I am getting ready to move out, donating clothes and books, throwing out volumes of paper filed away in the belief I would need those documents, cuttings and notes (it has turned out I really don't). Most of my 'stuff' is in my studio (as much as minimalism appeals to me, for the artist part of me it is impossible) and on my bookshelves.
The objects in this house all tell a story and are a link to the people who gave them to me. When I taught a summer camp recently, I brought half my household for the still life lesson, and afterwards I noticed my beautiful wooden heart was missing. I mentioned it to the kids the following day, saying it might have got lost in the chaos of leaving the room, and it turned out one of the girls had 'given' it to one of the boys. There was sniggering, and he blushed, and I decided not to ask for it back. This was a sweet story, and I like to think of this cheeky but innocent 10-year old taking home the little wooden heart. It made me realise how much these objects mean to me, but it is the meaning, the story, that is most important.
When I moved in here, I had no idea how long I would stay, and while I made a good few changes (painting some of the furniture white, with my landlady's permission and approval), there were other things I never got around to, possibly because of that tenant mentality of only passing through. My 'gardening' efforts here never extended beyond potted plants. Years ago I shared a house with friends, and one of them designed and maintained an elaborate vegetable patch in the garden. I marvelled at her dedication. She made the most of the short time she lived in that house. I only changed one curtain here, and while I own some pieces of furniture, certain parts of the house - the shoe shelf!- remained in a 'this-will-do-for-now' state for the seven years. And seven years is a long time.
And yet I put a lot of love into this little house. This has been my sanctuary. It has felt like an all-year-round holiday house (it has also felt cold in the last two years, when the cavity insulation had sunk... I am already looking back through rose-tinted glasses). It gave me the luxury of having a dedicated studio space. I documented the changing light and colours across the bay (a long-term project that I want to make into a series of paintings) from my doorstep, and cultivated a wonderful friendship with my 81-year-old neighbour. After the various types of shared accommodation in my student years this was the first place I was able to call home apart from my childhood homes.