Several weeks ago I had a reason to go down to the finished basement for something I thought might be there. Our basement has been a receptacle for the many seasons of our individual lives for many years, so I knew that it was cluttered and in need of cleaning out. But I was not prepared for the sight that confronted me. On top of the usual mound of boxes and objects we no longer used were two chairs we had recently replaced. The “mound,” as my daughter affectionately calls it, now touched the ceiling of the basement. I recoiled in horror because this meant to me that we were now officially hoarders. I had read somewhere that hoarders like to stack things like towers, and our first tower was now staring back at me. I became panicky.
I confronted my husband with this experience (it was he who had stacked the chairs on top of the mound) and declared war. We could no longer delude ourselves…we must clean out our clutter! My daughter was enthusiastic about this because she had recently begun complaining that she was dismayed by the amount of “stuff” we had all acquired over the years. Eager to turn over a new leaf in her own life, she felt she could not make a fresh start until we did something collectively about “our problem.”
We are all world travelers, widely read, well informed and actively pursuing different threads in our lives. The problem is we are also sentimental and attach too much value to stages in our lives that we can no longer accommodate.
I have kept board games, select toys, art produced by the kids, boxes of photos…you get the picture, finding it difficult to part with their childhood and secretly hoping that one day there might be grandkids to share some of this with. My husband is a technology hoarder. We have come across boxes of outdated printers and stereo speakers. Old radios were a favorite. My daughter once found a tangle of headsets that looked like an exhibit from an artist’s installation of “Detritus from the 20th Century.” My son, for lack of space in his Brooklyn apartment, has left us with several bookcases of his books, such collectibles as legos, Star Wars figures, and boxes of baseball cards. We also house a collection of first editions that do have real value but now sit on a shelf in his former bedroom. Our daughter had a separate life in California for seven years, most of which is still in boxes in the basement. It is time…really it is…to confront this problem.
So yesterday, I resumed a project I had begun before I was hit with cancer last July. I had started to go through the boxes of books in the basement trying to weed out whatever I could. I resumed my project and felt very proud of myself at being able to consolidate three boxes of books into one we would keep (for now) and two that will go to the library for their book sale. My daughter cruised the basement for random items that clearly no longer served any purpose in our lives, and came up with a couple of bags that will go to the local thrift shop. My husband finally began to tackle the random collection of pieces of lumber he has been saving for years. For what? To build us a retirement shack? I don’t think so! My son is spared this enterprise for now because he no longer lives with us. But there will come a day when he, too, will have to confront his demons and shed some of his past.
It’s just a beginning, but spring is almost here and hope springs eternal. Wish us luck!