Lockdown and the glorious ball ache of rearranging furniture

I recently wrote that I wanted to build myself an adult fort, as a place of escape within my own home.

I live in a tiny but really lovely little…flat? Maisonette? Cottage? British naming conventions for dwellings are still mysterious to me. I live in what was once the back of a shop, and I have two floors. There isn’t a lot of space, but it is a self-contained unit I don’t have to share with anyone, for the same price as a room in a shitty flat in a nice part of London.

Back when life was normal, I was not particularly aware of its size; I spent the day in the office and I spent most weekends out as much as possible, Nailsworth being a tiny town one could walk across in about 10 minutes.

I stubbornly refuse to own a car, even though I miss driving and I know I’m missing out on a lot that’s on offer even just locally. But I have an ebike, and access to (dismal and outrageously expensive) public transportation.

The point being, even before the pandemic I was feeling claustrophobic.

My work-from-home space now takes up a large chunk of my living room. My only other option was to work in my bedroom. No thanks. The idea of the adult fort was so that I had a space in which I did not have to look at work. I certainly do not want to fall asleep staring at it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the space for the adult fort of my dreams: one that puts a physical barrier between myself and work. My couch and my office desk barely meet social distancing requirements.

Rearranging furniture is the next best thing, and I’ve been doing a lot of it. My current setup is completely impractical: a much-needed storage space is now inaccessible as it’s blocked by a bookshelf. Two free ottomans I plucked off the street some time before Lockdown 2 have transformed one end of my two-seater couch into a chaise longue. The coffee table is now shoved up against the back of the kitchen counter/room divider.

It’s impractical, but it gives the illusion of two rooms in a small space if you use a lot of wishful thinking. Finally being able to stretch my legs out and read comfortably is really nice. Losing access to the coffee table from the couch means my iPad has to go on my lap, and because I am not curled up on my side but sitting with my legs out in front of me, when I look up from the screen my desk is now almost in my peripheral vision as opposed to staring me in the face.

I give it two weeks at the most before the awkwardness of this setup gets to me and I shift the furniture around again. That’s about as long as my Christmas arrangement lasted, but not quite as long as my post-Christmas arrangement. Or, who knows; inspiration might strike and I’ll find ways to embellish the current layout. I haven’t totally give up on the adult fort idea, but most of my creativity is being diverted to other pursuits (such as not losing my mind).

Still, I can hear my wheels turning. Yes, they are wobbling quite a bit. No, they haven’t totally come off. There is a point to the furniture madness.

I have no control over the pandemic, the climate crisis, or Brexit, but I have ultimate control over my furniture. Moving it is a very slow process, especially if I have to take all the books/magazines off the shelves and then stack them again. But it’s physical work (indoors!), it doesn’t involve staring at a screen, and I get to indulge in what I call “micro therapies” (swearing) when I inevitably slam my shin into something solid.

Without this regular cycle of creating and subsequently fixing a problem that centres around something I can control, I suspect I’d lose the will to live and I don’t mean that in a drama queen kind of way; I really think I would sink into a depression that I doubt very much I would be able to climb out of. We’re all cut off from the majority of our usual rage outlets and mood lifters. And everything’s a bit shit.

So as bizarre as this bi-monthly ball ache is, I’m going to keep shuffling my furniture around. The relief when it’s over is just too glorious to pass up.

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