Could You Face What's Lurking in Your Basement?

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by Pamela Redmond Satran
vase image

It was the vase that paralyzed me.

I sorted through most of the stuff that had been cluttering our basement for years more quickly and easily than I would have guessed, junking the rusty paint cans, tidying the tools and the Christmas decorations.

And then I hit the vase.

It was not big. It was not expensive or attractive. So why was I standing there clutching it instead of tossing it out?

Because my mother had loved it. Throwing it in the trash would feel like rejecting her taste and values. Yet taking it upstairs would mean I liked and valued the same things she did, and hadn’t my whole life been about proving the opposite?

That’s why I’d long ago relegated the vase to the basement, the repository of my deepest (yeah, I get it) ambivalence. For all my house-owning years, I’d been dragging around this stuff that I’d decided was too good, figuratively or literally, to throw away yet not good enough to actually use.

This time, though, agonizing over the gorgeous yet torn hooked rugs I’d bought at flea markets and copies of my college news- paper and my mother’s ugly vase, it suddenly hit me: What if it’s all just crap? And you know what? It kind of was. I realized what I’d compiled down there was a combo platter filled with ill- advised purchases, early work I didn’t care about enough to file and artifacts I was embarrassed to display. It was time to pick through everything and either love it or lose it.
Maybe I feel that way because after raising a family, I’m ready to define progress as having less in my life each year instead of taking on more. (Or maybe I just realize that if we’re ever going to sell our house, we’ve got to clean up our nightmare of a basement.)

Wincing, I tossed the vase in a bag and shut my eyes while my helper, Charley, carried it to the Dumpster. As I write, the vase is still out there, covered by dusty boards and broken chairs. And I’m doing my damnedest not to go out and grab it back.

Pamela Redmond Satran is the author of The Possibility of You and How Not to Act Old.

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Photo courtesy of chungking/

Originally published in the June 2013 issue

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