Monday, March 5, 2012

Sorting Through the Trash

'Tuesday Stroll  #13' photo (c) 2007, Alan Stanton - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/This Saturday, Jason and I spent the afternoon cleaning out our basement. In the eleven years that we've lived here, I don't know if we've ever cleaned out our basement. Bits and pieces maybe, but no serious cleaning. Heck, we're not great at keeping the parts that people DO see in great shape. Places that no one ever goes? Not a priority. But we want to get a new furnace in sooner than later and that means the basement has to be cleared out.

Despite the hugeness of the task, we're both very motivated to have central air put in before the summer hits. Me, because I hate being hot, and Jason, because I hate being hot. So we braved the mess and started the task of sorting through our history together.

I've got to be honest, a lot of this stuff we've carried with us since we were first married, four residences ago. Some of our more interesting discoveries:
  • a 3.5' floppy disk with baby pictures of our oldest (I guess we thought that format was coming back?)
  • also on 3.5' floppy, start up disks for Windows 95
  • a brilliant Awkward Family Photo (I'll post that soon, I promise)
  • an electric typewriter
  • a checkbook from 1997 for a bank that closed several years back
The curb outside our house is now piled high with old college papers, AOL disks, and Christian heavy metal cds. After years of holding onto stuff, we're finally just throwing it away.

But in the cleaning, we also found some things worth keeping.
  • pictures of my grandfather with our kids
  • a cd of Edward Elgar piano compositions that I haven't listened to in years
  • old letters from when Jason and I were dating
  • a quilt that my great-aunt made for us when Jason and I first got married
  • a Bible that my parents gave me as a birthday present in 1981
Sorting through all of those boxes and bags and piles was a lot of work. You don't easily go through 11 years of accumulated junk with ease.

It's dirty. Our basement isn't finished, so dust is regularly falling from the ceiling. When it rains really hard, there's some leakage, so some water gets in, so there's some mold. The "ick" factor for this project was pretty off the chart.

It's embarrassing. Seriously, eleven years is a long time to not go through some of this crap. Once it piles up, it can feel absolutely overwhelming and you just keep putting it off, because really, who is going to the basement? It can be hidden, so it's easy to ignore. But not really.

It's tiring. Spending the day bent over boxes leaves your back aching. Walking up and down the steps with heavy garbage bags is exhausting. Throwing in another load of laundry to wash things before you take them to the mission is repetitive. The whole day just left us feeling beat.

It's sad. There were some sentimental things that we've been holding onto that we had to let go. For some things we had to ask ourselves, "Is just having it enough of a reason to keep it?" And for some items, the answer was no. 

It was hard work. It took us a lot of time and there's still a lot more to do. We've got a lot more ahead of us. But the end result will be worth it.

Put everything to the test. Accept what is good.

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