The tailgate lifted for the last time; the shuttered metal door sliding down into place. As the engine of the anonymous white van spluttered to life, twelve years worth of selected belongings pulled away from the kerb, destined for the local auction house. I momentarily allowed myself to mourn the possessions I had decided to let go of; the dining table and chairs we’d sat around until the early hours of the morning having drank too much wine and eaten too much food; the matching console sideboard that at time of purchase, had epitomised 'sleek design chic'; the gothic lamp that seemed to fit so perfectly in our first flat and the oddity of a mirror that seemed to reflect straight lines as wonky. After taking a short moment to look back at the happy memories associated with items from life gone by, I shut the front door and refocussed myself on the task in hand. De cluttering at speed.
When the gavel hits the rostrum at the auction house next week, it won’t be the only hammer coming down on life as we know it. Finally, after two years of planning, work will begin at Faulty Towers. Foundations will be dug, scaffolding will be erected. Builders will take up residence in what was once my home, spilling tea and leaving a trail of biscuit crumbs in between demolishing walls, lifting floors and pulling down ceilings.
Getting to this point has been harder than I imagined. The project has morphed from a small toadstool to a giant mushroom of a build. Two years have been spent designing, redesigning, seeking planning permission, conservation area permission, consulting with structural engineers, party wall surveyors and building inspectors, as well as driving our architect slightly crazy. Although we still have the mountain to climb, I already feel a sense of relief; that after so long in the planning, we’re moving on, that finally we’re going to stop
Since EB’s birth, I’ve watched no TV, I’ve read no books, I’ve spent considerably less time writing. That’s not just because I’ve had a baby. Every evening for the past two months, post dinner, Husband and I have sat at the kitchen table, working through builders tenders, looking at spreadsheets, cutting the budget this way and that, then meeting with the architect at 9pm at night once we’ve put two children to bed and hastily wolfed down some dinner. It’s been a head muddling, stressful blur at times. But the end of this phase is now in sight, leading us as innocent idealists, to the start of the next. On Monday next week everything will change; we’ll hand our house over to our builder for the next 10 months; putting our trust and our life’s savings on the line in the hope that we can realise our 'Grand Design'.
EB and I have left no stone unturned in this past couple of weeks in our search for a temporary abode. We’ve braved storms, snow and unwelcoming dogs in our quest. At times I considered a caravan in the back garden might become our only option, but finally we’ve found somewhere to live. It might be a bit of a squash and a squeeze, hence the de-cluttering exercise, but, at the same time, it’s rather nice to think we’re letting go of superfluous stuff too. Perhaps we will learn something about ourselves in the next 10 months. It will certainly be more about us than the things around us. How much does a family of four really need?
As I continue my mammoth purge this week and look at Pip’s mountain of toys, I’m continually struck by how little time he spends playing with them. Role playing, making cakes, reading books, drawing, painting, playing on the computer/ watching TV, playing in the garden or at the swings - these are actually the things he does, and enjoys doing most, especially in the company of Mummy and Daddy. When you streamline life back to it’s bare necessities, it seems you don’t really need that much.
I’m realistic that the next 10 months are going to be a roller coaster experience. That at times we’ll be buoyed by the progress we see and at other times may resemble stressed, grey husks of our former selves, when the enormity of the task before us seems too much. We’re in it up to our necks now, there’s no turning back. All we can do is hold on to our hard hats and try to enjoy the ride.
If you are interested in our project, I plan to publish regular updates here. You can also follow me on Pin Interest to see where I’m getting my inspiration.
Have you managed a renovation project? All words of advice or wisdom greatly appreciated.