Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Irritable home syndrome

John Mulholland in his four-bedroom home on the Ormeau Road
John Mulholland in his four-bedroom home on the Ormeau Road
Melanie Sharrad lives in a two bedroom apartment in Dundonald
Rosemary Allister in her semi-detached home in east Belfast

Home is not so sweet for many people. An IKEA survey has identified Irritable Home Syndrome — dissatisfaction with your house, intensified by seeing the pads of celebs such as Linda Barker and Laurence Llewelyn Bowen. Jane Hardy meets local sufferers

Melanie Sharrad

Melanie (32) is a senior executive at the Park Avenue Hotel. She has lived in a two bedroom apartment in Dundonald for two years and has suffered from Irritable Home Syndrome ever since she moved in

“I certainly have Irritable Home Syndrome — ask any of my friends. I bought my apartment because I liked it, it was in my price range, it's close to work and I thought an apartment would be easy to keep.

But since moving in, there are many little things that annoy me and two main ones. Firstly, the stain in the carpet at the front door. It's been there from the start and no matter what I do, I just can't get rid of it. Secondly, my bathroom looks as if a shoot-out has taken place in it. A previous owner took down the shelves before he moved out and there have been holes in the wall ever since.

My favourite things are a giant world map — and a picture I painted of a friend’s dog. I definitely wouldn't describe myself as a handy person and perhaps that's part of the problem — I'm even scared when I put pictures on the wall. To my embarrassment, I haven't done any decorating at all since I moved in.

David Moxon says that one of the warning signs for Irritable Home Syndrome is apologising to people for the state of the house when they call round. That's me.

I try not to think about what I need to do in the house — it just irritates me. However, I think I may have a solution what I need is a handyman!

Rosemary Allister

An account director with JPR, Rosemary has lived in her East Belfast Victorian semi for nearly 18 years with husband Colin, daughter Claire (16) and son Matthew (14). While she loves the space, size and character of period homes keeping on top of the work really can be a struggle at times.

“We bought our house in 1990 when period homes were definitely not fashionable and interest rates were sky high. Our friends were buying new builds and no-one understood why we were attracted to such an old, fusty property.

But we love the spacious rooms, Victorian features and quirky imperfections of older houses and felt we could make our home special. Also the location was perfect - so central and close to shops and schools yet amazingly quiet in a cul de sac.

However some 17 years later and after countless structural and decorative projects, I still feel we've a mountain to climb to get the house absolutely right. Of course the joy of living in older houses means every project takes months to complete. And just when you think you've almost crossed the finishing line, you're back to square one with a dated looking room to renovate and re-decorate. This is what causes all the stress.

Now that I've been diagnosed I can set about finding a cure. And the best medicine for me is to get down to some serious de-cluttering. A good old spring clear out, even though it's autumn, would work wonders. Also in October we plan to renovate our hall, stairs and landing. So come Christmas time I hope to be fully recovered from my bout of Irritable Home Syndrome.

John Mulholland

With his wife, Tabona, owner of the Willo gift shop, and two daughters, Shannon (13) and Aisha (7), John lives in a four-bedroom home on the Ormeau Road.

“We bought our house three years ago and haven't looked back. It's a fantastic area, so close to the centre of Belfast but we still feel very much in a close community. What drew us to the house was the fact it had kept many of its original features. It's an old Victorian house with high ceilings, wonderful old fire places and amazing, original cornicing.

We've had three very happy years in the house but when I read about Irritable Home Syndrome, it rang a bell.

I suppose my wife and I are in the same boat as many people — so much to do and not enough time. I work from 4am-2pm every day, five days a week in a family fish processing and wholesale business. It's a busy job and when I get home the last thing I want to do is DIY. So the odd jobs just keep building up

I can’t go into my kitchen without being reminded that I still haven't got round to fitting the skirting boards. We had tiles removed from the bathroom a long time ago which have yet to be replaced and have no wardrobe in our dressing room.

I suppose part of my IHS is caused by knowing how much potential our home has. This is further compounded by the wonderful homes we see in magazines and on TV. And what am I going to do about it? Well, hopefully get the tools out one day.”

Psychologist David Moxon’s top five warning signs of Irritable Home Syndrome:

1. Deliberately wanting to spend as little time in the home as possible — that includes staying longer at work, going out every evening and eating out a lot

2. Housework neglect and clutter — totally ignoring the cleaning and tidying, a feeling of apathy towards household chores

3. Constantly feeling the urge to move furniture and other items around and never being content with the outcome

4. Always comparing your home with other people's and feeling saddened and frustrated by this process

5. Reluctance to invite people around or host social events in your home — on odd occasions that you do have friends round, you spend the evening apologising for the state of your home

Five ways to fight the syndrome

1. Firstly, get in touch with the way your home makes you feel, what emotions does it evoke in you

2. Try to identify precisely what it is about your home that you dislike

3. Next, make a list of corrections/alterations that would rectify the problems.

4. Cost-out the revamp — remember, in many cases it may simply involve throwing things out, tidying and organising

5. Now you have a plan, work though it systematically and stick to it

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