The basement in the basement

Cleaning a basement seems like such a simple thing.  You sort things, you throw things out, you organize what’s left.



When you clean a basement, you confront your past.  You argue with yourself about your future.  You even face failures.

Think I’m being melodramatic?

All I’m saying is no one ever puts their Academy Award in the basement.

As I (finally) took some of my ‘before’ pictures today, I spent some time just looking at my basement.  What’s in it?  What do I want it to be?  What do I need?  These thoughts quickly turned into conversations (remember the conference room of Shelby’s I have in my head?).

First, the gift wrapping station.  Yes, I have a whole bunch of wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, and craft supplies.  I used to be crafty.  When I was just out of college and had no money, I made up for my humble gifts with awesome wrapping.  As I got busier, and let’s face it, had more disposable income, keeping things simple was most important.  Family gets green wrapping paper at the holidays, friends get blue.  Seriously.

So that one wasn’t so hard.  I don’t need a gift wrapping station.

Next up, the workbench.  I have lots of tools.  My ex-husband wasn’t terribly handy, but he tried.  And he liked to buy tools.  So I have tools I’ve never used, tools I’ve never heard of, and tools that have never been opened.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know how to use a hammer and a power drill (thanks Dad!).  I understand how to use a level and a stud finder.

(Heh. Heh.)

I own a home.  And I like to imagine that I am a smart independent woman so I SHOULD BE SOMEONE who can repair things.  But the truth is this: with the exception of doing the most basic tool-oriented tasks, I would just rather ask someone or pay someone to do it.  I will never, ever, figure out how to put up crown moulding.  I just won’t.  Not because I can’t.  But because I just don’t want to.  It’s hard to admit this to myself, let alone to the world.  I like to think I’m more self-sufficient than this.  But I don’t think I need my tool bench either.

The pantry is easy – thank goodness.  An emotional break since I cook all the time, I use most of the items in my pantry, and the ones I don’t I can easily let go of.  I can check some expiration dates and pitch the year’s supply of store-bought spaghetti sauce that has been there since before my divorce.  (My ex-husband was also a big fan of Sam’s club.  Seriously, I have been using the same jar of capers since 2002.)

But oh no.  There’s another room.  And in that room is the memories.  And the dreams.

All of the jigsaw puzzles we built.  Supplies for the camping we were always going to do but rarely did.  Decorations from our annual Halloween parties.  Framed photos I took down but can’t bear to throw away.  The box of ornaments we exchanged every year.

What do I need to let go of?  What will I regret throwing out in ten years?  What represents a hobby I should return to and what is an old dream I should forgive myself for abandoning?

Egad.  This is hard.  And you know what?  If this is cleaning the basement, I think cleaning the basement sucks.



Filed under Divorce, Family, Organizing

3 responses to “The basement in the basement

  1. Don

    There are really only two reasons to do your own repairs: You actually enjoy it, or you can’t afford to have someone else do it.

    That said, speaking as someone who sometimes gets asked to help you, please, please keep the tools. Yours are much nicer than mine.

  2. You know, the best post-divorce therapist I had (other than the psychotherapist), was a German woman I went out with several years after my divorce. She looked at me like I was insane when I handed her a glass of wine one night and mentioned that the glass was a wedding gift. She then took me through my apartment and made me point out every wedding gift or object that had been my ex-wife’s and demanded that I discard and/or destroy it. I set up a garbage can in the kitchen and we smashed 36 wine glasses and covered the shards with gravy boats, throw pillows, bath ware and knick-knacks. I don’t miss any of that shit, and I have sometimes wondered if my salt cellar (my ex-wife’s, which escaped the Teutonic therapist’s attention) is the cause of whatever bad luck I am currently having.

    On a completely unrelated note, I could really use some new power tools.

  3. Karen Holstead

    Recycle your gift wrapping station by letting me have it. I’ll give it such a good home, Shelby, and you can visit it anytime.

    And I agree with Trey. I gave my entire 12 piece china set to a girlfriend as her “something old” wedding thing. She loved it, and I’ve never looked back. I accidentally kept two espresso cups, and will be going out of my way to find and remove them TONIGHT.

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