My wife and I recently had an epiphany. No, we weren’t visited by three Wise Men, though I imagine that would be an enlightening experience. A shadowy menace that had been sneaking around suddenly smacked us squarely in the face, and we knew we had more to deal with than the twilight years and Medicare. As we gingerly weaved about the basement paraphernalia one day, we realized that forty-plus years of marriage and twenty-five years of living in the same house had transformed us into hoarders. We were precariously close to having a reality show on A&E.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that we had not only voluminous stacks of bric-a-brac, but every useless piece of flotsam, jetsam, and then some, we had ever come upon. We shelved and stored this load of junk as if every piece was a national treasure, and our home was a branch office of the Smithsonian Institution. But we had actually created our own private landfill.
We sadly remembered the day we had moved into our new home, and had admired the beautiful, clean, roomy basement area. “We’ll never mess up this basement,” we said. “We’ll always keep it pristine, and our daughter can roller skate here, and later, hold dances. Maybe we’ll entertain local celebrities and hold gala parties here.” Talk about an epic fail.
Having come to our senses, we began a noble crusade to clean and purge the basement. There is no direct access from the outside, so unfortunately we couldn’t get a Bobcat down there. That meant the entire operation was hand-to-hand combat. As in any epic battle, there is an ebb and flow, and at times I thought the junk would be the victor. Unlike Tribbles on the Enterprise, this stuff couldn’t be beamed away. But thanks primarily to my wife’s determination, persistence, and supernatural organizational skills, the basement has once again come to resemble a basement.
We were able to bequeath (pawn off) some items to our daughter and grandchildren. Other articles of some small intrinsic value we donated to charitable organizations. An embarrassingly large amount of it was dragged to the curb for professional disposal. Really, were these the treasured items we had so diligently kept in our clutches?
As we sifted and sorted through the debris, I wondered if we might not have accumulated through the years a similar amount of mental and emotional junk. And like its physical counterpart, we stockpiled it, and tightly held onto it. And worse, maybe some of it we treasured, and kept it in a special place, and nurtured it. The worries. The grudges. The fears.
How do we dispose of such intangible trash? Who do we call to haul away our negative emotions and thoughts? Goodwill’s name has the right ring to it, but I believe their scope is limited to the physical. Yet I suspect that, like an iceberg, only ten percent of our trash is visible, and the other ninety percent exists beneath our surface. Until we do the housecleaning of the mind and soul, we’ve only touched the tip of that iceberg.