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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Under The Hammer

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 procrastinating planning and start doing.

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.

22 comments:

  1. How right you are, kids rarely play with their toys and us adults really do not need as much 'stuff' as we think we do. All very exciting for you - onwards and upwards! I will be watching with keen interest as this is something we would very much like to do...one day!

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    1. Onwards and upwards indeed; or downwards - towards the foundations! I hope our experience doesn't put you off...we shall see :0)

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  2. WOW.... that's a project. A really big, big project. It sounds totally nerve wracking and so exciting at the same time. So glad to hear that you found somewhere to rent in the end. I'm very much looking forward to your posts on the renovation work, and I hope you decide to include a few photos too! We will be doing a rebuild on our new home but not at quite the same scale as yours .... however all our savings are set to be swallowed up too! X.

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    1. Yes, nerve wracking and exciting. Some days it feels very stressful other days, it's bearable. That's all I can say right now. Will definitely be including a few pics. x

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  3. Good luck, I can't wait to watch the progress.

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  4. Wow I couldn't imagine doing something so major right now with the little ones-I barely know whether I'm coming or going! I hope all goes well with all the work, and your are very true about the toys, as long as Alex had some cars he'd be happy! Look forward to hearing more updates x

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    1. Yes, it's a bit mad with a new baby but our hand was kind of forced as we've procrastinated so long that our party wall agreements with our neighbours were due to expire so we had to get on with it or renegotiate them all again. As one set of them have moved to Hong Kong it seemed easier to just get on with the work! Thanks for commenting. x

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  5. What an exciting but exhausting time for you. Hopefully, you will soon start to see all your efforts and late nights pay off as Faulty Towers slowly but surely morphs in to your home.

    Having moved around quite a bit and abroad, it's really been a lesson for me in only having what you need and not accumulating 'stuff'. I invest in furniture and excellent lighting but have very little else that doesn't have a use. It's strangely calming not to have so much.

    P.S. I am reading all your posts but can't seem to comment on my iPad. I only get chance when I can steal the computer away from Paul for a few minutes.

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    1. Yes, you strike me as a streamlined sort of person FFHM! I am trying to be ruthless, and funnily enough, it seems easier when you're doing it in a rush like I am rather than spending lots of time pondering each item.

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  6. You are so lucky and I feel so jealous. Having a plan is a wonderful thing. I'm sure it will all go well. Looking forward to the updates.

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    1. Thanks Polly. I am lucky, I know that. x

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  7. I love this post. Through all the chaos it depicts, for me as the reader, I stayed calm. You have a real talent at writing Mummy Plum. I am looking forward to reading the renovation updates, and have no doubt it will all be worth it. Big hugs to you and the boys.xxx

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  8. Oh I feel quite jealous! Pursuing your dream of your perfect home. It will be fabulous when its done. And the de-cluttering will do you all a world of good. I'm forever clearing out the 5 year olds stuff - for it to be swiftly replaced. As for your next tens months - my suggested mantra is 'This time will pass...' x

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    1. I like your suggested mantra. Think I may end up adopting that! Thanks for reading and commenting. x

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  9. Not yet undertaken such a project myself but my dad is just coming to the end of building a new house. They knocked the old one down and are building on the plot.It has been two very consuming years in which I have seen him constantly distracted by the build and unable to talk of much else. However it is so exciting for us all and we much anticipate the end results thus forgiving his forgetfulness of phone calls.
    I'm sure it will be a time of some strain for your family but it is for a shortish period with an incredible outcome, hopefully this exciting ending can see you through.
    I too look forward to the up dates and I'm off to be nosy on your pintrest now.

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    1. I am sure it will be very consuming. As much as it can be with two small children to look after at the same time :0) Thanks for commenting.

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  10. Gosh you're a brave family - and what is it they say 'Fortune favours the brave?!' Perhaps that could be your mantra.... Will definitely be following your progress X

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    1. I love that saying. Will remember that when it feels like the chips or should that be bricks, are down! x

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  11. Wow that sounds so exciting. Would certainly love to hear all about the project, especially any piccies if you have the time. Best of luck with it all.

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