of other houses. We arranged another viewing on the off-chance, and fell in love with the house. The following day, we made an offer, and this time, even though it was rejected fairly quickly, the vendors suggested that we were very close to an amount they would accept. We raised our offer, and within half an hour it had been accepted.

This was a complete contrast to the original property – rather than taking nearly three weeks to get nowhere, we had gone from initial offer to agreed price within the space of about four hours. Things were looking up.

House buying (part 2)

Having found a few properties that we liked, Emma and I arranged a few viewings. Due to the fact that I live a hundred miles from the area to which we are looking to move, we arranged four viewings in one weekend.

Before I go into great detail, I will say that house viewing is one of the most dispiriting things I have ever done. You view a house that someone is desperate to sell and you find a number of things wrong with it. Some of these are out of the current owner’s control, others aren’t. Then it strikes you that if a buyer as inexperienced as you can see them, then so can everyone else.

Anyway, the first day we viewed two properties, and in each case they were very nice houses in areas that were less attractive. Rather dispirited, we returned to Emma’s house and rescanned Rightmove for inspiration. On there we found another house we liked the look of, and at short notice we arranged a fifth viewing of the weekend and the first we had found in Braintree.

The next day, the Sunday, we viewed the other three properties. We started with the house in Braintree and liked what we saw very much. We then went on to the next two, in Colchester, and really didn’t like them. Both were owned by single men, and with the greatest respect to them, you could tell. Until then, I wasn’t really a believer in such a thing as a ‘woman’s touch’, but these houses were definitely lacking it.

House buying (part 1)

I mentioned in my ‘To-do list’ that I wanted to buy a house and understand what was going on. Well, recently, Emma and I have taken the first steps along the long and winding road to house ownership.

We started off by visiting a solicitor and an independent mortgage advisor. These visits were simply to find out about the process of house-buying, a vague timescale, the cost of the process and an estimate of how much we could afford to spend.

After that, and with some guidelines to help us start looking, we had a browse of Rightmove. This is a pretty handy website (for the tiny minority who have never heard of it) and has formed the foundation of any progress we have made so far. Through this we discovered that we couldn’t find anything within our budget that fitted our criteria in Emma’s hometown of Chelmsford. As a result, and influenced by the worst-case-scenario of me transferring to one of the branches of Waitrose in Essex (better scenarios involve me finding a better paid job in Essex or London – though on the whole Waitrose is a great company to work for), we looked further away from London, along what could probably be described as the ‘A12 corridor’. Most of the places we have found that we like are in either Witham or Braintree. We eliminated a great number, and drew up a shortlist of half a dozen or so.

Next time: read all about the viewings!