Archive for the ‘home’ Category

On sharing a house

I’ve been living out of home since I was 20, a total of 11 years now (yes, you can all guess my age if you didn’t already know it…) In that time I have lived in 6 different houses, with 17 different people (not including an additional 5 regular visitors, e.g. siblings and SOs of my flatmates).

Bec and I used to talk about this topic quite a bit when we lived together in Newtown (one house and 4 flatmates ago). It’s an interesting experience, one which we agreed we should all go through as part of becoming an adult. You learn so much about yourself while living with other people in a share situation. You also learn a lot about other people. (more…)

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Like many people, I accumulated a lot of stuff over my twenties. Gifts from family and friends, aspirational things I thought I needed while trying to work out who I was, things I kept for fear of needing them at some stage in the future. Mostly functional things, as didn’t have the slack in my budget to allow me to think I could have non-functional things.

The weight of this stuff was apparent every time I moved house (6 times in 9 years). By the time I moved into a place in Newtown in 2007 I’d already realised that I wanted a lighter life, but the process of letting stuff go was difficult, as I’m sure many people have found.

Tiny Colanders

Luckily the perfect solution came along: move halfway around the world! An impetus, a catalyst. I decided to reduce my belongings to only what was entirely necessary, or that had a very special significance.

It wasn’t easy, and took a lot of emotional, physical and mental effort. At the stage I had to get rid of some of the more essential items, I was surprised at how much it affected me to give up the rugs that had been on my floor through 3 moves. I realised they were the first things to go down when I did move, and created a sense of homein a new space. Something that had become very, very important to me. Seeing my belongings in the house of a dear friend who needed furniture and kitchen items was also strange, but good. A perfect example of reciprocity.

In the end I moved here with 19 boxes (most of those were archive sized boxes) and 3 suitcases. That’s it. It’s wonderful 🙂

We’re going to be moving again soon, and I’m starting to prepare myself for the mad packing sessions to come. However, I keep happily reminding myself that I no longer have 2.5 lives worth of stuff, more like 0.5 a life’s worth. Most of the things in the house we currently live in do not belong to either Jed of myself, as they are accumulations from previous occupants of the house. So they will remain, if our flatmate wants them, or will need to be re-housed (hooray freecycle!).

It’s nice to relish in this feeling.

This post was inspired by recent thoughts, but also a blog post I just came across: How to let go of possessions as it reminded me of the process I went through to get rid of my stuff to worthy homes. I worked in sustainable waste policy, just hiring a skip to send to the tip was not an option.

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  1. Turning off the TV redirects attention
  2. Dinner eaten at the table creates better manners overall
  3. Don’t ever mention anything you own that you might not want to share on a continual basis. Like games on an ipod (which I’ve not mentioned, and never will).
  4. Learning the names of teddy bears creates a non-confrontational way of getting a small person to bed when at a BBQ. “Henry says goodnight, Horace says goodnight, incidentally so does L”.
  5. Kids don’t like being told that they’re behaving like they’re in a younger age group, and will assist with behaviour modification, if you do it the right way
  6. Food is more likely to be eaten if you assign to a broad category they know, rather than a specific foodie description along with “give it a try”
  7. Playing sharks and alligators while walking up the street is fun. As is playing wash-the-dishes while waiting for a bus
  8. “I’m bored” often means “I’m lonely, pay me attention”
  9. “I’m hungry” often means “I want crisps, or I’m bored (as per 8)”. Practical suggestions will not really help.
  10. “I can’t do this” often means “I want to check that you care about me enough to do it with me/for me”. See also no. 11
  11. It’s too easy to do everything for a child, but really, you shouldn’t. Particularly one that has learnt that everything gets done for her when she asks, and uses this as a proxy for checking that the adults around her care about her, or she’s not thought through how to do something. The more she does, the more confidence she’ll have to do things, and the more she’ll be at home here.
  12. There is a time for fun, a time for affection, a time to be strict and a time for quiet. While option 1 might be the preferred default for the child, options 2-4 also need to happen.
  13. Apparently I have a no nonsense voice and don’t-mess-with-me raised eyebrows. Works on 9 yr olds who get lazy about asking for stuff out of their reach on the table, and 5 yr olds who are behaving horridly.
  14. I am a responsible adult in her life, but not THE responsible adult, so can and should take a step back.
  15. However, part of my job is to act as a buffer and helper in the parenting duties and a re-assurer that this is normal and she’s a good girl, and he’s doing a great job.
  16. Ultimately it’s all about reassuring in many varied ways that she’s important and cared for and part of her Dad’s life.

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Internet down

Our internet died a week ago, I’m stealing a small portion of work’s (yes, work’s) internet to let you all know I’m still alive. Should be back online by the weekend, or early next week.

Then I can tell you all about all the other breakages, and other interesting happenings.

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Redhill, Surrey

The GaribaldiI’ve ended up in Redhill, Surrey, for the moment. It’s a railway town, with predominantly Victorian housing stock, and a town centre that was rebuilt during the 1980s. It reminds me a lot of a large Australian country town like Bathurst, combined with the rural north-west of Sydney where I grew up. It’s probably a combination of surroundings, climate and demographic.

I’ve made some additional tools for this post, an annotated googlemap, and a Flickr set which you may find interesting.

Redhill is about half hour by train from London. It’s just outside the M25 that rings London, and is essentially a satellite town for the nearby city of Reigate, as well as a commuter town for London. There are a number of finance businesses located here, so the centre of town is bustling at lunch, and therefore supports a number of eateries and retail shops. That being said, there’s no stand-out place to eat or to socialise in except the pubs which means it’s a good place to live, but not an outstanding place. I’ve taken to getting my morning coffee from the local Costa, which is a chain maybe a few steps above Starbucks. At least they have soy milk, actually know what a macchiato is, and offer fair-trade at no extra charge.

The centre of town has grown up along two cross streets, which have been converted into pedestrian only spaces. A line of trees planted down the south arm of the cross have had circular solid benches built around them, a pleasant place to sit and wait for certain men to go on their lunch break. The north arm is under a glass arched cover, with small black benches to sit on. This end is closer to the local Sainsburys.

To my eye the town seems to be divided between these two spaces, in terms of where you will wait for a friend, or eat lunch. The north arm seems to be more chavs (bogans in Australian parlance), whereas the south arm seems to be more porfessional. This split exemplifies the town in general, with both groups existing, but not necessarily mixing.

There are a number of pubs. Our ‘local’ is the Junction, right in the middle of town, which has frequently been referred to as a pub attempting to be a wine bar. This does mean it’s quieter and a bit trendier than other pubs in the area. Seems fine to me.

One of the things I notice about the area (and England in general) are the gardens and greenery. Gardens of all sizes, in almost any available space. Colour and greenery. Some of which have been there for years and grown into a lovely, but pretty mess. Some of which you know was recently purchased and bought to bring a shot of spring colour into a landscape that was recently wintery and grey.

There’s a local market here every Thursday and Saturday, which means there’s a butcher, fishmonger and fruit and veg stall which I can visit on a regular basis in an attempt to maintain seasonally based eating. To compliment this there’s a Delicatessen and fine food store on the hill behind the house, which sells the other small items I need for my cooking, and they do a decent coffee, although there’s nowhere to sit and enjoy it.

I’m sure there’ll be more to say about the town as time progresses, but this is enough for a introduction and backgrounder.

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I found this list of uses for vinegar today. I knew this was good stuff, but 254 uses! Admittedly some of them are repeated, but still. A couple of favourites:

  • A quarter cup in a quart of water makes a good window cleaner.A reader adds: When you use vinegar in your water to wash windows, dry with newspapers. Your windows will sparkle! (I hate the smell of windex, but like shiny windows)
  • Set a container (shallow bowl) of vinegar throughout the house to absorb unpleasant odours. Works great on burned food odors. Do not use styrofoam. It will soak thru it. (Hooray! No more burnt chops smell!)
  • Use 2 cups of cider vinegar in the tub to soak sore muscles and add potassium to muscles. (mmm, more excuses for a bath)
  • Take 2 cups of grape juice, 2 cups of white grape juice, 2 cups of apple juice and 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. Mix well and refrigerate. Every morning before you do anything else, drink a small cup of it. Each batch lasts a week or two depending on how much you drink each morning. It tastes sort of like a strong wine. Since I have done this my energy level has increased dramatically and my coffee consumption has gone down. I also feel better altogether. (Sounds good, although the juice of a half a lemon in water is also good, and probably has the same effect)

Other “frugal living” stuff here, and a great blog that occasionally has posts on this theme.

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