A house to call home…
A home is important to me. It’s more than bricks and mortar. It’s somewhere that I can enjoy my family and somewhere that we are safe.
I owned my first home at 17 when house prices were cheap. My ex-husband and myself both worked hard. While most people my age were out, getting drunk and enjoying being young. I was spending my time working in an office and weekends and evenings were spent decorating what was a run-down property. Buying new windows, central heating etc… Although conscious of what I was missing out on, they were happy days. I would get excited buying my curtains, sofa and colour co-ordinating on what was a tight budget. By the age of 20 we were in equity so used our equity to move to another run-down house. Again, we both worked and did our best to decorate our home on what was to be a tighter budget as bringing our family into the world had begun. I found a love of gardening and our home and garden began to look really nice. Again, the house was totally gutted, windows were replaced, fascia’s, central heating and new bathrooms.
The house prices had rocketed, we found ourselves with plenty of spare cash and with a growing family we went for bigger again.
I couldn’t believe that at just 27 I was moving into what I called a dolls house. It was a beautiful five bedroomed house. Not only were we moving into a five bedroomed house but we decided to rent out our three bedroomed home. (look on the link to see what was my beautiful home which was repossessed 3 years ago when my ex husband stopped paying the mortgage)
It was a strange feeling moving into the five bedroomed house. I couldn’t believe the journey that I had travelled from a young girl who had had nothing. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me. A private walled garden, conservatory, utility room, several bathrooms, huge dining room, double garage, an office and huge kitchen with an island in the middle. This was perfect. A perfect home to raise my perfect family. But our priorities were wrong.
The first night that I walked into the five bedroomed house on my own. It was quiet. I sat upstairs on the floor in the master bedroom with the diamond patterned windows overlooking the quiet cul de sac. I imagined the children being able to play out on their bikes but I had a feeling. It wasn’t a good feeling. I felt like this was the house that I would die in. But I told myself to stop being silly.
Again, we replaced central heating, fascia’s, the conservatory, utility, had internal brick work knocked down not to mention we were a two car family. But it didn’t make us happy. The more we spent on the house and possessions, the less surplus money we had in our pockets to buy every day essentials. We therefore began living off credit cards and the stress began building. We decided to sell our property that we rented to clear up some of our excess debt. But it wasn’t enough. With three dependent children I had no choice but to be around the home to look after them. Besides which I was too poorly with a newly diagnosed immune disorder to do anything else.
My ex-husband and I drifted apart. I believed he didn’t care enough about me while I was poorly. In a sense I did die in that house and my marriage died too. He was trying to keep a roof over our head. The crunch came when he said that we would have to lose our home and we were not strong enough as a couple to fight our way through it. My ex-husband was materialistic and I knew that he would not be strong enough to go down the route that I wanted to go down. Which was to completely bottom out. I wanted relationships and not material wealth any longer.
Our marriage had been built upon a material basis to the point that we had forgotten what was important. Which was us and our family. Therefore when it came to it we were not strong enough to get through it together.
I left with the children into the unknown and unfortunately it was when house prices had plummeted – we fell victim. To say I was scared was an understatement. I’d never even paid a bill before, I’d had no control over money. But I knew that we would get through it. I knew that I had to be strong. Moving from your own property to a dilapidated rental property is tough. Moving to a dilapidated rental property with an unreasonable land lord as a woman on your own is even tougher. At one point he even did ask me if I could afford to pay my rent each month and perhaps we could come to some agreement. As a woman on my own there was no way I was making any sort of agreement with a male. I chose to pay my rent every month instead.
The house became worse over the two years, it leaked and destroyed the upstairs, there were times when I had no electricity, the landlord wouldn’t keep on top of his gas checks and there were times when he entered the property without gaining my permission. With financial difficulties looming over me I put myself on the council register but didn’t think I would get a house unless I was made homeless. It was a dark time for me. I couldn’t call the house a home. It wasn’t a home – it was a disaster zone.
But I was lucky. Within nine months I’d been allocated a house. Just nine months and I couldn’t believe my luck. It was strange because I’d been suffering such anxiety but a week before I got the letter from the council I was sat in the front room on the terracotta sofa and I just had this feeling of calm wash through me. A feeling to say that everything would be ok. The morning that I got the letter with the house address on in the area that I requested I skipped out of the front garden. I was supposed to be going on a date that night but I called to cancel it. Visiting what would be my new home was more important, even if I could just see it on the outside. They say a home is only bricks and mortar but for me it symbolised a new start. I hadn’t even seen the home at this point but I knew, I just had a feeling that it was the right decision and that it would be ok.
It was. It was a quirky looking three bedroomed semi-detached, in excellent condition on the outside. I could not believe the size of the garden or how much parking there was to the property. Also, down the road a pretty looking church, around the corner farmers’ fields, wide paths and nice walk ways. After losing a home, being in over my head with debt I felt like I’d won the lottery. I stood outside the property just knowing that I would be happy.
It was a further three days before I actually got to look around the property. The inside was a little old fashioned but I’d had enough experience renovating properties from scratch so I could see the potential that paint and new floors would make. I had no money but I knew that we would do this. We would just go slow and I would roll my sleeves up and make this what I jokingly called Shellingham Palace.
Furthermore, I had a nice feeling about the home. A feeling that I would no longer be dead but be alive. The home had been occupied by a tenant for 60 years, she had recently passed away but not in the house itself. I met her lovely daughter who was tearful. She told me that she had moved into the house with her mother, father and brother when she was just seven. It was clear that this house meant more to her than just bricks and mortar. It had been her home. I hugged her and told her that my daughter was seven too and that my children and I would take good care of the home. She told me that she was pleased that the house would be going to a nice family.
It was six weeks later before we were given our keys and moved in. I’d had to sell lots of furniture to downsize yet again and I needed the money to move. It was a constant juggle of money. Robbing Peter to pay Paul as they say. But I felt happy, I felt happy for my children. The lady had placed a single pink rose on the outside of the out-house, which was a beautiful gesture and showed just how much the house had meant to her. I hugged all of my children and told them. We might not have a lot now but this is the rebuild. We’re going to be happy.
And we have been happy amongst our bricks. Life is about relationships, not just material possessions. It’s more than material in a house that makes a home. A home is made by the hearts within it.