The project is so monumental that we’ve put if off for eight years. And that’s a lot of procrastinating.
On the day we moved into our current digs, we had certain cartons labeled “Basement.” And that’s where those cartons went.
They’re piled neatly against all four basement walls, a kind of sentry of shame.
I’ve glanced at those cartons every time I go down the basement steps to our spare freezer to pull something out, and every time, I feel a stab of guilt. And guilt, as you’ve probably learned, is the most useless of emotions.
So I’ve decided after lo these many years to attack each carton, and to purge. Yes, purge. It’s a word my head understands, but my heart doesn’t.
I’m clutter-challenged. I collect things. All manners of things.
I’m addicted to rummage sales and yard sales, and I can’t explain why I keep buying orphaned things. But I do. The basement cartons bear mute testimony to my weakness. No matter how resolutely I try to pass the yard sale sign or the bric-a-brac table at the church rummage sale, I can’t.
So on one of the rainy days that seemed to beg for an indoor project, I went down those basement steps armed with huge green trash bags. It was time to face the music – and I even brought some of my own. The ancient kitchen radio was my companion.
I turned it to the country station and plunged in.
The first carton, marked “Linens,” held camp sheets and towels from when our daughters lived in cabins in the woods and brought home “linens” that were suitable only as household rags. Why had I kept them, let alone moved them from one home to another?
That carton was easy.
Another was marked “Frames.”
And lo and behold. There were the picture frames that had been “missing.” They were in a jumble, discovered a bit too late. I’d gone out and replaced every one to fit my photo favorites. So much for cartons taped shut and forgotten…
On the same sweep, I discovered clothes that had been lugged along with us because our daughters, who still regard wherever we are as their storage haven, had insisted that yes, these clothes would be needed.
The cartons revealed a history of American fashion, from bell-bottoms and cut-offs to some 1980s atrocities. Most of them could be traced to Amy, the family funk queen who first introduced me to thrift shops. Since they’d been stashed for five years, the assumption was that Amy and her sisters could live without these relics. But still…hauling them over to a charity might earn me the wrath of my daughters.
The cartons stayed.
I faced similar dilemmas with almost everything I touched on that long day: the pots and pans that I hadn’t used in years had a certain gravitational pull. They had been with me since early marriage. I might need them someday. They even had a sentimental quality.
I didn’t dare dispose of the kids’ old notebooks, letters and, surely, absolutely not the stick figure drawings that occupied another grouping of cartons.
So I will be mired in stuff for the rest of my days. I am embracing the American religion of sentimental clutter. I’m back to where we were five years ago. The cartons continue to gobble up the basement space, their contents buried under cardboard flaps.
I’m weighed down with remnants of the past that have no place in my future. Yet I cling to them.
A friend has told me of a new movement called the “100 Thing Challenge.” Its mission is to get us to whittle down our earthly possessions to – yes, 100 things.
Currently, I have more than 100 things in the kitchen junk drawer, and possibly almost that many in my pocketbook.
But hey, it always helps to have a goal. ••