7. Home

with Ellie Austin-Williams on social spending

Welcome to Notes On, the newsletter from The Imposters Club. Every month we’ll be sharing what’s on our minds, what we’ve been loving, and thoughts & tips from our community.

The Good Enough Guide to Getting What You Want

We started the season by focusing on what’s important to us - so now we’re jumping in with both feet and actually asking for it. Tiwalola Ogunlesi, founder of Confident and Killing It, joins us for a chat about building the confidence to go for what we want, and why imposter syndrome is just temporary memory loss.

Listen now wherever you get your podcasts.

Melissa: reimagining home

My husband always says his favourite part of going on holiday is coming home. You know when you’ve had an amazing time, but you’re ready to be back in your home comforts, when (if you listen very carefully) you can hear your sofa calling you whilst you’re waiting at passport control in a tiny hot airport. That drive home, when you’re coming into your local area and it feels like comfort. 

Exhale. I’m home. 

Our home was our little slice of comfort we’d created together. It was “us”. It was a place of pure relaxation, with our giant sofa its beating heart. Friends would come over and get sucked into the Murdock vibe of eating food and watching TV, completely horizontal, finding it hard to leave. It almost felt naughty, hiding away from the world for a whole weekend, but it’s pretty easy when you live in an area with nothing to do. There’s no pubs, no restaurants, no coffee shops, no nice walks (I must caveat this with “...that I want to go to”). It was something we often moaned about but it didn’t really matter because we both worked in central London and it’s only one train away from a little adventure out or to visit friends. 

I often got told off for not being home enough during the week. Filling my weeknights with seeing friends, going to the theatre and working. Arriving home late. Bra off, feet up. The place I missed. Then that changed. 

All of a sudden our cosy home felt tiny, suffocating. It was a place for two people to cuddle in the evenings and weekends. Not for two people to spend 24 hours a day. It wasn’t supposed to be a place to work. It was supposed to be a place I wanted to run to, but it became a place I wanted to run from. 

We were trapped in a flat in an area we didn’t like or really know, with no friends or friendly neighbours. Just us. Staring at the walls that needed a new coat of paint, and trying to negotiate how to be two separate people in one room. 

When temporary became normal, the house started to feel like my favourite pair of shoes that, after years of getting along fine, started to rub. I couldn’t wear them anymore. We didn’t fit. 

Our lives had changed, and what we needed to feel at home had changed. Like that moment when visiting your childhood home shifts from “I’m going home for the weekend” to “I’m visiting my parents this weekend”. When you go back home and you don’t know where they keep the tea anymore, or there’s a new recycling regimen your dad’s started and putting something in the bin causes anxiety. It no longer felt like home. 

We decided to move, to make a new home that fits us and our new normal (ew, I still hate that phrase). It’s time to say goodbye to our first home, the home that greeted us after partying until 9am, that watched us grow up and that helped us save money. 

But what’s next? 

There seems to be a predetermined path: move to the suburbs, buy bigger, slow down, start a family. I suppose that’s why we stayed still until now - we didn’t want that, but didn’t quite know how to find what we did want amongst the loud noises of what was expected. I suppose something the pandemic has given us is space to work out what’s right for us; I learnt that sacrifices don’t feel like sacrifices when you know why you’re making them. So, now we’re reimagining what home is, creating a new version that fits the next page in our story, feeling grateful for where we’ve been and looking forward to where we’re going.

Sinéad: returning home

I’m writing this listening to the soft ding, ding of water dripping into an empty plant pot on my bathroom window. Thunder is rumbling outside and the rain is as dramatic as the fallout from Casa Amor in 2019 (if you know, you know). We have a leak.

But that soft ding is, in some ways, the sweetest sound. This bathroom window, the bathroom itself, is new to me. This house, with its blocked gutter and old wooden window frames, is home.

I keep walking into rooms full of boxes to check that they’re there, unable to believe my luck that I don’t work and cook and watch TV in the same square metre anymore. I find myself spending the most time in the smallest rooms, afraid of taking space for granted.

Since I moved to London over a decade ago, home has been the east end. It’s been a single room on a university campus, a ground floor flat with a mouse running across my pillow. Home has been my flatmate creeping awkwardly through my room on a date because there was no other way to get to hers, me lying motionless in bed to feign sleep. It’s been mushrooms growing from the ceiling, window frames rattling at 3am as a bus idles outside and the best - honestly, the best - parties.

I’ve lived with some of my closest friends in places of all shapes and sizes. The transitional homes of millennial life where each year rent goes up and you’re forced to move on, throwing a poster here and a tablecloth there to try and make a place feel like home. We’ve screamed as we chased mice through the kitchen, huddled together against the cold because we couldn’t afford heating and cursed London and its ridiculous rental markets. And yet, I couldn’t leave.

Until five years ago, when I did. The attic flat in the South London suburbs beckoned, and I made a home there with my boyfriend, filling it with art and food and love and sweat, because that place really became an oven in the summer. We made plans there, got engaged, survived successive lockdowns. We weathered the storms of burnout, isolation and depression and managed to come out pretty convinced that we still want to marry each other - which is, y’know, a big plus.

There’s so much written about our generation and our relationship to houses- why we can’t buy them, when are we going to grow up and buy one, why we’re forced to move into the ones our parents own- but houses aren’t homes. We’ve been redefining what homes means since we graduated into a broken economy. Damp, overpriced flats with sketchy landlords don’t feel like home -  so what does?

Home is walking along those familiar streets that lead you to your places- the corner shop that sells the really good bread; the coffee shop where you think you might be on first name terms soon; that one bench you like to sit on in the park. It’s meeting friends for a pint in your local pub on a Wednesday evening and letting the conversation wash over you. It’s the first time you don’t need to double check the oven settings when you’re cooking, because this is your oven now. It’s feeling like you belong - that you absolutely aren’t an imposter here. It’s trusting that one day all the boxes will be open, the art will be on the walls, and the place will smell like you.

Home is feeling so safe, so happy, that you manage to romanticise a plumber’s callout bill.

Things we’ve loved

Listening to Comfort Eating with Grace Dent - The Guardian presents this brilliant series of interviews about our favourite comfort foods. Grace’s conversation with actor Rafe Spall (one of my absolute faves) about the pressures to maintain a certain body type is brilliantly honest: “I don’t know who it’s for and I’m sick of it”. SKK

Reading Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other - I know, I’m late to the party- Sinéad was raving about this last year. Little stories that weave together the lives and loves of a dozen British women and non-binary people through generations and social classes- a total must-read. MM

Watching Love Island - yep, we’ve both been well and truly sucked in. Sinéad’s a seasoned Islander and Melissa’s experiencing the highs, the lows and the pies for the first time.

Staying Fresh with Wild - We’ve been smelling fresh AND feeling smug about sustainability with Wild, a natural, refillable deodorant that genuinely works. You can smell as good as us by going to wearewild.com - get 20% off your first order when you use the code IMPOSTERS at checkout!

*This product was gifted as part of Wild’s sponsorship of The Good Enough Guide.

The Club: Ellie Austin-Williams on spending (not splurging) socially

Disillusioned with the lack of accessible and up-to-date financial information online aimed at women in their twenties and thirties, Ellie Austin-Williams founded This Girl Talks Money in 2019 to create the content that she wishes she'd found several years before. Ellie has built TGTM with one main aim: to help millennial women to feel confident and in control of their money without sacrificing their social lives. Here, she chats to us about confidently managing money as we restart our social lives.

With the relaxing of restrictions in the UK and the revival of social activities, for many people the government-enforced saving spree of the last year has come to an abrupt end and we've remembered how expensive living life can be. After having no option to say yes, I don't know about you but for me, it's become challenging to say no to any and all events, gatherings and trips to the pub. It can often feel like there's pressure to turn up to everything, whether your bank balance is up to it or not. To help navigate these often tricky situations, here are a few ways you can socially spend without splurging:

  • Be honest. The pressure to keep up with social plans can often creep up on you, whether it's buying one more round or signing up to go on the next weekend away. Take time to be honest with yourself and with those around you, too. Talking about your financial situation with friends doesn't always come naturally, especially if it's not something you're in the habit of doing. But once you can break through the awkwardness of discussing money, it becomes so much easier to be honest if you've spent more than planned in a week and feel too close to your overdraft, or to put forward a less pricey alternative to a four-course dinner in Mayfair that someone suggests as a plan. 

  • Prioritise. Every invitation might feel like a priority right now, yet there are definitely days and nights where we've all been out and spent a whole lot of cash before waking up and feeling that the cost wasn't really worthwhile. If you're finding yourself out socialising and spending four nights a week, don't expect yourself to go cold turkey. Instead, set yourself a target to go out twice a week, rather than four times. This will not only save you a lot of money, but it'll focus your decision making when it comes to planning your week. On top of this, chances are you'll value and enjoy being out more when it's less of an every night occurrence.

  • Don't be too hard on yourself. This isn't a free pass to throw your budget in the bin but we've just had a year and a half of uncertainty, restriction and next to no social plans, so give yourself a bit of a break. I've spoken to countless people over the last few weeks who have expressed their disbelief at how much money they've spent recently, and I'll tell you exactly what I've told each one: cut yourself some slack and draw a line under it. We're heading into the end of a month - which means payday for most - so set aside half an hour to create a spending plan for the month ahead and focus on what you can do next, rather than what you could've done.

    We want to hear your voices!

    Over the coming weeks we'll be asking for voice note submissions of your experiences, thoughts and stories on different topics that affect our lives- and we’ll be sharing them on the podcast. So, we want to hear about: 

    How has the pandemic impacted how you grieve?

    • How have you experienced loss and grief over the past couple of years?

    • How have you accessed the support you need?

    • What support/help do you wish you had?

    Or anything else you want to tell us about how grief, loss and bereavement has affected you this year. Send a short 30 second voice note including your name and age to theimpostersclub@gmail.com and we'll feature as many as we can on the podcast- and we’re sending you our love.