on the move

My mother and I frequently watch Escape to the Country, a British show about moving to the tranquil countryside in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. It’s a calming show and one that we can both enjoy. Unlike most of the U.S. design or real estate shows, the properties are unique and lovely in their own way. We’ve seen walls of every shade imaginable, doorways where even I would have to duck, staircases that cannot possibly meet a modern building code, and ceiling beams that are structural not decorative … and often are in the neighborhood of 400 years old. I despair of the reaction from the House Hunters crowd who would probably want to gut the place and install granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and an open floorplan. And I say this as someone with stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops and a largely open plan space in my last apartment.

The buyers on Escape – often couples either just starting out or looking to retire – are unfailingly polite and complimentary even when the place is not quite right for them. While they identify which house is their favorite, there is no assumption that they will buy one of them – it’s a little treat when they do buy! The rotating hosts don’t pretend that they are actually doing the work themselves (i.e., the “show” pulls together the list of properties). They are fairly jolly, have a sense of humor, and really seem to enjoy tea and cakes or a pint at the local pub. There is usually a short segment on someone who is keeping an ancient skill alive, an organic approach to producing stuff, an outdoor activity or a local factory/company/estate/farm that is doing something new or interesting. The views are incredible, as are the random farm animals that graze in the field or wander over to see what’s going on. You can just relax into the show. It’s not a heavy lift.

Returning to reality, Mom, Oscar and I moved about 9 months ago – I cannot believe that it’s been that long. Unlike Escape, we did not seek out a rural view, country idyll or slower pace of life. To be honest, our pace of life could not be considered breakneck at this point! We are pretty low key. Our move was really for a specific reason – to get a second bedroom so that my mother could have some privacy and I could reclaim more of my apartment space! I cannot adequately express my joy at being able to watch TV in the living room after she has gone to bed or even, dare I say, grab a late-night snack from the kitchen without disturbing her. My little office space is not quite up and running yet, but hopefully soon. I cannot wait until I can take my laptop over to that desk and work from there. I’ll soon be starting a string of posts on renovating the new place. It’s been an adventure.

It’s interesting to hear people’s responses to moving. For some, it seems like the end of the world, as they are very connected to their home. They fight to stay in their homes, even when it is difficult or impossible to maintain their home or when it is overwhelming for them. For others, moving is an adventure and opportunity to do something new. I would guess that for most of us, it’s somewhere in between. I’ve moved around in past – for a while, I had a very predictable pattern of moving every three years, even within the same city. I don’t know why, but it was so well-established that it had to mean something. So, moving is not traumatic but it is a lot of work – more than it used to be when I was younger and lived alone.

The good thing about moving is that it means you weed out your belongings – some things stay, some move on to someone else and some stuff is finally shifted to the trash bin. It’s interesting to think about what we keep. I own certain objects and pieces of furniture that are not objectively great but I will not part with them until I am forced to do so – a rocking chair my mother gave me when I was about 12 years old, an old desk that has been passed down in the family, a vase that belonged to my grandmother, a piggy bank that my father gave me, an old mirror, the first table I bought, and so on. These are “me” and have a place in my heart and meaning beyond functionality. Most of my belongings are not in this category and can be replaced if needed. That is not to say that I don’t like my belongings – I’m quite fond of nearly all my furniture, for example. Then, of course, there are things I would like to get rid of but need, for one reason or another. Apologies to Marie Kondo, but I think it’s reasonable to keep stuff that doesn’t “spark joy” because, well, sometimes you just need a screwdriver or ratty old towel to clean something or clothes that you don’t wear but would be expensive to replace.

One philosophy I subscribe to is that I need to live within my own space, however large or small that is, and not have separate storage. I’m currently violating this principle, as I have a storage closet here in my building that is currently housing a kitchen cabinet and boxes of tile. However, the closet was a temporary solution for the move/renovations. As soon as the cabinet can be installed, the boxes of tile will move to my apartment (somewhere!) and I will again be self-contained.

I am now debating (with myself) about under-the-bed and over-the-door hanging storage. On one hand, it is space that can be put to good use. I don’t have a lot of closet space in the new apartment, so using space under the beds or hanging something over the door is practical and sensible. On the other hand, it bothers me for some reason. It’s one thing to keep essentials, but at what point am I keeping more than the essentials? I would like to get to a point where I have everything neatly tucked into closets and have the under-bed space open and clean. Of course, this will be impossible to truly achieve, as I have a couple of boxes of flooring and extra tiles from the new bathroom that are currently under my mother’s bed and there is no place for them to go. The over-the-door storage means that I cannot close the door, so this is a bit problematic. Ah, problems ….

When I moved to (and bought) my last apartment, I stayed for more than 15 years and would still be there had my mother not moved down, so I think my apartment-hopping days are over. I plan to stay in my new home for at least 15 years, at which point, I will be in my 70s. Since I stayed in the same building for this latest move, it amazes me to think that I might live in one building for 30 years! It’s not where I thought I would end up, but this building is home now and that is very appealing.

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