Wednesday 10 September 2014

The sheer hell of moving house

I am reliably informed by the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale that moving house is only the 32nd most stressful experience any of us is likely to undergo.

While it would be hard to quibble with the two distinguished psychiatrists when they award top billing to the death of one’s spouse, I simply cannot accept that relocating is 60% less stressful than marriage and less than half as unsettling as the birth of a child.

Because I have experienced both those life events in the last few years, and I can assure you that they don’t even hold a candle to the sheer hell of packing up one’s belongings and then trying to find and rearrange them in a new home.

Old house: an ogre lived in that tree, my son informs me.

I have done nothing else for the last two weeks, and have no hesitation in rating them the worst fortnight of my life to date. The pain was further inflamed when I finally returned to work on Monday to be asked whether I had had a nice holiday.

Admittedly we had been thoroughly spoilt by living for five unplanned years in a rambling rented house that came with a huge garden, vast conservatory, commodious cellar and triple garage. The last of which was completely useless for housing any car designed since the Austin Seven because its doors were too narrow, but proved absolutely ideal for accumulating junk.

Why waste time and energy making a journey to the tip when you can just lob stuff in the garage?

I have made up for lost time to such an extent that I am now on first name terms with every employee at my local household waste recycling centre.

Despite this, we still have rooms in our new home piled floor to ceiling with cardboard boxes, and no obvious place to disgorge the contents.

New house: no ogres detected SO FAR

The worst is the children’s playroom, crammed with plastic toys that are not only physically indestructible but also completely indispensable, at least in the opinion of our sons.

Even though the two year old announced the other day that “My not a little boy any more, my a big boy”, neither can apparently live without playthings they were given as mere babes in arms.

I suppose it is hereditary. I freely admit to being a terrible hoarder, but I am at least pretty good at identifying and ruthlessly disposing of other people’s useless junk. Only my wife and children won’t let me.

Adding to the stress is the knowledge that we have acquired a house converted from a chapel around 25 year ago by possibly the world’s least talented DIYer. He seems to have made it his mission not just to bodge every single piece of work, but also ensure that it is fiendishly difficult for anyone else to put right.

The impenetrable plywood floors of the upper storey he inserted are a prime example of his genius. 

Then there is the sense that I have spent far more than I can afford on a house that is a bit of a disappointment. My parents-in-law pitched up the other day to be greeted by the five-year-old with “Come and look at our playroom, Grandma. It’s absolutely tiny. Would you like to see the garden? It’s very small.”

I was tempted to point out that, at his age, I had no playroom and could fit my entire toy collection into a single box, but feared I’d sound like the elderly Yorkshiremen in the famous Monty Python sketch that isn’t actually by Monty Python at all.

The worst of it is that a combination of unexpected developments, in the form of marriage and work commitments, has resulted in my spending the last five years shuttling between homes in the North East and North West.

So even when the dust has finally settled and we have slimmed down our shared possessions to manageable proportions, I will still be the owner of another house that is chock-full with the products of well over half a century of obsessive book collecting, memorabilia hoarding and general over-retentiveness.

The next step will be getting rid of that lot. Will it prove stressful? To be honest, I suspect it will be simply off the scale.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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