I’m not actually clear if I qualify as a homeowner, and I will admit that that is not a strong start. Every time I fill in a form or take a survey the options are ‘owned outright’ or ‘owned – with mortgage’. So maybe I’m not so much a homeowner as I am at the start of a 30-year relationship with a Building Society. But whichever is a more accurate thing to say, I’ve been doing it for a year now and I have learned some things. Here they are.
1. There is nothing in the world more boring than DIY
Sorry. I had such big plans for all the things I was going to do with my house when I had the freedom to. I followed interior design people in Instagram. I think I even had Pinterest boards. I was full of good ideas. But actually, all I have done in the 365 days since I moved in is paint the skirting boards with the help of my family. It. Was. Tedious. It turns out that basically anything else in the world is more interesting. I may have had more fun having my gallbladder removed. Although to be fair there were drugs that day. Maybe morphine would help with painting. But anyway, suffice it to say that I have forgotten my Pinterest login. I have unfollowed the interior design accounts. I am happy for my bedroom to stay a hideous shade of magnolia forever if it means I never have to look at a paintbrush again.
2. Cats are bellends
I didn’t notice the comings and goings of the neighbourhood cats in any great detail until the days started getting longer and I started being at home a lot more for coronavirus reasons. Three separate cats have entered my house without my permission in the year since I moved in. I know all of their personalities. There’s a tabby who’s both a wuss and yet will also sit on your windowsill looking incredibly offended if you don’t let him in. Then there’s a grey fluffy guy who murders everything. And there’s a ginger arsehole who attacks the other two whenever they come into view. And, perhaps most importantly, my house is the only one in the vicinity without any kind of pet. Therefore the flowerbed around my parking space is the toilet. It stinks, and it is my problem because it is my actual (tiny, stony, sluggy) land. I went on a brief and intense crusade to put a stop to it. I bought a cat repellent, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen them love anything more. Not even the grey murderer when he ate a goldfinch chick while both parents watched in horror from my washing line (honestly harrowing and I will never be over it). I now spend half my life grating bright orange soap to sprinkle out there. And, I mean, it works, but- I guess it’s just an example of the kind of thing you never envision yourself doing, isn’t it? I own a grater specifically for soap now. Because of cats. This is home ownership.
3. It’s, like, really easy to switch utility providers
I mean, maybe this one is obvious, but I just didn’t know. I always assumed I’d have to get permission from my landlord, and who needed the aggro? But you literally just go to Uswitch or something, and your bills stop being astronomical? And I could always have done this? Madness. I only wish it hadn’t taken buying an actual house for me to find this out. Know your rights, kids.
4. Living near actual supermarkets is amazing
I don’t have a car. So where I used to live, I had the choice of two places to do a food shop – a Tesco Metro, or a bigger Tesco Metro. Tesco Metro is more expensive than a normal Tesco. And the smaller Tesco Metro was more expensive than the bigger Tesco Metro. So, I ended up doing a complicated equation each time I wanted to do a food shop, which factored in number of items I needed, markup I would accept, available time, and gradient of hill. It’s just a lot of work to be doing whenever you need a pint of milk. Now I can walk to a full-size Asda or a Lidl. I am saving a ton of money on groceries and, in the interest of transparency, ultimately losing quite a lot of it again on non-grocery items in both places. But it is the principle of the thing. It could be less expensive if I didn’t keep picking up scented candles and stationery. I just am who I am, OK?
5. I am passionate about my window vac
Somehow, in a weird combination of practicality and opportunism about a month before I moved, I bought a window vac. It cost £10 from the British Heart Foundation. I bought it because I knew the windows in my house were single glazed and I saw condensation in my future. What I did not see in my future was that it would be so bad I would use it every single day without fail (sometimes five or six times a day in the depths of winter). The Cost Per Use is now up so low I might actually owe the BHF more money. I also have windowsill-specific towels for when the nights get too cold and I breathe too much in my sleep, like a monster. If you feel like using my Ko-fi button to tip me the amount needed to double glaze a small, two-bedroom terrace, please be my guest.
6. Once a middle-aged man has lived alone in a house, the smell does not leave when he does
It’s a bit like teenage boy bedroom smell™ but throughout an entire house and more persistent. I used shake and vac on every carpet when I moved in. I used so much it destroyed my vacuum cleaner. It’s been a year and I still sometimes catch a whiff of it. Lucky I’m picking up all those scented candles in my supermarket shops, really.
Ultimately, living in my own house (and/or the bank’s house, since I’m still not totally sure how it works) has been very educational. With everything that’s kicked off since I bought the place, I’m really just glad I have my own, street-level entrance, and that I don’t have to hear my downstairs neighbours having sex five times a day. Here’s to the next few years. Hopefully with less cat shit but, really, who’s to say?