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Adventures in Cleaning Out The Basement

Right after the turn of the new year, I was struck by an intense desire to clean out our basement. And by intense I mean I immediately got started clearing clutter, hauling things to the trash and recycling bins, creating a collection to sell on Craigslist, another to sell at a garage sale in the spring, and one more for a trip to Goodwill.

In early January, I worked uninterrupted all day and into the night and after two long days of quiet, focused work, I transformed our basement from a cluttered, dusty unused space into a new space, both tranquil and inspiring, a picture of organization and fine design.

Okay, that isn’t true at all. As a busy working mom with two young kids and a very busy husband my basement transformation didn’t happen in a couple of days. Instead, it’s been happening, over the past few weeks. A little bit here and a little bit there, it is happening.

Years ago when my son was about 6 months old and some of the newborn haze was lifting, I developed a very strong fantasy that my husband would take my son on a day-long adventure, leaving me at home, by myself, to do nothing but clean.

I dreamed of having the uninterrupted time and space to get our entire house clean, top to bottom. Everything organized, put away, polished, dusted and vacuumed. This fantasy was even the cause of some heated fights between my husband and me during our first year of parenthood. I wanted so badly to create some order during a time when I was learning to navigate the craziness that is life with small children.

Now, 6 years into parenthood, I’ve learned a lot. And I’ve let go of that fantasy. I’ve realized my house will never be picture perfect from top to bottom. But, I can create some order. And I can clean out our basement.

So that is exactly what I’ve been doing these past couple months. Ever since we moved into this house 1 1/2 years ago I’ve had a vision of an art space in the basement. Half of our basement is a carpeted playroom, where primary colors dominate and the floor is never without at least one Hotwheel race in mid progress. The other half has a painted concrete floor and is our main storage area, for everything from our good china and old baby gear to our bikes and garden tools. It also is our laundry room and workshop.

My vision was something like this. In the concrete floor area, in the open space between bikes and laundry, my children would have a free space to create. There would be bottles of paint, crayons, paper, markers, tissue paper, cardboard, play-dough, and construction paper, all within their reach. That way when inspiration strikes they can grab what they need and whip up their next masterpiece.

But first I had to clean out the space.

Messy laundry room

Before (ugh, it's hard to share this photo!)

With this goal in mind, I started clearing the space. I enlisted help from my always patient and willing husband, who on the first day cut the top off a bookshelf so that we could move it into our low-ceilinged bedroom. I filled a few garbage bags with empty dog food bags and kids toys beyond repair. I began to see all the stuff — babygates, the pack ‘n play, our double stroller, and started planning how to get rid of what we no longer need.

Then, I had to pause the project. Because that’s how it goes. I get a couple hours on a Sunday, make a little progress, and then need to move on to something else. That certainly doesn’t mean the project is finished. It just means it isn’t going to be finished quite as quickly as I might wish.

Over the next several weeks I plugged away at my basement overhaul. A little here, a little there. One day I took the time to take empty laundry detergent jugs out to the recycling and clean off the tops of the washer and drier. Then I scrubbed the utility sink, which went from dingy grey to clean. Not a scene for the glossy magazines, but an incredible improvement. My first ray of light was created — the laundry area was sparkling. A new, more beautiful view while washing countless loads of laundry. Ahhhh.

Slowly but surely space was opening up. There was room to move. I had some time one day to clean out the art supply shelves, to organize them a bit, and finally move things so that my kids can get to them when they want. I moved a couple small tables into the new open space, set out the easel, moved the unused dry erase board from the attic and hung it up at kid level.

Before I knew it, I had opened up a wonderful space for my children to create.

Clean laundry room

After

Before I knew it, I had opened up a wonderful space for my children to create. And then one morning, when I was moving wet laundry from the washer into the drier I turned around and found my kids immersed in art project. Cooper was sitting and coloring, Ellery was standing and using the stamps and ink pads. My kids could see and reach the art supplies, a perfect picture of success.

Kids Creating Art

There is still more to organize and clean out.  I am okay with the on-going process.  My goal was never to create a basement that would appear in a design magazine. I simply wanted to feel good while doing countless loads of laundry. I wanted to open up a space that allows my children to freely create art. I wanted to clear the path to let in a little everyday beauty. That, I did achieve.

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Category: Nest

Kelly Dahl

About Kelly Dahl: Kelly lives in Ohio with her husband Erik and their two children, Cooper and Ellery. Kelly is always striving to find meaning as a working mamma, wife, and creative woman. Journal writing, exercise, painting, and getting outside are some of the ways Kelly finds balance. You can find more of her work at Perched To Fly.

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