Last spring, my 19 year old daughter Tasia called me about the house she and her group of 6 friends were renting for her next (sophomore) year. She had been really excited about the house (originally built in the 1880’s as a candy factory), because it was very close to campus as well as being beautiful–a cut above most of the rentals for students (which can be pretty run down) and yet, still in her budget.
Back to the call. “Hi mommy. Well, it turns out I drew the short straw. My room is in the basement.” We knew this was a possibility as each of the girls wanted their own room, and there were only 6 “upstairs” rooms, but my heart sunk. I got myself together and tried to sound positive. “OK. Well, you know us. We’ll make it great. Send me some pictures so I can see what we are dealing with.” When the pictures came, I felt even worse.
Seriously, my darling daughter was going to be staying in this pit?
Over the summer, Tasia continued to be realistic about the space, expressing some wistfulness about not having drawn one of the nice rooms “upstairs”, but moving ahead methodically in thinking about how she could transform it. I decided to kick myself in the butt (metaphorically speaking) and align myself with her attitude. We arranged to get into the room early so that we could think about our transformation.
And there was a lot to transform.
- While the room has beautiful windows, they came with window wells full of 3 foot high weeds.
- An ugly pipe that ran through the room with a similarly ugly piece of old grey material attached to 1/3 of it that the landlord told her “not to move” (I have no idea).
- A closet that while spacious, looked like a little cave.
- An entrance from the laundry room that was so foreboding it gave me chills the first time I walked through it and I promptly named it “Jeffrey Dahmer’s basement” in my head.
- Oh and did I mention that the day we first saw it over the summer, there was a little puddle of water in the closet?
We worked out butts off, looking for ideas on Pinterest and Etsy. We became regulars at our local amazing resale store Treasure Mart and hit up Matthei Gardens annual exotic plant sale for succulents. Tasia worked with the landlord on the closet water problem and a contractor found a little hole that chipmunks had made causing the leak and the problem was solved.
The process ended up being transformative for the room, but it was also transformative for us. We talked about how life deals you surprises. You can sulk or you make the best the situation and go on. And sometimes with the right combination of effort and luck, it turns out even better than you had planned. This was one of those times.
Postscript: Tasia called yesterday. They are going to keep the house for next year. And rather than redrawing straws, she wants to keep her room. She loves it.