Too Much (to Do) and Never Enough (Time to Read)

Adapting a Mary Trump title there for a feeling I’m sure many of us have periodically. House hunting and purchasing have taken up a lot of time over the last six months. Now that we finally have keys to the new place, the work has only begun. The old chap who lived there as a tenant for decades before moving to a care home had been existing in some squalor (e.g., no shower or central heating). This past weekend we did a basic clean, including clearing out all the rubbish left in the outdoor bins. It almost felt like trauma cleaning. We haven’t yet had the fortitude to tackle the kitchen and bathroom, which are so greasy and grimy we might hire someone to clean them for us.

Much more fun has been the garden: we’ve transplanted some hedge plants from our rental garden, planted some trees, pruned the rose bushes, and made a plan for path, meadow and pond.

In the six weeks or so before we actually move in, there is so much to think about. We have a couple of tradespeople already booked, but there are lots of other renovations to research and get quotes for. So much to book, order, buy … we’re going to be bleeding money for the rest of this year. We will take on a few smaller projects ourselves, with neighbours’ help, but it is a very daunting prospect for people with no DIY skills. (And I just want to read instead.)

I should be ecstatic to own a home for the first time, and I do know how lucky I am to have somewhere to live and spare cash for improvements, but right now it all feels overwhelming. I’ve also been glum because I was denied the life insurance we applied for at the same time as a mortgage. I knew my genetic kidney disease would make a policy more expensive, but I wasn’t expecting to be declined outright – especially after the company strung me along for four months. The doctor’s reports they requested said only positive things about how stable my health was, how good my renal function, blood pressure under control. In the end they just looked at the condition name and said no. And that has made me feel a little worthless.

Still, chin up. It’s turned into a beautiful spring with fun outings such as a tour and tasting at a gin factory and folk gigs, including one by living legend Peggy Seeger.

I’m also genuinely enjoying the packing and culling process. Look at this vintage tech I found in a drawer! The Discman and Texas Instruments calculator still work, so I will continue using them.


Will I ever finish another book again?

Work has taken a slight backseat these days. I also feel like I’ll never finish another book again (though, actually, I’ll probably finish a poetry volume later today). It’s not that I’m in a slump. It’s that I’m currently reading 36 books, though the number I actually spend time with on a daily basis is more like 15–20. The rest languish in a pile next to the coffee table, or on my bedside stack. I’m working towards various projects, but my progress is at a slow crawl:

Requested after me at the library: The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, If Not for You by Georgina Lucas, Wahala by Nikki May

March releases: You Tell the Stories You Need to Believe by Rebecca Brown, Ghosts of Spring by Luis Carrasco, Groundskeeping by Lee Cole, Brainspotting by A.J. Lees

Reading Ireland Month: Dance Move by Wendy Erskine, After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell, Vinegar Hill by Colm Tóibín

April’s book club books: Paradise by Toni Morrison & Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake

Spring titles: Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson, The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald, Spring by Karl Ove Knausgaard, Sowing by Leonard Woolf

Jhalak Prize longlist: Honorifics by Cynthia Miller (with two more to start in April)

Women’s Prize longlist: Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith, The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton (with two more to start in April)

And so on.

That doesn’t count review books I’m trying to catch up on, a buddy read with my husband, a couple of e-books, and two other low-key thematic challenges I have in mind.

I’m inching towards my end-of-March targets for the current-month releases and Irish books. But most of my reading time has gone to one book I’ve been trying to read since January. By forcing myself to read a big chunk of Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise every day – first 40 pages, then 50, now 60 – I have finally passed the 500-page point and hope to finish and review it this weekend. Then I’ll rip up some nasty old carpets!

 

“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”

~Logan Pearsall Smith

 

Has there been more reading, or living, for you lately?
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37 responses

  1. Congratulations, Rebecca, and the very best of luck with the renovations. I’ve been through that (twice) and know how daunting it can seem but it’ll be worth it. And boo to the insurance company. So frustrating!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The house is in such a state, it’s hard for me to imagine the finished product. I’m impatient and want it looking nice soon, but I know it will take time. We’ll gradually decorate and make it more our own.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on the move Rebecca – I know it can be difficult and stressful but hopefully things will settle soon. That’s very frustrating with the insurance policy too. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least we’re only moving round the corner, so it’s easy to pop over for any quotes or appointments.

      I feel like they didn’t even consider my case individually. It was just a ‘computer says no’ thing.

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  3. I think your feelings about moving are all absolutely as to be expected. Daunting but exciting!
    I operate by making lists. It’s good to cross stuff off.
    Great idea to get some professional cleaners in. Worth every penny! I also got a carpenter in to build book shelves because I knew we’d never get round to it!
    Good luck and wishing you much happiness in your new home.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We are list makers, too. Each time we go round to the new house we have a task list, and I’m working my way through a list of address changes now, too.

      My husband is going to try his hand at making built-in shelves either side of mantelpieces, but we may end up calling someone in to do it!

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  4. Congrats on the new house. I hope you manage to find some people to do the renovations. Such a shame about the insurance policy too.
    Meanwhile, I’ve been keeping up with reading, but am in a minor review writing slump. School has been so busy – so many people off to cover – so many school trips to arrange (one of my many hats).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have the electrician and plasterer booked in. We’re getting quotes for plumbing, gutter replacement and a loft ladder. All the rest will be down the line sometime. We intend to paint ourselves, though I can see that being put off!

      Even just one weekend without any reviewing or other blogging felt weird to me. I’ll have to find a balance between work on the house and writing in evenings and weekends.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve lived in my house for 21 years now – and there is one room that has never been decorated still (my bedroom!) Too many books to move. It’ll happen when it happens. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha ha, that’s a cautionary tale for us! Ideally we’d paint before we move any furniture in, but there just won’t be time.

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  5. Moving house is stressful enough withou having to do all that trauma cleaning. All yiu can do is to kee focused on the end result – a home of your own that will have your personal stamp on it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Karen. We’ll get there eventually!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So happy to hear that you finally have your own home. Even though I am fairly practical, I have learnt that there are certain things that it is worth paying someone to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Paul! Definitely — we are limited in what we can attempt on our own. Luckily, we have neighbours who are DIY whizzes and they are happy to help in exchange for cake 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations on getting the keys! I’m not surprised the renovations feel overwhelming. I’ve moved a lot since the age of 18 (mostly to rental properties, though I now own my own house) and it’s always exhausting just sorting everything out, and I’ve never moved into a house that needed significant work done. I’m also sorry to hear about the life insurance. I can see how that would make you feel rubbish.

    I love the CD player – I have a very similar one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We moved about 10 times, between rental places and back with parents-in-law a couple of times, in our first nine years of marriage. Now that we’re happy in Newbury, it’s great to commit by buying a house. We really didn’t want a ‘project house’, but there was so little available in our area — it’s a very desirable location and the market is ridiculous right now. I think we’ll just have to be patient and work on most of the renovations slowly after we move in.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, that’s a lot of moves in 9 years! If you don’t count moving between different uni accommodations, which would add quite a lot to the tally, I think I’ve only moved 8 times as an adult. I hope the renovations go well.

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      2. Yeah, we were forced into being more nomadic than we wanted to be, a few times by landlords reoccupying or selling properties, a few times by our job circumstances changing. Only a few of those moves were chosen.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Congratulations on your new house – wishing you many happy years and space for many bookshelves. A busy, exciting time for you. One of books many virtues is they wait quietly and patiently in their piles, until you have the time to read them. The books will wait until the cleaning/decorating has progressed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It’s true, the books will be waiting for me whenever I get time to unbox and arrange them.

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  9. The thing with moving is it is a giant disappointment when you finally get the place. We got in here before we realised it was falling apart and it was most dispiriting that first summer. I’d say if you can, hire people to do that cleaning so you don’t resent the place as you start.

    I’ve had quite a lot of work on which has cut down on reading time – most annoying. I also have significant worries about three friends which has taken up time / exhausted me, which of course is par for the course, but … I am going to stop looking at blogs and have a read while I wait for an urgent job to come in, actually, now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, it was a huge letdown when I got the phone call from the solicitor’s assistant saying “Your house purchase is complete. You can collect the keys.” (No enthusiasm whatsoever!) People have been more excited for us than we’ve been for ourselves — every time I walk into the new place I’m daunted by how much is to be done. However, with each task we accomplish (wiping window frames or pulling down cobwebs or even just hoovering) it does feel better in there.

      Sorry to hear about those worries burdening you. I can tell you’re a good friend to be giving so much thought and emotional energy to their situations.

      Pesky work, taking away time from reading 😉 I haven’t had much on recently, which is for the best because of all the house stuff to be working on. It also gives me a hope of catching up on some neglected review books.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow! First home is really a big deal. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kay! It does feel like a big step. Others our age were able to do it much sooner, but generally with parental help. We had a surprise inheritance from a relative of my husband’s, which is the only way we could have done it with the property market as is.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I still use a Discman, I listen to CDs to help me get to sleep 🙂 Congrats on the move and sorry about the insurance. Hope you are enjoying the spring weather.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome! I assumed everyone would just listen to stuff on their phones these days. We have rechargeable AA batteries, so it wouldn’t feel too wasteful to listen to my Discman sometimes. We’re having a gorgeous spring, though it’s set to go cooler next week.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Congratulations on the new home! If you can afford it, hire cleaners. One less (big) thing you have to do. I hope you can schedule in some reading time. Even 20 minutes is better than nothing and does offer a respite from stress. That stinks about the life insurance. Not fair at all. I’m sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m getting a quote from a cleaner this afternoon. She’s the one our new next-door neighbour uses and her rate sounds reasonable; it’s just a question of how long it will take to get all that grease up!

      My evenings are still mostly devoted to reading. Once I finish To Paradise (later today, I hope) I’ll be able to give more books my attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. They say moving is one of the most stressful life events, and it’s so true. Hire someone for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They do say that, and looking back I feel sorry for our younger selves having to go through it so often! Most of our moves were forced upon us. Hopefully this one will be the last one for quite a while. We’re getting a lot of help from our neighbours. This afternoon’s task: ripping up stained carpets and taking them to the tip!

      Like

  14. I’m in awe of the tasks you have before you, and that you still have time, apparently, to read, and read quite a lot. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. House stuff seems to eat into my daytime hours a fair bit, but evenings are always free for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow, you have a lot of stuff going on! Congratulations on your house–you’re going to love it–and hire out as much of the work as you can afford!
    I’m not one for doing my own home projects either. I often envy people who like it. I just want to read. Hopefully you’ll be settled in soon and back to some kind of routine!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The more time we spend in the house, and the more we do to spruce it up, the better it feels. We’re lucky to have neighbours who love DIY — they saved us hundreds of pounds this past weekend by helping us with the carpet removal and demolition of a tacky fireplace facade. I’m still getting in a good bit of evening reading, but I do resent the loss of my weekends to house projects.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would feel the same way. Too bad I can’t send over my daughter – she loves renovations!

        Like

  16. Congratulations! And I am obviously the nay-sayer here on this count, but I think there’s a value to doing as much of the work as you can manage independently. There’s something to be sad to unearthing the layers and investing that energy and heart and sweat in making your own space your very own (together). And I’ve spent my fair share with a paint scraper and some exceptionally grimy kitchens. It gets done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s going to be a balance between time and money. We’d like to save the money by doing things ourselves, but we only have six weeks or so before moving in, and want to get as much done as possible before our stuff clutters up the place. Flooring and painting might have to wait, but I know how much more difficult they will seem once we’d have to move a roomful of furniture at a time. We have probably decided against hiring a cleaner, for now at least, so this weekend we’ll be doing battle with the disgusting kitchen and bathroom.

      Like

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