I am moving house:

I love my house…. I have lived here for 32 years.

But… I have to  ‘not love my house’ and disconnect from it emotionally so that I will love the place I am moving to.

I live in a Victorian terrace, 5 bedrooms, with a bathroom and a shower room. 

You come in the front door…stairs in front of you… to the left there is a living room. It was two rooms that was knocked into one.  That was done before I moved in; I found  I didn’t use the back part very much. 

Down three steps into the kitchen. The kitchen is a decent size…  plenty  of work surfaces and cupboards.

I have re-done the kitchen three or four times. 

garden showing rear of house before moving

The best change I made: sliding doors instead of a back door. The garden feels like it is in the house – which I love.  

My garden is about  45 ft long and it backs onto a  railway line –  which I had some reservations about. But it has  been fantastic in terms of privacy and security.  I am a big fan about living near a railway line.

There was a loft conversion –  that added the 2 bedrooms and shower room. Downstairs there is a cellar, which is  fantastic for storage – which I will miss horribly

Up a flight  of stairs there is a small landing with a bathroom to the left and a decent sized room directly ahead. And then stairs going up to another double bedroom and the main bedroom, which is at the front of the house and goes the width of the house.

bedroom with wall hangings - before moving

It is a lovely bedroom with two big windows. 

Then there are stairs going up to the new part. A  lot of stairs and a lot of levels.. which for  me … makes it interesting.

It’s like everybody I guess…  my home is a history of what I have done and where I have been.

I have travelled a lot over the years and there are a lot of the  bits that refer to different stages in my life. So there are rugs that I  bought in India… one beautiful rug that I got in Armenia. 

There are pictures from different parts of the UK.. of the world. Pictures of Prague, of Budapest. Places that matter to me.. where I have spent time. 

bright window and crockery display -  before moving

I would say there’s a big Irish  influence in my house. 

I have two posters – one of Irish writers and one I got  from Burtonport.  Although I’m not a practising Catholic I have crucifixes.. a picture of the Virgin Mary… and somewhere there is a palm cross. 

For many years I worked with some of the major London Art Schools and I’ve bits and pieces from ceramicists and textile artists that I picked up from final year shows.

I need to look at the new place and think what is going to fit in and what’s important to me now.

With the process of moving house some of the  things that I am fond of  will have to go. It was part of my life but it’s time to go. 

I never thought I could afford a house. 

This was the early ‘90’s and property prices were rocketing. It was a time when people were being gazumped…an odd period. 

I was living in a very  nice one bedroom flat but it didn’t have a garden or outdoor  space. It was a lovely light bright, sunny flat in a conservation area and I knew I couldn’t afford  anything there.

Occasionally I would walk down this particular road, I liked it because it had trees. It’s a bog-standard street of Victorian terraces – it was not  a smart road at all then. 

It’s different now, so many years later. 

In those days estate agents would call you on your landline and say  there is a property  if you want to go and look at it. The property market was moving so fast you  just had to say: “Yes” or run the chance of  missing any potential opportunity.  

I think I looked at about 70 different places. 

You have a mental tick list:  a  kitchen you could sit in, plenty of space, and – given that  I would be living by myself – 3 bedrooms and bathroom.

Bedroom   with antique furniture - before moving

My first impression of this house was that the front door looked like it hadn’t  been painted. Like it just had undercoat on it. 

But when I went in it was sunny and there was light coming at the top of the house through the back bedroom,  the living room and kitchen.

That was the first thing I thought: right, OK. I really, really liked the different levels and the light. 

I still have the estate agent’s details: “master bedroom with built in pine cupboards...” The impression was that they would be bespoke. But it was all quite shoddy.  

The guy who lived there was a set builder so everything was superficial.

There was no craft, no great pride in the work. The ‘bespoke pine wardrobes’ were an eye-sore… so badly constructed. Everything he did I had to undo.

Although the garden was a scrub, a mess, I just felt….and I’ve had this experience with the flat I’m moving to…..it has to ‘speak’ to you. You have to engage. 

I didn’t fall in love with the house – I loved my previous flat. But I liked it very much. And I could afford it.

32 years on I love my house.

woman cooking in kitchen before moving

This was very much a party house –  and I entertained a lot!

Through being naturally  hospitable and having space (and not having children) my home became a focal point for the whole family. 

Whenever my mother came to stay my sister C. would come over from Italy every summer for about a month. My other sister  M. would come down from Yorkshire and my sister A. lived a mile away.  So there was always a lot going on.

Over the years I had birthday parties for friends and also for family from Ireland. My mother loved the fact that I was close to my family and that Ireland was important.

Covid was a tough period. 

I took early retirement in 2020 because I  wanted to spend more time with my mother who had dementia. I also wanted to travel and to do lots of things. But very quickly Covid changed everything

And then my mother died.

It was very, very sad… but it was her time. 

Then my  younger sister A. died…. and that was deeply distressing.

Although my plan had been  to downsize when I retired: I was very conscious that I needed not to do things so quickly. On the back of  two family deaths I needed to give myself time emotionally and to make sure that  my reasons were the right ones. 

And then life being life stuff happened, and that  changed the timing a bit. 

detail of kitchen with knives  and utensils

My main reason for moving? Because I want to realise capital. 

At 65, I am conscious that I’ve probably  got about 10 healthy years  left. So I need to move while I am physically able – and emotionally able. 

When my mother my step-father moved house it had an unsettling effect on her. Because she had dementia it kind of accelerated the process. 

Moving is not a one-thought process action. 

I knew had to be fit and emotionally in a good place.

So I made the  decision last spring that ‘now’ was the time to do it. 

I decided to start the process in spring because the house looked at its best with wall to wall bluebells, forget-me-nots and blossom. It is a beautiful garden, my absolute pride and joy, and I have done a lot  work to it.

I did not think I would have a problem selling. This is an area where people want to live and a street that is sought after. 

This area has changed  massively over the years and my street is now very des res. People here have nannies! 

The house went on the market and I started to look to buy.  

Then.. we had the ‘Liz  Truss debacle‘  – which really messed up the economy,  as we know. The headlines were: “nothing’s moving.. nothing’s shifting”. But I thought I would give it a go.

detail of antique fireplace

Estate agents came round and they all valued it at £1.1 million.

I  knew that was too much.  

I have been here 30 years and have kept the place  in very good condition but it’s not state of the art. There is no shred of  granite in my kitchen!

But it’s a  lovely house in a very good location and structurally sound – and that’s what matters. 

In total 19 people came to see the property  and  only one lot put  in an offer.  That was the offer I accepted – although it was significantly lower than £1.1m 

Once I accepted the offer it meant I had to find somewhere quickly. 

Because this neighbourhood has such strong associations with my mother and sister I felt  I needed that element of stability. I didn’t feel like breaking in a new area.

I knew exactly what kind of home I was looking for:  a two bedroom apartment, ideally two bathrooms, west or south facing  garden  big kitchen. And I really wanted an island unit… so badly.

Also, it had to be ground floor or basement – because I will be ‘old’ there and don’t want to have to deal with stairs. So that was important.  

And a big kitchen –  which would  not have been unreasonable in this area because they are big Victorian houses that have been converted. 

I think I saw 12 properties to buy –  properties that were lovely… and properties that were dreadful. 

You have to be flexible.

kitchen  cupboards

An emotional connection is important. 

I saw one place  I liked very much but I didn’t have that ’emotional’ reaction.

It’s not the most important thing but it’s got to be factored in.

I saw my new flat on a sunny day –  which does make a big  difference. It felt like a very contained ‘small’ house. 

What I liked about the flat was the vibe I got from it. I’m not naïve about this. A property ‘speaks’ to you. 

The guys who lived there had  been there for 17 years.

It’s in a big semi-detached Victorian  five-storey building with a front garden on a wide main road. The entrance to the flat is beside the main front door, which is up some big fairly grand steps. 

There are  4-5 steps down to an area the size of a rug and steps up to a utility area  and then another door a little hall/ lobby that is about 7’ square. The rooms go off from that. I like that. 

I like that it has its own front door, because  communal areas can be very messy.

There is a small kitchen. It’s nice enough – but there is no chance of an island unit. 

I do not like the bathroom, but the  living room is big. It’s nearly 19’ by 16’. It’s a lovely room.

The garden is absolutely lovely and I have direct access. From the kitchen backdoor there are steps up and the flat above has stairs down. It’s not private, but it’s a lot more private than some of the shared areas I had seen.  

Standing in the hall you see the bathroom, the kitchen.. and the really lovely living room. To the left there is a little walk into the main bedroom, which is a decent size. It will get the sun in the morning because it is east facing.

There is a small double bedroom and a small  room they called a ‘study’ because it doesn’t have  any natural light.

rooftop view of old house at sunset - before moving

The process of moving and consciously uncoupling from the house …. I’ve had to  work on that. 

I have a very nice neighbour in this street and I think the world of her. Although I’m only moving 3 streets away… it’s different.

The thing is:  you create a home; I created this home. I will create another home and people will love being there.  So I have to  re-focus  slightly. 

Managing emotions when moving house is important.  I am doing all this by myself  and it has been sooo… stressful.   

There are practicalities to consider.

Because I am going from a five-bedroomed house to a  two and a half bedroom  flat  (and a very small kitchen) I have had to  rationalise.  I have done a  massive sift and chuck out but when I unpack  I will come across stuff I don’t need. It’s an organic process.

I have chucked out a lot of stuff –  a lot of it has gone to charity shops.

All the precious  Hungarian pottery that I schlepped back, and  barely used.. some of that has gone. Anything with chips in it I am going to chuck out. 

A lot of my bedding and crockery I gave to my sister because she has a big family. Her kids can use it. Because I will have 2 beds and a sofa bed  – as opposed to 4 beds and a sofa bed I don’t need 6 duvets.

plant on kitchen table

I had to be quite ruthless.  

Sifting through letters took a long time.  Cards that I had from work colleagues thirty years ago… I can’t remember who half the people are! 

My father died in Ireland in the house where he was born. When my sister and I cleared out the house we found letters he had sent when he was seven. Those letters had been kept all those years and I cannot throw them out.  

That’s when I started saving cards. It was nice to have  30th, 40th birthday cards. My nieces and  nephews can throw them out when I’m dead.  I can’t! 

I went through a huge box of photographs. How often do you look at them?  Not so much.

Actually, I didn’t chuck that many family photos out.

There’s only maybe 2 or 3  with the whole family ( because one of us would have been taking the photo). I have 2-3 boxes of photos from my mum. I can’t throw them out. It’s too much

looking down at garden with seating - before moving

From my garden I’ve taken a rosebush that my mum was given as a 70th birthday present from long-time family friends, both of whom are dead now. 

My sister said: mum has  given you a lot and you can’t keep everything.

It’s true. 

But, anything with my sister A.’s print on it I will keep..  

Most of the furniture I’m keeping. There are a couple of the bookcases that my mother got as wedding  presents that my step-father did up. They are lovely, mid-century, and they are practical.

To anyone who might be thinking about moving and downsizing  I would say: don’t leave it… and don’t do it all in one go…. And start early.

You don’t ‘suddenly’ decide  to sell your house.

Over a period of time do what I did: get rid. Then it’s less painful and it doesn’t feel like such a massive obstacle. 

You do two or three different tranches of getting rid of stuff.

Then you go back  and think: I am never going to wear that…. My mother bought me a raincoat… I think I wore twice. But I am not getting rid of that. 

When something has gone it’s gone. And if you didn’t look at it you are not going to miss it.

Do it gradually and don’t make it a  chore. It is a chore, but do it in manageable bits. If you do it gradually it’s less painful. 

dining room with large window - before moving

I am confident that I am moving for the right reasons. It’s the right thing to do.

However, I wasn’t expecting the process of buying and selling to be so horrendous.

It has been extremely stressful with sleepless  nights and anxiety.

The process of buying/selling.. ..all the documentation  and endless trying to  bargain the prices… the bureaucracy. I have been in a state of low-level anxiety  probably for about three months and have been  sleeping so badly.

When the surveys were being done it was stressful.  It’s  quite a lot of money to spend on something that may tell you – this is a really bad idea. 

Right now, I am snarled up trying to get the utilities transferred online.  If the technology lets you down  – which  it does from time to time – you are screwed. 

The mystique that is around moving house of buying and selling… it’s not straightforward.  

It’s unwieldy… unnecessarily complicated… cumbersome.  It’s not a lot of fun.  

Moving is such a big process for the seller. I asked my very nice estate agents if they had a list of things that I had to do once  I exchanged contracts. And they were really blank. 

I think as a marketing tool it would be excellent if they could create a checklist. A list of removal firms… a tick  list. That would make life a lot easier for their clients.

I had to create my own tick list: done, done, done.  

I tell myself: this is a phase, a period, a time that you have to get through and then you will get an end result.

That’s fine, when  I’m awake….. When I am asleep – forget it!

But when I move in I am confident I will love being there.

woman eating dinner - before moving

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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