As I take my final glimpses of our beloved Christmas tree, I can’t help but smile at the home that my boyfriend and I have created. Although we live in a rented two bed terrace, it truly feels like home. I don’t know whether it’s the recent festivities or the vibe of the place that has created my sense of belonging here. But, what I do know is, although owning our own place may be light years away, for now, this is what I call home.
Renting is really tough. Before we found this house last October, I’d really struggled with feeling at home in a rented place. As a child, I moved around a little bit. I liked it that way. I am guilty of getting the moving itch. Once I feel like my time in a house feels ‘done’, I lust after new houses and start with my online search for the next. As a family, we stayed in our homes for years before moving on. I have lived in six homes, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t loads. I am twenty one and I’ve lived in three family homes and three rented ones. I never struggled with the sense of ‘home is where the heart is’ in our past family spaces. I had a bedroom that I filled with all of my favourite things and every corner was personalised. Our bedrooms were our own to do what we liked with. I was constantly tacking things to the walls and changing the interiors along with my mood. I liked nothing more than to re-arrange my bedroom furniture for that new room feeling. I read Feng Shui books to ensure that the space I occupied was the most ‘zen’ it could be. I often re-decorated it by draping patterned materials over the furniture; buying new miscellaneous items such as candles, mirrors and plants, with a new rug now and again. I took pride in the space that I lived in. It was a place where I could unwind, relax and feel totally content. I took comfort in the knowledge that it was my space. I could do what I wanted with it and no one could protest – well, apart from Mum who would support any decision I made.
Like most things, I didn’t know how lucky I had it until I moved out. Suddenly I had a renting rulebook that I had to abide to and it did not involve tacking whatever I wanted to the walls. I was no longer allowed to paint the walls whatever colour I wanted and I couldn’t hang up a picture willy-nilly. I was looking at getting permission before I filled my space and decorated it how I wanted. In our first flat, this was something I really struggled with. Firstly, the flat was a bit cramped and as our first proper space together, I found it a bit claustrophobic. The flat was like an extended bedroom, except I was sharing it with my boyfriend and all his stuff that came with him. I said goodbye to my girly interior tendencies and said hello to boy smells and Marvel paraphernalia. To clarify, the ‘boy smells’ are not unpleasant. My boy keeps himself squeaky clean and spritzed with Chanel Bleu – a smell I very much approve of and love. But, it was different.
Our space just felt like somewhere to put our furniture. With no wiggle room for artwork, new paint or space for the furniture we wished for, we resorted to rugs and blankets in an attempt to make it feel personalised. It didn’t work, which I’m sure is no shock to anyone. ‘I need my blankie’ just didn’t provide enough comfort for us twenty somethings trying to feel homely.
I am a really creative person and I felt completely stifled in the flat. I didn’t realise how important the feeling of ‘home’ was until I didn’t have it. The flat felt like an extended stay at an hotel room. It had a beautiful sea view, a balcony, a residents’ swimming pool and gym on the ground floor – plus all the basics. But it felt like we were just visiting. We made some good memories in the flat but we knew it was time to find our home…
I can honestly say that the experience of trying to find said ‘home’ was intensely stressful. Our rental agreement on our flat was drawing to a close – it was either a) sign up for another year or b) terminate the contract once our lease was up. We opted for option b. But, with full time jobs and working hours that stretched into the evenings, booking viewings on places was nearly impossible. We wanted to go and view our new potential home together to vibe out the area and the feel of the place. We were finding places that we loved the look of, only to find out that someone had beaten us to it. It was a vicious game of cat and mouse. We were constantly chasing after agents and houses, only to be let down by the news that some lucky cat had got their mouse before us. It was getting super close to our moving out date at the flat. With nowhere to go, we luckily had the back up option of putting our furniture into storage and moving to Mum’s as respite. Although, as a couple used to their own space, this wasn’t an ideal option. Whether luck, fate or something too good to be true, we finally found a place we fell head-over-heels for. Even better, we were one of the first booked appointments.
Ash (my boyfriend) and I coordinated a time for our viewing. It was an after work mad dash but it was worth it. As soon as we stepped into the house we had butterflies. Although it was filled with other people’s furniture and it didn’t have our wall hangings, we already felt like we belonged. Walking around the house we looked like two Cheshire cats, beaming from ear to ear. The rent was more expensive than the last place, but along with it came a garden, separate living spaces, an extra bedroom and a staircase! We said yes on the spot and waited with anticipation to see if we had got there in time or not. We knew that three other couples had submitted their interest.
After a weekend of waiting, the agent got back to us with the news of an interview. Yes, this house was in such high demand that possible tenants were to be interviewed. It was a process of selection and it was more nerve wracking than any job interview I’ve ever had. I put on an outfit that exuded ‘grown up‘ with an attitude of ‘I mean business‘ and trotted off to the interview in the home that we so badly wanted. Our landlady was super nice and we ended up having a cuppa and a really nice chat, with laughs. We said goodbye and awaited the news to see if we had sold ourselves effectively. And obviously my outfit worked – we got it! The timings worked out perfectly. We had enough time to box our flat up comfortably and make our transition into our new home.
Like any move, it was stressful, but as soon as we started unboxing, the house felt even more perfect. Our furniture added the personal touches, my books added personality, our candles and blankets added nods to ‘cosy’ and our wall hangings finally rested on nails that were already perfectly placed in the wall.
I never thought that I would feel at home in a rental. After all, it’s like wearing someone else’s shoes/outfit. No matter what, you always know that you’re going to have to give it back (if you’re a good friend). But I finally found comfort in a rented place. I think the finish of the house helps a lot. The house is decorated exactly how we’d choose, from the colours on the wall to the blocked off fire place filled with logs. It’s cosy by nature and polished off perfectly through the landlord’s style. The blueprint of a place really is key to finding your home. From the layout to the shapes of the rooms, I couldn’t have asked for a rental more perfect. But I am also appreciating that it’s the small things that make a home feel like a home. It’s your attitude towards it, the love that you give it and the things that you fill it with. A house is an energy and home is where you are invested. I was never invested in the flat. I felt stuffed up and constantly spoke negatively about the space. If you think negative thoughts, you can project that energy into spaces. We give our current home nothing but love. It’s clean and we are constantly positive about it. We fill it with friends and family and in turn, we then create memories here.
I’m going to miss our Christmas tree. It was another thing that we loved in the home, where we created memories around it and hung up baubles that we love. But as we take it all down, it makes me appreciate everything in our home. From the small trinkets to the walls of the house that protect us from the outside world. We’ve finally found our home and I can’t wait to make more memories this year.