I’m in the middle of a bout of anxiety. As usual it’s a mixture of work pressures, lacking time and dealing with the ups and downs of toddler life.
But wait, there’s something else causing me to shout angrily at drivers in 4x4s blocking my view at junctions. Something quite new. Something incongruent with who I am and what I place value on.
I’m going to call it house pride, or lack of it.
As my parents will attest, as a teenager my room looked like a warzone. But there’s nothing unusual in that and I remember my mum telling me that when I was older and had my own house I’d want to keep it clean. So yes she was right, I no longer have to wade through piles of clothes to get to my bed, but there are still strategically placed piles of things dotted around my house, homeless even 8 years after moving in. Cleaning is often pretty low on my priority list until I can’t bear to look at that unclean item/area/room any longer. I think it’s just in my DNA – as long as it’s liveable we’ll live with it.
But just recently things have begun to niggle me, little things that I could live with before are suddenly all I can see. Having fences that are two different colours is offending my eyes, an untended patch of earth at the side of my house is screaming to have some love shown to it and the state of our exterior paintwork is keeping me up at night. And I’m not sure why.
Suddenly I’m measuring myself against others who have better wallpaper, nicer furnishings, and the ‘perfect’ home. My contentment is shot. I need a beautiful house and I need it now. But I don’t want to need it, I don’t want to care so much, material possessions have never defined me and I don’t want them to do so now…what the hell happened to me?
The only thing I can think is that my sphere of reference is changing as I get older. Where once my friends and I lived in shared houses with threadbare yellow sofas, in rented flats without showers or even with their parents, now we’re all homeowners. And not just first homeowners but in some cases second homeowners, with more money to throw at those houses. And as my social circle’s houses grow, so do my insecurities.
And yet for the most part my friends are writers, artists, or creative at heart; people who appreciate beauty but value individuality. Why, therefore, are we striving for an accepted view of perfection? And why do I care what everyone else is doing?
I know that a lot of this at the minute comes down to the fact that we’re soon looking to sell up in search of our own picket fence, and therefore we have to make our house ‘appealing’ to the general public. When doing up our bathroom our preferred funky Moroccan style tiles gave way to universally inoffensive plain white ones. We have to see through the eyes of the unadventurous for a little while. But when I’m looking at houses, I’m finding myself drawn to the beautifully done ones, the aspirational ones, just like everyone else. Not the doer uppers I once sought out. Perhaps it’s because I lack the time to make something my own from scratch, or perhaps I’m scared that I lack the vision. Or perhaps it’s because, deep down, I’m comparing myself to everyone else and the easiest way to keep up is to mimic and to play it safe.
At the beginning of the year I set myself a resolution of non-judgement and acceptance and right now I think I need to practice this more than ever. But I also think I need to get back in touch with who I am and what will make me happy and then get on that and get over this desire to own someone else’s idea of perfection.
Photo credit: @shannonmcgrath7