What does Own Your Space mean?

You may have heard the complaints some residents and visitors make about Martinsburg’s appearance. Though these comments may not be fair or accurate, they usually relate to the subject of “neighborhood neglect.”

Having lived in downtown Martinsburg for several years, my strategy has been to take the subject of neglect and flip it on its head:

Own Your SpaceIf I’m living downtown and want to improve my quality of life, as well as the quality of  my neighborhood, what are the achievable things I can do with the resources at my disposal?

Own Your Space:

Change begins at home. If you wish to see positive change, start there. If the thought of “DIY” home projects seem daunting or expensive, keep it simple. If you’re unable to undertake a large-scale remodel, smaller measures can improve the curb-appeal of your home so that it projects pride and ownership.

Simple and Easy Ways to Own Your Space

Here is a list of simple, effective and inexpensive DIY home repair ideas that will yield positive results.

  • Litter Patrol: Budget 10 to 15 minutes to collect and dispose of stray litter and debris on your street. If you see that your neighbor’s place needs a bit of help, put a few extra minutes into the job.
  • Hide the Trash Cans: Your home and block will look that much better if you store your trash bins in a discreet location.
  • Care for the Façade: Remove leftover clutter such as old decorations and furniture. This allows the architectural details to take center stage. Paint or replace the mailbox and upgrade your address numbers to match the style of your home. These simple and small investments make a big impact, particularly for older, historic homes.
  • The Power of Dish Soap:  Most homes in downtown Martinsburg are located close to the street. Dust and exhaust fumes settle on the house’s façade. This leaves a grimy buildup around the eaves, overhangs, doors and windows. You can remove much of the buildup with soap and warm water. A power washer will make short work of the job. This improves the appearance of your home with little investment.

Go the Extra Mile to Own Your Space

  • Fix the Gutters: Clogged or broken gutters and downspouts can lead to water damage to the eaves, siding and foundation, especially in older homes. They can compromise the structural integrity of the home and make it less appealing. Make it a priority to clear the gutters and downspouts of all debris and clean them to remove mildew stains. Also make sure that the water sheds away from the house and as far into the yard as possible.
  • Landscaping: A little landscaping can go a long way. When I purchased my home, the front yard was devoid of any plant-life. Between the sidewalk and the curb, there was just a narrow patch of weeds that did nothing to add to the aesthetics of the house. Hard surfaces dominated the yard, making it uninviting and “cold.” The lack of green space made my home feel like a mere extension of the street. Creating a much needed green space became a priority. Adding a few foundation plants and low-growing perennials immediately transformed the space and defined it as part of my house instead of the street.
  • Lighting: Nothing says neglect like a street lined with darkened houses. I keep electric candles, which are popular around the holidays, in my windows year round. I replaced the outdoor light fixture to match the style of my home, and I added a “dusk-to-dawn” feature and motion detector. Visitors appreciate the extra light. Those with no business near by home do not gravitate there due to the added visibility.

Positive Change

Four years of work on my house has brought many positive changes. Before, the house felt uncomfortably close to the street, surrounded by a barren zone of concrete and asphalt. It now has a well-defined greenspace that provides a beautiful transition between the street and my home. The plants in the yard buffer the house from the street but also enhance its appearance.  My home owns its space, and that’s exactly as it should be.

These changes may not make an immediate impact, but will affect a larger change within your community over time. Small actions have a cumulative, tangible, and positive impact. Over the past four years, I’ve noticed a trend: The street in front of my house – in fact, the whole area looks better than before. In that time, a number of my neighbors have made larger improvements to their roofing, windows and siding. Homes that were vacant for years have recently sold and been restored to their former glory. Fewer homes are on to the market, and those that are for sale do not stay so for too long.

When more people make the effort to fight neglect, the more those efforts produce positive results. Based on the improvements that I have seen in my own neighborhood, I am optimistic about the changes yet to come.


– “MB Citizen”

One Response

  1. MegJ

    And open your curtains! What a difference that makes from the outside. Too many windows on downtown homes are obscured by shades, or blinds, or curtains. It’s an unfriendly look.

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