John and I spent the better part of the last day of 2005 clearing out the basement. Mostly the basement was full of the crap we didn’t know what to do with when we moved in late July, and most of the boxes had been open when one or the other of us (usually me) decided to empty them one by one in search of a particular sweater, pair of winter boots, or extension cord. It's the kind of excruciatingly slow unpacking that can create periodic fits of insanity. The rest of the stuff I hadn't searched out was just kind of there amidst the mounds of tape wads and packing material waiting to be dealt with. And despite the fact that we made our way past the piles of crap every time we wanted to replenish our diet coke supply or locate the electrical tape, and despite the fact that we show our disastrous basement to the entire neighborhood when we accidently leave the basement light on at night, we still hadn’t dealt with it.
Today, deal we did. I bagged up packing material and carried empty boxes out to the curb for recycling while John organized all our tools by “project.” I’m not sure how this will work out, but I do know exactly where to go if we ever need to, say, wallpaper again. And having our 20+ screwdrivers all in the same place will be divine. In addition to 20+ screwdrivers we also discovered that we have four tape measures, about 80 wrenches/wrench parts, 5 or so boxcutters, scores of allen wrenches from our biking and ikea habits, and perhaps most perplexing, two studfinders. If anyone ever needs to find two studs simultaneously, come on over, and we’ll direct you to the studfinding shelf.
Tillie, meanwhile, flitted from exciting new toy to exciting new toy: my softball cleat, a sharpie pen, a paper clip, a stuffed octopus, a bottle of water, and some unidentified black plastic object, probably a part to the vacuum cleaner we tossed a few weeks ago when it set off the fire alarm. I tossed out streams of photo negatives—with scanners, who needs em?—old rugs, curtain rods, and everything made of wicker, but was happy to rediscover my bowling ball, the other softball cleat, and the missing wheel to our shopvac.
We were a little like Jack Gladney in White Noise when he attacked his attic with trash bags. The difference is that Gladney was working through an identity crisis spurred by encountering a student of his while buying rope at a hardware store. The student/cashier marveled that the professor and head of Hitler Studies was “just a regular guy.” Our crisis, however, was truly and only a basement one.
If John is proud of the tool organizational system, I’m pretty proud of one of my side projects: we now have new batteries in all the flashlights and in the digital clock. This in preparation for tornado season, when we’ll no doubt spend some time in the basement listening to the radio-cast and drinking from our stash of diet cokes and “high-end” boxed wine. We unrolled a big rug and are planning to drag in the grey couch from the garage just to add to our tornado warning comfort. In fact, maybe we’ll even spend new years eve in our clean basement.
On second thought, Cathy P. and John T’s hot tub is heating up. I think we’ll save the basement for tornado time.