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The Empty Basement

After the bags had been taken to the dump and the boxes were lined up for Goodwill; after the bins were labeled so I’d never have to open them again if I didn’t want and the things we are passing along to others were neatly packaged up in the laundry room, waiting delivery; after the play room had been tidied and combed over for items worth discarding, Josh and I sat down on the sofa and surveyed the room while the twins played upstairs.  Despite containing four walls covered in books — thousands upon thousands of books — as well as sporting equipment and a few random toys, the basement looked empty.  Part of my brain looked at it as pristine, a space waiting for something to happen.  The other part of my brain looked at it as deflated, void of all those early years — the climby toys and the bouncey ball pit, the ride-on toys and rockers.  It looked like a place where something once happened instead of a place that was waiting to become something new.

I woke up in the morning with my chest in knots thinking about the boxes going to Goodwill.  I am always afraid that I’ve gotten rid of something I really want.  That Josh has accidentally placed something in the donate pile that was meant to be returned to the storage room.  I was awake for about 45 minutes before I finally got out of bed, leaving Josh behind sleeping.  I kept thinking about how much more I loved our house right now, how it feels less cramped and cluttered.  And how good it felt to get rid of some things — the broken incense holder I found in one box and the photographs of an ex-boyfriend — and how scared I felt to let go of anything.  I feel as if our memories are imprinted on all those tangible items: that they are the portals through which we have access to those memories.  I can’t tell you how many things I found that I had forgotten about without the tangible item to jog my memory.  And that scared me; releasing those tangible items even though they were no longer needed.  Because how will I remember things without them?

And do I really need to remember everything?

The house keeps changing as the twins age, like a face maturing.  Sometimes I just need a little bit to catch up mentally, to get used to how old everything looks.  To remember that there are good things that come with change; new experiences, new memories.  And there is the fact that we can’t live in the past; we need to be in the present, and the present twins are no longer the ones who played with the xylophone shaped like a dog or the fake cell phone.  They now play a real guitar and use a real iPad.  So we’re going out to celebrate the new house, talk about what we want to do with the new space.

I’m leaving that doubting side of my brain at home.


1 slowmamma { 01.16.12 at 4:08 pm }

This post is so bittersweet. I hope that you are able to leave that side of your brain at home and enjoy the new space with all of its possibilities. But I understand how you feel about letting go of all of those things.

These posts made me realize that, while I am one of those people who doesn’t become attached to things exactly (I struggle to keep those to a minimum, which is not always easy), I think that you are right to say that “our memories are imprinted on all those tangible items: that they are the portals through which we have access to those memories”. This means that the actual process of sorting, of facing those memories, is incredibly emotional for me as well. But perhaps it is right to honor the past by jogging the memory every once in a while, difficult though that may be.

2 Esperanza { 01.16.12 at 4:50 pm }

I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning out our apartment lately. It’s just too small for the three of us so only the absolute necessities can stay.

I was reading the Joy of Less when I got started. It really helped me. One of her tips was to take pictures of the things you think you want to remember later but don’t have space for. I’m sure that advice is too late for this big purge but maybe the next time. I really like the idea of having a picture of something so I could remember it, without actualy having to carve space for it too. Just a thought for next time I guess.

I’m proud of you for doing all that. It sounds like hard work, both emotionally and physically.

3 a { 01.16.12 at 4:58 pm }

New, empty space always feels good – even if it’s only 6 inches on a shelf.

And if you find yourself getting too overwrought, try a Hoarders marathon. You’ll throw away stuff you’re still using after that.

4 HereWeGoAJen { 01.16.12 at 5:05 pm }

Hugs. Getting rid of stuff is good, but hard.

5 Mic @ IFCrossroads { 01.16.12 at 5:45 pm }

Hugs coming your way. What an emotional experience to endure.

6 Eggs In A Row { 01.16.12 at 5:50 pm }

So, I used to be a big scrapbooker, before scrapbooking was a thing. I kept a journal everyday I was in Israel, and dilligently took notes during my first real relationship. The books were in a box in her garage labelled “DO NOT DONATE!” Somehow they got donated.

Broke. My. Heart.

That being said, I love the feeling of organization and of decluttering. Something to be said about knowing where everything is. And, also, finding things you thought you lost.

7 eve { 01.16.12 at 5:53 pm }

Good for you for going through the ritual of goodbye. I awoke this morning to my son in tears, as he had climbed in bed beside me early this AM while my hubby was already at work, and he had just watched Toy Story 3. Though he’s seen it before, I think it really hit him. He cried, “But I thought Woody was going to go to college with Andy!”. I just hugged him and didn’t say anything like, “But Andy has a new family now”, since I knew Sam’s sadness was for ANDY and not for Woody. Anyway. Those items have served you well, and now they can go on to serve others well. As someone who doesn’t remember everything compared to my sister who does…I can tell you that I think I am often a happier person. And yes, a Hoarders marathon always makes me want to purge my closets. It is quite a discipline to get rid of what want we want to keep when we know it isn’t good for us anymore. At my house, it seems that every empty space is just an invitation for more things to settle. You have just made yourself years and years of more to collect.

8 loribeth { 01.16.12 at 9:40 pm }

Good for you. You know, packrat that I am, I think the only thing that I ever tossed out (in a fit of pique, after a fight about clutter with dh) that I still find myself thinking about wistfully was a box of newspaper & magazine clippings from the basement — which also contained the programs I’d collected from all the plays, skating shows & competitions I’d been to over the past 15 years. I don’t miss the clippings (they had gotten all mildewed anyway after a mini-flood in the basement, & of course, you can find all the same information on the Internet these days…) but I think about the programs sometimes. I’d forgotten they were in the box until it was too late. No doubt they had mildew on them too but…

Oh. Well. In the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t THAT important. (Do I sound like I’m convinced?? lol)

9 Kir { 01.19.12 at 3:46 pm }

I understand this, I am always so afraid of letting anything go. I don’t hoard, but there are some things that I think about and then decide..”if I don’t keep those pictures, did that relationship really happen?”, “if I give that dress away am I making peace with the fact that I will never ever be that size again?”

and while the kiddos are getting bigger, and I actually just move certain “baby toys” to the basement they find them and want to play with them and I have to remind myself that someday they won’t want it and I can get rid of it then.

I wonder why our brains do that? Why do I feel like I need a tangible thing to remind me of something? Am I that sensitive? Dont answer that….I know I am.

but thank you for making me think about things today, this I will daydream on and try to put some more things in a plastic bag this weekend 🙂

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