Act I. The curtain rises on a home with three to seven bedrooms. Two actors portraying parents are looking on as one child leaves to go away to school; one child, who has a steady job, is leaving to live on his/her own; and yet another child is leaving to get married.
The parents’ glum expressions suddenly transform into giant grins as they turn to each other and eagerly list intriguing possibilities for their newfound space. The woman wants to turn the dark playroom into her retreat; she refers to it as her indoor “she shed.” Her plans include removing the ultra-dark wood paneling and installing an electric fireplace, and finding an incredibly comfortable chair for reading or doing her needle work.
Her always-practical and logical husband brings her back down to earth by pointing out she will not change her habits and go downstairs at night to sit alone in a room she has never sat in before. She is most definitely a people person and will seek out company. Instead, he proposes they create a space they both will enjoy using. They could centralize their secondhand exercise equipment, now scattered in multiple rooms, into one location and make that an exercise room. He fondly calls it their “home gym,” but his wife cautions that if they call it a home gym, people may assume they have a Peloton and mirrored walls.
They both agree their newly married couple should have a modernized space to come spend future Shabbats—especially, she points out, since “it won’t be long before they become a young couple with our first grandchild.” The room belonging to their child who holds a steady job is poised to become an office/bedroom, and their child who went to Israel to college and who will likely be living back home in the near future, will not want his or her room changed.
Cue the stage hands. Instruct the parents to shlep the vintage stationary bike and treadmill to the curb, and to carefully measure to make sure there will be room for two elliptical machines, the functional stationary bike, a rower, a home gym machine with cables and weights, a zone for workouts on a floor mat and an area to store hand weights and kettlebells. Stage hands, please leave the existing shelving unit in place. It holds the toys that are being saved for grandchildren. Plus, the shelving unit will also provide space for gym accessories like antibacterial wipes and water bottles. The ping pong table does not make the cut in this home gym but is good for the future, so it will be folded up and stored in the garage.
Cue the stage designers. They need to choose a peaceful color for the walls. They also need to inform the leading lady that, due to budgetary constraints, they are incorporating the existing dark wood paneling covering the lower half of the walls into the home gym design. Amid intense protest, the designers assure the leading lady that they are seasoned professionals and they know what they are doing. After a shower of theatrical tears, the actress steps away from the ledge, climbs back through the window and regains her composure.
Cue the electrician. He needs to remove the teddy bear-themed ceiling light and hang a modern fixture offering brighter lights that extend in various directions, more conducive to a workout.
Cue the prop men. The leading man would like to display his baseball memorabilia on the walls and also, he would like to create an attractive peg board to hang on a wall to hold sports equipment.
Act II. The curtain rises and the couple is using their workout room. He is breaking a sweat using one of the machines and has his ear plugs tuned to Torah Anytime. She is doing a Mind Body 20 Work out on her mat. Both are smiling. Fade to black.
Act III. This same couple realizes that if they want their newly married couple to feel really comfortable when they come for Shabbat and will, God willing, want to come back often, they need to create a welcoming space that speaks to the couple and not a childlike bedroom that speaks of the past.
This couple realizes if they resist calling in the set designers to save costs, a few simple, affordable DIY updates can be done. A fresh coat of paint doesn’t cost much. By watching YouTube videos, they can educate themselves on all things pertaining to removing wallpaper, prepping for painting, and so much more. (Decorating tip of the month: When choosing a paint color for a bedroom, first choose a bed comforter pattern or color and choose a wall color that coordinates. It is far easier than choosing a paint color and after that trying to find a comforter to match.)
If a search through the linen closet does not reveal two sets of matching twin sheets, or two sets free of holes, then the director will instruct the main characters to visit or order from budget-friendly stores like Home Goods or Macy’s Last Act. (Do you like how the playwright incorporated this month’s theater theme in the name of a store recommendation?)
For a grand finale, if the room is decorated in a childlike style, look for a mature night stand or two to make it more adult. Again, depend on Home Goods or keep a lookout on your local giveaway WhatsApp chats or Facebook’s remarkable “Buy Nothing.” Make sure you search locally, so you do not have to spend money on gas when picking up the free treasures.
Act IV. Cue the supporting characters to each deliver a monologue on how they used newfound space when their children moved out.
Enter stage right the close friend whose husband built an indoor greenhouse in a bedroom. She will speak about how this room has brought him endless pleasure.
Walk on from center stage, the cousin who transformed her twin girls’ bedroom into a room for her two dogs. She will speak about how many empty nesters acquire dogs for company and comfort.
Enter stage left, the neighbor who turned her son’s room into a walk-in closet after he moved out. She will speak about how It was everything she wanted in a walk-in closet. She didn’t even mind crossing through the hall to get to her clothes.
The curtain lowers.
The critics are saying, “All that remodeling could bring on tzuris and headaches. Better you should downsize. Buy a nice condo in Florida.”
Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s Kosher Organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 14 years, Ellen has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. Ellen believes “Clutter Clogs, but Harmony Heals.” Contact her for a complimentary phone consultation at [email protected].