I recently had a conversation with a friend who was born in Wales but living in Cheshire. She had just spent the weekend back in Wales celebrating her birthday with her family.
I asked her, “where is home for you?”
I was curious to hear what she would say. After a brief pause she told me that home wasn’t the house she lived in; that was just bricks and mortar. Home was wherever her fiancé was.
For her, home really was where her heart was.
For some people a house is just a house and there is no emotional attachment.
For others, and I include myself in this category, there is a deeper connection.
I am blessed to live in an old, quaint terraced cottage in a picturesque Cheshire village on the banks of the River Dee. I originally bought the house with my partner but when he left I decided that I would stay. At the time, the idea of more change was just too much to bear.
My house has been the only thing in my life that has been a constant. In the early days, when I lived there with someone else, it was filled with laughter and fun. After the relationship ended, it was a place for me to grieve and heal. It was a place to shelter from whatever was going on in the outside world, a place for friendships to grow and family to visit, a place to dream and make plans for my future.
In those first few months after becoming suddenly single, I discovered that, as well as emotional vulnerabilities, there were certain areas of life where the practicalities left me feeling very exposed.
I had never lived on my own before.
Although I was very independent and not at all phased about domestic chores, I realised that I had adopted the traditions modelled by my parents. Cooking and cleaning was not a problem but I didn’t have a clue what to do when it came to fixing a leak, mowing the lawn or putting up a painting.
As far as I was concerned, that just wasn’t my department.
My ex-partner, let’s call him “John”, left behind an incredible toolbox with some impressive looking components but I did not know what they were, let alone how to use them! Asking for help can be difficult at the best of times but I was damned if I was going to look like a helpless female sending out a DIY SOS!
I’ll be honest, my first experience at mounting a picture on the wall was exhausting.
What type of screws do I need?
Why have I got three different sized hammers?
What do I line this up with and how do I make sure it’s hung straight?
I sat on the floor and stared into the tool box. I was hoping for one of those Disney moments when all the tools dance out the box and everything gets done by magic. Of course, that was never going to happen …
However, after an Internet search and a couple of botched attempts, I managed to get the picture up straight and secure enough to stay on the wall. I was thrilled. What an accomplishment!
Finding yourself living alone can bring about several practical challenges which you never even thought about when you were in your cosy couple world.
Here are some tips I learned the hard way. I hope they’ll make things easier for you!
- Make sure you know where everything utilities-related is in the house. This sounds really basic, but if you have always left those responsibilities to your partner then it’s time to clue up. For example, if you have a leak, you need to know how and where to turn the water off.
- If you are DIY-challenged and want one less thing to worry about when it comes to home maintenance then having a list of dependable, tried and tested, tradespeople at the end of the telephone can give you the peace of mind you are looking for. Make a list of recommended tradespeople for routine maintenance and keep it close to hand.
- Always, always, always get quotes in writing from any tradespeople, even the recommended ones, before they start the work. Don’t be afraid to get two or three quotes to be sure you are getting excellent value and so you’ll know in advance exactly what you will be required to pay. If your instincts tell you something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
- Whatever it is that might make you feel anxious, whether it’s changing a tyre, or grouting the bathroom, have a plan and either learn how to do it yourself or know who to reach out to for help should you need it. If you aren’t a practical sort of person or good with tools of any kind, then don’t hesitate to find people who are. If you love making cakes and your friend likes tiling and grouting, then do a swap. If you’re open to having a go at some basic DIY but you aren’t too confident, then get someone to show you how or find a course.
When it comes to the practicalities of household maintenance, whether you are single or not, having some strategies in place will keep you safe and your stress levels low.
As for me… as I began to heal, I started to put my own stamp on the house again – to change it from an “ours” to a “mine”. It took time, some decoration, new paintings and a reshuffle of the furniture but eventually all trace of John disappeared.
When a new friend came to visit for the first time and said, “your house is very you. It has a nice energy”, I knew the house had very much become mine.
The most important gift that my house has given me has been space and time to spend with myself, which in my view is what truly makes it a home.
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Denise Chilton is an Executive Business and Life coach, accomplished author, speaker and entrepreneur. She worked for in corporate banking for more than 15 years before launching her own coaching business in 2010.
She has built a business working with women who want to make a change in their lives, empowering them to experience life to the full.
In 2017, she published her first book Suddenly Single: How to overcome heartbreak and find your way to a new happy ever after. Suddenly Single is a guide written partially from personal experience to help women to heal healthily after a significant relationship comes to an unexpected end.
Denise was also awarded ‘Mentor of the Year 2017’ by the Northern Power Women for her work with women in underrepresented industries like STEM.