On what my home can (and can’t) tell you about me

In my house, I have the following things:

  • a Le Creuset 20cm teal-coloured cast iron saucepan
  • a hand-crocheted (not by me) throw on my sofa
  • bath oil that cost more than I’m willing to pay for a meal in a restaurant
  • a full set of wine glasses, champagne flutes and martini glasses
  • a Jamie Oliver wooden ‘plank’ for serving antipasti
  • a matching set of towels
  • a large, white ceramic jug for holding cut flowers (which I also have most of the time)
  • a set of plates that I use for ‘best’ (but that I eat off alone if they happen to be top of the pile in the cupboard)

According to Red magazine, the above list would put me well on the way to having the ‘8 Things Every Woman Over 30 Should Have In Her Home.’ And yet, instead of feeling like for once I meet the status quo, I wonder why the hell every woman over 30 would want a set of items that in no way differentiate her from every other woman on the planet.

The article above is actually a ‘grown up’ form of clickbait, I get that. I read Red fairly often, and I think, as women’s magazines go, it’s actually not bad. But god, that post above irritated me.

What you might take from my list above is that I’m undeniably middle class. You might also (correctly) assume that I enjoy cooking and entertaining people at home, and that I’m willing to spend a decent chunk of my disposable income on those things. It might tell you about my love of hot baths and buying myself flowers. What I don’t think it should say is anything about either my age or my gender.

Through my teens and much of my twenties, I didn’t feel like I ‘fitted in.’ To be fair, I didn’t make much of an effort to, but I did worry a lot about feeling on the outside of the things. As my thirty-first year draws to a close, I’m still anxious and I still often feel lonely, but the fear of fitting in is all but gone. Until my twenties, everyone I knew did things at pretty much the same age – learned to drive at seventeen, left school at eighteen, left uni at twenty-one/twenty-two. After uni, that all changed – some people went straight into their perfect career while others were in long-term relationships and thinking about marriage and babies long before myself and other friends wanted, or were in a position, to.

It’s for that reason, I think, that you see relatively few of these ‘What you should be/say/do/want/have achieved at 30’ posts. At that age, the majority of doors are still open to women, whether those doors lead to further education, marriage, babies or switching into a radically different field of work. We still have plenty of time to decide who we are, or who we want to be.

There are words in that article that bother me, too – display-worthy, show-off worthy, neutral – words that suggest you’d own these things for one of two reasons: either because you were trying to impress other people or because they’re inoffensive and go with everything. I’ll admit it, some items I do use for a form of showing off, but if I make you a casserole in my Le Creuset, or serve you on my best plates, what I’m trying to do is reflect what matters to me: food, comfort, nurturing. These things are my personal values and passions: they’re not a sign that I’m in any way a successful woman for my age.

The stuff in my home could tell you other stories too, things you wouldn’t know just from reading my list above. That one of the reasons why I’ve spent a lot on stuff for my home is that for a long time I hated my body, and shopping for homeware was preferable to shopping for clothes. That I prefer entertaining at home because my dining table only has four places and I don’t cope well with socialising in big groups.

It’s an uncomfortable idea for me, the idea that I should be aspiring to own a certain set of items that represent a certain set of values and interests. Not all women of thirty are ready for a committed relationship, or children (or want those things at all), so why would we all need the same eight items in our home? I have no issue with the magazine choosing to showcase homeware (although, let’s face it, lots of us in the UK don’t own our own places or still live with housemates), what I have an issue with is that if you don’t own these things, because you have different tastes, or interests, or ways of spending your cash, you’re somehow lagging behind those of us who do.

Because the closest the article comes to the truth, I think, is here: ‘A stylish addition to your sofa to mask any not-so-pretty stains that have appeared.’ At thirty, I don’t feel much closer to being a fully-fledged, sorted grown-up than I did at twenty-five. I might buy nice stuff for my kitchen, but it doesn’t mean I don’t fuck up, that I have a life plan, or that I even cope particularly well most days. Unless I tell you otherwise, it means I like buying nice stuff for my kitchen, that’s all.


11 thoughts on “On what my home can (and can’t) tell you about me

  1. I loved this post!! So much good stuff! Revealing and honest and thought provoking.
    It made me think of my own home and how I’m different. And truth is I feel different most of the time. Single, childless at my age, it isn’t the norm in my network of people! Made me want to make my own list and say see Im different also but its ok!

  2. Perfect. I never, really never, followed any kind of fashion or did what others did. I always did my own thing, did things differently from others and when I buy something, it’s because I like it and not because I am trying to fit in with some kind of list. I love this post!

    Rebel xox

  3. I have 2 original ‘orange’ Le Creuset casserole dishes, I have a selection of different cake sized cake tin, a plain white circular cake platter, well, you get the picture. Like you, it certainly indicated I am also from the ranks of the middle class and I like cooking but not much else and at 43 with 2 children to my name I don’t feel anymore of a fully fledged grown-up than I did when I gave birth to the first one nearly 16 years ago. I think it is one of those big secrets of the world, despite the magazines and TV shows telling us otherwise, none of us are really ‘sorted’ we are all just muddling through as best with can with what we have


  4. I love this. I’m 33 and I don’t even have a home at the moment. The few things I do own are in a box in Dad’s garage and I don’t think any of them would be meeting the ‘own by 30’ list. Everyone lives their life at their own pace and thats ok.

  5. I loved Red in my early to mid twenties, I liked its sensibleness, lack of sensationalism, it’s balanced view of womanhood. It felt real, and the ads were for pretty things. Holidays, food, jobs, childcare… normal woman stuff.

    I stopped buying magazines in my late twenties and thirties, though – I bought a Red for fun a few years ago, and GOD it was insipid and boring and irrelevant. I felt like there was nothing in it. So I felt glad I’d given them up and stopped yearning for them.

    That list though – while the cast iron is super healthy (no toxins, enough iron to cure anyone’s anaemia over a year) the rest all scream ‘Things To Spend Money On’ – which is fine if you’re out there looking to shop, but in terms of what it dictates to women, it pretty much just dictates that they spend their cash. I’d love to live in a world with far less consumerism and advertising, I have to say. I wish I didn’t like buying stuff so much.

    Not reading magazines does help me with that, though!

  6. I loved this post, Charlie, both for the reflection and commentary on the article’s implications. I’ve never understood these articles, but that’s probably because I don’t ever fit into them or what they’re trying to say. I’ve lived on my own for 12 years now and the space is very much mine—and I don’t ever put much thought into what the place says about me other than it’s mine. 🙂 Thank you for sharing pieces of your home with us! XX

  7. To be honest, Charlie, I view articles like this as nothing more than pap to fill up pages of a magazine between advertising, which is the real purpose behind them. Hack journalists come up with these stupid ideas out of desperation as they have nothing of any value to write about. I’ve totally given up on ‘women’s’ magazines – they’re so patronising and crass. If you want a magazine that won’t talk down to you and that carries a wide range of varied articles by intelligent journalists, I’d try Intelligent Life, the cultural offshoot of the Economist. (Forgive me if you’re already reading it.) It totally shows up women’s magazines as being nothing more than crap trying to sell us more crap.
    (Sorry to sound a bit ranty!)

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