Spring cleaning time!

For many home owners, there are jobs requiring urgent action and others that can be delayed for a long, long time. One of the jobs I’ve been putting off is cleaning the breezeway under the house. In QLD, a breezeway is a space through which air can travel during our long, hot, humid summers. It also provides a clearway for the occasional flood. Anyhoo, if your house is not prone to flooding it’s also a perfect spot for storage of old crap, your car, a place for your laundry, and other useful things*. In our breezeway, which has the floorspace of our house, we’ve created a workspace in place of a backyard “shed”. The roof of the space is mostly higher than my head, and it’s a pretty comfortable work zone. Harry, the old dude who owned the house before us had thoughtfully installed a heap of lights, so it’s easy to see under there, in the cool twilight of permanent shade. He left a couple of fabulous old workbenches complete with clamps and interesting drawers full of doohickeys. These currently hold our remaining boxes, as our place floods during very heavy rainfall, so everything has to be off the concrete floor.

So, last weekend I got the desire to stay at home and do housely stuff. A spring clean, as it were. Tools. We have a black tool box with black tools in it. A bitch to find all the tools, and besides it was broken. Darling Husband (known in future as DH) has a tendency to fling things in the toolbox without thought to how we might retrieve said tool in future, and the whole tool area was a mess. Dirty, poorly lit, with power tools jostling for position amongst gardening equipment, car cleaning products and house paint. So we went off to Bunnings (our house, brought to you by Ikea and Bunnings) returned some insulation batts left over from our roof sortie a few weeks prior, and bought some pegboard. Breathtakingly expensive, peg board. And the pegs, too. And some more tool boxes. Little ones. Went home again (well, all right, we did stop for a sausage in bread and I may have bought a heat gun in preparation for paint stripping later this year), and I spent a stupidly rewarding afternoon organising our tools. And after that I SEPARATED THE SCREWS FROM THE NAILS FROM THE NUTS AND BOLTS and put them into separate jars. Crazy, much? I also discovered the tool box was full of things for which there was no earthly purpose. The doohickey and thingamabob pile, so to speak. Never let it be said I remove anything from this earth without first thinking of its potential usefulness, so it all stays in the toolbox. You never know when you might need a doohickey.

I then swept the whole area and washed my car. I think I have a problem. Anyway, it was a really good thing to do. Makes one feel a bit more in control. One of the main problems of our lovely old Queenslander house is the astonishing lack of storage. No wardrobes, no cupboards. Nothing. Just a shell of a home. Anything we have is piled high in boxes or just heaped up on spare chairs (yes, we have many, many chairs). We desperately need a linen closet, wardrobes, a pantry and storage for cleaning products and useful things*. It’s not happening any time soon, considering we can’t afford any of it right now, so downstairs in cardboard boxes it goes, under the house, in the breezeway, open to wind and weather. Nothing expensive or precious, mind, just stuff. Some of which I don’t fit into anymore. Oh, ok, it’s clothes, shoes and books. Lots of books. Mostly choral scores and old paperwork from years ago. But I can’t bear to throw it all out yet.

It got me thinking about our “spaces”. What are these and who inhabits them? One such space is the “garden shed”. My grandpa had a wonderful garden shed, full of doohickeys and thingamabobs, smelling of mineral turps, linseed oil and beeswax. And freshly shaven wood, my favourite smell in the world after toast and coffee. My husband is not really into the garden shed concept. He is more into “office” space, although as life becomes ever more mobile his office is often the kitchen table. My mother inhabits the “cellar”. But it’s not really a proper cold-storage cellar, it’s just a space where dad has his wines, and where mum can do her furniture restoration. Again, this space often smells of turps and linseed oil, because my mum has followed her dad’s footsteps. I can see in her demeanor and posture the hunched figure of my hat-wearing grandpa, bent over his workbench, peering at some dusty old thing, turning it over in his cracked, worn hands, muttering under his breath as he works.

My dad’s space is anywhere he can listen to his beloved music and watch his beloved sport. It usually contains a couch, a large speaker system and even larger flat screen TV. And my space? Well. I have an office which contains my musical equipment, five bookcases groaning with music scores and music books, and my desk. It’s where I teach and has to be neat and tidy. But it’s not my only space. I think I’m getting to the “garden shed” phase, where I like to store the house paint, the brushes, the power tools, the gardening equipment. I like it to be neat and tidy because even though it’s just stuff, it’s stuff that I will want to use, that is useful, that we need. We paid for it, let’s not treat it badly. I used to feel my bedroom was my sanctuary, but as I’ve gotten older and share the space with DH, it’s less of this and more of a place where I can sleep on the world’s most comfortable bed.

These spaces, my office and the breezeway under the house are places of refuge. They are not “private spaces”, but they are spaces where I feel good and where useful things happen. Like learning, doing, creating, fixing. Nurturing. They’re not places for “living”, exactly. They’re not really comfortable places where I like to hang out to read or sit in. But good things happen there.

So, next week, I plan to complete the tools section organisation and start on the garden section. Now THAT’S a fun job. Considering our garden is mainly weeds and overgrown grass, it’s interesting to see how much crap we have for our garden that we’ve not yet used. One day, I promise.

*useful things include power cables and extension leads and shoe polish and wire and batteries and first aid equipment and light bulbs and spare containers and string. You know, useful stuff.

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