lifestyle tetris – downsizing and deflation

There comes a point where it’s no longer enough to talk about the lifestyle changes you’ve made, which, when you boil them down to the bare bones, equate to little more than not working and going on slightly longer holidays.

4 weeks instead of 2 weeks in the sun.  Take that, rat-racers…

That point has well and truly arrived for me.  As I sit amongst packing boxes, trying to decide which charity shops should share in the spoils of my decluttering (bad person alert – I give my best stuff to the ones which make an effort with lighting and merchandising and my shameful tat to the dusty ones manned by myopic elderly spinsters).

The fact is, it’s been looming over me for a little while.  How it’s all very well to pretend to change your life, by only giving up the bits that you don’t like.  But at some point, you’re going to need to make a few more difficult changes.

ch-ch-changes

So for me, the main one is giving up my rented flat in North London.  When you have no income, it suddenly seems a little bit ridiculous to be spending over a grand on basic living expenses every month.  So The Mack gets me as a houseguest for a month (lucky, lucky man) and, in return, the money I’ll save on rent will pay for his ticket to come join me in Argentina.

Cos that’s the other thing.  It’s actually cheaper for me to go to Argentina and Brazil for a couple of months than it is to stay in London.  I find it strange that London has such a strong start-up community, when it’s such a cripplingly expensive city.  I can only assume that Google campus works like a soup kitchen for starving wantrepreneurs.

So, anyway, it all sounds very exciting.  Living without a plan.  Travelling to hip destinations.  Not knowing where I’ll live when I come back.  Taking risks and living in the now.

Well let me describe the realities of the now…

I hate you so much right now

The now is the sort of logistical puzzle that, in comparison, makes me feel fairly certain I could mastermind a major war and comfortably expect to win with minimal loss of life to my troops.

It involves many lists of the many items that I own.  Most of which have been happily hiding away in the loft spaces since my last move 18 months ago.  And which, when assembled fully in my bedroom, make me want to weep at the enormity of the task before me.

take it away…

It involves various google searches to find people prepared to take away my unwanted furniture and electrical goods.  (If you’re interested, British Heart Foundation is pretty good for furniture and large, working electricals and there’s a scheme called 1,2,3 Recycle For Free for collection of electrical goods, big or small).

I wouldn’t bother trying to sell your stuff.  No-one’s buying.  If you can be arsed to enter the barcodes, then apparently Music Magpie is ok for CDs, DVDs and computer games, but you’re talking about 10 – 20p per item, so you need a fair few before you make any real money back.  And if you have any old textbooks, then Fat Brain is another good one, I’m told.

store it…

If you have stuff you want to keep, then you’ll need to navigate the dizzying array of storage options.  I nearly started a spreadsheet to make sense of the different pricing offers.  Some give you a free month if you take a minimum of 2 months.  Others charge per month and not every 4 weeks.  Some give free collection.  Some free insurance.  It’s a minefield, people.

In the end I went for Henfield Storage.  They’re the cheapest I found, they offer a free collection service if you pre-pay 3 months and they have good locations.

I’m just hoping that all my stuff fits into the size of room that I’ve reserved.  I’m quite tense about this.  My spatial awareness (or rather lack of it) is legendary in my family.  I’m the girl who struggles to fasten those elasticated luggage strap things on the inside of suitcases.  I’m there for days, twisting those stupid little fastenings around and around, just praying that somehow they will magically come together.  I’ve been known to cut them out of my suitcases in a fit of pique.  Hateful little things.

So, in my mind, a sideboard, chest of drawers, trunk, 2x stag armchairs, 2 x small chairs, wine rack, 2 large mirrors, a screen, 2 old-fashioned suitcases, various boxes of crockery, DVDs, kitchen stuff, microwave, stereo, clothes, ironing board and duvets, should easily stack into a 5ft x 7ft x 10ft room…  Right??

I’m taking The Mack with me to help me unload.  This could prove to be the toughest test of our relationship.  I think he’s going to be thankful that there will be an innocent bystander there too.  And that it’s a public place.  Otherwise this could get U-G-L-Y.

The Mack thinks it’s all a game.  Silly, silly man…

Yesterday, I felt totally overwhelmed by the whole packing up process (err, you can maybe tell I don’t work anymore, if this is my idea of stress..?).  Today I feel calmer.  I have a game plan.  It is flawless.  Probably.

Step 1:  Charity Shop – I have packed 10 bags of unwanted stuff to take to the charity shop on Thursday.  This is neatly stacked on the landing outside my flat, so as to leave more room inside for more packing.

Step 2: Mother’s Pride –  I have identified the stuff that I’m going to store in my mum’s loft (the “good stuff”).  This is packed and in an easily accessible corner of my bedroom.  My mum may shed a few tears when she sees the extent of what I’m bringing home, but her maternal instincts will prevail, I’m sure.

Step 3:  Collectors’ Items – I have booked collections in a couple of weeks’ time for my unwanted furniture and electrical items (the woman on the phone said “electronicals”, but I let it go…) and my stuff to go into storage.  I will mainly be spending that week waiting for white vans to show up.  I have itemised lists so that I don’t send the wrong items with the wrong van…

Step 4:  Mack Attack – I’ve hired a van for the day after the collections, so that The Mack and I can take whatever’s left over to his house.  I had promised him that I’d only be bringing 2 suitcases (normal clothes for now and stuff for our trip) and a plant and my bike.  We’ll see…

I suspect that what will actually happen on Step 4 is that I’ll look around and realise that there’s loads more stuff left over than I expected.  I’ll then have a little cry.  The Mack will lose patience with this woe-is-me routine after about 3 minutes and tell me to pull myself together.

We’ll then have to split up the stuff into different piles.  There will be a “shit, that was meant to go into storage” pile, a “fuck it, that can just go to the dump” pile and a “please can we find a little tiny space in your flat for it?” pile.  Which means that our journey to The Mack’s in deepest South London will be via the storage facility in North West London and the nearest landfill.

We don’t celebrate Valentine’s day.  Why would we when we have all of this to look forward to as a true expression of our commitment to one another?  I’ll make sure I keep back one of my bottles of champagne to toast the occasion…

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