Breaking the Basement

Paul Morrone |

By Paul Morrone CFP®, CPA, MSA

We are now in the worst part of winter here, and it doesn’t all have to do with the weather. I feel like February is the month most people just want to get through, and luckily it is the shortest month of the year. There’s a lull in the sports world, with really only basketball or hockey on for the mass markets. Football is over and March Madness doesn’t start until, well, March. To make the time go by and try to make some productive use of these few weekends in the depths of winter, we have started to get through all of the stuff that we’ve put off while the weather was nice.

This past weekend was one of those days as it was dreary outside and we decided to clean out the basement. You would think that having only lived in the house for 5 years that this would not even be necessary, until you see how much stuff is packed into such a small space. During our first year in the house, we made the mistake of taking every piece of furniture and houseware that anyone would give us because ‘we might need this someday.’ I’ve now taken the approach that if that ‘someday’ hasn’t arrived in the past 5 years then it is probably not coming.

As far as basements go, I’d say mine is pretty clean. Its dry, most importantly, and it’s as organized as can be given the relatively small area and the massive amount of stuff we have down there. I’ve slowly noticed that the walls were creeping in and the ceiling was getting lower as we accumulated more stuff, getting ever closer to the proverbial breaking point. The out of sight out of mind mentality manifested itself as the available floor space disappeared, covered by dozens of boxes and Tupperware containing childhood memories, furnishings, kitchenware, holiday decorations and outdoor equipment.

The big debate when I moved out of my parents’ house was what to throw away and what to keep. I did a pretty good job at that time getting rid of stuff, but for some reason had a sentimental attachment to many things from my childhood. I still cannot begin to imagine what would have possessed me to keep some of my childhood artwork, however. It would be one thing if I was artistically inclined, but I struggle to draw a stick figure, never mind paint a mural or do pottery. I dug up a couple of clay ‘sculptures,’ if they could even be called that, which really were poorly done. One was a green turtle which was shaped like a lumpy loaf of bread. The ‘shell’ was scratched with a fork and the paint job was God awful. I’m not sure what my fascination was with scratching pottery with a fork, but I also found another item that was supposed to be a bowl that was also mauled by a fork before it was plastered in pale yellow paint and thrown into the kiln to be permanently immortalized. My parents must have really loved me to have kept it.

When it was all said and done, we had boxes of stuff to donate, and even more to throw out. The instant gratification of looking at a clean basement is almost as good as losing weight, and can be had much quicker. Onto the next project!