unfinishing the basement.

it was the tall, four-legged orange tool-thing he set on the table that made me laugh.  the bottom third of an orange giraffe.  what it does?  i still don’t know.  I was sitting on the couch reading, balancing a toddler holding a knitting needle, while the huz walked a steady stream of tools out of the garage & into the house, across the kitchen, & down the stairs.

you see, we live in a house too big for us.  we had planned to move, to downsize so we could spend our time on more important things than a big house.  but Jesus is crazy, & here we are.

our main level is where we live, where we do all our art & cooking & reading & running around.  we would be fine if this were all we had.  but.

we have an entire second floor beneath us, with another entire living room, another bathroom, & so on.  it feels just that:  & so on.  to our family of six, it is superfluous.

so, we decided to unfinish our basement.  to move andy’s t-shirt room out in the main living area, scootch what was there upstairs or out the door, & then bring down armloads of tools & set up a maker’s space.  we had wanted to build a workshop outside, but we built it inside instead.  (work in progress. always, right?)
we never could’ve done this five years ago.  at that time, before we stuck our toes in the waters of minimalism, we had a houseful, with books stumbling out of bookshelves & teetering stacks creeping up the living room walls like literature ivy.  we had large & antique pieces of furniture, plenty of them heirlooms.  we had toys tumbling out of every crevice, never having thought to release anything into the beyond.

& then, one evening, sitting among stacks in our office with a toddler, a 4-year-old, & a 7-year-old in & out knocking all this important-ness over, i said,

“this is enough.”

we started just with that office, with one small stack in the corner, decluttering one file folder of manuals to appliances we no longer owned.  carload after carload filtered out the door.  garage sales were set up & torn down, again & again & again.  good homes were found for many heirlooms on craigslist.  the ten or twelve bins of kids’ clothes were siphoned down to one.

we brought the kids in on this, too.  i’ll never forget the day i took out their toy boxes, stored heaps in the basement, & set up just a few most-loved toys on a small bookshelf.  i did it at night & expected to wake up to their disappointment with their possessions having been stripped away.

what happened was the utter opposite:  the kids walked around their room, eyeing their toys as though they were in a toy store gazing on brand new things.  to them, they sort of were, having been hiding at the bottom of bins & boxes, the whole myriad of what they’d accumulated on display at all times, until that morning.  suddenly, they could see their favorite things without being bogged down with hoards (literally) of superfluity.

instead of tears, i got glee.
(& eventually they whittled the stored toys down themselves.)

the other bounty i harvested from our going minimalist was a truckload less picking up & putting away.  with less mugs in the cupboard, there are fewer dishes to wash.  with fewer toys, there is less mess (not less creativity or imagination.  truth!).  with a streamlined closet there are streamlined bodies.  just kidding.  (but fewer clothes means far less decision-making every morning.)

which brings us to now, when we’ve essentially given away our basement to the business.  do we miss it?  nope.  andy has room to breathe for t-shirt printing, & i have half the house to clean.  maybe someday, when the house is full of gangly teenagers (OY. VEY.), we’ll repurpose this space again.  but for now, this is the tweak that works.

plus, we saved ourselves thousands  of dollars by converting the basement into a t-shirt shop & a maker’s space instead of building two additional outbuildings.

but what, really, does this matter to you?  maybe nothing, but maybe you’ve been frustrated with the volume of things you have to manage.  maybe you’ve been rethinking the layout of your home but are afraid to do something different because it’s unconventional.  (unconventional can be scary;  i get it.  i came home once with a hoop in my nose.  that was a little scary.)

but our spaces should be like our lives, full of intention.

minimalism only means removing the things in your life, whether it’s possessions or commitments or whatever, so there is more room for the most important things.  like this guy.
so, give it a whirl.  you don’t have to cancel whole floors in your house.  but you could repurpose a drawer or throw out all the mangled twisty ties that get tangled in the scissors in the junk drawer.  you could donate those jeans that don’t fit & haven’t for years.  it’s okay.  you’re fantastic just the way you are, & you don’t need old jeans telling you otherwise.

& if you need a little inspiration, i’ve had this song on repeat all week:

because the truth is, we are all enough, & neither our stuff nor our homes define us.

keep tweaking the machine, friends.
it’s getting good.


4 thoughts on “unfinishing the basement.

  1. Jill, you’re awesome. And this is awesome. My place is in desperate need of some decluttering and deowning, and it stresses me to the max, but when I read about your house, I crave that kind of peacefulness and simplicity. Keep sharing. 🙂 You’re helping me move in that direction.

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