One of the reasons I decided to stop teaching afternoon piano lessons is that I’ve noticed our family has developed a culture of scattering instead of gathering together. I spend most of my time on the main floor, cooking, doing laundry, and teaching. The boys either go upstairs to their rooms or downstairs to the basement. When I’m really tired, I tend to hide myself in my room. I realized that if I want to change our culture, I have to change the setup of our home from their territory and my territory to areas where we all want to gather.
This feeling came at an auspicious time: a week when our oldest had just moved away to college, leaving an empty room available; when I was feeling renewed energy and urgency the week my other boys had started school but I hadn’t started teaching again yet; and with a looming deadline of a Saturday yard sale fundraiser urging me to find as much stuff as possible to shed. The stars aligned perfectly and I had both motivation and energy to move all the things.
Of course, once you start messing with part of the house, there’s a domino effect, and pretty soon my husband and I were looking at every room with fresh eyes and we went a little crazy. I’m pretty sure we won’t be making any changes to the bathrooms or kitchen, but the rest of our house is feeling shaken up by change (and we’re still in the process of finishing what we started). The result is a home with more space to breathe, more practical use of the space we do have, and a peaceful, clutter-free feeling.
My goal was to make the traditional Boy Territories more appealing to me so I would want to spend time there. We’re still working on their bedrooms, but my week of work in the basement has been miraculous: more room, more light, less clutter, and fewer Perler beads and popcorn kernels everywhere. My previous attempts at cleaning the basement were effective, but because I didn’t go down there often, it became the Lord of the Flies island in no time. Now that I’ve given more thought to what would lure me down there more often, I’ll be around to better enforce mess control.
I found out this week that I’m more powerful than I think – I can move and assemble a lot of furniture without any help, and most of the rest I can handle with my son’s assistance.
The thing I struggled with the most was decorating just to make something look nice. I work better with practical storage, but all this shuffling led to many spots that needed knick-knacks and chotzkies, and I’m terrible with all of that. After struggling quite a bit, I finally decided to not worry about how it would look to other people, especially because the end goal was to make the basement more inviting to me.
I love my “new” basement and I love that I can walk down those stairs without a sense of dread. I love that it has become our hangout of choice, and that we have specific places set up to study and play. I love that I spent very little money to make very dramatic changes in our environment and our family culture. I can already tell that having my afternoons free to be with my kids is going to be a really good thing. They’re pretty neat boys and I enjoy being with them.