We’ve been cleaning out the basement this summer, bit by bit.
This is mostly Kim’s idea, of course. My basic attitude toward stuff is to leave it alone unless it is bothering me, and being remarkably tolerant in that regard this leads to a fair amount of accumulation over the long haul. Kim is more proactive and demands that stuff prove its worth. Either it deserves to stay or it doesn’t and that’s that. It is a much more Darwinian world her stuff lives in.
One of the long-running disputes we have is whether a given object is “wasting” space or “using” it, for example.
But the basement has gotten out of hand even by my generous standards and I can no longer shrug when the clutter is pointed out, much as I try anyway. So every so often we have gone down there and spent a few hours making it look worse.
Because that’s how these projects are, really. Every time you want to do a thorough cleaning of anything you have to disrupt everything, and it will get a whole lot messier before the tide finally turns and you can see any improvement, assuming that it does eventually. This is particularly true when, for logistical reasons or perhaps just for no particular reason at all, we have mostly been cleaning out the back end of the basement. This means that the front end – the end you see when you come down the stairs – looks pretty much the same as it always has. Or, as noted, worse.
Given the work that has been put in so far, this is somewhat dispiriting.
But we have made exciting discoveries, so that has to count for something. For example, once upon a time we apparently thought it would be worthwhile to save nearly three years’ worth of Smithsonian magazines from the late 90s, which is a testament to either a generalized optimism regarding our ability to find time and interest to read old magazines in the future or a sadly misplaced notion that “these things might be valuable someday!” We found a pile of old cookbooks too, which were probably put there for much the same reasons at about the time the girls were born. Those we will actually keep. There's always a chance that there might be something tasty to be made.
Along the way we have also discovered that the cats have done a spectacularly lousy job of ridding the house of vermin, judging from the amount of mouse poop that I have vacuumed up and the desiccated corpse of a mouse that had climbed into something plastic and couldn’t get out again – straight into the trash with that. It's a good thing the cats are entertaining at least. They're certainly not earning their keep.
Further, we’ve discovered that the old vacuum cleaner needs a new cord. It is disturbing when you plug things in and tiny puffs of smoke come out. We run a non-smoking house around here, and this goes double for appliances.
We press on nonetheless, a day here, a day there, in between everything else. The last time ended promptly at kickoff (or whatever they call it) for the World Cup final. By the end of the summer we may have a clean basement again.
In other words, just in time for the cooler weather, when perhaps people will hang out down there, the place will be clean and ready to be messed up again. And when the rabbits come in for the winter, well, it will be party. Because you can never have a place clean enough for rabbits, really.