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humor basementDon’t Go In the Basement Or Even Near the Door
by Marjorie Dorfman

When you think about your basement, do creepy crawlies come to mind? Are you ashamed of all the broken, dirty, discarded things you keep throwing down there? Do you keep the door locked for fear the white glove test might one day be performed by a relative or friend who is determined to rid the world of dust and clutter? Well, read on for a few insights and a laugh or two.

No, this is not the review of a new horror film, although there is an old one somewhere bearing the frightful moniker: "Don’t Go In The Basement." Films and literature have adapted the subterranean depths of our homes as repositories for all sorts of monsters, some with two legs and some with too many to count. Let us not forget the English classic: "Beast in The Cellar," where two old respectable ladies keep an even older secret about a hungry uncle who lives in the cellar of their townhouse and eats only dinner guests. The shriveled remains of Norman Bates’s mom still lurk somewhere in the fruit cellar of that very strange house on Psychopath Hill and Edgar Allen Poe committed the perfect murder by locking a man up in a wine cellar in the terrifying short story, "The Cask of Amontillado".

The dark Basement In reality, most basements tell their own particular brand of horror tale, blending clutter with bad smells, darkness, things that creep and crawl and last but not least, very bad housekeeping. I do not have one in my own home and that is just as well, for I am afflicted with "clutteritis". Whatever that is or isn’t, basements do nothing to alleviate the condition. They have become catch-all, out of the way receptacles for everything there seems to be no other place for. For some, that may even include annoying children and former spouses. The condition can be treated and its symptoms alleviated, but there is, alas, no cure. (The scientist who was working on one got locked in his own basement and died of clutter asphyxiation.)

Many articles have been written about clutter, but it must be noted that basement clutter is very different from any other kind. It’s a whole different smoke, as they say. It’s almost like comparing rotting apples to rotting elephants and that, my friends, is the very first discrepancy. Basement clutter is much bigger and bulkier than the good old regular kind. (It is usually about as big as your basement, in fact.) Sofas with three legs, broken stoves and beds, chandeliers and ponderous armchairs can all be stored there, gathering mountains of dust until the day you really can’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Survival in the basement is limited to the myriad of little beasties that make their home there. It is a private place that can be locked, if necessary, to prevent nosy guests from wandering too close to the abyss. Of course, curiosity will be aroused and should be promptly assuaged with words of warning about the taloned, hungry and demented uncle twice removed who lives down there that I have already warned you about.

Cellars and basements probably all started innocently enough. Wine cellars, fruit cellars and even Peter and best sellers all have their place in one’s home. The problem is that they perpetrate the delusion that placement there is temporary until the time comes to either give or throw away the item in question. That never happens. The item, no matter how large, just gets shoved back to make way for the next thing that needs a temporary but hidden home away from the prying, disapproving eyes of Dear Abby and Emily Post. Any basement worth its salt will be dark and dinghy, with a steep flight of stairs that separates it from the rest of the house. Some have doors (best when they creak), leading to the outside and some are completely contained away from but very close to the home.

home basementWhat is the difference between a cellar and a basement? Good question. According to Mr. Daniel Webster, a basement is "that part of a building that is wholly or partly below ground level." A cellar is defined very helpfully as "a basement." Alas and alack, there seems to be no difference between the two. The issue, however, is much deeper than definitions and rests at eye level. That’s the purpose basements serve because what others see can really bother you. It doesn’t matter if you know it is there, whatever "it is". Out of sight can be out of mind for a little while and it really is no one‘s business but your own if part of the piano was used for firewood and you had no place else to keep the rest of it!

How can we solve the cellar clutteritis problem? Is there any hope at all? I would say no because old habits die hard in the human mind. I know if I had a cellar it would be filled to the rafters. That’s just the way it is. I donate furniture and old clothes to charity every year or so and have a yard sale almost every spring with my neighbors. Still things, pile up in the basement of my mind every day of my life. If I ever clean things out entirely will my life change? Will I find happiness with everything having a place and everything being in its place? Maybe, maybe not. Who really knows? Only one spirit and one truth remain as nagging an answer as a hangnail.

The basement clutter bogeyman that’s who!

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home humor repair

Clean is good. Cleaning is not.
Kathryn Hammer, Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Housecleaning is like Chekov; it starts slow and then tapers off.
Henry Alford, The New York Times

Don't miss this excellent book:

Clutter Control; Putting Your Home On A Diet

Clutter Control

A short, easy to read book for packrats substituting as real people. It offers precise and practical suggestions for the person who simply cannot throw anything away.

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