I’m always amazed that I can read thousands and thousands of words and have dozens of conversations… and nothing ever becomes of them.
Then I hear 7 words and it motivates me to change my life. Last night, my 7-year old said these words:
“Can we have a playroom like Theo?”
Years ago, we resisted the temptation to buy a McMansion. It was more important to us to spend responsibly. It’s hard to retire early if you are “house rich, cash poor.” In theory, our 1800 sq. ft home should be enough for a family of four and a dog. In the world of COVID-19, like everyone, we wish we had a little more home. Unfortunately, my crystal ball’s history of success is mixed at best.
In practice, we could use more space. The kids’ grandparents buy tons of toys. I buy every STEM toy known to mankind. My wife knows she has a summer dress problem. I have my own tech gear problem.
However, the biggest problem of all is that I can’t let anything go. I simply can’t bring myself to through something in the trash. I always think, “That has value.” I also feel terrible for contributing more to the landfills. There must be a way to reuse this thing. (For some reason this doesn’t occur to me when I’m buying stuff.)
The worst example of not being able to let anything go is in the image on this post. I have a Sky Mall magazine from 2010. It’s a 10-year old magazine from a company that went bankrupt 5 years ago. Obviously this is extreme and it’s going straight into the recycle bin. However, all the other things I have hoarded are not as easily discardable. It’s not as bad as what you might see on Hoarders, but it certainly isn’t insignificant either.
The other problem is that soon after we had two kids, my wife’s job changed. They put her on a non-stop treadmill and she’s often working 14-hours days. When she has any time off we want to get out and enjoy life with the kids while they are still young. The regular home maintenance gets lost in the shuffle.
It’s time for a change.
My 7-year-old is right, he should have a playroom. It’s not just going to be a kids’ room though. We need a space that can be used for exercise, watching a movie/game (when the primary movie space is being used), doing some quiet deep work, etc. Another living space instead of storage space would help a lot.
There’s a saying, “What you own, owns you” and that’s the case here.
Since this is a large task, I went where I always go, to a spreadsheet. I started to break it up into smaller parts. For example, much of the stuff is going to have to go or get moved to the garage. However, the garage has to be organized and pared down as well. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s something that can be done. One other big plus? I can do it without depending on some outside factor derailing me. It feels great to have full control over something.
There’s an extra benefit to doing all this work… I can put the kids to work. They can’t call a contractor or figure out how to combine a water heater and furnace. However, I’ve said that if parents are doing all this work to make something that will be a playroom, the kids are going to have to help. That means no fighting with each other. It means getting drinks themselves when they are thirsty. It means cleaning their room and having a normal bed-time routine that doesn’t take hours.
I’m just starting to scratch the surface on what it would cost to finish the basement. It is difficult because I don’t have a design in mind. I know that I want it to be able to perform many different functions. I know that I want to use concepts of tiny houses to maximize space. That’s about all I know. I think the costs will be around $15,000. It’s a lot of money, but I think it will be worth it.
If anyone has any advice on a basement renovation or decluttering in general. I’d love to hear it. I should probably watch the Marie Kondo show on Netflix, but that’s precious time that I could use actually doing the decluttering.
I agree that less is often more! The space should be enough, our place is about the same size and works quite nicely. On your upcoming reno – I took my basement to the foundation and built it back up myself the biggest suggestion I have for you is try to envision what the space will be used as.
Your budget might be generous if you’re doing the work.
Lazy Man says
I’m not handy at all and my username speaks volumes in this case. My work here will be getting it to an empty state where we can hire people. I haven’t gotten into the costs too much, because I’m still making out a wishlist.
i despise Kondo. i try to be a minimalist, but i have hobbies, sports, books, work, and many things i use are difficult to replace.
so, these are my rules for ‘keep or toss’
how often do i need it?
can i replace it? if i can’t find it, how hard is it to get another? interfacing is easily, inexpensively, replaceable, my rotary cutter equipment is not.
how accessible does it have to be?
will it be important later? i have a box of infant clothes, and my pregnancy diaries. i just gave them to my daughter, who had a baby girl 21 weeks ago. i kept these things because my mom died when i was young, and i wanted my daughter to not feel alone.
if it disappears, how much will i mourn?
so what stays, what goes?
for the most part, books and toys get passed on, clothes get donated, kitchen ware gets given away [and i am a gourmet cook with lots of specialty equipment but every day stuff? buh bye]
computer accessories go. i just tossed two drawers full of cables, who knows what they were for.
anything that does not work, OUT. except my printer. my printer died. i was too busy to toss it. 3 months later it turned itself on and started printing again.
storage containers. all those margarine containers? OUT.
in your case, things the kids have outgrown mentally, pass on to a younger cousin or friend.
Lazy Man says
I never got too far in the Netflix show, but I had her book on wishlist for a decade. (I just don’t have time to read books.)
I like these questions. We don’t have younger cousins or friends with young kids, so that’s why we to go with a yard sale or donate. We have enough other stuff for a yard sale. I’m generally not a fan of yard sales because it’s a lot of work for maybe $50. The big advantage to it in my mind is that I have some confidence that it will get a second life and not go straight to landfill.
My husband’s parents passed away a few years ago and we had to go through the house they lived in for over 35 years and it was so so hard. They had accumulated a lot of stuff over the years and much of it was had sentimental value but was monetarily worthless. So now, when I am trying to declutter, I think to myself, “Do I want my children to have to figure out what to do with this when I die?” And often the answer is, “No.”. Or I ask myself , “Would I rather have the space or this object?”
Lazy Man says
I’m trying to keep the sentimental stuff limited to a couple of small boxes. Much of that stuff isn’t so bad. It’s DVDs, baketballs, tents, and just anything else that has value, but it isn’t organized well. So with the DVDs, I have to think about digitizing what I care about. With the other stuff, it just needs to be consolidated into a small and in the garage.
I agree that Marie Kondo is just a flash in the pan. My family of 5 grew up in a 1300 square foot house with no basement or attic. We survived. We even had stuff. I still live in that house with my daughter. We are not minimalists. Sure I’d like more space But you have to set boundaries. Get rid of unused stuff. The comment above me gives some awesome advice.
Lazy Man says
Kondo may be a flash in the plan, but I don’t know if minimalism is. If minimalism is a flash in the pan, there’s something to the efficiency of a well-organized home… I think?
We are doing better than surviving, but I like to strive for better. It’s a lot of work to get there because we’ve ignored it for so long with all the other stuff we have in our lives. I think we can get there, but I’ve abandoned a lot of projects in the past :-(.
Mrs. RB40 took 2 weeks vacation and cleaned out our basement. There were a ton of stuff from previous and current tenants there. She got rid of a bunch of stuff and it’s a bit better now.
I want to remodel the basement at some point, but I’m not in a big rush. I think it will cost at least $100,000. We need to replace all the windows, pour concrete to prevent moisture intrusion, raise the deck, and all kind of other stuff. Also, the city will raise our property tax because the added living space. We’ll probably need the space when our son is a teenager, but not right now. He can go play in the backyard…
Lazy Man says
I wish I could get far in 2 weeks. I guess if it was tenant stuff that would be easier. Everyone else’s junk is easier to get rid of than your own junk ;-).
We’ve got a smaller job with the basement being in mostly good condition as long as contractors can actually do stuff there (and we can figure out exactly how to use the space.)
I’m not sure if our property tax will go up, because it doesn’t have access to the outside. I think that below ground living area may not count (but don’t quote me on this).
It’s a little harder to send the kids out to the backyard, because I have to make sure there’s no dog poop from our own dog or our dog sitting business. That’s a downside with the side hustle.
Lazy man, you are making me want to clean out the storage area of our basement and sell the treasure (junk.) I could probably make about $1,000, but the effort is a week of negotiating on what can be sold vs is a treasured memory. Maybe one day soon.