Basement Reboot 

We’ve got guests coming for a visit later this summer, and the first part of our Glorious Fourth was devoted to projects related to the visit — first, figuring out what we need to do to spruce up the house and grounds between now and then to properly welcome our guests, and second, actually tackling one of the projects.  

I’m a big believer in starting with the worst project first, so things get easier as you make progress on your to-do list.  That meant starting today with the basement — the municipal landfill of every household, where every item of currently unused stuff eventually finds a home.  If you don’t stay on top of the basement, it inevitably ends up as a horror show.  So today we threw out, cleaned, organized, and put away . . . and the basement ended up like this.  And I only smacked my head against low beams and pipes about five times, too.

So the basement is done, and we can scratch one entry off the task list.  We may not voluntarily take our guests to the basement, but if they turn out to be aficionados of old basements and want to see it, at least it won’t be a horrible embarrassment.  Now, it’s time to crack open a beer.

Somebody Else’s Basement

We’ll be moving into our new place in a few days.  In the intervening days, we’ve got some project to tackle — like cleaning the basement, which was my assignment today.

IMG_4744Basements are weird.  They’re dark, dusty and cobwebby, full of machines that make odd noises.  German Village basements are even weirder because the houses are older.  Our new house has a stone foundation, a brick fireplace that extends down to the cement and brick basement floor, and support beams designed for a time when people were shorter.  As I worked there today I bumped my head repeatedly.  It’s going to take a while to get used to the various nooks and crannies.

This place still feels like somebody else’s basement — and that feeling is accentuated by the fact that the prior owners left a bunch of random stuff down there.  The abandoned items include boots, a lawnmower, yard care items, stray clothing, tools, a Shop-Vac, and home improvement knick-knacks.  It’s as if they left hurriedly, under cover of darkness.

So part of the effort today was trying to figure out exactly what was down there and make an initial cut on whether to keep it or not.  It felt, though, like I was intruding on someone else’s space.  Hmm . . . guess the people who used to live here really liked to garden.  Why would they have saved this incredibly rusty padlock?  Well, at least the Shop-Vac seems to work pretty well.  What do you suppose this machine is supposed to do?  And I swept up decades of dust and bagged up junk and pulled down cobwebs.

By the time I was done, my forehead jarred and my glasses coated with dust, the basement felt a little bit more like ours.

Art In The Basement

One of the many benefits of trying to clean out our basement is that I’ve uncovered a lot of Russell’s artwork.

For a year or so, Russell used our basement as a studio, and if he felt like creating some art on the walls, he just did it.  Since he’s left home, the artwork has been covered up by the other things we’ve stored down there.

Now, as we are trying to get rid of the clutter and moving out the debris, we’re happily discovering that terrific artwork anew.  It’s like removing cheap linoleum tiles and finding beautiful wood flooring underneath.

The portrait at right was painted directly onto the side of the stairs leading down into the basement.


In Our Basements, We Are All Hoarders

Everybody needs a winter project.  This year, our project is underground.  Yes, that’s right:  We’re going to try to do something about our basement.

Our basement is unfinished.  It’s been used primarily for storage — lots of storage.  The problem with an unfinished basement is that it gives you the luxury of seemingly infinite space.  There are acres of concrete floor and cinder block walls down there that are just crying out to be cluttered with things.

It’s easy to go down there and put a box of unwanted stuff on the floor.  Rather than tossing out, selling, or giving away the VHS recorder that you haven’t used since the Clinton Administration or a computer monitor from the dawn of the PC age, you store it downstairs because, after all, somebody might have use for it some day.  The clutter doesn’t bother anybody because no one goes to the basement, anyway.

And then, one day, you walk downstairs, find the basement crammed to the rafters with random, cobwebbed boxes, bags, and junk, and say to yourself:  “What is all of this stuff?”  By then, the task of rational organizing seems overwhelming — but if you don’t do something, it’s just going to going to get worse and move you squarely into disturbing hoarder territory.  In fact, who are hoarders but people who have, unfortunately, applied the basement storage approach to their entire houses?

I took this picture when we started a few weeks ago. We’ve made good progress since then.  It’s liberating to get rid of stuff you don’t need — and sometimes you find interesting things that, perhaps, really didn’t belong in the basement in the first place.