January 6th 2016 marked a year since I completed on my first home and what a year it has been!
Like many people, 2015 wasn’t the best year for me. It definitely felt like the downs outweighed the ups and I went through some major struggles, more often than not, I went through them on my own. In spite of all of this, 2015 will forever be an important year because I reached a major milestone – at the age of 23 I became a homeowner.
Now it wasn’t easy, and once I got the keys I thought the hard part was over. You can imagine my shock a few months later when I realised the real work was just beginning. I am however, a firm believer that in every test and in every struggle, there are lessons to be learned. So here are 5 lessons I’ve learned since completion that I’d like to share:
Sometimes a big step needs to be followed by baby steps.
So there I was, keys had just been handed over, standing in the middle of my empty flat and my mind was racing through all the furniture and design possibilities. It was finally time to live my Homes Under The Hammer dreams (don’t judge me). After buying a few of the larger items of furniture, and seeing my savings account was lower than it had been in years, I quickly realised that is takes time (and money) to turn a house into a home. My design dreams would have to wait.
I lost count of the number of times people have gotten on me for not having certain things. The first few months, without fail, someone would ask:
“How can you not have any [insert basic item people expect a home to contain here]?’
One time it was a HDMI cable, the next time is was plasters, another time it was spare towels. It was never said maliciously, or to intentionally hurt me, but I’d find myself constantly apologising for things I didn’t have rather than appreciating what I did have. But no, not anymore. Your home is never complete, there are always going to be things you need to add or change and you can’t always do it all at once. In fact you shouldn’t do it all at once. What matters most is that it’s suitable for the stage you are in life at that very moment.
A year later, I can honestly say the only room in my house that is completely done is my bathroom – and I’m content with that.
Side note: I now have plasters, a HDMI cable, and spare towels in abundance. Thank God for progress.
Shopping will never be the same.
Most of us have experienced that occasion where you have a little extra money left over at the end of the month and you feel like treating yourself. Well in the past, that treat would have involved some new clothes, maybe a new pair of shoes, or a nice meal somewhere. Now it’s more like a new lamp, a food processor and potpourri . Shopping now consists mainly of walking around Ikea or the John Lewis home section and making mental notes of items of furniture to buy 6 months later.
It’s like having another person to take care of, and its needs to look good often outweigh yours, especially in the beginning!
Spending habits need to change.
Now this one is mainly for those of us who live(d) with our parents. Even if you contribute financially to the running of the household, there’s a whole new level of responsibility when you’re doing it on your own.
I remember hearing random noises coming from my boiler one day and it suddenly dawned on me that if my boiler broke down, I’d have to get it fixed. So I jumped on Google (as you do) and started to research broken down boilers. Needless to say, those things are expensive to replace! Luckily my boiler is fine, but that day ‘saving for a rainy day‘ took on a whole new meaning for me. Why? Because all of a sudden I realised how expensive my rainy day could be.
It took me a while to fully realise that I hadn’t really changed my spending habits, even though I was only saving about a third of what I was before buying the flat. I was still at Starbucks on a daily basis, eating out whenever I felt like it, and saying yes to every team lunch at work. I’ve always been reasonably responsible when it comes to finances, but in 2015 I found myself getting increasingly frustrated at my bank balance. Despite all my budgeting, my savings weren’t growing as fast as they should have and I realised I was spending way too much money on food. The whole thing was a shambles.
The truth is, no matter how much budgeting and planning you do, things will always come up. But ensuring you have the basics under control, i.e. food, travel costs, mobile phone bills etc will allow you to meet those unexpected costs without compromising on your savings.
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. Sometimes you need to be alone.
One of the questions I get asked the most is ‘how is it living alone?’. My response? I love it!
A lot of people confuse being alone with being lonely, but there is a huge difference. Moving out on my own has not been lonely at all! Friends and family are only a phone call, text message, or short drive/bus ride away and people are welcome to come round anytime – I’m never lonely. Luckily I’m an introvert so I actually prefer my alone time, but what I will say is, being alone is not for everyone.
Looking back over the last year, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t forced to be alone. It can be difficult to go through certain situations when you’re constantly surrounded by people. You can get so caught up in life and interactions with other people, that you don’t have the time to be still and reflect on what’s going on around you.
Being alone has given me a chance to be still. I’ve been able to laugh, scream, jump and cry without worrying who would hear me or what I looked like. It exposed my flaws and bad habits (dishes really don’t wash themselves). I learned to be disciplined, to be consistent, to recognise early on when things were about to get out of control. Being alone has pushed and challenged me in ways I could never have imagined. It has allowed me to grow.
Like I said, it’s not for everyone. Some people can do all of this in a house full of friends and family but for me, it was and continues to be a much needed experience.
It’s more than just four walls – your home is what you make it.
A home means different things to different people. In today’s society, with all that there is out there to see, do and explore, building a home is the least of many people’s worries. For some it’s a just a financial asset or just a place to sleep or a party and for others it’s just a house. For me, it’s a place of peace. Words can’t express the way I feel when I step through my front door after a long day, but it wasn’t always like this. The first few months on my own was an adjustment, it wasn’t fully furnished, I hadn’t really figured out the heating, it just didn’t feel like home. I had to make a conscious effort to turn it into one. It had to be comfortable enough for me to be excited about going back there every evening after work. So I bought pillows and blankets, I decided on a no shoe policy – socks and fluffy slippers only people – and I slowly introduced things that meant a lot to me.
I decided early on that I wanted my home to be a place where friends and family can come, leave their worries at the door, laugh, relax and feel at peace. It took a while to get there, but I now know that it had to start with me.
Karibu Nyumbani people – Welcome Home.
Pic Credit: West Elm