Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. If you’re having a remotely good week, you’re having a better week than me. I’ve felt physically exhausted all week, and have had a couple of nights of poor sleep, leaving me feeling irritable and demotivated. It’s not helping seeing the absolute mess the UK is in, under the current Tory shambles of a government. I know things are worse elsewhere, of course. And being pissed off about my own situation and my own country does not mean I don’t care about the other problems facing our world – Ukraine, climate crisis, world poverty and so on. But sometimes you look at what’s directly in front of you, and it’s hard to deal with. For example, take my living situation…
Regular readers will know that due to upheavals in my personal life, last year I sold my house and temporarily moved into rented accommodation while I looked to buy a new, less expensive home, with a smaller mortgage. I hoped to have a small amount of the proceeds of my last sale left over to invest for a “rainy day”. This plan was intended to bring down my monthly outgoings and hopefully allow me to work fewer hours per week. That last part is important. For new readers, let me bring you up to speed. Autistic burnout nearly destroyed me. I’m pretty much a shell of what I used to be, and in honesty, over the long term I’ll probably see further decline in my overall ability to function and to deal with the neurotypical world. I currently work full-time, and although the job is far less demanding than the management role I had before burnout, nevertheless it takes a toll. I firmly believe that working fewer hours will prolong my life. So, that was the plan; sell up, buy somewhere to make life less expensive, and semi-retire. And it’s all turned to shit. Let me explain.
Selling my old home ended up being more complex than it needed to be, and it meant that when the sale was finally confirmed after looking like it would fall through, I was left with a very small window of time in which to find somewhere new to live, or end up homeless. It was touch and go. Thankfully, just in time, I found a pleasant flat in a nice area with reasonable rent. It’s not perfect. In warm weather it gets too hot, and in slightly milder weather it gets cold quickly. Thus, it is absolutely a pain in the ass for someone like me who cannot regulate body temperature properly. There is no central heating – just storage heaters on the Economy 7 tariff, which are no good for me, as I’m at work all day in office hours. So, I bought some oil-filled radiators. More expensive to run than central heating, but I did what I had to do. These heaters, I thought, would keep me going until I found a place to buy. But we all know what happened next…
The housing market has been in overdrive. I’ve had offers on properties accepted, only to be gazumped by someone offering way over what I can afford. I’ve been messed around by vendors and estate agents, and today I should have been viewing a property but the estate agent cancelled my viewing because the vendor had already accepted an offer. I didn’t even get a chance. Furthermore, the energy crisis means that my inefficient method of heating my home has become inordinately expensive. And then to cap it all off, this incompetent Tory shitshow of a government has mishandled the economy so badly that it has not only depleted the funds I had for a deposit on a house, but has resulted in mortgage rates going into the stratosphere, so I couldn’t risk taking one on now, anyway. How has the government depleted my deposit funds, you might ask? Well, I invested those funds in what is probably the safest way possible. So safe that if anything happened to deplete that money, it would probably mean that worse things were happening in the world than shortage of money. And here we are. Russia terrorising Ukraine, and as a side-effect destabilising the whole world economy, with incompetent governments pouring oil on the fire. Basically, I’m fucked. But I can dream my autistic dreams, and so, to cheer myself up, I want to describe what my ideal autism-friendly home would be like. This dream home will be far, far in excess of anything I could ever afford in real life, but it’s just a dream. Imagination is free. I’d be very interested to hear what other autistic people think of my ideas for an autism-friendly home. Here goes:
Location, Location, Location.
I’d need my ideal home to be on a fairly high elevation, preferably on a gentle hillside. This is to avoid the inevitable flooding that climate change seems to be bringing to the UK. It also means I would get a nice view, because my dream home would be overlooking the ocean. I’d need it to be over a rocky shore rather than sandy beach, so I could hear the waves crashing on the rocks. That is sensory bliss. If the ocean was at the front of my house, I’d need a semi-rural environment behind me. Somewhere close to impressive walks. The east or north-east coast of England seems to be the right place, as this would mean I get to experience plenty of the grey weather I really enjoy, too.
I’d need my home to be on one floor, no steps or stairs to be found inside, nor outside leading to the front door. I have awful physical coordination, and I’m getting pretty good at tripping over my own feet. I’m not a young man anymore, so a one-floor home seems ideal. I’d like lots of windows, so plenty of light gets in when I need it.
Powering the house is a topical issue. I’d probably want to make use of a heat-exchange system, and also have solar panels installed.
Walls, ceilings and floors would all be in neutral colour, so as not to make me feel like it’s closing in. All doors would be sliding doors. Honestly, I don’t understand hinged doors. They get in the way, they are awkward, and they eat into space with their swinging arc. We’ve known about sliding doors for as long as there have been doors, and it baffles me that hinged doors are the norm.
Plumbing. Seriously, plumbing annoys me so much. Who decided it was a good idea to hide plumbing behind walls or casing? What happens when there’s a problem? I remember one time I had a plumbing leak just after spending some hard-earned money on internal home improvements. The plumber had to tear up floorboards and open wall casings to solve the problem. In my dream house, all pipes would be visible and accessible.
Wiring. The same can be said as for plumbing. If you want to get your house rewired, you’re going to need some replastering and redecorating as well, yes? But why? Why not make wiring accessible? It would be, in my dream home.
Sinks and taps are hugely important to me, as my autistic mind is highly focused on issues of hygiene and cleanliness. Why are so many sinks so goddam tiny that to get your hands under the tap to wash them properly, you end up banging your hands into the outlet or the sides of the sink, or spraying water everywhere? Why do so many taps overhang the back of the sink by such a short distance? Who designs this crap? Honestly, this stresses me out more than words can express. And on the subject of hygiene, why don’t more people think about how we use dirty hands to turn on a tap, wash our hands, then use our clean hands to turn off the now dirty tap? I wouldn’t go to the solution of having electronic motion-sensor taps, because that would be one more thing capable of developing a fault. But lever mixer taps would be in place at every sink, and each one of those sinks would be those large, deep, rectangular retro types, with the big, flexi-arched taps of the sort people usually only have in kitchens.
The bathroom would be a wet room. There would be a shower in there, but no bathtub. I’d need excellent water pressure, so I could enjoy the sensory bliss of high-power spray from the shower. A large, no-bathtub wet room with no fiddly bits anywhere is easy to keep clean.
All toilets would have foot pedal flushes. And yes, there would be a bidet.
There would be no carpets anywhere. All floors would be covered with large, square tiles. Smooth, easy to clean, nice to touch.
I would not have any hard-wired lighting. But there would be a proliferation of electrical sockets all over the place, and plug-in lamps that I could move when I get bored with them.
I’d need a combined kitchen and dining area, and it would need to be large and spacious so I would avoid bumping into things while preparing food. I’d also need a study; a room free from all other distractions, as I need silence and solitude to be able to write.
I’d need separate reception rooms for myself, and for when I have visitors. But I’d never invite visitors. But, you know, just in case… I don’t want them touching my stuff. Or seeing my stuff. Or being there.
The electric meter. I’m sighing. Every house I’ve lived in has had gas and electricity meters stuffed away in some awkward, low-level corner that you need to be a gymnast or double-jointed to be able to comfortably get at. Why? Who thinks this is a good idea when designing a house? Hmm, let’s see, this meter has to be read regularly, so we’ll put it behind a recess under the stairs, one inch off the ground, with no light source close by. Not in my dream home, dammit.
And while I’m dreaming, why not shoot for the stars? I’d like my own fully-equipped gym, so I don’t have to put up with other people putting the dumbbells back in the wrong order, and so on.
I like gardens… to look at, when I walk past someone else’s house. But I’m not a gardener, and I have no interest in being one. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I wouldn’t need a garden as such; just a paved outdoor space where I could sit and enjoy the ocean view in good weather.
So there it is, my somewhat idiosyncratic autism-friendly dream home that pushes all the right buttons for me, and avoids the unwanted triggers. But it might not be right for all autistic people, because, of course, we are all different, and have different sensory needs. Let me know what you think.
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That’s all for this week. Until next time, take care.
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Why Do I Write This Blog?
When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism. I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation. With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery. Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers. I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.
You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.