This Must Be the Place: Putting Down Roots – Finally – As a First-Time UK Home Owner

Chapter Three: The Dreaded Shed

1591266017028

The coronavirus has put the kibosh on a slew of social activities for the time being, forcing many of us to conjure stay-at-home alternatives to fill our days. Bread baking has seen a rise in interest, as has posting the hit-and-miss results on Instagram. (Sorry, @theaussiebaker, but it appears you’ve seriously singed your buns.) Some dedicated fitness buffs have created home workout routines in order to beef up or slim down. I know, it sounds cuckoo to me too. My pal Tim is learning a bit of French, which will come in handy if he’s ever again able to travel to France, or even order in a French restaurant. (This COVID-19 is merde, non?) More than a few of us have even resorted to awkward video chats with friends and family to stave off boredom. Will Aunt Karen ever get her microphone to work? Tune in next week, or the week after, or the week after, to find out!

Being new property owners, the spouse and I had a ready-made roster of lockdown projects that we assumed would keep us occupied for the duration. Since moving to 1 [REDACTED] Court late last year, we’d accomplished much – you should have seen the state of the place in our first month of residence – but there was still plenty of decorating, DIY, organizing, and just general grunt work to be done. Eager to get our flat in tip-top shape, we tackled the to-do list with gusto. We hung our framed prints – the Rothko poster took pride of place over the sofa bed in our guest room, while our Bacon reproductions found a home in the stairwell. (That’s the artist, not the breakfast meat. Although, come to think of it, a nice framed photo of sizzling pork might add a certain je ne sais quois to our décor. But I digress.) One productive Saturday was spent securing the loose Formica siding on our kitchen cabinets with copious squirts of superglue. We ordered and assembled furniture, including, most crucially, a drinks cabinet. My heroic hubby even managed to fasten casters onto the base of our TV stand. With, like, a drill and a level and everything! So macho. A few tasks tested the limits of our DIY skills and found them wanting. In my most embarrassing moment, I somehow glued my thumb and forefinger to a paperclip while trying to bond a loose hinge on the toilet seat. See, I was attempting to use the paperclip to – on second thought, never mind.

In hindsight, we really should have paced ourselves better. Hopped up on new home owner adrenaline, we burned through nearly everything on our agenda by Easter. When the lockdown was extended, we struggled to come up with additional projects. The spouse whiled away one Sunday afternoon in mid-April leisurely sharpening all the knives in our cutlery drawer.  I alphabetized my record collection and colour-coordinated my sock stash. Even those make-work tasks soon petered out, and we were left with two daunting chores that we’d put off for as long as we could: organizing the storage cupboard in our foyer and – the one I dreaded most — de-cluttering the outdoor shed.

Since the move, both had served as dump sites for all the random stuff that we didn’t have space for elsewhere. The foyer cupboard – that’s a closet in Yank-speak – was a hodge-podge of pantry staples, cleaning supplies, various corded and cordless vacuums and mini-vacs, loo rolls, canvas grocery bags, and rain gear, all carelessly shoved into this or that corner and thus annoyingly difficult to put our hands on when needed. But we did need regular access to everything stored there; the shed, on the other hand, housed items that we used rarely, such as our artificial Christmas tree and twice-slept-in camp bed, along with boxes of old mementos and some broken crap that we hadn’t gotten around to throwing away yet. It seemed quite pointless to me to spend time figuring out where the half-used cans of paint should go in relation to the rolling suitcase with the wonky handle, the dented, long-defunct computer tower, and the box of my battered school yearbooks. The spouse, however, made the astute point that doing so would free up room for more useless junk, which we would surely accrue in the years to come. So with a heavy, some would say overdramatic sigh, I relented. As soon as we’d sorted the foyer cupboard, I gloomily trudged to the shed by his side.

In the end, my angst was unwarranted. Saving this job for last turned out to be a brilliant strategy, because all of the ones that came before it had morphed the hubby and I into a well-oiled organizational machine. The decisions of what should go where in the shed snapped easily into place. Waterproof boxes of mementos at the back – badda-bing, badda-boom. Paint cans on the shelf above – Bob’s yer uncle.  Giant bag of Christmas decorations to the right, propped on old wooden crates to keep the damp away. Brooms on hooks to the left, with the obnoxiously loud, neighbour-irking leaf blower at rest on the floor below. We piled the broken crap in a tight column near the front so our local man-and-van clearance service can easily fetch it once the quarantine is over. In just a little more than an hour, all the shed’s clutter had been Marie Kondo-ed into submission.

Again, we should have made the task last longer. Stretched it out over two or three weekends by inventing work for ourselves, like stacking those yearbooks in chronological order or grouping the Christmas decorations on a scale from classy to tacky. (The Star Trek ornaments, of course, would be placed among the classier baubles.) Because even though the Long Lockdown of 2020 is currently being eased somewhat, with all concerts, festivals, and basically anything that’s fun to do in a group postponed indefinitely, our summer social calendar is still looking pretty sparse. With the weather warming up, the next project for the hubby and I is to kit out our courtyard with potted plants and garden furniture – fodder for my next post, perhaps. But given that it’s a small space, that should only take a Saturday or two. After that, we’re looking at a lot of idle hours ahead. I wonder if any of our neighbours’ sheds need tidying…

[Blogger’s note: I’m an American expat living in Portsmouth, England, with my British-born spouse. We moved to the UK together a few years ago and lodged in rental accommodations for a time, but eventually the property bug bit us and we purchased a flat of our own – a first for this fifty-something vagabond. Here you can read about the lows, the highs, and the near-constant DIY that have followed. Check back soon for the next installment in the series!]

Further Reading:
Absolute Beginner: The Adventures of a Middle-Aged UK Newbie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s