A fun mix of divorced parents, university, travel, weird landlords and high London rents have meant that I’ve moved house a lot over the past seven years. In total, I’ve lived in about nine different houses or flats since I was 18, give or take, and I’m about to move again. This time, to a different country.
Each time I move I shed possessions like leaves, giving away books and clothes and objects until I have only the things that truly matter: love letters, photo albums, my laptop. Right now I have about three weeks to condense everything I own, and I’m still stuck in the frustrating phase of trying to use up every bottle of shampoo and making weird recipes with the food I don’t want to waste.
Each time I move I decorate as if I’ll be in that room for years, when in reality it’ll be one, at the very most. In the last seven years the longest I’ve stayed in one place was 18 months, the shortest just two weeks. I’ve been in my current flat for five months, and this time I halfheartedly blue-tacked postcards to a few walls but it mostly stayed bare.
This flat was always going to be temporary, and although I complain about the tiny bathroom (you can use the loo and shower at the same time) and loud neighbours, I’m actually really going to miss it. I’ve never lived alone before, and I probably won’t again as I prefer having people around, but it’s been a really great experience. In some ways it’s nice to know that everything’s yours, including the mess, including the quiet, including all of the food.
In truth, although none of the places I’ve lived have truly been mine, a little part of those buildings have stayed with me, and a little part of the person I was has stayed in each place. I doubt the new tenant of my old flat in Wandsworth will be able to get the ghost of my spilled nail varnish up from the carpet. Perhaps the person living in my second year uni room will occasionally feel the air tremble with the echo of my glorious, drunken singing (I do a pretty amazing rendition of Groove Is In The Heart). What I’ll take away from my current flat is the church bells that go off at 7AM every day, and the painful hangovers they produce.
It’s hard to leave each time, but I love moving. Setting up my alarm clock by the bed, hanging up my clothes, arranging books, buying house plants and swearing you’re not going to let them die this time, it’s a small fragment of hope, like a relationship still blooming into its honeymoon period. In the beginning you cross your fingers that it’ll last forever but deep down you know part of its worth is in its transience.
Maybe you’ll find toxic mould in the ceiling, maybe you’ll realise you’ve found the place you want to spend the rest of your life in. You might have to let go eventually, but it might be fun this time. It might be.