The Occasional Horror of the Basement: Everyday Magic, Day 484

It started with a mild desire to haul boxes of banking records from the 1980s off to the shred-ery, a one-day free shredding service in town. And I don’t know when or how it will end, but I can imagine what’s ahead: sorting through all manner of boxes, plastic bins, shelves of files and whatnot, trying to figure out what lives with us, what needs to be put up for adoption, and what goes to the shred-ery or recycle bin.

Our basement is our history. Down there are cherished lettered from 1981, toddler dresses full of layers and lace, handmade baby blankets from grandparents long dead, cassette mix tapes heavy on chanting and Joni Mitchell, hardened containers of paint, essays critiquing the constitution or exploring dark matter, and many pieces of clothing no one in this house will every wear again. It doesn’t bother me that so much is underneath our regular life upstairs, only that it’s kind of a disorganized mess. The camping supplies extraordinaire (everything you need for weeks of living in the mountains without human contact) spill over boxes of housing loan papers, packets of seeds never planted, and boxes full of unhappy action figures. The zigzag of what’s there overwhelms me and makes me feel like some basement in my subsonscious is going to explode out like a reverse tornado.

Unfortunately for me, no one else in my house hold feels this way about the basement, but then again, no one but me knows where anything in the basement actually is. “Will you help me clean the basement sometime?” I cheerfully ask family members. “Why?” they answer.

Fortunately, sorting through the once-loved, never-to-be-loved again or save-for-later-loving is an intriguing task. It’s fascinating, too much so, and I have to resist the urge to read Natalie fifth-grade essay on the life of Australian tree frogs or a postcard crowded with tiny print from a friend I can’t remember having.

But some day, a gal just has a lot of sorting energy, and that day is today, so I will put on my sorting hat, gather a bunch of boxes and black plastic bags, and begin the parade of our stories and history into a new order.

2 thoughts on “The Occasional Horror of the Basement: Everyday Magic, Day 484

  1. Wow, I’m working on that, too… We built a big shed a year ago. Had a ton of stuff in storage (we live in a trailer). And things had gradually piled up here, too, making things a bit crowded for living space. So we’re trying to sort… decide what to give away, what to move into the shed, and what to keep in the house. Sigh… I have high hopes, a sense of holding space for the journey. Feel a deep need for the clearing out space, making room to breathe and have what we do keep become accessible. But I have a hard time getting the energy to dive in. Its become a huge “thing” – like a trip to the underworld. The symbolism you speak of is such a thing – yes, it feels like a reverse tornado, really like that image – and it feels like it is there, sitting there, spinning there within me, even when the door is closed on the boxes (and piles from beginning attempts to sort…) I want to do it. I need to do it. I choose to do it. I have begun in small steps, getting my toes into the water. But its time to dive in.
    Both with the sorting of the stuff of our lives, and the internal diving/sorting of _that_ interwoven overgrown stuff. I tend to a lot of the internal stuff, really work with that, play with that, often. But addressing the transition of stuff to the shed or to discard piles has brought up new, deeper, older layers. It is time.

  2. WOW, this triggered a real look at my existence! Sorting has become a way of life for me since my mother died and huge amounts of stuff – very strangely organized, became my legacy. She was nearly blind in the last of her richly active 94 years on earth and she never stopped sorting. But her sense of order was odder than ever: we found birth certificates, life insurance policies and family momentos placed inside of torn out magazine articles and old circulars – her ideas of what went together totally awry with anything we could imagine.
    10 years before, when we moved her to Lawrence, we had to call the haul-away folks to her Florida double wide trailer for 3 special pickups… each one a 8 -10 foot mountain of duplicate plastic bags full of saved can lids, styrofoam meat trays, bags of used plastic bags plus every garden poison banned in the last century, rusted out lawn furniture, and mounds of mildewed books. Mother had boxes and bags from her mother too so we ended up renting the biggest van available- I think the 36 footer, and filled it with at least one bag of every category of her collected ‘art materials” (all the aforementioned and more!) in order to calm her down enough to leave. She was the folk artist, Betty Milliken, and many of her chewing gum or grapfruit skin sculptures are displayed at the Grassroots Arts Center in Lucas, Ks so she had plans to use every bit of what she had so carefully collected, cleaned and stored. She was terrified and angry, certain she would run out and never be able to replace what we had so coldheartedly tossed away. She had invested a bit of herself in each piece and they all were necessary and important to her in an egalitarian sort of way. This, somehow, has become part of her legacy to me. How strange it is while I am making piles of items to give or throw away, things call my name.

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