By the age of seven I had lived in 8 homes and two countries and I had realised that I wasn’t the same as my friends, who had never moved house at all. Of course at that time I didn’t really know that it was strange to move so often. I suppose I was young and while I understood that we were moving again, the next house, in my mind, would always be our ‘forever home’ and so I wasn’t particularly disturbed by the moves.
When I left my 10th family home to go to University, unlike my friends, moving really didn’t seem like such a big deal. In fact, in the four years that I spent there, I lived in another 5 homes (yes we really are at 15 already!). My places of residence during this time, really were homes rather than student houses. I had my own personal things around me, my photographs, soft toys, books, clothes, music and all sorts of other things that made me feel at home. I understood by then, that for me, a house became a home when it was filled with the familiar. Up until now, this had been my family and our possessions. I carefully packed and unpacked my things and with each move my system improved.
Almost 4 years ago I left my birth country for a third country. This time I was with my own family. While we did sell and give away many many possessions, the majority of what we had accumulated came with us, including everything of a personal or sentimental nature. I knew just how important this would be for my child for the move to be a success. This move was different though and not just because it was such a big move. This time, I was waving goodbye to a house, not a home. My parents had always done me the great favour of not allowing me to see a home we were leaving, once it was empty, so that I could always remember it as filled with our things, the way it should be remembered. This wasn’t a gift that I was able to give to our child on that occasion because our things were going on ahead of us. We did make sure that we took lots of photographs before the big pack up though as a next best solution. As all of our worldly goods were packed into a container and ready to sail the seas, my 22nd home, became a house again, before our eyes. I still own it but it isn’t my home. It is someone else’s home now, filled with their love and their trinkets and all their worldly goods. That door is closed and I know that it shall never be my home again.
I knew when we made this move, from my own experiences as a child, just how important these material possessions would be in making a new home. While people are often simplistic in saying that it is just the people that make a house a home, when you have moved as much as I have, this just doesn’t hold true. Yes, of course, if my family is with me, where I live starts to become a home, but when you have moved a lot, you need something extra, something familiar and comforting. You need things!
We have recently been looking for a new place to live. This will be my 25th home. There is very little suitable accommodation available and therefore compromises are going to have to be made. Many of the viewings that we have done so far were for places much smaller than where we live now, which in turn is infinitely smaller than the house we left behind. The search for our next place to live has really opened my eyes to how many people see this whole possessions issue very differently to me. Perhaps its cultural but I am not so sure. While we have seen a number of places, all very different from each other, there has been one remarkably similar theme to each viewing. Either the owner, or the current tenant, when noticing us trying to mentally ‘place’ our things and see if they will fit, has immediately told us that of course, we can just downsize our things. This has been suggested to us each time without even a thought, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Things, being just things, seem to have no part in building a home for these people.
Realistically, I knew in some ways that I would indeed have to downsize a little. I sold a desk, a few books that were never going to be reread and I cleared out 15000 emails so at least my inbox is downsized. Everything else stays – from the piano that my parents bought, second hand, when I was 7 to the ridiculous Alien Citrus Juicer that I am never going to use but nevertheless, love dearly. It was a present. It is important to me. It is called Martian because it was given to me by my friend Martin and it looks like an Alien. These things and everything in between are the things that allow us to make where we live feel like home.
I have thought an awful lot about what makes a home over the last few weeks, since this search began. Interestingly the language of the country that I live in, has no separate words for a house or a home. I hope that when we find our new ‘house’ (and to be fair, it is going to be a flat but let’s not be pedantic), we will be able to make it our home. We want to fill it with family and friends and things that evoke memories and give us the feeling of security. We want to turn it from a house to a home, even if we can’t say it in the native language. Maybe someone that has only lived a few homes, or never moved from where they started, will feel very differently about what makes a home.
The only thing that I am of certain of, is that home number 25, will be my ‘forever home’ (until next time).