Fresh breath in the basement.

Last weekend, like many of you, we spent time visiting family for Thanksgiving. Times like that are fascinating… to episodically see how life’s experiences mold these people we have known forever. The kids that have grown, the parents that share more interesting stories about their ever busy lives, the siblings that just look the same.

One of my favorite attributes of times like these are the “one-with-one’s” that take place. The two sisters in-laws that trickle away from the covey to spend a few minutes sharing a unique perspective on any given family drama. The 10-year old boy and the 11-year old niece who compare a favorite “Kidz Bop” song. And of course, the brothers who grab a seasonal cigar and go for a walk around the block. It’s a great moment in our otherwise hectic year.

At one point there was a need for something from the grocery store that had been forgotten. I volunteered to make the run if I could take “that one car”… and permission was granted. This car was clearly engineered and designed for a different highway system then ours, and it never seemed unable to gladly accommodate anything I asked of it. Since I commute, I compared this to my car, which is much, much smaller and less inept. I often feel fatigued at the end of the day and I wonder how much is due to “wrestling” the little four wheeled beast back to bay.

A designer I used to work with once owned a VW diesel Rabbit, which got 60 mpg, very cool. But he sold it after only owning it for a few months. When I asked him why, he said “Because it always took so much effort for the car to just get up to speed, I was always emotionally drained after driving it. I was constantly wishing it would move along faster, constantly studying ways to make it happen”.

As winter washes over our part of the world we are forced to “turn our wardrobes”. This is the act of storing the summer shorts and retrieving the Sorrel boots. After having contemplated situations that are fatiguing, and why, (thanks to my rapid trip to Kroger’s) I was thinking about how it applied to our home. For the last several months I’ve been scheming ways to make our space continue to support a growing family with changing needs, and often becoming exhausted by it.

We recently moved our kids art studio from a corner of the basement to their playroom on the main floor. In the process we vacated a spot in order to make more room for storing seasonal items and toys that are too precious to give away, but are seldom used.


(a clear corner… so simple an act but so needed)

For a few brief days, there was this ugly zone in the basement that ironically felt like a breath of fresh air. There was nothing there. Just empty space! How rare in a tiny house like ours. I started fantasizing about a room in a wooded retreat that had nothing in it… a “nothing room”. Just 4 walls, 4 big windows and maybe a bed, perhaps a vintage mini Wolfgang cast iron wood stove and a view. Complete freedom. In essence this is one aspect that the modern movement was about.

I guess that this goal is what being organized is all about. Freedom and ease. Freedom to do what you want because you can find the things you need to accomplish it. Freedom to pursue interests and tasks without the anchor of clutter, and ease with displaying artifacts of interest, to retrieve things when they are needed.

So the question is this: is there more freedom in having room to grow and not using it, or using things to the maximum of it’s capability?


One thought on “Fresh breath in the basement.

  1. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote several of his books in an empty gazebo that his sister-in-law built for him on the grounds of her upstate New York home. There was nothing for him to do there except write. (It also got his cigar smoke out of her house.)

    I’ve visited Walden Pond and loved the tiny, sturdy place in which Thoreau spend memorable time. He had a stove and a cot and kitchen items and writing materials.

    Even a shrine in a crowded home gives a sense of space intentionally kept free.

    On the rare occasions when I clear my tables and counters, I feel peaceful. The space is not empty. It vibrates with possibilities.

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