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Cleaning during winter hibernation

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Greg Peck
February 10, 2014

I've made a to-do list while awaiting spring. These are projects I hope to check off before warm air signals it's time to get outdoors again.

One big task on this list is cleaning the basement. It's amazing how much stuff can accumulate down there. My wife, Cheryl, and I spent a week one winter about five years ago cleaning and purging. But this winter, it looks like we never touched it. Even my son recently commented on what a jam-packed collection of clutter we have down there.

Of course, need I point out, he has a few items stored in our basement that he claims he has no room for where he lives. So does one of Cheryl's sons.

I'm sure if you have adult kids, you can identify.

Anyway, a thorough basement cleaning can be too overwhelming to even begin. So I came up with a way to tackle it in a tolerable fashion. We would break it into chunks and pick off each one as we have a free weekend day.

We even started Friday night with two overstuffed shelves heading down the stairway. It's amazing the stuff you can find there. Some of the cans and bottles and boxes included paints, shoeshine glazes, gardening chemicals and car-care liquids better placed with other such materials so you know what you have and what you might need—or not need—to buy.

On Saturday we agreed to clean off a big batch of built-in basement shelves. Cheryl and I kept our “own” stuff on separate halves of these shelves, five high top to bottom, so we were able to work side by side and sometimes discuss which things to save, which to pitch, which to recycle. I wound up spending much time shredding a box of receipts and financial documents 10 or more years old. Among those shredded—receipts to our bedroom set 15 years old. Among the few saved—a receipt that gave the value of an anniversary ring I bought Cheryl.

On Sunday afternoon, after watching the Badgers slip past Michigan State, we went back to the basement to hit another section. It's amazing what this archeological dig uncovered—baby photos of our now 5-year-old grandson that made me laugh, and sweet pictures of our late dog, Trapper, that brought tears to my eyes. Cheryl found her First Communion prayer book, her college sorority mallet signed by all her “sisters,” a school commendation for musical achievement that her oldest son received, and a book of various types of poems that her youngest son wrote in grade school (Cheryl almost discarded it before realizing what it was!).

While we sorted, we created three piles. One—including a life jacket our grandkids have outgrown and in-line skates Cheryl no longer uses—will go into our garage attic for a future rummage sale or to tote to a downtown second-hand store. The second, which includes a lamp that doesn't work and a torn lamp shade—will go in the trash. The third is a mound of recyclables.

These mounds grew so large that we might have to pause a week or two until we can remove them and make room for more.

Still, we're happy with our initial progress, and we feel a sense of accomplishment as we work up an indoor sweat and await those first signs of spring.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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