We avoided the project long enough. No good reason for it either. Just something that wasn’t a priority, or easy enough to ignore. On the other hand, every time I used the basement for anything, I was unhappy about it. I disliked the lack of organization. I disliked how it always felt dirty. I disliked the feeling of just being in the basement. Its just a basement, 100 years old, unfinished and not all that well maintained over the years, but still, it was a mess. It was hard to find what you wanted down there. I swear, it was making our laundry dirtier.
We had a free Sunday right after the New Years, and as often is the case with new beginnings, we felt the need to accomplish something. After a month of Christmas beers and mainlining cheese, lethargy was quickly taking over.
So it wasn’t really planned, we just knew we wanted to tackle a couple of things before we jumped into the Sunday crossword.
4 hours later, some questionable personal odors and a curbside full of things we no longer wanted, we had organized the basement. Amber and I tackled a project years in the waiting, in one morning, because we needed to feel a sense of accomplishment. And it worked. We felt great about it. We had finished something we had been talking about for way too long. We had fixed something that had long been bothering us. We ended up feeling very accomplished and didn’t feel any lazy guilt about hitting the couch for the crossword.
It’s one of those silly things that we could have done anytime over the last few years, but just kept ignoring it or putting it off. Not for any good reason, but it just happens. But once it was done, it completely changed everything. No, our basement isn’t the Biltmore now, but on the other hand, its nice to us. It’s clean, its organized, we were able to set aside some space for exercise. The laundry area is far less disgusting.
It’s one of those things that we have all experienced, by improving something to any degree, it seem nicer to such a larger degree. It is still a damp, unfinished 100 year old basement, but it feels new to us. It feels nice to us. I feel good now every time I go down there to hide from the family.
You don’t have to completely transform a space to make it feel better, to make it feel newer, to make it feel good. You just have to improve it some. You don’t have to get in perfect shape to feel good about yourself, you feel better about yourself after a jog or a walk or a haircut. No makeover is needed.
Our things don’t need to be perfect for us to care more about them. That goes for our bodies, our homes, our blocks and our towns. We just have to maintain them and improve them and that is what makes them feel good to us. It is the process of maintenance and improvement that changes how we feel something, not the final result. When we improve anything by a little bit, our attachment to that thing grows. We put some of ourself into it, and that builds a connection.
Stop thinking you have to completely overhaul your streetscape to love your Main Street, or that only when you get new sidewalks can your block be lovable. Give up on the notion that your town will remain ugly until someone fixes the white elephant building. Every single little bit matters. Every little change. Every weed, every piece of trash, every peeling piece of paint. Any improvement matters and all improvement matters. When we improve anything by any degree, we are making it better. We are CHANGING THE DIRECTION. We are thwarting decline and chaos and moving towards organization and beauty. These things never happen all at once and when we convince ourselves otherwise, we play into the hands of apathy.
Every little bit. Makes small changes daily if you want to be proud of your place. Don’t wait for a plan or a committee, just go do it. There is no better time than now. You don’t have to do it for your town either, you can just do it for yourself. Treat yourself. Treat yourself to the indulgence of doing something good, of making a difference, of making your place a little bit fancier. You will reap the rewards of your self indulgence. Doesn’t it feel good to feel good? Contrary to popular opinion, all people like nice things, so shouldn’t we invest our time in making our things nice?
It is still a dirty old basement, and I am pretty sure there is a mouse colony down there, but its my basement and its organized and its cleaner than it has been and more than anything, it makes me feel really good to have done it.