People collect things during the course of their lives.
In many instances, people find it hard to let go of their possessions later. For some, and especially people prone to procrastination, they put off for another day the task of tidying up.
As home-renovation specialist Brandy Kawulka notes, stuff takes up space.
“It’s just a lot of clutter, things that we don’t really need,” Kawulka told the Straight in a phone interview.
Kawulka and her husband, Paul Keller, are the founders of Wood Be Art Renovations, a home renovation company based in New Westminster.
Kawulka has observed one thing as people started staying at home more because of the COVID-19 pandemic: they began to look for more usable spaces. That meant, among other things, having to deal with stuff that may have been accumulating in some corner of the house or in the basement or garage.
“We had the opportunity to clear out our clutter and then reimagine the space we have at our homes,” Kawulka said.
The mother of two can relate to this. “We just cleared our attic,” she said on the line. “I’m looking at a pile.”
She and her family removed some luggage, an old guitar, some dishes that they never used, a motorcycle helmet, and other “random stuff” that they had stored in their attic.
They will donate these things and be rewarded for it. “It basically created the ability for us to utilize some dead space in the attic that normally collects clutter,” Kawulka said.
Decluttering does more than clear up space. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology in 2016 noted that getting rid of clutter makes one feel more at home.
“Instead of connectedness, clutter can create disconnectedness from important dimensions of at-homeness,” the paper, by American researchers Catherine A. Roster, Joseph R. Ferrari, and Martin Peter Jurkat, noted.
The paper is titled “The Dark Side of Home: Assessing Possession ‘Clutter’ on Subjective Well-Being”. In the study, the authors noted that there is a “natural desire” by people to “appropriate their personal spaces with possessions”.
Such possessions “reflect self-identity and remind them of important people, places, and experiences in their lives”.
“However, when clutter becomes excessive, it can threaten to physically and psychologically entrap a person in dysfunctional home environments which contribute to personal distress and feelings of displacement and alienation,” they wrote.
Kawulka recalled that before the pandemic, many people were not really spending a lot of time in their homes.
“We would go off to work, go out for dinner, go out and see a friend, take the kids to an activity, or whatever,” she said.
Now people are demanding more of their homes. They have to work and do their workouts there—and share space with kids, who do online schooling.
“So we started getting a lot of people coming in and asking to help them reimagine their homes,” Kawulka said.
She said that making homes more functional involves not only looking at unfinished or partially finished basements (a “dumping ground for stuff” ) but it’s about creating warmth.
“We did this kitchen in East Van and opened up the space so that the dining room and kitchen were more connected,” she said. They also installed a bigger window to bring in more light.
Moreover, many homeowners want comforts like heated floors.
Kawulka likewise recalled that Wood Be Art got requests to make bathrooms more luxurious. Soaker tubs, which are deeper than normal tubs, were in demand.
In addition, older clients or their adult children wanted to have tub-to-shower conversions as a safety measure for those aging in place.
Clients also sought more outdoor uses. Wood Be Art received orders for decks, patios, and “she sheds”.
She sheds are structures measuring 100 square feet or less. They are typically used for fitness activities like yoga, for arts and crafts, or for an office. They’re a woman’s answer to the man cave.
“They’re a little retreat out in the yard so that we have a little bit more space to spread out,” Kawulka explained.
Wood Be Art has been around for almost 20 years. As part of their mission to help people improve their homes, Kawulka and her husband host a podcast titled All Things Renovation.
“For years, we’ve collaborated with our clients to make their houses feel more like home,” Kawulka said, “and I think that we need to feel good in our homes more than ever in this moment.”