One Man’s Trash…

Everybody’s got one.  A project, a task, a chore, something that you’ve been meaning to get done, and that dogs you subconsciously.  “Man, I really need to get around to…”  Fill in the blank.

For me, that project is the basement.  I have actually written about this once or twice on this blog.  My basement had become a house-sized junk drawer.  If something did not have a home, it was placed in the basement.  If a quick clean-up had to be done because company was coming, all debris got thrown into the basement.  When kids came over and weather was poor, kids played, amongst the clutter, in the basement, and they NEVER cleaned up.  Add all that to the normal basement-y stuff (baby clothes, tools, decorations, etc.) and I’ve got myself quite a project.

And, like most projects I don’t want to do, I procrastinated, big-time.  I kept trying to think my way into right acting, but visualizing the end result, making mental to-do lists, even wandering around the mess, but, shockingly, this effort produced no results.  Go figure.

So with the confidence that only sobriety has brought me, I finally hatched a plan this past summer.  I took the kids down to the basement, with a pen and paper, explained the mechanics of a brainstorming session, and asked them what their vision of our basement could be.  The results of that brainstorming session could be the fodder for another post (my kids have very active imaginations), but by the end of that session we had a rough plan in place:  let’s work on clearing out, and then we’ll move onto phase two, beautifying the basement.  The culmination of Phase I was a yard sale, to be held at the end of the summer.

Well, things have ebbed and flowed since the brainstorming session, unexpected setbacks, as well as a windfall in the form of a neighborhood yard sale, and, as a result, we have reached the conclusion of Phase I this past Saturday.  Here is some pictorial evidence:

Before-After Basement

I smile just looking at these pictures, and I have been down to the basement quite a few times in the last 48 hours just to wander around and admire.

Here is why I am writing about this experience, it is not just to brag about my empty basement!  First, I would have never, ever achieved this goal without the tools I learned in sobriety.  My entire life, pre-recovery, had been to procrastinate until forced into action, and then it was to take the most expedient, least labor-intensive course of action to get past whatever crisis into which I had landed.  Just look at the before pix… this was not a mess that had been accumulated in a couple of months, it was something that I brought with me from my last home, and did nothing more than add to for the past 7 years.  So I am practicing these principles in all my affairs… I made a mess, and I have cleaned it up!

I am also writing to talk about the unexpected bonuses that came along with the clean-up.  First, amazing though it may be, I was the only person who really cared about the disaster area I called a basement.  Kids are kids, they don’t think much about it, and my husband’s modus operandi was “out of sight, out of mind.”  However, I was able to rally the family into a real team effort, and everyone responded accordingly.  Over the course of the summer, I worked with the kids, the kids worked with each other, my husband and I worked together, and my husband worked with the kids, culminating into a total united front in the form of a very well-attended yard sale this past weekend.  We have never worked on a project of this magnitude before as a family, and I believe we all gained a lot from our combined effort.

For myself, the project took me out of my comfort zone a lot… keeping up with the ongoing work, motivating a group of people that did not have the same level of commitment as me, asking for help, researching how the heck to even have a yard sale!  And the biggest piece of the puzzle:  dealing with the overzealous crowds!  As someone who has never held a real yard sale, and someone who does not attend yard sales, I was very, very unprepared for the general craziness that went into that day.  Negotiating, answering questions, feeling like I needed to be 10 different places at once… all a very new and very uncomfortable experience.  I would like to think I learned a lot, but I’m not rushing out to have another yard sale to test this theory out!

Finally, and the most surprising lesson I gained, was learning to let go.  I really had no idea what  a candidate for Hoarders I really was… I had 22 Rubbermaid containers of baby clothes, from newborn to 5T (keep in mind I have only 2 children, and they are at least 6 years removed from these sizes).  I should have been ecstatic to see these clothes go, but I had a pang every time someone came up to me with money for them, and I found myself telling the story of when my children wore those clothes last (and yes, I’m sure they all thought I was certifiable).  At the end of the sale, my rule was:  nothing goes back in, so we packed up and took the remaining things to the Salvation Army.  Now the rubber really hits the road:  I had to put my hands on these clothes, and put them in a bag to leave.  That process took almost as long as the yard sale itself.  The main thing that got me through was the invaluable wisdom of Time With Thea, who has been giving me amazing advice throughout this project.  She told me that rather than feeling like I am giving something up (memories, my kids’ childhood), I should instead focus on what I am giving to somebody else (clothes for people who need them, creating new memories for new families).  I’m telling you, I was actually saying those words out loud as I bagged up the remaining clothes!

Sorry for the wordy post, but this project has been in the works for months, and I am just so excited to report the exciting results!

Today’s Miracle:

I believe, once I hit publish, that this is my 300th post, and I am so grateful to have all of you with whom to share my life!

Posted on October 7, 2013, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I can so relate to the rubbermaid bins full of baby clothes/memories (I’m saving some for my sister…yeah, that’s what I keep telling myself) and also how good it feels to clean and purge. Your basement looks so wonderful, good on everyone for their hard work in getting it done. I will remember this post when it comes time to tackle our playroom and basement this fall.

    p.s. hilarious cartoon at the beginning.


    • Thanks Kristen! If I could give one piece of advice after this project, it would be: don’t let it get this far! The quicker you correct the problem, the easier it is to correct (hmmm… analogy there?). Good luck with your playroom and basement…I want to see pix!


  2. Double WOW! I am truly complimented by your reference to me, by blog and my wisdom. I am so glad it helped. The next Wow is for how you were able to let go of the stuff, have a successful yard sale and ultimately a more functional basement. Amazing before and after pictures. I was wondering how your sale went this weekend. I am so pleased that it was a success and a family team effort. What are going to reward yourself and the family with the money you made out of the sale? I bought two pairs of new quality running shoes for my indoor and outdoor exercising activities. Hope you have a good week, Thea


  3. We just cleaned out our closet and it felt great to finally donate things like those brown pants that never fit but one day might, to give our neighbors all of the old baby clothes. Then the whole closet rack collapsed! What does that mean? 🙂 Then we got it fixed, and it fell again! I knew exactly what you meant when you said you kept going down to check out the clean basement. Is it real? Really clean? It can be so good for the soul to step out of a comfort zone. 🙂


  4. Thank you for posting the pics. Wow. It is a great feeling isn’t it. Just walk down there and see how beautiful it looks. For me, I equate the “organized room = organized mind” I can just think better. Sometimes I can’t even work in my office if it’s dirty because I’m crazy like that … some might call this OCD …. nevertheless, I like the clean!

    I love that you rallied the family.Good for you. I want to start doing that more over here. I think I have control issues. “Do it my way or don’t help.” Ouch, something to work on changing.

    And the baby clothes, I get that too. I remember, not long ago, working with a guy who said to me, “I love going to the mall and walking around looking at all the things I don’t need.” I was stunned. I never forgot those words. Now every time I “have to” buy something I imagine it at the “garage/garbage sale.” Suffice to say, I purchase a lot less of everything.

    And last but not least 300 posts. How is it I’m only on 100. You are magnificent.
    love ya, me


  5. Your before pics look neater than some of my after pics. Ain’t that grand? lol. Great job, Josie! I am so glad for you. May not seem like a big deal, but these kind of things are good for us – removing the clutter from our spaces helps to remove the clutter from our minds. and for me, letting go of the past included letting go of certain things that I had from those days, and from days that are long gone. Simplifying our spirits is difficult when our living areas are cluttered. At least that is for me. My goal has always been an IKEA showroom. But two young kids destroys that idea completely. But again, I have my days where things look pretty tiday and neat.

    Congrats on that and congrats on your 300 posts! Not one of those posts weren’t there for a reason, and have been a great source of inspiration for me. Thank you for your service and sharing of yourself so selflessly. We are the better for it.



    • Paul, with all due respect, you are full of it!

      You are exactly right, this was one of those things that sound so simple on the surface, but underneath have layers and layers of blessings.

      I appreciated the comment, and the support, and please know that you are in my morning prayers, starting today!


  6. Yay! Awesome job! I’m kind of an organizing freak – read OCD – and I’m truly impressed! And, bravo on 300 posts!


  7. Well, then I will be twice as excited to receive your congratulations! The fact that you are excited for me and not running for the hills having seen my before pictures makes me very grateful!

    Nice to hear from you, Chenoa!


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