09 March, 2011

Moving cornerstones: Home is where I Hang my Miss Selfridge Babydoll Dress. And my Running Shoes. And my Photographs...

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things, because we're curious and curoisty keeps leading us down new paths" - Walt Disney

Last weekend I moved house. And not for the first time. In the 6 years I have lived in Sheffield I have had five experience-drama-fun-and-tears-filled addresses. No stranger am I to packing in a semi-orderly fashion, begging for boxes from the nearest Spar, throwing unidentifiable items into bin liners and loading up a car (usually my sisters) with speed, efficiency and a stomach full of excited expectation for pastures untainted.

For I am a bit boho. Or just a plain damn hippy as my friends would probably say. I love to keep moving and with each year that I learn from my lessons and mature from my mistakes, I find my environment needs to change to reflect the progress I am making in my life. And with each move I’ve made, I’ve taken huge steps upwards.  I love moving on to fresh places, places that bring things better fitted to my ever-changing needs – the excitement and the challenge of it feeds my restless spirit.

 That said, moving house inevitably has its downside. Each time you move postcodes, how ever near or far, you displace the whole centre point of you life. You leave a place of memories and familiarity, where your photographs have been lovingly put in place, your shoes have found a home at the foot of your bed and gradually over time you have built yourself an absolute personal haven, one that both reflects and encompasses the very essence of you. You tread your way around that haven for months, years and, for some, decades, so that your personality and your home almost blend into one.  So when you leave that sanctuary and step into the unknown – new faces, new memories to be made, new pavements to be trodden and an entirely different branch of Co-op to navigate – it is no small step for anyone.

For me though, one so accustomed to changing settings, I have discovered things about myself in the process of a million moves and as I grow more adapted to moving house and to the feeling of being away from my previous home, I learn how better to adjust myself to my new surroundings, I discover the marks I need etch in order to map my territory. But it hasn’t always been that way...

“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”
I vividly remember my very first home away from home, my small student room in the university flats. That first day I wanted to cry, that first night I wanted to run home, that first week I couldn’t sleep in this strange room that was not mine (I’m not referring to Freshers’ mischief) and that first month I reluctantly and gradually learnt the ropes of house-sharing with people from all walks of life (and with differing levels of personal hygiene – eurgh). It took me months to feel comfortable and “at home” in that place, and to be honest I’m not sure I ever did settle there, there wasn’t long enough before I was off again.

With each house-move that has followed that slightly traumatic first one, I have adapted a little quicker, a little easier, a little lighter on my heart and a little less stressful in my mind. This is partly because as you get older you simply get used to these things that at first seem daunting (like the first time you walk to school by yourself; that big scary feeling isn’t going to still be there when you’re still walking to school 6 years later), but it’s also down to understanding more about yourself, and to some extent being able to carry your ready made “home” with you everywhere you go, making any place “home” straight from the tin, by simply bringing to it the essence of yourself. 

The reason I was so disorientated moving into my first university flat is partly because I was just plain home-sick (being the mummy’s girl that I am...and a daddy’s girl too for that matter), but it was also massively because I didn’t know how I was supposed to live out my world without all the cornerstones of my life that I had become dependent on.  I didn’t know what clothes suited me (no really, I did NOT!) or what music I actually enjoyed, what I wanted from my future and from my friends, what my values were or how I should deal with and react to the rest of the world. I had to go and put my own big stamp on things and I did not have a clue where to start. I had no centre point to my life, as I was yet to start building it. There was no “home” inside me, apart from the one I had left behind at my family home in St Albans. Poor little me!

Fast forward 6 years, 5 moves, several hundred housemates and a very worn out suitcase, and I know enough about the Hannah-ness of me to know what I am, who I am, the kind of person I want to be (until I become Mrs Mark Ruffalo anyway, but that’s all in good time) and what is important to me. So now I can up shoes and go anywhere, and those things will remain, my character will remain and wherever I go my home will follow me.

Home is where the…hummus is?
During my most recent move, 4 short days ago, I realised that the things I need to have sorted instantly and quickly in any new place, in order for it to feel like home, are the following:

1. My (beautiful) collection of dresses hanging in my (almost-walk-in) wardrobe
2. My laptop set up complete with Twitter, Facebook, itunes and Skype (whoever knew I liked music and speaking to my friends.  Maverick)
3. A running route mapped out and completed at least once (by me)
4. My priceless photographs of my beautiful family and friends
5. Hummus in my fridge

Apparently, as long as I have these five things in place when i set up in my new houses, I am 99% of the way “home”.  Although these listed items might sound shallow (or in one instance just plain greedy), what they actually each do is reflect the different sides of my personality, what I value in my life and the things I rely on to stay grounded. Yes, chickpeas keep me grounded, deal with it.

If someone asked me what I would take to a desert island, I wouldn’t say these things. I would say diet coke on tap or my mum or Russell Howard.
"But if someone ever asks me what “home“ means to me, I will have no hesitation in saying 'the latest Topshop Tea dress and a vat of mashed up chickpeas'.
Because apparently that is the truth of it. For now anyway. This list will alter as I get older – I will be unable to still run and therefore will be too fat for my pretty dresses, I will be sick of hummus and fed up of Facebook/my friends (absolutely no signs of the latter happening) and my pretty pink laptop will just die with my youth…

So I have discovered along my changeable road, within the 4 walls of my many rooms, that for me the idea of “home” - although literally defined by the room, house or flat in which you live and the people you live with - is actually an internal concept, something that manifests itself in tangible objects, unique to and representative of the lovely you who you are. 

Wherever you go, whoever you live with, whether you live in a palace or in a skanky little flat above a Chinese...What are the five things that make your house your most valuable home?


  1. My 5 things are:
    1. My ready made bed with my sheets from home
    2. My photos of all my lovely friends and family
    3. Books ready on a shelf to be read
    4. My gorgeous vintage radio set up to all my favourite stations
    5. Houmous in the fridge (im joining you on this one).

    Loved this post Hassack, and found it very relevant. I found myself thinking earlier on the tube about how my room looks, and how when I moved into this room (nearly 2 months ago now) I set everything up thinking I'd sort it all out later and it's stayed that way ever since. I'm a homely soul and don't like moving all that much (although I've done it 5 times over the past 5 years much like yourself) so I like to ensure that every room I move into looks like the one I've just left. I love the excitement of moving but nothing beats home.
    Touching post, keep it up! I do enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Great post Han...who isn't familiar with the sinking feeling of being faced with bare walls, unmade bed, empty fridge and not knowing where to start?!

    I think this year I've realised that despite filling my home with all the (neutral) comforts one can buy, I miss having my own space to put up photographs, notes and cards from friends. I miss always having cheddar in the fridge and crumpets in the cupboard and I really miss not being able to pick up my phone and call my friends...because it's just too damn pricey!

    However, there's no more comforting or grounding feeling than knowing that your friends aren't going anywhere, and cheddar can always be exported to you. Thank goodness for that!

    Hodge xx


I really want to hear what you have to say, so please leave a comment