I have embraced my inner clutter goddess after finding a home

First published in the Irish Independent 09/10/2016

 

I am now the proud possessor of a hammer. A proper hammer, and I have used it a goodly number of times. About 20 times so far. To hang pictures. On the walls of the house where I rent.

A little over a month ago, I did not have walls to rent. I had exited my old house, rented for the past 10 years, where I had lived with my two daughters and our animals.

I had exited our house as the lease had been terminated. There was no trouble, just the owner wanted her house back. I searched Wicklow high and low for alternative rental accommodation but nothing was to hand.

As the months rushed together, I found myself getting more and more frantic. I looked at caravans, thinking I might buy one at the end of the summer. But like time shares, caravans should never be bought in warm months. Fortunately, the ones I viewed were so shabby as to be unattractive even in the heat, which was one positive consequence of a modest budget.

I planted my daughters in a cottage, found at the eleventh hour. A friend offered to rent me a bedroom and at the grand old age of 51, I went couch surfing. I had tried to embrace the new me, the new rental-continental me, and now the trendy couch-surfing me. But I was failing miserably.

I went each day to Lawless Hotel in Aughrim and plugged myself into the net. I pestered those patient staff with gentle requests to reset the modem when the internet went down. I drank endless cups of tea and sometimes, when budget allowed, bought lunch as well. I hid myself in a corner and did my best to ignore the busy rural trade plied in front of me.

I resigned myself to several months of stealing internet while I tried to set up my business again. It stuck me forcibly that having no fixed abode made it very hard to be upbeat and win business. I chatted on the phone and joked about my incipient alcoholism should I continue to have to work out of bars with internet. It was tough going.

But back to the hammer. In the middle of all this angst, I got a message from a friend. He had heard about my latest predicament (and there have been quite a few) and got in touch to say he had a cottage to rent. I saw the cottage the next day and moved in the following weekend.

Since that time, I have thrown all notions of minimalism out the window. I have rejected the clean interior designs beloved by the very cool. Instead, I have embraced my inner clutter goddess and have been nesting with an enthusiasm that is religious in its zealotry.

I realise that I had not bought one thing for the house I rented for the previous 10 years. After losing my original home to the banks, I had been coasting. I lived in the house but it was not a home, not in the material sense. I thought I was ‘over’ possessions. I had them all taken from me, or I had sold them or I had lost them – and I no longer cared.

Now, in my little unexpected dreamboat of a house I can only see my possessions, which are growing daily. I have raided all the charity shops in a 50-mile radius. I buy things, small things, clutter, knick- knacks, bric-a-brac, and bring them home to my little house. I place them on small tables, on window sills, and I hang pictures on the walls. With my little hammer.

I have never been so given over to materialism. It matters not one whit that my budget is modest and my target shops are charitable ones. Last week, I was trying on a skirt in a Saint Vincent de Paul shop in Tinahely. In the make-shift dressing room, I spotted a tangle of coloured glass. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a pendant lamp shade.

It was intended for use in the shop but the kind attendant sold it to me for a fiver. I brought it home and hung it in my bedroom. And then I turned on the light. The bling is terrific. The ceiling and walls of my bedroom are littered with shards of coloured light.

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I, who once had crystal chandeliers, am riveted by my coloured glass. I rush guests up to my bedroom and turn on the display. I am prouder than a circus master of my precious find.

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I am the same for every stick of furniture in the house, every trinket I purchase and every plant I buy. I walk around my home and talk to the contents. I thank them for their use or their beauty and sometimes both. It is like a veneer of pixie dust is covering the entire house. I never knew that I had missed feeling at home so much and having now arrived at home, I am so happy.

Irish Independent

How to lose a Home in Ten Easy Steps …

How to lose a home in Ten Easy Steps

_MG_0076aOn August 7, 2013, the sheriff will officially seize my house, my former home. Unlike some other high profile bankrupts, I don’t have secondary houses to fall back on. I haven’t relocated to America or I don’t swan around the world on yachts. I had one home and on August 7th I will be officially homeless. Now, don’t worry, I only mean homeless as in lacking a home that I once had. In fact, for the past four years I have been renting a cottage nearby with my two children and various animals. I rent a very beautiful cottage with panoramic views across the local little hills. My old home has panoramic views also, but across to Mount Leinster as befits the central house of a townland, for Raheengraney House is named for its region.

I don’t think I will be there to witness the surrender of my once beautiful home. It has been a long time since I was there, maybe January of this year, and I don’t relish the thought of a sheriff changing locks or putting up yellow tape to stop trespassers. On August 7th, I will become a trespasser in my own home. It is the ending of an era. I had fought a long time to save my home, some six years or so. It is not that I give up, but the task was beyond me. There are some battles that can be won, some that need to be fought and some that must slip between the fingers. I did not know it but Raheengraney house was always slipping through my fingers, from the very day we saw the ruin.

 

So, I thought, on the eve of my impending homelessness, that I would chronicle how to lose a home in ten easy steps.

Step One – Get Married

Ok, I know you might think I am doing a Tristan Shandy here, and I promise to speed up shortly. But the first place to find a home (the one to be lost afterwards) is often to get married, and I was no exception. Except, exception provided, my first home was in Dublin, on Leinster Road and had we remained there, I most certainly would not be homeless in a week’s time. Leinster Road and overlooking Mount Leinster, coincidences are always at play. I said I would be taken from that home in a box. Fortunately I was not, but sadly we did sell.

Step Two – Change career

My husband had a self-confessed, mid-life crisis. He wished to leave banking. He cast around for alternative careers and together we settled on gentleman guest house owner. Then we cast around for a suitable ruin. Ruin for we had limited money and suitable, well just a suitable ruin I guess. We were sent a brochure within a brochure. The second brochure was a hand drawn rendering of a house, Raheengraney house. It looked promised, as indeed art might.

Step Three – Discover a lifestyle

We visited the first house (with photographic image) and then the second (with line sketching). The second, Raheengraney House, was in very poor repair. But, in our first viewing we met with a gentleman guesthouse owner extraordinaire who told us all about his lifestyle. I have to say he wowed us both. He and his beautiful lady wife are strong friends of mine to this day. Now, they are very good at running guesthouses and hotels. They are also warm, vivacious people. And he is a most convincing speaker. We fell for him but we bought Raheengraney House.

Step Four – Emphasis on the wrong word.

Gentleman guest house owner, with emphasis on owner. I know, you thought I would emphasise the first word, not the last. I may be divorced but I refused to be drawn on bitchiness. So, finally we were in possession of a guest house but only as owners. It was never really run as such, aside from a few family delegations. My own business, however, soon mushroomed in the basement where I would spend much of my time over the years.

Step Five – Change career again

So, while being a gentleman guest house owner is a nice title, it doesn’t involve that much work. Owning a guest house without guests is pretty boring I guess. Either way, I worked below ground and we had very few guests above. Boredom had its way and my husband decided, along with the rest of the country and sadly with my full support, to become a bit of a property whizz. It made sense for we had increased our investment in the guesthouse tenfold: why not use that equity elsewhere.

Step Six – Get Divorced

Ah, I can see it now and hear the gasps in the audience. Now we are getting to the nub of the problem. All the rest was filling, superficial nonsense. If divorce had not reared its ugly head then the homeless equation would not come into being. A divided by B equals C.  Dear reader, you are probably right. Getting divorced was probably the single biggest factor in my becoming homeless in the next eight days.

Step Seven – Make a Video

Go viral. Talk about stuff. Think you are making a difference.

Step Eight – Go to Court

Nails in coffins, thump, thump, thump. My first day in court the judge called me a human being. She castigated the banks. She insisted they talk to me or she would strike the case.

Step Nine – lose your Humanity

On my return to court I was no longer a human being. The judge just signed the order. I was also no longer a home owner. I had become invisible.

Step Ten – Avoid boxes

I had said, second time around, that I would only leave Raheengraney House in a box. I think I must have a latent death wish or something. Again fortunately, I did not. I am still alive. I have left the house and now the house is leaving me. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

That is two houses I have not left in a box. Maybe my third will be a keeper.

So, ladies and gentleman. There is nothing in my steps that might frighten you out of the ordinary yet I implore you not to follow the sequence for fear that you too may follow my fate. To be homeless is not liberating, it is not cowing, it not regretful, it is not depressing, it just is. And so I shall be on August 7, 2013.

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