I recently heard an old Jerry Seinfeld sketch about stuff. His main point was that all the stuff you bring into your house is, in reality, varying stages of garbage. Ain’t it the truth! You bring something shiny and new into your house and something else seems less shiny as a result. It gets relegated to the back of the closet. Then it gets moved to a box and finally it gets moved to the basement. Ah, the basement. We use the basement to hide the things that aren’t part of our real lives. Historically it was an earthen floor cellar used for food storage. You can see when food goes bad. Stuff in boxes doesn’t go ‘bad’. It just sits there piling up until we are over-run with clutter, real and unconscious. The basement began having more prominence when the mechanicals of the house started to get beefed up, like central heating and sewers. Post-war basements became finished. They were furnished with the less than perfect left over couches from former years, the older technological gadgetry, like the Victrola, then the turntable for 78’s. When we started to ‘finish’ our basements we had more places to enjoy our stuff and more reasons to buy stuff. Basements became the domain of the teenagers, a place parents could forget about. A place where kids did what they pleased, as long as paps had a corner for his workbench and there is a place to pile stuff. What we are really doing is putting off the inevitable decision of how to give that stuff an exit path from our lives. Things get dumped there because we have the space which we are spending money heating and cooling. This gives us permission not to make the decision to pitch it or move it out. The basement is like the unconscious. It is the old trunk in the attic; who actually remembers what’s in there? If you didn’t have the basement, where would you put all that stuff? And to make things worse, in new homes basements are now places for the new shiny stuff, showplaces for home theatres and exercise and games rooms. Where do we put our stuff that should be making its way to the secondhand store, recycling or landfill? Of course it may end up in the garage, one letter shy of garbage. Of worse still, let’s spend more money and rent a storage unit. Don’t get me started….
What did this post stir up in you?