This is what my basement currently looks like. I wasn’t kidding when I said that I’ve been losing the war against this room ever since I took exams. See those bags? They’re full of books. Books for which I have no shelves. But that’s only the beginning.
I spy: desk chair that belonged to my dad as a child, Lane cedar chest full of quilts, my great-grandmother’s wicker sewing box, two antique lamps, the most annoying structural beam ever (thanks for holding up my house, but you’re seriously in the way), drop ceiling (not currently full of cats, but check back later), books, more books, bag of white plastic hangers that belong to my mom but have been moving up here over the years, sewing machine, hat rack…and the piano. We’ll talk about that later.
Can you bear to see the other side? Here you go:
Seen here: printer (works), dvd player (probably doesn’t work), VCR (definitely doesn’t work), Game Cube (WTF?), hulking TV, yet more books, a blue vintage slip, basket full of bills and such (that’s probably why I messed them all up this month), Ikea couch (the uncomfortable twin of its replacement, the upstairs Pottery Barn couch), painting of goldfish that I actually love but that looks terrible here above the empty spot where a chair used to be (moved it out to the garage).
And one more… I saved the best for last:
The artificial light does NOTHING for this room or this knotty pine, but it’s only slightly less terrible in the daylight. That rustic cabin feel is so me. Here’s my new sewing table, though (MORE BOOKS!), along with the biggest eyesore in the room–the circuit breaker box. Back when my wiring wasn’t up to code, the fuse box used to fit in the cabinet. Now it doesn’t. My electrician had to saw the bottom of the box off to put in the modern wiring, leaving this lovely mess in the middle of the wall.
This room is a problem. A big problem. It’s as big, in fact, as the combined area of the hallway, bedroom, and living room upstairs. One quarter of my house, and nothing to be proud of. This is why it remains hidden–neglected while I obsess over how to arrange the antique books on my upstairs shelves. I keep the things I love upstairs, constantly editing them and curating them. And then I dump the things I don’t want to see for a while down here. I want to make this empty, awkward space into another room in my house that I really love. I want to love it the way that I love my bedroom–the way that I sometimes sit in bed at night for a few minutes just looking around, enjoying the paint color and the carefully chosen pictures and objects I’ve placed all around me. I want to have that same degree of care down here, so that I don’t just use it as a dumping ground. I know that it’s ok, as rooms go. When it’s clean, it’s perfectly livable. But it’s not convenient, it’s not functional, and it’s not pretty. All of these things matter a lot to me.
It’s been easy to leave things as they are, especially as the remainder of my time in Madison ticks away–the room has been ok for three years, is it worth it to change it all now?
Yes. I took out all of the mismatched folding bookshelves that lined the wall (and which were insufficient anyway because they don’t use the vertical space in the room). I emptied out all of the drawers in the Art Deco wardrobe and dresser because I’m selling them on Craigslist (they might even be going away tomorrow). I liked them when I bought them at an estate sale–especially because I got them at the end of the day for almost nothing–but they’ve never been right in this space. The wood tones clash, and they’re just too boxy. I took my aqua painted desk out to the garage, even though I love it. I banished a chair that only cats ever use. Soon, I should be down to a table, a tv, a couch, a chest, and a piano. And then, with profits in hand from the sale of the dressers, I will go to Ikea with the following goals: bookshelves, concealed storage options for the bookshelves (I need to keep those extra ceramic shoes somewhere), and curtains or something to conceal or at least break up the great wall of ugly. It’s better, I think, that this room isn’t all flat white drywall without interest, but the knotty pine is just the absolute opposite of anything that I would ever choose. It’s not terrible with the carpeting–which is new and clean and lovely–and I think that once all the clutter is gone, I will be able to make something out of it by bringing in a lot more white and some serious organization.
The piano will have to wait for another day.
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