Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In the Eye of the Storm: Further Thoughts on Moving House

Photo by Mararie

I’ve finally found somewhere to live – and will be signing the lease this afternoon.

I've ended up somewhere that if you’d told me even a year ago I'd be moving to I would have laughed in your face. It’s a tiny suburb called Gardenvale that is between more popular suburbs, so marginally cheaper rent-wise. It’s close-ish to Elwood, which is all at once groovy, semi-suburban and increasingly upper crust but has lovely old style flats and a great beach, but also a short drive from the non-hipster-ish vibrancy of Glenhuntly Road Elsternwick, which has a Jewish flavour (always a welcome relief from the white bread I choke on in East Malvern).

There is also a charming little local shopping strip with cafes and an op shop!

I’ll be living in a cute little two-bedroom flat on the first floor, which means no footsteps above me – something I vowed I would never put up with again in this lifetime.

The emotions so far have been horrendous. Only now is the joy coming through, the realisation that I really am leaving what has actually been something of a hellhole, and a millstone around my neck for the last ten years. I opened this YouTube clip this morning almost by chance and it was uncannily appropriate. Its little admonition will help me with what I now understand is the necessary chaos and disorientation of moving. 

There is no getting out of it. Yes, I can picture myself in my new little nest – and not all my images are optimistic, in some of them I am defeated by the sounds of neighbours and the three busy roads nearby – but that is an escape from the present. The important thing now is to be in the chaos, the eye of the storm, to experience the profound sense of dislocation and not try to imagine myself elsewhere. It is a very slow, painful birth and I am deliberately doing it gradually. I’m actually ahead of myself on the packing, because I’m terrified of being unprepared when the removalists arrive.

A couple of quick observations about moving:

– If I was rich I wouldn't think twice about getting packers. What a great idea - except you don't get to choose what to throw out, always a positive offshoot of moving house.

– The sense of your possessions being upended and sent somewhere new has a profound effect on the sense of self, leaving you feeling exposed and bruised. Poet Kevin Brophy describes it this way (italics are his)
Moving house, it takes you all apart,
until you find your insides outside

it's like a surgeon's video camera
making TV documentaries of your viscera.
– The sense that this is the right time to go is uncanny. Weather not too warm or cold (winter hasn't set in yet), and because of a council stuff-up, my parents' hard rubbish collection delayed for weeks, so I can keep putting discarded stuff on their pile.

– The loss of my dream of moving back to the inner city - Carlton in particular will always feel like my true home - is profound. It involves saying goodbye to youth, my hidden hopes of reviving old friendships from my 12-step program days, an idea of Melbourne that's now obsolete and a less dog-eat-dog society than we have now.

– My OCD is manifesting in an obsession with my neglected body - plaque on my teeth, calloused heels, blocked ears, hair that needs cutting etc. I am writing a list of things to do after I move, but that list cannot change the fact that I simply can't attend to these suddenly urgent matters now.

All this is complicated by the fact that the owners are auctioning the place two days before I leave. That’s not quite as messy as it sounds. In fact I’ve adjusted (we adjust to anything, we humans) to the twice weekly ‘opens’ that mean at least two hours preparation on my part to make the place fit for potential buyers to come in and inspect the place, piles of boxes notwithstanding. Having the auction and the move close together actually works well because it means I’m simply doing most of the mega house clean (for the ultimate auction-day open house) before I leave.

And there’ll be no doubling up on rent because the owners of my current place kindly agreed to a reduction in notice time of two weeks – so they should for the amount of hours I’ve spent making the place bootiful for the many people who crave a slice of East Malvern ‘lifestyle’. (The new flat was vacant when I applied so the owners of that place wanted someone in straight away, but we compromised.)

There are loads of offers on my place apparently (it doesn’t feel like my place any more even though I’m paying rent for it.) It is small compared to the other houses and therefore relatively attainable in what is an expensive part of town. It also has a garage and a back yard (for the requisite dog you have to own even if you hate dogs and never walk yours) and is semi-detached in a block of three.  Ambitious young doctors and nurses are apparently keen to buy their first home in easy reach of the well-regarded Cabrini Hospital up the road.

They will be competing with the investors that Australia’s ridiculous tax laws encourage. The sales manager – who has been much nicer than you’d think, although of course that’s his job – told me that some potential investors would buy it as is and not do much to it. I couldn’t believe it – I thought anyone buying this place would want to gut it.

So – in less than two weeks I will be sleeping in a strange new place, in a quiet, story book street that I loved as soon as I turned into it, in a block of flats that seems peaceful and settled but has unknown inhabitants. In a part of town that is within easy reach of my parents but still completely foreign in its own way.

But the process of finding my little home and choosing to stay on this side of town (not the inner north of my dreaming) has been a huge emotional journey that requires another blog entry.


  1. Hi Catherine,

    I have been wondering how things have been going for you and your move.

    Last time I moved (8 years ago now), I got a great sense of relief once I'd handed over the keys to my old place, and I only had one residence to focus on. Hopefully, once you've done this (and once you feel sustained by a good loaf of Jewish bread!), things will seem far more manageable.

    By the way, for the second time in relation to one of your posts, my initial (long-winded!) response to you disappeared when I clicked "Preview." This is probably good cos you get the abridged version in the end :) But, thought I might mention this to you, anyway ... So, I'm just going to hit "Publish" now, and make sure I make a copy beforehand!

    All the best there for the coming weeks!


  2. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for that and for letting me know about Preview issue. I did a Google search on it and think it is a Blogger bug. I'll put a note about it in the About me section until I work out how to get rid of it!

    This is definitely the worst part of the move. It's a big place for one person and I had no idea I was actually buying stuff just to fill it up. But you're right -- once that part's done I can arrange my new place at my leisure. I have a feeling I'll be happier there.

    What's happening in your corner of the world? Trouble with moving is I have become even more self-focused than usual :)