Cleaning out the basement

They say, that your surroundings emulate you.

We bought our house in June of 2006. The house was a disgusting, trashed disaster. I am drawn to this sort of shit because I’m great at restoring things that are destroyed and I take pride in those sometimes daunting tasks. I love to make yucky things beautiful. There’s no thought when I am renovating; I just start doing.

We started by ripping out the dilapidated, cat pissed on carpeting throughout the house. Underneath was a beautifully stained hardwood floor. Now, most people would have replaced this floor or just got new carpeting. I loathe carpet! I have animals and don’t like the maintenance that needs to be done with keeping a carpet looking and smelling good. So, we rented a floor sander and scraped the glue off the floor with a 5-in-1. My most valued and favorite tool. Everyone should have one. We sanded the floors endlessly and then I stained them. They are b-e-a-you-tiful. Really not that simple, but I won’t bore you with the details of ‘Refinishing Hardwood Floors 101’. We then painted and replaced various walls in the house. Some I covered with my faux artwork abilities.  It’s been a long process but we’re finally finished with all the rooms in the house.

I keep promising myself that the outside of the house is going to get painted the following spring and I’m going to build a porch. That has yet to happen.

Recently, I have been going through boxes and boxes of ‘memories’ that have been crammed in my basement. I usually move once a year and this is the longest I have ever been in one place to actually be able to ‘sit and sift’. In going through all of these boxes, I realized I have been lugging this shit around with me for too many years, never really having the time to go through the stockpile. My life has been a self-induced chaotic mess and here are the remnants of that lingering in the confines of my basement. I found a spray painted orange block that my friend R landed on when we were jumping off the roof running from the police. He fractured his ankle on that block and as I landed on the ground I picked up the block and stuffed it in my pocket before I proceeded to run. I was fourteen at the time. I had many, many things like this in boxes. I also had a box full of notes that people had written from high school. Ya know, the ones you write when you actually made it to class and you’re stoned and bored? Yeah, those.
Well, I went through and one by one for three days, burned them all in my fireplace, thanking each one of those people for being in my life when I needed them, but it was time to let them go.

It’s funny how I carried all of this with me, slowing me down all of these years, hanging on to some deluded past that I thought then was fun. As I was reading some of these letters, I got a sick feeling because it was all so unhealthy. I would drag these boxes from place to place and store them in the basements of ‘my house’. Leaving them there to take up space with barely any room for all of the new and great things in my life. I couldn’t get new things because I had no room for them. I was packed with all the old shit. If I wanted new and better things I had to get rid of the old. I cleaned out my basement. Got rid of all the old knick knacks, letters and a plethora of paraphenalia. My basement is so roomy now. And it’s clean. I want to spend time down there now.

I was so afraid to let go of all the effects because I thought it would leave me in a black hole of nothing-ness. Alone. No longer able to prove to anyone including myself that I was loved at one time. I kept all of that stuff because I needed to remind myself constantly that I was cared about, as if I no longer have that. But I do. It’s just hard to see when I have all of this crap from my past that I am forever looking at. I couldn’t focus on the today because I was so stuck in the past, which then would keep repeating itself in my future. What I do today creates my tomorrow.

When my daughters friends come over she would warn them that when we pull up to the house, “It looks  crappy on the outside, but once you walk in, it’s awesome”. And it is. It’s like Alice in Wonderland here. People always comment on how great the energy is when they walk into my home. “It’s like a retreat”, they say, and they don’t want to leave and go back to the real world. I see nothing special, I just know that I created what I love and I now love being home.  I guess that is quite special in retrospect.

This spring I am painting my house. I have done yard work and planted flowers over the past years we have lived here and my neighbors are quite appreciative and helpful. I love my neighbors too. I was never friends with my neighbors in the past. And I mean friends, not just ‘Hi, how are you?’ We have dinners together neighborhood movies in our back yards while cooking and eating, working on fund-raisers and crafty projects.The kids love it. We all talk and help each other out when need be. We have celebrated graduations, mourned deaths and break-ins and have laughs about the police knocking on our doors at wee hours in the morning. We each have a different talent and exchange services. It’s phenomenal.

I only talk about this because it is so different from what I am used to living. The police are no longer here because of me. But it didn’t just come. I had to ‘clean out my basement’ and work my way up to get through the wreckage I created for myself and others. I had to identify the garbage, make peace with it and have the courage to throw it away, with trust that my emptiness would be filled with something better, something that fits who I am today or who I want to become.

I have always worked from the inside out without realizing the significance in that. And a lot of times the outside doesn’t match the inside and this is what I am working on now. I think most people start with the outside because they want to present a package, but when you walk in, it’s not the same, somehow it’s cluttered and chaotic. To me that is being dishonest. But the way my house is, definitely emulates me. The outside is rough and mangy, with a few sprinkles of flowers if you really look, but when you walk in there is peace and fun in most places. But not everyone gets to enter my home. I sit outside with a lot of people and just chit chat.

I do have a small room, sometimes my car, to store all the stuff that I’m not yet ready to deal with and let go of. But I clean it out every couple of months.

With daily maintenance it’s much easier to go through. When I allow things to pile up, the work is much harder and has created mess on top of mess.

It’s kind of like car maintenance; get an oil change regularly and take care of the small things and they never get bigger than you can handle. You won’t get stranded on the side of the road. Although, I have luckily met some great people being stranded on the side of the road. If you don’t do the maintenance, then low oil can turn into a blown engine and the car is useless.

And that concludes my story for today. I’m Frasier Thomas and we’ll be seeing you and your family next Sunday with Family Classics.
No really, I have a basement floor to mop.

Live happy;)


9 thoughts on “Cleaning out the basement

  1. Like you, I've alternately dumped my past AND owned it over the years. It no longer haunts me. In fact, I've learned much from my past, and it's made me the person I am today.

    My past can no longer hurt me.

    Congrats on the house cleaning. 😉

  2. I love how you use the basement cleaning as an analogy to your inner healing and renewal. I am on a self-renewal kick myself right now.

    Congrats on completing your home projects…and your Gina one. I put a link to your blog up on my site yesterday. I hope you get some traffic.


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