Living in London, it's not easy to love where you live. Chances are the word "home" reminds you of $580 admin fees, roommates who consistently leave beige gunk on your pans, and a lifestyle you'll never be able to graduate from.
But it wasn't always like that. Do you remember your first time? Trying to build your rubbish IKEA BILLY shelves, hanging some shit art on the walls, inviting everyone in your contacts over for a housewarming party. You cared about your world. You loved it. But not any longer. That feeling is a detached and distant memory. You're hardened and world-weary now, aren't you?
Well I'm not. Because five months ago, I moved into a shed. A shed. A previously-used-for-lawnmowers-and-garden-tools shed. And it's fucking great.
I'd been told the rent for my studio apartment was going to be hiked up, and I was already living on bread and beans, so staying there wasn't really an option. I eventually found a place listed online as a "chalet," which sounded extremely luxurious, so I arranged a viewing for the next day. Greeted by a friendly guy in Gore-Tex boots, I was led up a long garden path to a dark structure: not a chalet, a cabin, or a lodge but a straight-up shed. Doors you could open with a strong cough, perspex windows, sockets hanging off the wall: It was love at first sight.
That said, it hasn't been a straightforward process by any means. The day I moved in, I slipped on the path, before hobbling, with a bloody knee, through an alternately freezing and scolding shower, and then getting into bed, only to spend the next few hours staring at the rain coming through the ceiling lights, hoping that I wouldn't die in a shed fire.
However, I still slept the night, and that's love. You can't put a price on love.
Well, actually, you can: $1,240 a month, bills included. I suppose that figure is the reason why the relationship between London renter and shed has become such a taboo one. With horror stories of people leasing one out in their lounge for about $750 a month, the shed has become a symbol of our entirely fucked-up renting culture.
Something you should know: Living in a shed is no bad thing. Here, some words on why exactly:
I HAVE NO NEIGHBORS, AND THERE ARE NO ROOMMATES
You know those days where you wake up and don't want to get dressed, see anybody, or even utter a word? Where you praise the land you stand on for the fact someone invented a system where you can order a pizza online without having to say literally anything at all? I get those feelings too, but they don't start and stop at a roommate stomping around to "Eight Minute Abs" in his bedroom.
Most days I don't see anyone at all, so there's no need to get dressed. It's quiet when I want it to be and loud when I want it to be. I could essentially sprint, naked and screaming, from wall to wall with the door open like I'm doing the People's Elbow, and nobody would call the cops.
Nothing you can do about visitors, unfortunately.
I AM ONE WITH NATURE
That thing about neighbors? It's not strictly true. Since I moved in, I've had an ongoing relationship with a family of foxes. My Twitter feed reads like Ben Fogle's urban diary, from initially spotting one on the roof months back to recently asking people how they'd fare "transcribing a quiet interview when there are two foxes fucking underneath your floorboards."
Well, last week, all that finally paid off:
A family of foxes live underneath my shed, directly beneath the desk I'm writing at. Six cubs and a mangy mother. I hear them scurrying and snoring through the floorboards. I watch the mother dragging comically sized baguettes back for lunch, and I have witnessed the cubs emerging from underneath my steps to learn something new every day. Today, they noticed that squirrels exist. They're terrified of them.
I guess this proximity to nature has given me a unique perspective for someone living in London. Can you watch a pigeon being pulled apart piece by piece by a hawk in the morning? See robins building a nest out of the hair from your brush? I think being closer to this ecosystem has saved me from the traps of loneliness and a detachment from nature that a lot of people suffer from in the city.
IT'S A FUCKING SHED
So the people who live in the main house don't nip in to grab a screwdriver at 10 AM, but it's still a shed. It's unappealing, small, and the last place in London that people are going to see as a development opportunity. And for that reason, you can find a sense of stability and belonging here.
Sure, $1,240 a month sounds crazy, but it's still $580 a month cheaper than the apartment I was living in, and here I can breathe without Cindy from Winkworth screaming at me for putting a nail in the wall.
The foxes—they'll grow and leave home. You—you'll be forced out when a chain grocer decides it wants your apartment as a fish storeroom. The buses will malform, and London will move on. But me, I'll be here. The city's one true constant, hidden at home, in a shed.
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