All about your frame of mind

Published 1:48 pm Monday, February 12, 2018

Before we moved to our current home, we lived in a house with a full basement which was sort of finished.  It was dry, had tall ceilings, a concrete floor and was completely open except for a couple poles nicely situated.  It was a bonus area which offered our young family the potential for much appreciated play and work space as we had previously lived in a two bedroom condominium.

The new house was a Cape Cod style built at a time in history when space was not designed for life as we lived it. Specifically, there was no first floor laundry. We were a bit spoiled in this regard as our condo had laundry facilities right in our unit.  I could cook dinner, switch laundry, grade papers and keep an eye on the children within a radius of about 15 feet. We outgrew that great first home and went in search of the perfect house with room to spread out.

We found it. A house close to work, schools and family with the requisite three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a working fireplace.  I accepted the laundry location. Can’t have everything. Over the years, previous owners renovated a bit here and there to make the house more practical for real people.  The laundry hook ups ended  up in the basement where the necessary fittings were most easily installed.

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That was what it was and that was what we learned to manage.  Most people realize that it was not the optimum arrangement for a family with little children.  While I was in the laundry process, at least one child was not at a point where I felt comfortable leaving him or her unattended to run up or down to sort, load, switch or hang up.

We became more efficient by turning the basement into a sort of den with a carpeted seating area containing an all important TV and VHS player.  There was a work table in a corner for adult projects and one for kid stuff and the laundry area.  There was lots of open area.  We also acquired an enormous chest freezer.

In our modernizing projects, we installed central air conditioning and a new heating system. This eliminated the monster furnace in the basement in favor of a compact unit which was tucked away by the water heater.  The stairway was the open construction type.

This long description of the basement is necessary to illustrate a couple points.

The basement became the hub of our daily life for a good part of the year.  It was practical, though not a decorator’s dream.  We brought the children’s trikes down and they had loads of room to wheel circles around and around.  Remember, the stair was open thus creating a perfect path to travel without blocking the foot of the stairs.

I could dispatch mountains of laundry, folded onto the top of that monster freezer, while keeping an eye on, and conversation going, with the equally occupied children.  Since we had a surprisingly good amount of storage space elsewhere, there wasn’t need for piles and piles of boxes of out of season items.  

The basement was a functional space for a family with little children.  The house also had a fully fenced in backyard. We added an attached, large, covered porch.  We had the recreational, work and storage needs fully covered in what was a truly small house.  No space was unused, or unusable.  It was actually quite efficient.

 All things come to pass and we changed jobs.  The house search was on.  The criteria for our new space: three or four bedrooms, two bathrooms, an eat in kitchen, a first floor laundry and a fireplace.

Mission accomplished.  We found the perfect house close to work, schools and family.  With the construction of a single wall we checked off every box on the list  and got a basement into the bargain.  In one move, we had tripled the total space available for our family.  All living and working spaces needed are on one floor.  While not fenced in, the yard is nearly an acre with plenty backyard space for children to play while visible through the large kitchen windows.

In the history of this house, built in 1923, the basement had been used at various times as bedrooms.  I have this on very good authority.  Our children were too young to dream of a non-parent bedroom floor, but I thought the possibility was there based on past use.

At the very least, there was potential for craft and project and play space.

It never came to pass.  The children were past the tricycle stage and the laundry was on the first floor after all.  Life changes.

So, the basement became the place to put things.  If you didn’t know what to do with it, put it in the basement.  The basement became the black hole of our lives.

Every so often, the effort would be made to organize the piles, boxes and broken items into useful areas with good intentions or hauled to the dump.  There is a completely enclosed room in the far corner from the entrance.  That would be a great area to be actual storage for Christmas decorations, suitcases, old tax files, etc.  If only storage needs stopped there.

We find there is more need to store stuff as the children move out.  They go but their stuff stays.  They each still have a designated bedroom, but it seems a little silly to bring the grown up wife or husband to a room that looks like you decorated it when you were ten.  Requests to take their possessions fall on deaf ears, so slowly, but surely, the stuff of childhood gets boxed up and put in the basement. The truckloads of personal materials acquired in a long career teaching are in the basement. Lamps needing new switches are in the basement.

This basement is several hundred square feet of unidentifiable and/or unusable piles of things.  The orderly and useful basement of our first little house is a distant memory.


Here is the plan. We all have spaces we have ignored, discarded or abused over time. It’s all in your frame of mind when you go there. In my mind, finally, the basement is a treasure trove of possibilities. If that is not what is in your mind in your space, don’t go there. I take full ownership of the basement and it starts with the installation of new lighting.  I do need to see what is buried in there.