Little Home Comforts

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It was six months ago today that my husband and I received the keys to our house (though we delayed spending our first night here until the 30th of December when we were ready to move our cat Mara across) and with our downstairs renovations finally nearing completion, we are all feeling very settled in our new home.

As much as I have fond memories of the little flat we rented, which was the first home my then boyfriend (now husband) and I shared together, after three and a half years we had outgrown it and were ready to move on. Over the last six months in our little house, it has often been the simplest things – easily overlooked and taken for granted – which I’ve noticed and appreciated the most.

The novelty of being able to park the car outside our house every day instead of circling round our old street searching for a space to squeeze into has not yet worn off. It has been a relief to watch Mara adjust her old routines to the new location without any fuss or distress, and she seems to enjoy having more space to play and explore. The washing line in the garden and the pulley we fitted above the stairs seem like luxuries after so many years of trying to dry clothes on radiators and clothes airers in rented flats. I enjoy drawing the curtains open every morning to check the weather outside and watch the seasons unfolding in our garden. I love the sunlight streaming through the South-West facing windows, bathing our home in warmth and light from dawn until dusk. Our little garden is a constant source of delight, from al fresco breakfasts in our pyjamas at the weekends to weeding and watering our raised beds, making salads with the lettuce, spinach and radishes we’ve grown, and sipping refreshing gin and tonics with friends on warm summer evenings.

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After renting for so many years, we also appreciate being able to make changes to our home without having to ask the landlord for permission, and every change we’ve made – from hanging a key rack by the front door to installing a wood burning stove in the living room – has made our house feel more and more like our own.

The first half of 2017 has been turbulent, but whenever world events or personal struggles and upheavals seem overwhelming, I’ve been grateful to close the front door at the end of the day, to enjoy the simple comforts of our home and immerse myself in the easy intimacy of my little family and all our daily routines together.

Happy summer solstice and have a lovely week.

Home Sweet Home

We recently moved into our new house and the last few weeks have been spent repainting, unpacking, exploring the local area and making sure our cat Mara is settling in.

(Surprise snowdrops in the garden, and Mara making herself at home)

My husband and I rented together for three and a half years but longed for a house and garden of our own. For many people in the U.K., home ownership represents security and an escape from the competitive rental market. We’ve been lucky that our landlords were decent, we’ve never had our rents increased or tenancy terminated at short notice like some of our friends, but we’ve had our fair share of maintenance issues from damp in the bathroom to mice in the kitchen and a broken boiler that left us without heating or hot water in the middle of winter.

We started looking for a house in winter because the housing market seems to slow down around Christmas, and we thought it might be harder to hide leaks, damp and drafts in the colder months of the year. We spent hours scrolling through estate agent sites, comparing floor plans, analyzing street maps and studying what often turned out to be misleading photos before we even started arranging viewings.

Eventually we chose the house we could imagine ourselves living in, which happened to be the first house we viewed and the yardstick against which we measured the others. It was a cold, rainy Saturday in November when we first visited it, yet this particular house still seemed light and cosy to us.

We worried about outgrowing the house before we owned enough furniture to fill one room. We were anxious about the stress moving would cause our house-cat. We brooded over repossession and negative equity. We worried until we ran out of things to worry about, yet both my husband and I are decisive by nature, and twenty four hours after visiting the house, we made an offer.

We had a few restless nights waiting to find out if the owners would accept our offer, then waiting for the building society to approve our mortgage, and the conveyancing caused everyone involved considerable stress as the solicitors wrangled over reports, fees and deadlines. Fortunately, it all proceeded smoothly and was finalised on the 21st of December, making our new house seem like an early Christmas present.

(The keys to our new home, and a little gift from the previous owners)

We’re relieved by how quickly Mara has settled into our new home; she can be very timid, but we tried to make the move as smooth as possible for her by making sure there were lots of familiar furniture, rugs and blankets, as well as all of her own toys and things.

I was sad to say goodbye to the home we rented for three years and seven months, but I’m so grateful for the shelter it provided, all the memories made and lessons learned there. My sadness is softened by excitement about our new house though, it is ready to live in but will be a bit of a project to make our own as the previous owners favoured dark colour schemes and added some odd features. Yet even with boxes to unpack, walls to repaint and mismatched furniture, it already feels like home sweet home. Have a lovely week.