Thoughts on Moving House and How We Fill Our Lives

Early morning – 05:00.

I’ve always been an early bird but, at the moment, as a parent to a young child, my internal clock doesn’t always align with my need for more sleep. Usually, when I’m awake at 05:00, I’m awake for good and I might as well get something done. So here I am, writing a blog post in the spare bedroom and eating cornflakes. It’s still dark outside, as dark as suburban Dublin gets with the endless glow of orange street lamps, bright security lights, and the early morning commuters’ headlights. I’ve opened the window to the frosty winter morning to let in some fresh air and birdsong. My cats are awake too. Eva’s not a morning cat. She’s lying at the foot of the bed with her ears drawn back, eyes half-closed, probably wondering why I’ve turned on the light and why there’s a cold draught. Leia is very much an early riser and she’s stalking around like a caged tiger, occasionally jumping on the window sill to sniff at the air. It won’t be long until she starts harassing me to let her out for her morning walk and then for her breakfast. It’s amazing how quickly they’ve settled into old routines despite all the recent changes. We moved house between Christmas and New Year, only weeks ago, and already the cats have determined the best napping spots, explored the neighbours’ gardens, and settled into their usual feeding-and-sleeping schedule.

Winter days in Dublin

I’m not there, yet. I’m still processing the past months. I’m tired and without a routine, but I suppose that’s to be expected after the physical demands of the move while being well into the third trimester of my pregnancy and helping my toddler adjust to all the new changes in her life. The move coincided with the new year and with big change comes new perspective, new opportunities, and a new season. It made me think about how we live our lives, or rather, how we fill our lives. I’ve recorded some of my thoughts during the past weeks and they are, inevitably, as scattered and chaotic as our lives have been during this time:

Eva embraced the chaos of the move
December 2021 – One blurred evening between Christmas and New Year

Midway through moving house. Omicron sweeps through Ireland (and large parts of the world). We keep an eye on the news. The beginning of the end? A setback? Or worse? Time will tell. Every runny nose and sneeze is suspicious. Tests are the norm. Antigens sell out as fast as pharmacies and supermarkets can stock them. We need to pack, buy furniture, clean the old house (still our current house), and nurse our colds. A harmless winter cold or something more? Negative antigens and we move on, we have a lot to do. I need to prepare my daughter for the move. Old house. New house. She talks about the new house with excitement, she packs her toys. But what will she feel she has lost when we can no longer return to the old house, her safe haven since birth. It’s been a safe haven for us all, despite the creaking floorboards, the crappy shower, the questionable DIY wardrobes…

These thoughts are on my mind. It’s the hazy days after Christmas and some things stay the same despite change and chaos. Like taking the bins out the night before bin-day. A quiet night, almost mild, almost peaceful, considering December’s fast descent towards the year-end. Soft windless rain coats everything in tiny droplets that swell before running silently towards the ground. The sage I recently re-potted looks beautiful, almost ornamental, gleaming with moisture. A few days before I had dug my plants up, disturbing their winter rest, and repotted them. 17 potted plants to move with us (not counting my indoor plants). I stop to look at the sage and marvel at how much it had grown during one season. I worry about it, the top leaves are drooping, but I just can’t spare it much thought. Not with everything else on my mind tonight. Each of us will have to fight our own battles in the coming weeks.

Repotting my garden plants before the move

I wheel the bins out onto the sidewalk for the last time. Recycling and compost. I read the other day that only about 10% of the world’s plastic has been successfully recycled so far.* I think about one of our local pubs. They had covered their outside seating area in tiny pieces of plastic “snow” and left it to the mercy of wind and rain for weeks. What’s left in the new year will probably be swept up, bagged, and sent off to landfills.

I’m in my water boots, a large jumper and maternity leggings. Our neighbours from a couple of doors down are just getting into a taxi, and I’m guessing they’re on their way to a night out. Where do you go during covid-season with pubs and restaurants closing at 20:00? She looks lovely, she always does, and her smile is brighter than the Christmas lights when she waves and wishes me a happy Christmas. I wave back, putting on my best smile, but I feel a little wilted standing beside the bins. I head back inside, thinking of how lovely it must be to dress up and leave the house at 20:15. To drink a glass of wine and chat with friends instead of wondering if my toddler’s asleep (she’s not) and what else I have to do before I can get into bed with an audiobook. At least I’m not wearing makeup today. One less thing to clean.

Winter trees and winter skies – Dublin
January 2022 – Week 1 in our new house

January turned icy cold and with the exhale of adrenaline came a lingering blue feeling. The past six weeks have been eventful, to say the least. We were in South Africa and Namibia and back. The travelling was even more complicated than we anticipated. Omicron reared its head and sent a spiral of uncertainty and panic through governments and the media. We made it back to Ireland, despite the disruption and difficulties. Then the three of us faced a ten-day isolation period. It was a strange experience. An opportunity to rest competing with feelings of anxiety. But one major stress factor was soon alleviated when we managed to secure a new rental house with the help of friends. We had been looking for and applying for new rentals since September 2021 when our landlords informed us of their intention to sell early in 2022. With house prices in Ireland skyrocketing during the pandemic, we couldn’t really blame them, but the timing did feel inconvenient. We’ve endured many dead ends, shockingly poor house viewings (think mouldy ovens and cracked baths), and unanswered emails before we finally found a place that not only suited our needs but that we were accepted for. Cats, babies and all. It was such a relief. The catch – we had ten days to pack and move house…

Cats and Christmas trees – it was a busy Christmas and New Year

All of our energy was focused on moving our earthly possessions to the new house. The two of us – Henry still working full time, and me minding Daniella full time. The packing became more frantic, more desperate, as our time ran out. Boxes were filled with toys and pots and plants and files and books and pillows… there were no labels like ‘kitchen’ or ‘bedroom’, just a mad scramble to move things from one space to another. We were bombarded by small things. Each time we thought we were almost done, we filled our car one more time. Made one more trip. Things cluttered the floors, tables, beds, counters and I kept thinking how little joy they bring me. How do I justify the emotional and physical space these things take up in our lives?

The number of things we own and consume made me anxious. I threw out a lot of things. Mostly clothes. Some of them old and worn and well used. Others, less so. For a while now I’ve been more aware of the consequences of fast fashion – cheap clothes worn a couple of times and then discarded. There are problems around the manufacturing process, for environmental and ethical reasons, and then some items are such poor quality they can’t be reused. I found Dublin-based The Useless Project a great source of information on fast fashion and achievable sustainable living. They have an article about decluttering that hit home:

“Sustainable and responsible disposal of clutter is one of the most important parts of the process. It’s really essential that we stop using charity shops as dumping grounds for our unwanted stuff… Clothing banks are tricky territory for many reasons… Sadly, “textile recycling” is extremely hard and the technology is nowhere near where it needs to be. Some animal shelters accept old towels and blankets for bedding, which is great.”

I’m also distressed about the number of textiles shipped to other countries where it fills landfills and litters the oceans and beaches while western consciouses remain clear. Did you know that 15 million items of used clothes are shipped to Ghana each week? 15 million. Each week. To understand the scale of the problem have a look at Fast fashion: The dumping ground for unwanted clothes

If this move has shown me anything, it’s that I can do with less “stuff” in my life.

Winter walk – Dublin
One month later – Early February, the beginning of a new chapter

We are mostly settled by now but some boxes, cables, toys, curtains, shoes, and random things are still scattered throughout the house. We have not left the chaos behind, and probably won’t any time soon, but we have things to do and a new year to look forward to. There’s work and babies and admin and dreams to think about. And so we go about our lives and trust that everything will fall into place with time. I’d like to share this quote from one of Maria Popova’s newsletters, author of The Marginalian, with you:

“We will lose everything we love, including our lives – so we might as well love without fear, for to fear a certainty is wasted energy that syphons life of aliveness.”

This year I hope to invest my time, money and energy fearlessly where it matters. Not in the accumulation and mindless consumption of things, but in relationships and the enjoyment of people and experiences that bring joy, beauty, and meaning into our lives. As always, thank you for visiting the Wild Library blog. May 2022 be a year of happiness, fearlessness, and fulfilment.

Chantelle

*As per the Down to Earth (The Guardian) newsletter of 3 February 2022.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Moving House and How We Fill Our Lives

  1. Thank you for sharing your reflections. I am so happy to hear that 2022 brings new beginnings in many ways for you. I wish you the best with the last few weeks of your pregnancy and the arrival of your new baby. When we moved to Switzerland, I had similar realisations about accumulation and recycling. That realisation helped us to think and consider before we buy something new.

    Like

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