At home in our real life we live very comfortably. Our home and its trappings are neither flash nor overly scruffy, neither cramped nor overly large. We have only one bathroom without a separate toilet or laundry but it is large and light and has a view from the shower. We don't have a trophy kitchen, but we have appliances that work and a dishwasher and none of it is really ugly. Our kitchen floors show the wear of nearly a hundred years of existence and many chomping bora jaws and we don't have central heating or air con or undercover parking. Our main bedroom is very large and quite spunky, but we have a single living/dining/kitchen space and the entire house at around 160m2 is not much more than half the size of the average family home.
I've always felt happy to live in our house. More than happy, I've felt lucky. Lots of people who visit us comment on how nice the place is, that it has a nice vibe and I always agree. It is a lovely house to live in. A bit untidy perhaps but it is a happy, relaxed place and the door is always open to visitors and neighbours and kids who make mess.
And while I have never felt ungrateful for what I have, I have occasionally wondered about how the other half live. What the super big, super flash minimalist palaces are like to inhabit. They certainly have an aesthetic that appeals. All clean crisp lines and open spaces. Simplicity, coherence. The promise of something seemingly unattainable to me when the clutter and mismatch and make do get me down.
So here I sit nearly 4 weeks on living in such a place. A great big huge newish 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom, pool and carport place. A white walls and lovely matching furniture place. A place largely devoid of excess furniture and stuff, without any peeling paint or unfinished details, with no patchwork or idiosyncrasies.
And I'd like to say my conclusion is that it isn't worth it. Not in the financial sense - we're only paying a smidgen over what we get for our place in Melbourne - but in so many other ways. It should be said too that unlike in Melbourne up here we are both working from home, often when kids are about so we do need more space, and rooms we can disappear off to, and space for visitors to stay and so on.
But still. Both David and I are living in a kind of high pressure craziness in our efforts to maintain this level of perfection. There's an extraordinary amount of cleaning for a start, even though we don't use most of the bathrooms and it isn't like our kids are drawing on the walls or anything. But they do touch the walls (especially to get up and down the many many stairs), and on the endless expanses of white every fingerprint shows. The 100s of m2 of well lit wooden floors also show the inevitable sand, dust and assorted detritus of everyday life, along with every single scratch and drip of water. We have covered the best soft furniture with cloths and the dining table with place mats and coasters (pet hates of mine) to prevent any marks and we keep eagle eyes on the kids to ensure no feet on the couch and no this and no that.
And it is exhausting. Exhausting, and limiting. In the end it places far more importance on protecting the stuff and keeping the place looking nice and clean and untouched than it does on actually living. There is no where that Amy can happily do making, or where Wil can crash cars without fear of damage. And when we are all tired and cranky the no and don't seem to be all we say to each other.
Wil has even started putting his trucks in occasional time out, even though all they are doing is just being trucks.
I don't know how people live like this for real (instead of just on sabbatical), or why they would want to. If we were just adults without kids, perhaps. With a big budget for cleaning, maybe. And no care for the environmental costs to build and run of all these rooms. And no desire to be close enough to hear each other in the few hours we have together.
I get the beauty part, really I do. The house is indeed beautiful. And I admire that beauty on a daily basis. Glossy bathroom tiles and the deep matte stoniness of the shower area. All the glass that provides stunning views as well as excellent ventilation in the heat.
But in the end, seeing the effect we have on the house just by being here - the smudges on the glass louvres, the salt water drips on the 'invisible' pool fencing, the covers over everything - makes me feel like we are ugly. That human activity and what it generates uglifies the beauty of inanimate objects, lumps of wood and stone and glass. I don't like feeling that way and I really really don't like needing to give that message to my kids every other moment. The you do not deserve this beauty message, this everything you touch turns to shit message. The hands off, keep still, don't touch message.
I'm doing my best to savour the beauty while we're here, and knowing that this experiment won't last forever makes the stakes so much lower. But this is definitely the death knell for any home beautiful lust I ever had. Give me bullet proof any day.