The Huge Importance of a Regular Garden Shed

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I want to tell you about my shed. It’s quite a long story. Potentially a little dull. It is, after all, a blog post about a shed.

It’s smart though, isn’t it?  My smart shed.

Some people close to me have heard a lot about this shed over the last couple of years.

It’s just a shed. Not a fancy outdoor office or anything. I’ve not got shelving in yet, so currently it’s just piles of gardening stuff, some outdoor toys, an old gaming chair moved in by my 9 year old so he can hang out, some bits of wood, a bit of tinsel after an outdoor pre-lockdown festive garden chat and santa grotto, a fold up camping table with my tools on it and the cushions from the rattan cube (another thing in the garden I’m disproportionately proud of). Shed stuff.

A smart corner shed, with plenty of space and currently an annoying issue of condensation on the ceiling.

But it’s not just the shed as an object that gives it its importance in my life. It is the journey I went on to get the shed that matters.

I moved into this house in 2016. When we arrived, there was a timber shed and an ugly plastic shed. TWO sheds! My shed cup really did runneth over. Despite the hideousness of the plastic shed, it was still useful. I thoroughly enjoyed pottering about the garden and in and out of the sheds.

Then, in the summer of 2017, I embarked on a bit of a mammoth project. Well, I guess it’s not mammoth in the bigger scheme of things, but it was massive to me: a double storey extension on the back of my house, on an extremely limited budget, and self-employed me being responsible for it all. Part of the building was going to cover the ground where the timber shed stood. So I found a good home for it - it went to an allotment at a community development trust to be used for den building. That felt like a good move in that perfectly decent but old shed’s life.

I had a dream though about a new shed. I knew it was a long way off as I was sinking every penny I had into reconfiguring downstairs and building a new bedroom for me upstairs, which admittedly was more important than a shed. But I dreamed about a corner shed.

As I said to my architect pal when he came round to talk about the extension, “If you want to make me really happy, the way to do that is through excellent storage solutions”. I’ve considered adding that to my tinder profile but it might attract the wrong sort.

A corner shed, I felt, would give me more storage possibilities than a regular shed. Also, there’s a raised bit at the back of my garden which once upon a time must have been a very lovely rockery. If I excavated a bit of that then I could maximise the space in the garden more. Space in the garden being somewhat compromised by a 12 foot trampoline that has brought a huge amount of joy for the kids and less, but still a significant amount of aesthetic disquiet for me.

So that was the dream: to have a lovely 8 foot square corner shed, set back towards the hedge, to solve all my outdoor-shed-stuff storage needs.

For two years I sighed at the ugly plastic shed that was inexpertly plonked at the end of the garden by the builders.

In the spring of 2019, I worked with a life coach for the first time. He asked me what I wanted to get out of working together. “I just want enough money to buy a shed”, I said. He raised an eyebrow. Shed’s aren’t all that expensive. Why a shed? What’s so important about a shed?

Until moving to this house, the garden was always someone else’s domain. Growing up it was my parents and my grandparents. I played in it, loved it, the bit where the swing was I could comfortably claim as my territory, but overall it wasn’t my realm. Then I lived in flats. There was a house, a town house in a dodgy bit of town which my children were born in. But the tiny front garden and little back yard were his to design, tend and play with.

I held fast to the story that gardening wasn’t for me.

And then I moved here and I had a lovely, small but sunny garden all of my own and something inside me shifted.

I started to tentatively rewrite the story that perhaps gardening was for me. That perhaps I could get joy from pottering about or getting all hot and sweaty with some vigorous weeding. It wasn’t a story that was easy to rewrite. I retreated back often to the old tale, flinging my hands up in despair when some inexpert gardening choice didn’t pan out. But little by little the charm of the garden wove into my heart.

And it had a lot to do with a somewhat romantic notion of old garden sheds. As you know, I love a good potter and a decent garden shed is like the Valhalla of pottering. It just goes hand in hand with a calm frame of mind, of making do and mending rather than buying new, of nurturing and caring for things and taking life at a different pace to the rest of the week.

Of course, logically, when I went to that life coach and exposed my dream of buying a shed, I could have gone out the next day and put a shed on a credit card and it wouldn’t have taken too long to pay off. What was underneath it was a process, a shift of mindset, that was going to take time. A shift that welcomed a way of being and a sense of responsibility and care that comes with looking after a garden properly. It was about putting down roots after a few years of being blown about on the wind.

As you can see from the pics, the shed is now here. My Mum and Dad really invested in the journey. The build wasn’t easy: firstly a very lovely pal and I built it quite badly and the doors didn’t fit. Then my ex-husband came round and he rebuilt it properly. He was very good about it and knew there was some dented pride on my part to even ask for the help. But it got there eventually.

An advertised one-day build actually took about five.

Friends and colleagues started asking about how it was going. I could have set up a shed-watch podcast it was such an involved journey.

But it got there.

In the last few days of my dad’s life, whilst he was there and I wasn’t allowed to be anywhere but here, whilst I clung on to my phone never quite knowing when that call would come, I painted the shed. In our last wonderful conversation where, for the first time in weeks, he was lucid and aware his death was imminent, he asked me about the shed.

This regular shed, full of normal shed stuff, given such meaning and power in my life.

Every morning when I fling open the curtains I get such a kick from having finally achieved the dream shed. I worry, google and tend to it’s current new-shed-new-wood-bad-weather condensation issues. And I feel a little buzz of excitement about the spring when I shall clear the shed and put some shelving in. And some nails where I can hang tools. And some solar powered lanterns. Oh and some planters round the side with fuchsias in them.

It doesn’t feel like a chore or something looming over me like some domestic duties do. It’s my fabulous shed and I shall potter in it whenever I can.

December 2020