Little home, lucky home, big home


“Have you ever paused to contemplate the idea of home?” asks Robyn Haynes in her blog, Big Dreams for a Tiny Garden. On a trip to Outback Queensland, she felt a deep connection with the land, and her sense of home expanded from house, garden and family to something much broader—Australia. (I’ve distorted her thought flow by summarising it — please read the original article for context.)

We all have at least two homes: a tiny home and a vast home. The lucky ones also have a roof over their heads, a location where they live, and a country.

Body. Roof. Neighbourhood. Country. Planet.

Our tiniest home is, you could argue, our body and we all have one of those. I am my body and I live in my body. When all is well, I feel at home in my body, and we take care of each other. (Mostly.) Difference is, I never leave this mini-home, even when I go to sleep.

My apartment, the roof over my head, brings me great delight. I step in the door and am instantly at home, meaning comfortable, relaxed, at peace—and grateful. But now, even New Zealand, the original model of a working welfare state, faces a crisis of homelessness. About one in 100 people here do not have a place to call their own. They are moving between temporary and insecure accommodation such as garages, garden sheds, cars and caravan parks, night shelters, emergency housing, and refuges. This is terrifying, mystifying, heartbreaking.

We have a neighbourhood if we have a permanent roof over our heads, no matter how humble. Then our home includes a town or a suburb or a province where we move around at will. But even a familiar neighbourhood is denied to the 40.8 million people worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes to another part of their country.

Most people belong a country, usually the country they were born in. At times we feel a bond that is profound, even spiritual. For voluntary travellers, a trip away triggers a surge of patriotism as we suddenly see what makes our odd little country unique. (I’m a Kiwi.) We leave, we return, we love our home regardless of its shortcomings.

I can return to my country, that’s the thing. But that is not an option for nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Children!

The only home for these people is the one we all share, the glorious, the hospitable, the fragile planet Earth. Is that any consolation for a refugee?

So Robyn, thank you for your question — I have been contemplating the idea of home.


The idea of home: Robyn Haynes

UNHCR: Figures at a glance (image from UNHCR)


Home maintenance in old age


bootcamp2015-small 2

In which I am torn between an old age of grubby indolence (tempting) with the officious whip-cracking of a body corporate. 

Have you noticed a tendency of older people to stop dusting and cleaning and fixing up their homes? My sisters and I suspect that late in life our mother did zero housework. A nice helper went over the place very lightly every week, and every other sign of dirt and disintegration was totally ignored — or else was invisible to aging eyes.

In the immortal words of Quentin Crisp, “There is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.” This is most encouraging, and I’m not knocking it. Works for some!

One legendary mother of ten sat down on a sofa at the age of 40 and announced that she was never going to do any more housework—but the dirt never stuck, because daughters took over the chores.

Some old people achieve domestic dirt and dilapidation

And some have domestic dirt and dilapidation thrust upon them, often through poor eyesight and mobility, lack of help or lack of money.

However, surveying older people who have followed the Quentin Crisp home maintenance model, I’ve decided that I would prefer my apartment to stay shipshape if possible on the stitch-in-time principle.

Unfortunately, I am unlikely to be exempt from poor eyesight and tiredness in my old age. And already I’m capable of deferring essential maintenance for 17 years! How can I improve the odds? How can I maintain my not-too-awful record into old age?

Bright idea: draft a long-term maintenance plan (LTMP)

An LTMP is mandatory for any body corporate in New Zealand; the Unit Titles Act requires an LTMP to ensure that shared property is maintained in good condition. Under the Act, an LTMP must be regularly maintained, so I’ll try to review this every 2-3 years as recommended. No. I won’t just try to. This is a boot camp! I will, I will, I will. I’ll add this duty  to the LTMP.

Right, sorted. I will be my own Body Corporate, in charge of the upkeep of my own apartment. I’ve started a spreadsheet for an LTMP that includes even mini-items such as replacing lightbulbs.  No need to rush in and do everything at once. I can set a schedule and relax.

Meantime when I run out of money or steam, my trusty cleaners will be one of the last luxuries I forego—after coffee.

P.S. I have now lost the spreadsheet.

Image from “American homes and gardens” (1905)