Home is Everything: Okechukwu Nzelu

Home is Everything: Okechukwu Nzelu
Working with Dialogue Books, we asked five authors to write a personal response to Shelter’s core belief that Home Is Everything. Each week, we’ll be sharing one of these responses on our blog; exploring the history, the impact and the importance of home. By Okechukwu Nzelu.

For reasons I still don’t fully understand, my family moved around the UK a lot when I was very young. I went to four different primary schools. Before I moved out of the family home, I lived in no less than five different homes, mostly in Greater Manchester but I have very vague memories of living in Wales for a short spell when I was very small. I remember a pebbled beach, and the sound of the sea. Then as an adult at university, I rented my accommodation in 10-week stretches, so it was a long time before I had any sense of permanence.  

I came to dread moving house. I think of myself as pretty well organised, but when I was growing up I used to keep my bedroom messy so that, if we did have to move again, it would take just a little bit longer for me to leave. As a student, I used to listen to Joni Mitchell to cheer myself up as I packed my things at the end of term and the walls grew bare again. It sure is hard to leave here, Carey, but it’s really not my home… 

Now I’m older, things are different. I’ve lived on my own in the same home for nearly four years, and after years of change and uncertainty, I really appreciate the stability I now know, because it echoes a broader sense of stability in my life than I knew as a child. To me, home means a place that belongs to me, welcomes me, serves my purposes and reflects my personality. In my home, I can work at whatever time of day (or night) suits me best. I can buy sprawling house plants that I’ve no idea how to care for. There’s room for my books, in the unlikely event that I don’t buy any more for a while. When the lockdown ends, I’ll have friends over for dinner again. It’s taken a lot of good luck and a lot of hard work, but I can enjoy all those things for the first time, and it means so much to me. I keep my home pretty tidy now, but I still listen to Joni Mitchell anyway, just because I feel like it. 

Find out how you can join the fight for home, or read more from our Home is Everything series.