Turning Out To Be A Big Deal

The stove doesn’t work—I’ve tried out all the burners and they get sort of lukewarm for a while, enough to almost boil water for pasta, but then they just shut off randomly. One of the windows sticks. There’s a washer from 1982 but no dryer. The bedroom closet door draaaaags across the carpet. The curtains look like they’re from a downmarket motel in Levin. The door doesn’t lock automatically and requires a huge skeleton key that has to be held and jiggled. The shower curtain rail is so high up that the five-dollar shower curtain I got at the Warehouse hardly reaches the edge of the tub. I have no idea what the bills are going to look like. It’s really loud from all the parties in the neighborhood on weekends. The kitchen is weird and cramped and has a funny sliding door that shuts it off completely from the corridor. There are big chips in the plaster in the little lounge. The big lounge looks bare because I don’t have enough cool things to cover the walls with. The outdoor light shines right into my bedroom at night. The wallpaper in said bedroom is unspeakable.

I can saunter naked from my room to the bathroom in the morning. I can be as obsessive as I want about turning off lights. I don’t have to tense up when I hear someone else’s key in the door. I can have whomever I want over for tea and biscuits whenever I want for however long I want. My bedroom gets amazing morning light. My 80% couches fit just right in the big lounge. I don’t have to be sheepish about my polka-dot underwear on the drying racks. I can walk home from yoga and the Sunday market Moore Wilson’s and Deluxe Café and don’t have to wait in the rain for the bus anymore. I can have people stay over in the little lounge on a foam mattress on the floor. I can watch as many YouTube videos I want without worrying about going over the broadband limit. I have enough storage space to be able to have a dedicated craft/vacuum cleaner closet. I don’t have to climb 3846586 stairs to get home, only to remember that it’s recycling night and have to go back down and back up again, giving me excellent calf muscles but much annoyance. There are birds singing outside.

It’s turning out to be a big deal, this new place, much more so than I expected. I know for many other self-supporting 35-year-olds this would be pretty low-key and normal, living alone in a rented apartment in a fun area of town, but I’m acting like I’m the first one to ever even think of such a thing. The first night here, after the movers had left and I’d finally got all my stuff in and was collapsing on the bed Alice had helped me make up when she came over with housewarming flowers, I felt weird and alien, bumping into things, unable to find my toaster or the lightswitches. The house felt too big–two lounges? Un-neccessary!—and I felt very small and alone, rattling around tripping over cardboard boxes, not talking because there was no one to talk to. I put on some old music I hadn’t listened to for a while and put up my bedroom pictures, casting fearful eyes at the windows as the party up the street got raucous (“Heppy bethday de-ah Trivah, heppy bethday to yooaaaiiouuuuu!”), making little masking tape pigtails to stick the postcards I got from Melbourne ages ago on the closet door. This place is too big, I thought, it’s too expensive and too much. It was hard to get to sleep with the noise and the light and the sore muscles from hauling box after box down 947917 stairs.

The next morning I woke up, bing!, at 6:00 and immediately started unpacking, stopping only to make some fridge magnets out of some coins I’ve collected from Europe and Australia and the Pacific, a project I’ve been meaning to do forever and just never got around to. I got the linens put away and the books organized and then a friend helped me pick up my new table (I’ve never owned a table!) and take some extraneous TVs to the tip in the pouring down rain and then I put up some more pictures and then some people came over after my other friend’s circus performance and said how nice everything looked and how fun it would be to have crafternoons and what a lot of space I had.

Tonight I have to line the kitchen drawers with some purple glitter contact paper I got for two dollars, and put away the rest of the kitchen stuff. My necklaces need to be untangled and hung on the wall near my bedroom mirror and the cleaning supplies need to be sorted. Recycle night is Wednesday here instead of Thursday but since it’s just a run outside and only three steps it’s not even a thing. I texted the landlady about the stove.

It’s only been five days and I still don’t know how much the electricity bill is and the pipes rattle when the upstairs neighbour takes a shower and it’s still kind of cold in the big lounge, but…this was the right thing to do. This was the right time. It’s a small thing, a move across town, but I am already picking my head up a little, feeling my world getting bigger.

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  1. Well you sound a lot happier, so that’s good. Hope your landlady gets on that stove issue soon.

    Living alone is brilliant once you get used to it.

  2. Somehow, the coin-magnets alone seem like a really good sign.

  3. I grew up in Wellington and moved to Sydney ten years ago. When I discovered your blog (journal?) a couple of years ago, it was like looking at my home town through new eyes, and never more so than reading this post – you are telling the story of every flat I ever had in Wellington – and every one of them eventually became a home, dodgy stoves, sticky doors, random architecture and all. Happy homemaking. Thank you for always reminding me what a great place I come from.

  4. I am hella impressed you have pictures up. We got our stuff in January and I still don’t. I’d like to say it’s because the walls are concrete and require a power drill and masonry bits, but this is how it would be even with American drywall. You rock.

  5. Having your own space is lovely. Coin fridge magnets, love that idea! (Just glue, extra strong magnets and patience?)

  6. Awww…I have to come see it! And bring you flowers! And drop hints about crafternoons!

    (and maybe try to con you into babysitting one of my many sewing machines while I try to find a space for it)

  7. I love the word “crafternoon” and if I thought I was going to have the time for that sort of thing in the near future, I would implement it immediately.

    Also, I’m glad you’re enjoying the place, even if there are a few quirks to get used to. 10 years from now, you’ll totally miss those quirks the most.

  8. i, too, am in love with “crafternoon”. my friends and i call that sort of thing “skill share saturday”, but i think that “crafternoon” is going to be the new name for it.

    happy for your new place!

  9. I totally just experienced this brilliant thing myself. Three weeks ago, I moved into an apartment by myself and not with a gazillion roommates anymore. I love how free I feel and how relaxed I am when I get home, even if the hot water in the kitchen only gets hot quickly if the lady across the hall is also using hot water.

    Love your writing, BTW! I’ve been reading for a long time, off and on.

  10. As always, Chiara, your writing is so good I felt as though I was right there in the flat with you. Congrats on the move, it sounds heavenly.