Wise old man, won’t you help me please? My house is a squash and a squeeze.
Without a cow or a hen to take in, I have to watch documentaries on disadvantaged children to remind myself my house isn’t THAT small. It isn’t that big, either. Most of the houses on our road are occupied by widows. And most of the houses on our road are bigger than ours.
There are two fundamental problems with our house. Only three bedrooms means my boys have to share – and their room is like hell on earth. Tidying it is like an impossible puzzle neither I, nor anyone else, can solve. So it remains a pig-sty. I can’t even get the hoover in there. It literally smells of dust.
Apart from the mess, the boys do need some space from each other. They would undoubtedly be happier and almost certainly argue less if they had their own rooms. But you can’t conjure an extra bedroom out of nowhere.
The other problem is the too-small kitchen. Going back over 10 years, when we moved into our previous house (bigger than this one), it had a fitted under-counter fridge. As a couple with a baby on the way, we couldn’t possibly cope with the small fridge, so we got rid of it and installed a proper-sized fridge.
Then we moved to our current house. There is no room for a proper-sized fridge, so we cope with a very small fridge. A very small fridge with no freezer. The freezer is in the garage. At the end of an assault course of bikes and scooters.
In our small kitchen there aren’t enough cupboards. So I supplement cupboard space by putting things on top of cupboards. Things like cartons of orange juice and apple juice and packs of Fruit Shoots. The sort of things you really wouldn’t want to fall on your head.
A couple of years ago I had a fire safety assessment and was warned against this practice. Obviously it’s not a fire hazard, but it’s a safety one on two counts. There’s the falling-on-head risk and there’s the climbing-on-chair-to-get-stuff down risk. ‘And you only do that when you’re on your own, don’t you?’ said the firemen. How did he know?? It stands to reason. I can’t reach those things. My husband can. If he’s at home, he can reach them down for me. If he’s not at home, I climb for them, potentially falling off the chair and knocking myself out with no-one realising until the kids are not picked up from school.
On the side of our house is what the estate agent very generously described as a ‘sun-room’. Which I describe as a ‘piece of shit’. Or to be more accurate, it is probably an ‘asbestos-filled piece of shit’. It’s a sort of conservatory from the days before conservatories were invented. I use it to chuck all my recycling in. And the tumble dryer lives in there because of course there’s no room for a tumble dryer in the kitchen. There are no sockets out there, so we have a wire trailing from the kitchen.
We’ve explored several options over the years for the asbestos-filled piece of shit. First we considered replacing it with an actual conservatory, but what use is a conservatory in reality? Your kids can’t sleep in it. We’ve considered just knocking it down. It wouldn’t add value to the house, but it would make it look better. But where would my recycling go?
My preferred option is to knock it down and replace it with a proper utility room. We could have a big fridge with a freezer out there. We could have extra cupboards and work surfaces. It would be like a dream come true. But the kids still can’t sleep out there. So that idea has gone on the back-burner.
Of course we could move. But we like the area we live in, we like our garden and the kids are VERY attached to the house, despite all its shortcomings. They don’t notice the shortcomings because they know nothing different. They want to live here forever. We have looked at a couple of places nearby (one only six doors away). One turned out to be far smaller than it looked on the outside, far smaller than our own house. The other was A PROJECT. Everything needed replacing and it needed a loft conversion. Added to the kids’ resistance, the cost and the uncertainty around my job, it was a risk that wasn’t worth taking on.
So we will carry on with our squash and a squeeze, living in our too-small house. It’s got a toilet that rarely flushes, a washing machine that leaks and a kitchen light which flashes, but we love it all the same.