The first in a new mini-series on consumerism, and my contribution towards it.
I like to write mini-series. I like to write them so much, that I write the first post, and then another topic comes along that I want to write about so I totally forget to continue the series.
So the first (and maybe the last) post in this series is, today, on houses.
Readers of roughseas will have read (maybe) ‘Waste not, want not’. Some will also have seen my rather accomplished mending skills on a previous post. Smirk.
But I thought to
put a little more flesh on the bones add a little more insight into my approach to consumerism, I would give some specific examples of where I have chosen not to spend/not had the choice, and, where I have spent.
House no 1
We bought this in the late 80s. I was working in London and it was boom time, house prices were spiralling every week.
Our rent was more than a mortgage would have cost – but could I get a mortgage on my salary? No. I could see us never being able to afford a house. Homeless people are one of the few people charities to have ever received my support. Everyone should have a home to go to.
Not that I could ever be called manipulative but after crying down the ‘phone to my father, he agreed to lend us the deposit, and hopefully I could then get a mortgage – and pay my father interest as well, at peak rates.
We bought 40 miles out of London because it was the nearest we could afford, it meant expensive rail travel – not a patch on what it is now – but, we had a foot on the ladder. Mortgage, my father’s interest on the loan, and season ticket, followed by food, were our priorities.
Our first purchases were a second-hand fitted gas cooker, with nothing to fit it into. Partner neatly sorted it and fixed it to the wall. He picked up a Belfast sink from someone’s garden, with permission, and made a structure for that. We used the trestle table for dining and sat on a scaffold plank. Eventually my mother gave us her 30 or 40 year old table with a red formica top and a matching kitchen cupboard. We were moving upmarket. Although I did like sitting on a scaffold plank and using the trestle table.
The only new items we bought were a fridge and a washing machine. I can NOT wash clothes by hand.
We had no carpets, no curtains, no furniture, no bed, no central heating. We soon discovered we had no hot water either, so a new hot water cylinder was the next expenditure.
Our curtains were extremely tasteful dustsheets, and our bed was (as ever) our camping mats.
In our two and a half years there, we bought no carpets, no curtains, no furniture, no bed, no fitted kitchen and no new bathroom. Nor did we install central heating. The house was perfectly habitable, and I liked it.
House no 2
This one did have carpets. They were terrible and they were one of the first things to go. It also had a fitted kitchen and a tolerable green bathroom, so no change needed there. Not my taste, but, it was serviceable.
By this time we had been given a lot of my parents’ furniture and some curtains as they had downsized to a small bungalow. So we had curtains to hang up in the rooms overlooking the front street rather than dust sheets, and a couple of tables and a bookshelf.
The sofa came via Partner’s brother, and originally from his sister. Third-hand.
We had bought a futon in London, although not a base, just the mattress which we rolled up every morning. But when we met a couple of Californians and invited them to stay with us, we figured we should at least offer them a bed. So we finally bought a pine bed for their one visit.
As ever in our cheapo houses, the boiler packed up, so we had to buy a new one of those too. And – our big expenditure in this house – we bought a new cooker. Another gas Cannon, but not for the £10 or £20 we had paid for the previous one.
House no 3
More tat carpets, a vile kitchen and an equally vile bathroom.
The kitchen units went as fast as I could rip them out. They were replaced with a Belfast sink (surprise!), the two white goods from the previous house, and – that was it. Apart from a small pine table from my mother. There was an understairs cupboard that was big enough for storage. I hate cupboards at eye level. I think they are invasive. I knock my head on them too.
Oh, and we tiled the floor with extremely expensive and very beautiful terracotta tiles. Sealed them first. Very good job we made of it.
The disgusting blue bathroom went, to be replaced with white.
I’m not a carpet fan, preferring rugs and polished timber (no not laminate), but the whole house (kitchen excepted) was eventually carpeted with Berber carpets, Partner’s choice, and it was a good one – they were beautiful. When our purchasers moved in, the new woman of the house got them cleaned because we had dogs and she had two small kids. The carpet cleaner told her she was wasting her money because the carpets were immaculate. She still wanted them cleaned so he took her money. Why not? What interesting prejudices we all hold. Someone has dogs so their carpets are dirty. Um.
I bought curtain material for the sitting room and our bedroom and made my own. The new owners wanted us to leave them. We refused. They offered us more money to leave them. (We had charged them extra for the carpets – remember the old fixtures and fittings stuff?). We still refused.
We bought two new sofas at discount (the old third-hand suite had been left behind in House no 2, and we’d also offered all the neighbours anything they wanted, when we cleared the house for the new owners). We bought three bookshelves. A TV cabinet. The sitting room was finally what I wanted. The carpet was cream. The dogs were black.
When my mother’s old oak table started falling apart, I knew I needed to move on the dining room issue. Trouble was, I couldn’t find what I wanted. So, we found a cabinet maker who had a nice oak table in his showroom. I designed my sideboard and asked him to make one. He did. We bought the table on display with a bit of discount, and told him we wanted the oak left natural, waxed not polished. When he’d made the sideboard, he said he thought it looked so good he made some more to sell. (Pix are on roughseas under finca.) We never bought matching chairs. Should have done. (Still using my mothers’ pine ones actually).
House no 4
My first semi. Moving up from terrace to semi. A drive. A double garage. A bigger garden. A pond.
The rest of it was as per usual. Crap kitchen with a dodgy cooker and faulty boiler, all to be replaced, with – a Rayburn to heat the kitchen, the bathroom radiator, and the rest of the central heating when we wanted. But, you could live quite happily with the warm kitchen and bathroom, and just light a fire in the sitting room.
Found someone to make up a freestanding pine kitchen cupboard sort of thing for me with an insert for – a Belfast sink. Granite worktop which Partner fitted. Three shelves and another understairs cupboard. Table from – Ikea (groans with embarrassment here).
Tat bathroom. Burgundy. Couldn’t live with that. White bathroom installed.
Curtains moved from previous house and rehung. Some more fabric bought for remaining windows, and yet more curtains made. All furniture moved from old to new house. A few rugs bought for sitting room and bedroom. No more fitted carpets, some floors were polished/parquet, and the ones that weren’t, we polished.
We bought two beds for some reason. I think the futon was looking rather sorry for itself after 15 or so years. Or maybe it was because when you want to sell your house, you are meant to have beds in the bedroom?
So that’s a quick rush through approx 15 years of houses in UK.
No fitted kitchens installed.
No-one installing expensive bathrooms for us (except us and a plumber friend) and only in two houses out of four.
Only one house received fitted carpets.
All furniture that we have bought (apart from pine bed) has since travelled with us.
All other furniture has either been given away, or is still with us.
No curtains bought. All the ones I made are still with us.
I don’t need to change anything for the sake of it. But that’s also one of the reasons why I take a long time to buy something. I don’t want to end up throwing it away. I like things to last, so I need to be happy with it. I can live without. Apart from a washing machine.
I also have no conception of the idea of wanting to spend one hell of a lot of money on plyboard/MDF kitchens and changing them in a few years time. Even worse, to leave it all behind when you sell the house, only for someone else to change it. Same with carpets. What a total waste of money and everything else.
Fitted, is so not the way to go. But hey, we all choose to spend our money on different things. Assuming we have the money and the choice.