Saturday, 27 June 2009


In a spirit of preparation I am packing a suitcase. Sweetie, Future Housemate and I are meeting with the letting agent today at 1.30pm to, hopefully, sign contracts and get keys for our new home. I won't take the case with me then but I will want to have it ready to go.

It's interesting to do this, to figure out what I need in a new place to make it start to feel like home. In a spirit of more procrastination than preparation, here's a list of what I think I'll take:

My kettle. I love this little kettle! I pulled it out of a skip in Islington in the summer of 2004 when I didn't have a kettle and had been using an ordinary pan to boil water for tea (and washing-up, since the electric immersion heater I had in that bedsit was a much more expensive way to heat water than the gas hob). Took it home, cleaned it up a bit... and found that it works, it doesn't leak, and best of all it has a wonderful two-tone wail to let me know it is boiling, not piercing as some of the whistle kettles are but reminiscent of a distant train. I don't know what Sweetie and Future Housemate will make of it, and they may prefer to use a more modern electric kettle instead, but for that very first cup of tea in a new home it wouldn't feel right not to be using my much-beloved kettle.

Tea things, of course. Some mugs (enough for all three of us and at least one for a guest), and tea, and sugar, and spoons and a teatowel or two and I guess we'll have to buy some milk. A saucepan and a few bowls won't go amiss either, but that's more a practical concern than anything else.

Clean sheets for the bed; a pillow, and my duvet if it will fit. The flat I'm living in at the moment has become harder and harder to deal with, in housemate terms, and so I don't want to sleep there any more nights than I have to. My little rabbit, who I've had since I was small. And all the other sleeping things, and getting up things: towel (yes, I am a frood who knows where her towel is), toothbrush & paste, and so on.

A bit of piano music. I'm very much looking forward to having a piano in my home again after many years without. I can play some by memory but I want to set to work immediately on some of what I've been learning. And the other instruments I play need to come along, too, of course, though I can't fit them in the suitcase so I might need to make a few trips.

I'll bring my phone and charger, partly because it would be madly impractical not to, but mostly because staying in touch with my people is important. Too much isolation makes a home stop being a home, for me. The computer fits into this category too, but as there will initially be No Internet in the new house, it may just as well stay behind for a few days.

A rag and some soap for cleaning anything that needs it. I'm told the place has been cleaned before our arrival and certainly when we viewed it, it wasn't in bad shape. But there is something satisfying about finding the bit of dust that has been missed, about wiping an unnoticed corner of the countertop and saying, "There, there, house, I live here now and I will take care of you." (Those of you who know me well are laughing at this point and probably opening a book on how long it will take to become unbearably messy. That's not the point!)

Books. It might not seem like much but there are books that seem to make a place home or not. One has my grandmother's poetry in it, it is really like taking a piece of my prairie birthplace with me. I'll put a few others in too: short stories by Ursula LeGuin, perhaps a beloved cookbook or two. The number and type of books doesn't matter quite as much as their presence.

I've been praying Morning Prayer from the C of E website, and I can keep doing that through my phone if need be, but I want to start engaging with the books more: being spoon-fed liturgy by the internet is all well and good (especially when I am running late and the only time for me to fit the Office in is when I am on the bus or train...) but so is looking at various elements, especially the readings, in a wider context. So I'll be taking my copy of Daily Prayer, which I've scarcely touched since I bought it, and a NRSV Bible (I also have a Jerusalem Bible and a King James; I don't know yet which I prefer, and suspect it depends on the situation). I want to go to Morning Prayer at a local church sometimes but I doubt I'll be able to do it every day, and I want to establish the habit at home too. When we viewed the house there was a little table in the room that's going to be mine, and I'll put the religious books there. Also there will go my little oil diffuser/burner/whatever it is, the sort with a candle in the bottom and a cup for smellies in the top. I'll take that today too: there's much to be said for having matches and candles anyway, in case we have any trouble getting the utilities started (though this is arguably the very best time of year to have such difficulties).

Though I am not Jewish and I'm not even really very Jew-ish any more (I'll talk more about the difference some other time), I do sort of want a mezuzah. The Shema is still important to me, in a way that stops everything else even when I think of it. But I also want our home to be welcoming and comfortable for any and all who might visit, and I don't think overt religious symbols in communal areas will help much with that. I'm not sure what I'll do about this. I think maybe something to hang on the inside of the door to my bedroom would be appropriate. I'm waffling over whether I want the Shema or the Summary of Law. Some sort of illuminated text of either of them would be good. But I digress: this isn't something I'm putting in my suitcase today, it's something written on my heart.

The other ingredients that will make this place home definitely won't go into my suitcase, because they are Sweetie, and Future Housemate (I'll have to start calling her something else soon!). Their hopes and dreams for this place, along with mine, will do more to make it home than any of the objects I'm putting in a suitcase today. But the objects can be an expression of some of those hopes and dreams.

What makes a home for you? If you were going somewhere new and relatively unknown and had to take just the bare essentials to make a place feel like home rather than hostel, to make it feel like a place you could invite a friend or stranger rather than a place where you are the unfamiliar guest, what would you pack? Who would you take with you? Why?


it's margaret said...

Beloved and dog. A table and a bed. The rest of our things are fun toys... at least that is what I'm thinking today while I'm thinking of cleaning the house!

Many many blessings on your new place. May it be a home filled with love, laughter and blessings to share.

Zair said...

I really hope the house works out :)

I think I share the tea idea though. Now that there is an assembled bed in bats's new flat (and cups/plates/some pans and a couple of other bits a pieces) the first thing I did yesterday was buy an energy saving kettle, tea, sugar and lemon. All that's needed is bedding and it's possible to move in... :D