Poor lighting…musty odors…weird noises from mechanical things we don’t even know the names of let alone how they work. Why are you scared of your basement? You certainly aren’t scared to store your junk and your old furniture down there. The stigma around the creepy, nasty basement is far reaching. Some of it is deserved. The worst basement I have ever been in was in Newton, Massachusetts. 100 year old home, poorly maintained with squeaky wood floors and the smell of old cigarettes.
I had spoken to the new owner, a developer, on the way to the house. He said, “The back door is unlocked, the demo crew might be working on the 2nd floor, place is all yours.” There was no demo crew, this was a solo mission. Before walking down the basement stairs, I turned back and looked at the filthy door leading down the stairs and checked the handle to make sure I would be able to get back out of this place. As luck would have it, the electricity had been turned off so the flashlight I had was going to have to do. Thankfully, my kids had used it for hide and seek over the weekend so the battery was just about toast.
The fieldstone foundation walls were exposed and had a layer of dust and spider webs from top to bottom. Some sections of the floor were concrete, but the rest was just dry, dusty dirt and rocks…almost sand like. Although I had been in hundreds of residential basements before, this one felt colder and darker than usual. A couple of quick peaks around the corners later and my inspection of the space was done. Get me outta here!
This of course is an extreme and frankly unusual occurrence. But it begs the question, why do basements have that fearful, creepy stigma associated? Why do we store so much stuff down there? Stuff that we almost never need again. Stuff that collects dust and is in a purgatory state before being donated or disposed of. I’d imagine the 1800- got-junk people haven’t even scratched the surface of business potential….
We need to reclaim our basements, put them to good use and change the way we think about them. I think I speak for most of us when I say that we could all use a little more space these days. I love my family, but when I’m riding the Peloton, I don’t want them on the handle bars. The home office has transformed drastically over the past 12 months and a dedicated office space would be nice for some privacy on the next Zoom call. I’ve recently worked with customers that are even installing golf simulators in their basements.
Is the basement contempt eternal or is this a space we can learn to love again?