Please make a note for future reference: under no circumstances should you attempt to move house whilst trying to run a business and meet deadlines and raise a small human person and keep yourself rested and fed and creative and all of that other stuff. Can’t be done. You’ll break. Don’t do it.
This valuable life lesson comes to you from the broken remains of a designer, crumpled and buried deep within a fortress of ambiguously-labelled boxes, somewhere in the corner of a new house. Boxes. Boxes everywhere. Boxes cover the floors, the stairs, every available surface. Boxes filled with random fragments of a life. The windows are blocked out by teetering cardboard towers – the foundations of which are marked with redundant ‘fragile’ and ‘this way up’ scribbles. Planky flat-pack fractions fill gaps in-between and add questionable stability to the whole thing. So many boxes. I have no idea what contains what. But it’s all here somewhere, moved and ready to reassemble. In Goldblumian terms: my life has been teleported three streets over and turned inside out.
The only thing that compare in terms of “hang on, how the heck did I just survive that?” are those impossible first few months of being a parent, or maybe that time my sister tried to teach me to drive. Still, at least the most infuriating part of the process – dealing with other people – is over. The cliché-correct circus of lawyers, estate agents and mortgage brokers has been and gone. Now it’s just a case of the three of us turning this pile of stuff into a family home and place of work. Where to start?
Well, my tattered, shattered mind isn’t ready to process all of the new experiences and expenses (apparently I own and am responsible for a boiler now?), so for now I’m focussing on smaller concerns. Little details. Do we need a new dustpan and brush? Where might one find a beautifully-designed dustpan and brush worthy of my home? Are there any iconic mid-century German dustpans and/or brushes that I should know about? This is important stuff. Take care of the trivial and the rest will take care of itself, that’s my theory.
There’s one seemingly minor detail in all of this that’s had a big impact on normal life: we have no broadband connection yet. This state of disconnection is only for a few days, but the withdrawal seems to be going on forever (last night I sat on one of the few designated sitting areas among the boxes and just browsed the entire Argos catalogue, the barrage of colourful images and banal words acting like some kind of internet-methadone). At the best of times, home-working self-employment is rarely a regular shape – it’s a gelatinous blob that fits into whatever time and space that life allows – but at the moment I’m working in every cafe, library and bookshop-nook that York has to offer. Night and day. Bless my understanding, patient, handsome clients.
Soon though, I’ll be back online and working at my desk. And that’s all it will be – a desk, nothing more. You see, when you say goodbye to landlords, you also say goodbye to space. This house is small, so we’ve lost a room. We all need somewhere to sleep (apparently it’s too early to ship the boy off to military academy), so we can’t sacrifice any bedrooms. Goodbye studio, hello alcove-desk.
It’s a compromise, but also a welcome constraint, a challenge to simplify. And it’s a manageable corner of the house to unbox and start colonising. I’ve minimised my working environment to a handful of the finest essentials: Mac, lamp, coaster, clipboard. It’s only a temporary measure. I have a solution, I have a plan. Outside in the garden, beyond the cardboard and the brick, is a thing of great wonder and beauty. You see, I don’t just own a home now. I own a shed.
It’s full of lawnmower remnants, spiders and damp. But look at the potential! Isn’t this what all self-employed creative sorts dream of – a little structure to call their own? May George Clarke – nay, Kevin McCloud himself – be my witness, this ramshackle, odorous wooden thing will become the greatest outdoor studio space that this land has ever seen! Townsfolk, neighbours, gather around, BEHOLD THE SHED OF DESIGN
… or perhaps I could just put some boxes in there. We really do need to get rid of some boxes.
Daniel Benneworth-Gray is a designer based in York. See danielgray.com and @gray