Nearly 20% of my home’s floorspace was vacant until things shut down in March 2020 for the pandemic. My basement was essentially just an empty space pre-pandemic. I’d walk through it to get to my laundry room. It was also my hiding place of choice when I needed to stash something out of sight from guests.
First act: Erecting white high gloss shelves for childhood memories
My first act of reclamation was Ikea shelves on which I placed the classic books from my childhood. Books have always brought me comfort. These old hardbound books first belonged to my maternal grandmother. Their dark spines are quite a contrast to the high gloss white paint of the shelves. Every time I see them, I remember simpler times. It was a dose of much-needed comfort when I was in self-isolation at the height of the pandemic.
The shelves also hold my deceased father’s baseball cards. I’ve never been a baseball or any other sort of sports guy. The cards don’t even represent the father I want to remember. He picked up baseball cards as a hobby during the last few years of his life. I’ve never had the heart to get rid of them. It took the pandemic for me to see them as symbols of his resilience. He picked up the hobby to keep himself busy after a forced retirement due to health reasons. The cards became a reminder about resilience to me during the shutdown. Pre-pandemic, I used to grimace over wanting to throw them away. For now, the baseball cards stay.
Second act: BYO cardio and weights
My second act of reclamation was dedicating the basement to my health. While exercising alone couldn’t replace what I had at my gym, Jenn Sherman’s cycling classes and especially her expletives quickly became a spiritual pick me up of sorts. I bought a Schwinn IC4 bike and signed up for the Peloton app to replicate what I missed at the gym.
Hopping on my bike and firing up the Peloton app. The motion of the pedals. These acts quickly became what my basement was about during the pandemic.
My basement grew from emptiness and neglect to a room with purpose. I went to my basement to get a workout and raise my endorphins. Just months earlier, my basement was where I brought my laundry to do.
Third act: Creating a comfortable place to sit
The third act of reclamation was a comfortable place to sit down there. A few months into the pandemic, I began to feel claustrophobic and cut off in my own home office. It’s the place where I spent so many work-from-home days and nights; it was quickly the most used room in the entire home. I put a new couch down there — dark to hide the inevitable stains — giving me a new space, a change of scenery in my own home, that I couldn’t get during the pandemic shutdowns in my local areas.
A new sofa and TV became part of my newly reclaimed basement. On some sleepless nights during the height of the pandemic, I would go to my basement to drink in that simple change of scenery my basement brought me. That was a big step from pre-pandemic when I only went to my basement to do laundry.
Over time, and even after my local area began to open, I continued to walk down to my basement to ride my bike still. I also bring my MacBook Pro down there when I need a quick respite from my usual home office surroundings.
Reclaiming my basement as just a walkway to my laundry room helped stop a slow slide into pandemic-based depression and isolation. I could go down there. Tune out my work upstairs, all the while avoiding wearing a mask.
I’m a technical marketer and former technical writer. My areas of interest include the cloud, DevOps, and cybersecurity. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.