Rehabbing the Geek Room

John Clark sharing the changes to my favorite room here at the house. First a bit of background. We lived in our first home for 27 years, doing one heck of a lot of renovation as well as building a new addition that had a real cellar, a big living room with an entire wall of book cases and a computer room Beth and I shared above the living room. This was the first time I’d ever had a room more or less dedicated to my growing love of technology. One of my fondest memories early on when the room wasn’t completely finished was playing the Elder Scrolls Arena on my first PC and listening to the game through headphones. I was clearing a dungeon when I was ambushed from behind by a giant spider. The roar as it attacked was so unexpected and scary that my butt cleared the chair by a good six inches. Beth was working on her PhD and I was busy writing the first three books in the Wizard of Simonton Pond series while we lived there.

The old graphics don't do justice to what was one heck of a game

The old graphics don’t do justice to what was one heck of a game

When we were looking for a house in 2003, among the things we were certain we wanted were rooms for each of us to call our own. Beth claimed the front room overlooking the street as her sewing room, I chose the octagonal one that looked west over the old town swimming pool (long since filled in). I filled all the book cases, put framed art and odd license plates on the walls won a rug to go on the floor and set up my toys. I’ve built all my own computers except for laptops since 1995 and accumulate extra video cards, hard drives RAM, etc. as time goes on. Add in all the documents that tax returns require, printed manuscripts, a replica of Gandolf’s sword and staff, more aromatherapy candles than one needs in three lifetimes, plus another massive infusion of stuff when we cleaned out Mom’s house and you begin to understand how space began to disappear in the Geek Room.

How I avoided killing myself in here is a mystery

How I avoided killing myself in here is a mystery

Somewhere in there, I started accumulating books, particularly young adult fiction I planned to read. In hindsight, I was rather delusional about my ability to read as many as I accumulated, but that didn’t slow the insanity. Nope, not one whit. When we added a cat who we later discovered had an almost untreatable case of irritable bowel syndrome and said cat liked to spend most of its time in the Geek Room, things were elevated to a new level of odiousness. One would think that a relatively intelligent person might back away from the room/situation and wonder whether things were out of control. Unfortunately, that wasn’t me, not for a few years, at least.

A month ago we realized that daughter Sara, husband Russ and granddaughter Piper would be in Florida for two weeks this November, Beth and I agreed it was time to renovate the room. Fortunately, neither of us suffered from the delusion that it would be easy, fast or be completed before she had to go back to taking care of Piper. It hasn’t easy (although easier than either of us expected), it wasn’t fast, nor is it complete as of this writing, but it has been an extremely interesting journey. Here’s how it shook out.

Temporary clutter in Beth's sewing room

Temporary clutter in Beth’s sewing room

We started by getting enough boxes to hold the accumulation so we could move stuff away from the walls. After they were filled in somewhat logical order, many went out to the storage building, while the rest went into Beth’s sewing room. In the process, I triaged a ton of old paper (three trash bags went to the transfer station of recyclable paper alone). I decided to get rid of most computer game boxes, keeping manuals and discs to save shelf space. My CD tower was another casualty since I’d ripped everything to MP3 format and given away the discs. Two rounds of the ‘do I keep or donate it’ game resulted in the TBR pile shrinking by 50%. Once the majority of mess (sounds like a great name for a band) was corralled, we moved stuff away from the wall and while I continued sorting, Beth went at the old wallpaper. One of her friends suggested adding fabric softener to the water to hasten the process and it worked really well. Most walls had one layer, but the one above a window seat with storage beneath it had three different kinds, making the process slow for a bit.

Paint equivalent of light at the end of the tunnel.

Paint equivalent of light at the end of the tunnel.

Once the walls dried, it was sand and slap mud time. Beth’s brother Paul, up from Massachusetts for a brief visit, stepped in and helped with this part of the rehabilitation. Then it was on to more sanding and a coat of primer. Beth did the brush work around molding and the ceiling while I was Rollerman. The next day we put on the first coat of sea blue paint, waited 4 hours and applied the second one. Even after that, we could see a ton of tiny places where unevenness in the old plaster fooled both brush and roller, so we went after them with smaller brushes. The result, as you can see in the pictures, came out pretty well. After assembling the new computer desk and buying a rug that matches the walls nicely, it was time to start putting stuff back. My goal was to keep neatness as the number one objective. This meant looking at everything returning from boxes with fresh, jut slightly jaundiced eyes. This resulted in more boxes destined for the Salvation Army, my RCA stereo and multi CD changer going to my library protege Briana, plus several boxes of things I can sell. Cash takes up very little space in comparison to collectibles.

In the process of sorting things, I discovered a number of treasures both monetary and sentimental. For example, I recently got in touch with my cousin Janice in California who I gave away at her wedding the year I started college because her father was dead as was her older brother Eddie who was killed in Vietnam. When Mom died, I found a number of pictures I thought she’d like, but never got around to sending them. After we chatted on the phone and I sent off that batch, I looked through the albums which had been stored under the window seat. I not only found more photos including her mother’s graduation picture, but one of her parent’s wedding in my grandmother’s garden plus several newspaper articles about her father when he was a photographer in Redondo Beach. All of those head off to her today.

Almost done

Almost done

Other treasures include photos of at least four generations on my father’s side with many identified, two copies of the family tree Mom worked on for years, a class photo from New Portland with every kid identified (it was my grandfather’s class, so it is at least 120 years old), my father’s baptismal certificate, his high school yearbook and coolest of all, my great grandfather Clark’s class day program from Bowdoin College in 1884 that looks like it was printed last week. There are tons of stamps and a bunch of letters, two of which were written by relatives in 1811. I also have close to a thousand old postcards, many of which have Maine and family scenes. Heck, I even found my own high school yearbook from 1966.

Geek approved and ready to blog/write/game play.

Geek approved and ready to blog/write/game play.

The room is pretty much back together, save for the pictures as well as the sword that need to be hung. I’ve already noticed a distinct difference in the acoustics as well as a much greater level of comfort at the new desk. It was a long overdue project, but probably done at exactly the right moment. If you’ve been dragging your heels on a similar one, take heart from our experience.

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6 Responses to Rehabbing the Geek Room

  1. Jewel Hanley says:

    John, there’s nothing like a newly cleared, clean, and organized workspace. It’s liberating. If only it would stay that way.

  2. MCWriTers says:

    Wow! Very impressed with what you and Beth managed in two weeks! Inspiring! Lea Wait

  3. Monica says:

    Oh the wondrousness of a newly renovated space!

  4. Barb Ross says:

    I’m laughing because Bill and I are going through this right now. He’s moved his office back home, and I’ve consolidated from two workspaces to one. As a result, my daughter’s girlhood furniture went to my granddaughter in Connecticut. So trucks, hauling, strong young men rented by the hour. Now I have to reshelve. I’m not nearly as far along as you, but this post is inspiring.

  5. Carol says:

    What an amazing transformation you and Beth performed. It encourages me to tidy up and downsize. Thanks John

  6. This was great! John, I can’t wait to show this to my husband. He has also built all of his computers since the mid-90s and has computer pieces and guts EVERYWHERE in his office. Maybe this will inspire him to dig out. Thank you!

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