Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Something Missing In Southern Homes
by James Glaser
January 15, 2010

In every local shopper or small town newspaper down here you see ads for "Portable Buildings." They have lines that say, "No Money Down," or "Rent to Own, " and how about, "No Credit Check." Every little town or city has a few models set up, and some towns have lots filled with metal buildings they will either move on to your property, or if they are too big to put on a truck, they will build on your site.

Besides all the portable buildings, the South is awash in storage facilities. There are all kinds, and some are even air conditioned so your "stuff" doesn't get too hot in the summer.

Wanda and I bought a house this past July, and it had two storage buildings on the property already. Our storage problem is not with enough space out side to store things, but like most homes, we don't have enough closets. Well, maybe we have enough, they just aren't big enough,

Why don't homes in the South have enough closet space? Well, I figured that out. In the South there are no basements. Most new houses are built on a concrete slab, but ours has a crawl space under the floor. There is a good 40 inches of space so the plumbing and some of the electrical is in the floor just like a home up North.

One would think that without a basement, every home down here would have way more closet space than they do. Homes in the Northland usually have the same amount of square footage in the basement as they have on the first floor. That means a one thousand square foot home has one thousand square feet of storage in the basement. So all the things you try to cram into a Southern closet can be put on shelves in the basement.

I don't know why homes in the South don't have a basement, because the houses cost the same as ones up North. You would think that with all the labor and materials that are saved by cutting out the basement, homes down here would be about 25% less, but that isn't true. If anything, homes in the South cost more than homes up North.

So, where is this leading? It is leading to two new closets in our bedroom. They will be on either side of the large window facing south looking out at the yard and trees. We will put a window seat between the two closets and hopefully it will look like they were always part of the house, and not two big boxes with doors on them. We could use more than these two, but our other bedrooms are too small to think about adding any in them.

There is another solution I suppose, but that would require our getting rid of more of our stuff. That is not just our problem, but is a problem where ever people live in the United States. We are a country of gatherers. Maybe a long time ago we were hunters and gatherers, but hunting has fallen by the wayside. Today, Americans just keep gathering things and those things have now been named—"stuff."

We gather stuff for the sake of having stuff. There are shows on television about people who gather stuff to excess. Their homes have mounds of stuff with trails in-between.

Now Wanda and I are not to that point, in fact, we have pared down our stuff to a manageable amount, and we are thinking with these two new closets and maybe a couple of storage units on each side of our fire place we will be able to hide all our extra stuff, and have the appearance of a nice neat uncluttered home.

At least that is the theory, but we both know that in order for that to happen, any thing new that arrives, means that something of equal volume will have to leave. Today we got a super nice comforter in the mail. It is nice, and it is a gift from someone special, and for right now it looks nice sitting on the couch, but we are going to have to find a place to keep it out of sight in order to have that clean uncluttered look we have always talked about.

What we are looking for is having the house look like guests were coming over for dinner, but we want that look all the time, just for us. We can get the house that way now, but that means you can't walk into one of the bedrooms, because it is filled with everything we have that is extra. Hey, it is only one bedroom, so, we are we making progress or what?

I'm not even going to get into the stuff I save, and Wanda would shoot me if I started writing about hers. Needless to say, my stuff is pretty cool, and a lot of guys would take my stuff and add it to their stuff if they had the chance. So after you start paring down your stuff and get to just the really good stuff, how do you, or how can you, get rid of that stuff?

Confession here. Some of my really great stuff, the stuff that has a story behind each item, even that stuff, the most treasured stuff I have, doesn't have much value. In fact, without the story, most people wouldn't know exactly what that piece of stuff was. I guess value is the wrong way to say it. I should have said it doesn't have much of a monetary value, but the value of the memories my stuff has is priceless, and I am sure that is the same for Wanda and most Americans who save stuff.

So, the hassle of building closets and storage spaces in the house to hold our stuff is worth the effort, because we really treasure our memories.

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