Scary stories from a lovely place
We’re hoping to be moving house sometime soon. This time into a place we own rather than one owned by a stingy landlord and managed by an incompetent middleman.
We’ve been looking for a few months at different houses in different areas and doing endless calculations about frightening amounts of money.
It’s been a stressful process. We’ve had many conversations that have led to fights at bedtime (the worst time to fight – even the bible says that) which have ended in me crying and Stephen wondering how he ended up married to such a stressed out person (it was my cooking that lured him in). In the end we made some deals about home ownership pitfalls we would try to avoid and Stephen has allowed me to reiterate time and time again my concerns about buying a house, as if he were an idiot. Which he isn’t.
First we thought we would buy a unit. I was confident it could work with two little kids. I like it when they are contained and their ability to both make a mess and escape are curtailed. But then we realised if we drove 10 minutes down the road we could own a house for the same price. So we found one we liked, made an offer that was accepted and then waited to receive the contracts. We are still waiting. After numerous frustrating telephone conversations with one very pathetic real estate agent (including one where he told me that real estate agents are good people) we decided to move on.
We kept looking, expanded our circle a bit wider, had a few more tense and teary conversations and then found another house we liked. It was in better condition than the first. It was cheaper. It was arguably in a more useful location. It had a better garden, complete with Jacaranda tree, a red Hibiscus bush and a grassy backyard drowning in full sun just asking to be transformed into a potager. We liked it. But it was small. Quite small. As small as a small two bedroom unit. I was concerned. How could I live in such a small house and retain my sanity? But, Stephen contended, you said you could live in a unit. You said you like small houses. Aah yes, I did say those things. So, a few more teary conversations and redemptive chocolate chip cookie baking later, we decided to proceed.
Then we received a report that the area we were buying in was perhaps not so good, not so safe. Bad schools, bad neighbourhoods, bad poor people, bad, bad, bad. Good thing the last place Stephen bought a house had a similar reputation. Certainly this new place will not be as dangerous as Johannesburg. But we did want to heed the advice we were given. So Stephen went and spoke to some of the neighbours in the street. They all had good things to say. We liked that the neighbours knew each other. We liked that they represented different ethnicities. We liked that they had vegetable gardens. It was reminiscent of our neighbours in Johannesburg. We looked around at some different places (albeit in the same dodgy area). Nothing was as cheap or as nice. We talked and prayed and wondered a lot. We moved forward.
That was before Christmas. Now, we’ve paid a deposit. And soon we will live in it. We will arrange our furniture and hang our pictures. Stephen will proudly display his tools, I my teapots, Silas his trains, Oisin his truck. And we will cultivate our garden. We will put a tyre swing in the Jacaranda. We will plant strawberries along the front fence.
But it is small. Teeny, tiny small. I won’t ever lose the kids. When the madness rises we will go outside into the garden. Stephen will extend the deck and put bay windows in the bedrooms. One day he may even add a room or two. And perhaps a rooftop balcony with a spa. But the smallness does still concern me and I tell Stephen about this all the time. I think society is to blame. Big is good. Small – bad. Our society prizes stuff, buying it, consuming it and chucking it out to make room for more. And I too like to own things. We have more furniture imbued with sentiment than will fit in our little garden cottage. I have boxes upon boxes of books. My teapot collection is pushing double figures, not to mention my tea cups. Stephen’s tools are getting new brothers and sisters all the time. Silas wants more trains – Toby and Rosie and Percy.
We have six weeks to figure out what to do with all of this stuff. I hope we will be able to keep a lot of it. But we will cull, and that will be a good thing. Who needs three rocking chairs anyway? Or history textbooks from uni days? Or every receipt from the last 5 years? I know a family of four who happily live in a much smaller house than ours. I know many people who grew up in tiny houses with lots of siblings. And I am reading two books that are helping me along the way. Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame has written a lovely and interesting little book called ‘Making a Place to Live’. It’s all about what matters in a home, and what doesn’t. And another one called ‘Little House on a Small Planet’ by an American lady. They are both challening me to think about what I really use in my house, let alone what I need, as well as what makes a home beautiful. And I have pored over every gardening book on the shelves of Wollongong Library.
So far the home ownership journey has been disappointing, stressful and interesting. This next stage seems exciting and I am full of anticipation.