Following on from my post about the staircases, it does not strike me as at all odd that I have reached the ripe old age I am, without having achieved the perfect house. I was born in a post-war London (just inside the 1950s) when rationing was still very much de rigeur. My mother recently produced my ration book from the caverns of her wardrobe, although it is hard to think that at the time as a six-month-old I demanded my ration of whale meat or parachute lining!
I do remember as a small child that there was nowhere near the choice of shops on offer today. If you needed a dress, there were only one or two shops to choose from - and that was in a very busy quarter of London; not the overload of boutiques and chain stores there are now. Not only that but everything was still in short supply. What you needed, let alone wanted, was just not available. Furniture was bought on hire purchase- a sort of forerunner of credit cards - where you paid weekly instalments at the shop where the item was purchased. There was not much choice in furniture either, apart from can I afford it or not? To this day, my mother still has her utility sideboard in her dining room. Fridges or washing machines were relatively unheard of; there was only one channel on the television (BBC1), although ITV was just coming in and I used to go to a neighbour's house,whenever I wanted to watch Noddy on ITV, as we only had BBC; and phones and cars were for the very wealthy. Housing was in short supply too - the bombing had seen to that. My grandparents had moved about 6 times in the space of 4 years during the war, as each house was blown to smithereens. I remember bombed-out houses and gaping holes here and there in the terraced streets, where I played. (That was another thing - then, I played on the streets. Shock, horror, nowadays.)
People's expectations of life were a lot less and they were more accepting of their lot . My parents had lived apart for the first two years of their post-war marriage, as they had nowhere to live together and the only hope of getting somewhere was to get on the council housing list - and for that you had to be married!!! So they married and then lived with their respective parents on opposite sides of London about an hour's bus and undergound journey apart. They never did get that Council flat, by the way, although an offer did come in about 8 years' later by which time they had already put a deposit on their first mortgaged house.
Used to these wartime shortages, I grew up in a family where everything was kept and recycled if possible. Nothing was thown away - just in case. Certainly not furniture. That has definitely rubbed off onto me. Being a student helped too, having to live frugally in the late 1960s/ early 70s. Greg came from a similar background too. He and I were both horders. I wouldn't throw so much as a piece of string away, as it might come in handy and Greg would reuse nails or screws. Over the years we have squirreled away quite lot of stuff - just in case - until every drawer, cupboard or cellar space is now groaning. Last week, I replaced our fridge/freezer which had reached the grand old age of 22 years. It was a bit battered, but it still worked and I did not see the point of throwing it out. The salad drawers were held together with duct tape where they had cracked many years ago, the handles had come off and I could not find replacements, but the fridge still kept things cold. It was only because the seal on the door had recently gone, that I felt forced (yes, forced) to replace it. And I tell you, the new fridge-freezer is bigger in size than the old one, but it doesn't store as much. How I miss that old one, already.
I recall some years ago when I was at work, that a young single twenty-something was buying a flat for herself and she wanted it freshly-decorated, furnished with all the mod cons (washing machine, dishwasher, TV, telephone, fridge, the lot) all BEFORE she moved in. My parents' generation would have saved for years even decades, for such things, had they been available. My generation had to gradually amass them too, as and when we could afford them. The young generation of today take so much for granted.
There currently is a must-have culture that buys now and worries later. I am sure that's why there are so many house repossessions , as people just do not think beyond the present and cannot contemplate that interest rates might rise. When Greg and I first bought our current house in 1988, we started on 16% interest rates!!! It is a throw-away culture too. Watches and computers are past-it when they are only three years old. As for mobile phones - they HAVE to be replaced each year - so that you can flash the lastest gimmick around in the train. My Nokia 3410 is still going some three hundred years since I first got it. I get funny looks when I use it in public, as if I have just exposed myself. But it works beautifully. Why do I need to replace it? I managed before without photographing everything in sight or ruining my hearing with i-tunes. Why do I need to upgrade it (that wonderful little word which suggests you are missing out, if you don't!) People even seem to replace their furniture every five minutes too to match the wallpaper. What happens to the old stuff? Does it go to some big warehouse in the sky, get dumped on a rubbish tip or get handed down to some lesser mortal?
Times are changing:sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I am not sure if all this hyperconsumerism is necessarily a good thing. Yes, we have more choices, but we are in danger of becoming greedy and complacent, particularly when half of the world has very little, including a roof over their head and something to eat. As I start to tackle some of the decorating projects, I shall naturally brighten and clean the house up, but I doubt whether I'll manage to upgrade furniture or de-clutter to the extent that it has that minamalist unlived-in look. It will pain me to throw things out - just in case. Anyway the cat and the dog won't stand for that either, I know.