living nonviolently in an old house that could use a few renovations that we can’t afford just yet.

20160131_070123 (1)Our house is pretty old, for Queensland. It is 120 years old, but it’s heart is 150 years old. That’s what special about our house. The original 1 room house was wrapped in a newer house at some stage. When you go underneath you can see the mismatch of timbers and joints between the two, and in the oldest part, we find hand-made nails. On the inside, part of the now-hall was once the verandah, and there is a cute proper outdoor window looking out from the oldest room to the hall, and the door from that room to the hall is an outside door, a simple hand-made front door with a key lock (the key long-lost).

My favourite parts of the house are that window and door, but also my perch on the back step. It’s kind of a humble place to sit, beside the loo pipe and the worst of the cracked paint, and all. But from this spot I can watch the chooks fuss about and I can wave at the neighbours as they pass. It’s a humble view: the view of the back yards-a-jumble of old cars (being worked on – or neglected) wild gardens, kids skating, clotheslines, veggies and chooks, bric-a-brac storage. It’s messy life and I like that.

Another part of the house I enjoy is the front verandah. The verandah is the coolest spot to be after about 11am. It is on the easternmost side, so is shaded by then and there is nearly always a good cooling breeze from the river. The verandah is wide enough for a full table and chairs and we all sit out here in the evening and eat our dinner. At first I felt a bit embarrassed about being in full view of the street, but if the neighbours thought it weird, they are now used to it and just smile and wave as they go past. My insomniac daughter also does yoga on the verandah in the middle of the night, in the dark. When I think of the verandah I realise how happy we are as a family here. It works.

Some parts of the house do suck though. The bathroom is too tiny to stand in with your arms spread wide, which is unpleasant. Also, the shower is made of asbestos and even though our builder said it was stable I hate looking at it, it gives me the creeps, so I don’t like to spend time in that room.  And the kitchen is not suitable for tall people. We have all banged our heads on the cupboards when we wash up, and the stooping over the sink hurts our backs for ages afterwards. Just 1 little sink to wash up in, it’s pretty basic.

Sometimes I tell myself We really must do something about this! and get stressed out, especially about the asbestos. If I let myself, I will lie awake at night worrying about how much it will cost and imagining running out of money in the middle of renovations and having no toilet and the bank throwing us into the street and oh my god how are we all going to sleep in the car!!  Getting myself into a state about it all. And this is where I use nonviolence to get me through. These are the things I can do…

I can breathe and be aware that I am breathing. Breathe in and out. Breathe in and calm my body, breathe out and smile (thank you Thich Nhat Hanh).

I can rephrase: We really could do something about the bathroom. And remind myself that it’s just a choice (thank you Landmark Education).

I can reach out and touch my house and be aware of the strength and character and love that lives here right now (thank you Marie Kondo).

I can think about the needs met and unmet by the house and in the space that opens up be free to consider alternate strategies to expensive renovations (thank you nonviolent communication).

So the really best part of the house is that there really is no need for me to suffer about this old house. I am free to enjoy her strength and character and quirkiness and her crumbling rambling shambles as well.



Published by Rowena McGregor

I am a librarian interested in transpersonal approaches to life.

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  1. I really enjoyed reading this. It is a big step to own a house and you made it. The view looks very relaxed and I can imagine people sitting on the verandah and your daughter doing yoga. I think you are a better Buddhist than me, I am supposed to do that breath in and breath out all the time. yeah, don’t stress about asbestos, your time will come and is it ok to do little by little instead of renovating everything at one go? We have some Indonesian workers who do that. Usually only one or two workers come for repairing and do one or two rooms and they do not charge much here. But may be Australia is much more expensive to do. I can’ wait to read more about your house. Where is the river by the way? hahaha


    1. Hi Empathy, mmm renovations are expensive here – anytime you do anything you have to apply for permission from council and the bank wants to know all about it too – they will all come and inspect and make you get it redone if it is not up to scratch and you have to use qualified tradespersons to get most things done. But we can do a bit at a time, we will get there. And the painting we can do ourselves at least. 🙂
      As for the river, currently it is about 100 meters away, at the bottom of a steep hill, but in summer 2011 it was lapping at the bottom of the stumps and in summer 1974 it was flowing under the house and in 1893 and 1894 it would have been flowing OVER the house for a bit… but most of the time the river is a fair way away 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. wow, I am learning a lot about process of renovation. It sounds quite expensive and a lot of people are involved. Sometimes I wish I am do-it-yourself person although I can’t even change the bulb. 🙂


  2. Hello Rowena,
    thank you for the description of your house. To understand your feelings and thoughts about it, it might be interesting to know some more about it, for how long do you live there and so on – private questions. The asbestos thing does not sound very healthy. Renovation should be done carefully. On the other hand, like Empathy, I enjoy the impressions of the surrounding and everyday life. I am sure, you and your family have or will find power, patience and ideas to improve what should or might be improved.
    Your story also reminds me of some things to be done at my flat …
    Yours Bernd

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How neat to have a house full of such character! I have often thought it would be fun to live in an old house but I can see how it would be frustrating having the too-small bathroom and kitchen, etc. We live in a tiny house and there are some days that I feel up to my ears with frustration over not having enough space or having too much stuff in the house. Good ideas about breathing and smiling. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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