Five moves in four years. Each one an exercise in shame and downsizing
Laura Kennedy: In our little house, I sit with the things I’ve accumulated through my life
We are on the move again; the process has long since lost its allure.
Moving house is a reassessment of one’s life in objects, and is usually one that prompts a crisis. Far too Freudian an activity for my liking, taking your possessions from one home to another involves digging through dark, dusty cupboards and rummaging through junk drawers you would rather leave to rust shut on their castors. In these deliberately forgotten places, you will find objects that reflect poorly on you – the paraphernalia of hobbies promptly abandoned, hideous gifts given to you with good intentions by a family member who, on the basis of the gift (a crystal vase shaped like a squirrel, or a bottle of some whiskey or craft beer named something like “Badger’s Duct”) you presume at best does not know you at all, at worst wishes you ill, or in the case of the Badger’s Duct, may actually be trying to kill you.
We are on the move again; the process has long since lost its allure, after five moves in four years. Though the numbers make me look like the worst tenant in the world, the kind who might have a sort of slash and burn policy when it comes to rented housing, leaving a trail of abandoned cats and hoarded furniture flaming merrily behind me, that isn’t the reason. A combination of Dublin’s crippling rental crisis and rapid change in personal circumstances are more to blame. We were in our last place in central Dublin for 10 months when we got the letter announcing an upcoming rent increase.
Anger and despair
We sat on the sofa – the same one we have carted between three rental homes – and read the letter with a combination of anger and despair, knowing that if we stayed, we would get another letter next year, and another the year after that. There is something deeply demoralising about paying significantly more for a place than you know it is worth by any reasonable metric. Even if it is nice, you begin to resent the walls around you, knowing that you are giving away most of what you earn just to exist inside them. You spend all your time there, because rent swallows any money that might otherwise have gone to socialising, or time away. It was time to leave.
Every move is an exercise in shame and downsizing; trying to shed yourself of all the inexplicable, excessive nonsense we all accumulate. I found lecture notes from a decade ago, a straw hat with the top punched through, as though it had looked at the wrong person the wrong way at precisely the wrong time. There was clothing I knew I would never wear again, an actual crystal vase shaped like a squirrel (don’t ask), and three frisbees. I can recall not a single instance in the whole course of my life when I have so much as picked up a frisbee, let alone owned one. I own five of those mason jars hipsters serve gin and tonics in. It is known to all that using those for any purpose other than jam making is the very height of notions.
Those who have moved frequently will understand that it does something to the mind, galvanising it with a certain sense of perpetual impermanence which challenges every traditional idea of what a home is. In our little Dublin house, next to the cupboard under the stairs, I sit amongst the things I have accumulated through the course of my life – the things I would not leave behind. My mother’s dishes, cradled in paper and stacked neatly in a box. The photographs of times I cannot relive, but want to remember. It concerns me a little to realise that with each move, I shut the door on the place I am leaving with less of a sense of attachment. I wonder if I have become cold, and lost the ability to associate a place with home. Suddenly, a key worries in the front door lock, and himself trundles through, loud and large as always, holding a hurley and a paper bag. “I BROUGHT YOU A MUFFIN,” he shouts, waving the bag and totally unfazed to see me sitting on the floor. “IT’S BLUEBERRY.” I take the muffin from him gratefully. Home does not have to be a place.