Fear of flatting – how I learned to loathe living in a house

It was my life’s desire to never live in an apartment, much like old people don’t want to move into a retirement home. I didn’t want to live so close to other people, sharing lift lobbies, stairs, gardens, balcony barbecue smoke, party noise, music noise, dog barking noise, leaf-blower noise. But now you couldn’t shoo me out of my two-bedroom haven with an army of leaf blowers.

How did this happen, how have I betrayed my rural upbringing of literally acres of space, dairy cows, chickens, huge Lego like constructions made of straw bales and a ridiculous amount of collie dogs and cats?

I regarded share houses and apartments as somewhere to grin and bear and bide your time until you could buy a free-standing house. The flats were OK for what they were, but I craved a house with a fence around and a garden, solid ground to stand on, somewhere to connect with the nature I’d grown up with. It didn’t disappoint, with fruit bats quarrelling in the middle of the night and brush tail possums hitting the roof like the SAS had jumped down from a helicopter. Then in daylight red back and funnel web spiders made gardening closer to a 3D Imax version of an Attenborough documentary.

What you don’t know until you live in a house in the burbs is how quickly stuff grows. That’s why some people just pave over their yards and have done with it. Because the more you try to Better Homes and Garden it, the more work you’re making. Even keeping on top of the lawn mowing in summer is a challenge, without the weeding, pruning, watering and mulching. You don’t have the time to smell the roses, you’ve got to spray them and the lemon trees which have foul smelling bugs that fight back when you try to get rid of them. These are the once carefree days you used to spend at the beach.

And the unexpected expenses! You know where you are with body corporate fees and sinking funds. You don’t have to worry that a blocked drain reveals that the plumber has to relay a section of pipe because it’s broken. Then your neighbour tells you that they’re getting your water in their basement. You pay for a camera to go down and video the inside of drain and you have to replace the whole thing and the concrete path over it. $15000 dollars later all you have to show for it is a video that nobody will ever want to watch and a section of path that looks slightly newer than the rest which you high pressure hosed because that’s what you do if you live in a house. You clean things with a high-pressure hose. Even though they don’t need it, just to feel like you have some control over your life.

What’s that saying, good fences make good neighbours? I think it should be tall fences. It’s the absolute edge of your domain if you live in a house but it gives you the most grief, especially if it’s rotted through and needs replacing so that next door’s Airdale doesn’t keep walking through the hole and leaving a deposit under your clothes line. You have to split the cost with your neighbour, which can turn into a negotiation that makes Brexit look like taking candy from a sleeping baby.

Who gets the posts on their side? They’re ugly. Yes, they are. But there is also extra space in between them that you don’t miss until you’re faced with an uninterrupted line of palings and wonder where the edge of your garden went.

Apartment living has none of these unnecessary stresses as far as I can tell. Drains blocked, everyone’s going to pay to have it fixed, probably out of the sinking fund. Fences are brick, they’re not going anywhere. Gardening, what’s that? Oh that man with the ear defenders who comes round once a week and clears the paths until the next breeze. As for wildlife, we don’t even have cockroaches as the building is sprayed twice a year. You can feed the birds from your balcony to connect with nature. If you really want lorikeets squawking for their toast at daybreak or a cockatoo to steal your washing and shred your outdoor furniture cushions.

The absolute best thing is the guilt free living. No more having to keep up appearances. No washing the gutters, cleaning the drive, mowing the nature strip, just pull the door closed, ride the lift down to the lobby and the world is there waiting to enjoy. Languid breakfast with the latest incarnation of avocado, trip to the beach, walk to the park with the dog, train or tram to the stadium, go shopping with money you’re not spending at Bunnings, living is easy. Whether you live inside the ‘goats cheese curtain’ or in the new cappuccino belt, you know you love this life.

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