I’ve been spending significant amounts of time in the cellar of late.
My husband and I had promised each other we’d get down there one of these days and clean it together. “It’ll be fun,” he said. But “one of these days” just never got around to happening. Until now. And believe me, it’s not fun. Not at all.
I agreed to do the “three-pile method.” One pile is for stuff you really want to keep, the second pile is for donation to a local thrift store, while the third pile is trash, pure and simple. Sounds easy, but it really isn’t.
First off, our cellar is bigger than the house. I know that’s impossible, but the house is just under 2,000 square feet, and I swear the cellar is twice that because every time I go down there it just seems to get bigger.
We thought about hiring that firm you hear on those radio commercials, “Just point, and it’s gone,” but then after I suggested we point at everything, go upstairs, and have some wine while they empty the place, I heard a whimper. “But if we do that, they might take my golf clubs.” You mean the ones you got 10 years ago, used twice, had a handicap of 27, and said, “One of these days, I’m going to get serious.” Those clubs? So we didn’t hire the guys from the commercial. Besides, they might take my mother’s wicker basket of my baby pictures. The basket is older than the State of Rhode Island, smells like the New Jersey Meadowlands, and has literally hundreds of faded black-and-white photos of me doing everything from eating to picking my nose. But it was HER basket, and the photos meant something, so it goes in the pile next to the golf clubs. Or we could have a yard sale.
Yard sales remind me of fruitcake. Not many people like them, but when someone you love gives you one for the holidays, it’s kind of hard to get rid of it. Besides, fruitcakes keep, and maybe next year you’ll find someone who really loves them, and besides how can you give away something Grandma made?
Remember Bruce Williams, a syndicated radio broadcaster for 38 years who also had a column that ran in newspapers across the country? I always enjoyed listening to and reading him because he had common sense. So when it came to keeping “stuff,” he used to say, “Never love anything that can’t love you back, and if you haven’t seen it, missed it, or used it in six months, get rid of it.” Bruce died two years ago. I wonder what his family did with his “stuff?”
Well, as this column goes to print I am proud to report that the cellar is partially done. Really. The thrift store is the recipient of many things for which we’re grateful. When you go down the stairs you can actually see the washer, dryer, upright freezer, and litter boxes without having to navigate and climb. But the thing I found out about cleaning the cellar is that the more you empty, the fuller it gets! It’s as though gremlins go down there in the middle of the night and bring in their stuff to replace yours.
I managed to get rid of my tackle box from college. No, I never fished, but it was where drama students stored their stage makeup. It was dried up and caked, but I had kept it all these years because ... I’m not sure why. My husband had an old baseball lying on the big steel desk between the light bulbs and the needle-nose pliers. Somebody had signed it, but the years had taken their toll on the signature. So whether it was Mickey Mantle or a kid in our neighborhood Little League, it was no longer a keeper.
I expect I’ll be at this project right through the winter, but that’s okay. It’s a dirty job, but maybe by spring I can have a yard sale. They’re like fruitcake, you know. They’re a lot of work, you display stuff you’ve had forever, it doesn’t get taken, and you put it right back where it was. Until next time. It’s all very cyclical, also dusty, and a pain.
One question: Can you keep a bottle of vermouth from the 1960s even if it only was opened once, or use it in fruitcake?
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at email@example.com or 401-539-7762.