Annual Basement Blues

As is often the case at the beginning of the year, I am confronted by my messy basement. I made an off-hand remark on Facebook about it, and it generated the most comments I have ever had about a simple status update. This confirms, anecdotally, what I have often encountered (also anecdotally) throughout my life, that the vast majority of people have a room in their house that is the dumping ground for all the miscellaneous things in their life that they can’t otherwise organize, file, or place. It’s part of the human condition. Maybe it’s particular to modern America, especially among the middle and lower classes, but still, it’s familiar to many of us.

I spent two hours in my basement to clear some space. Things were totally out of hand, so I stacked things. I concentrated many of the boxes in one corner, building my version of The Great Wall of Crap. It’s totally oppressive and I don’t like to think of how we’ll ever deal with it. I just want it to go away.

These things have been lingering long enough that none of it matters to me anymore, and I’d rather give it away. Maybe someone else can benefit from the time, money, and effort we squandered in collecting those things. But we are a family, and it’s not just my decision. It’s times like this that I wish I was a little bit more like Dick Cheney, which is to say that I was a fascist dictator and that I would issue orders to clean the basement, and any resistance would be met with ruthless punishment. “No reality TV for you!” I’d scream. “That includes the new season of American Idol. Now go to your room, and do not interfere with my plans for decluttering the basement.”

What saddens me is how cat hair and dust combine in the corners and crannies around the boxes so that, as they are moved and stacked, the dust bunnies literally explode around my feet. I spent an hour stacking and arranging, and then an hour sweeping and vacuuming.

Once done, I felt a brief moment of pride and relief. It was somewhat presentable. We had friends over to bring in the new year, and we played Table Tennis in the basement. The people had fun. They had fun in a space I had made for them to be welcoming. It makes me really want to clear out the junk, throw up some cheap paneling and decent shelves, and lay down carpeting. I’ll get a foosball table, install a bathroom, and get a television.

The junk doesn’t clutter only the basement, but also my mind. The junk messes with me so much that I actually admitted to wanting to be like Dick Cheney. If this continues, I’ll begin to fantasize about Sarah Palin. Don’t get me wrong: it wouldn’t be a sexual fantasy; I would probably want to just go moose hunting with her, or take over the free world with a twisted view of religious fundamentalism. I don’t want that to happen, so I’m really going to work on the basement this year.