While watching television in the basement…
Bump, thump, bump, CRASH!
An avalanche of household goods cascades down the basement stairs.
“Put your junk away!” my wife yells as a 50′ extension cord whistles through the air and flops on the carpet.
Throwing stuff down the stairs is her way of moving things to the basement. She has bad knees, so it is understandable that she avoids the stairs – but being married to me, it is also understandable that she employs a dramatic flair whenever she can.
I examine the clutter at the bottom of the steps. In addition to the extension cord, I find an old-style phone charger, a sponge mop and several magazines, all featuring Jennifer Aniston on the cover.
“Hey,” I yell back up the stairs, “Nothing here is mine.” I place emphasis on the word mine to distinguish ownership from ours.
“Well, it doesn’t belong up here.”
“Then throw it away,” I yell.
“I want to keep it,” she says.
“Then find a home for it.”
“I just did,” she snaps.
“So what am I supposed to do with it?”
“Throw it on THE PILE.”
THE PILE is an interesting feature in the southeast corner of our basement. It contains all the things my wife wants to keep but does not want to see and all the things that I neither want to keep nor see.
So they temporarily reside in a pile.
You see, the basement is my domain and therefore everything in the THE PILE is destined to inevitably and slyly work its way back up the stairs.
This re-circulation process – whereby items fly down the stairs then surreptitiously crawl back up is known as The Clutter Cycle.
It begins when an object finds its way into the stream of daily life.
For several days, this newly acquired thing will merrily ply the eddies of everyday use, bobbing and twirling about until we lose interest in it and it becomes clutter.
The sports section of a newspaper that has been cast upon the floor will inevitably attract another section of the newspaper. This will in turn become the base for next week’s edition. Soon a novel joins it – then perhaps a pair of tennis shoes or a plate, even a pot roast might settle in – and before you know it, we have a full blown reef in our living room.
Reefs are excellent places for me to stash old magazines that babble on endlessly about Jennifer Aniston. So it is there that I reintroduce them into The Clutter Cycle.
If the item is small, I return it to The Junk Drawer.
This drawer holds everything that cannot be excluded by size.
It has become the tar pit of our household, a site where future archaeologists will one day dig up our ancient secrets.
“Oh look! I found a cabinet knob!” one archaeologist will cry as she hands it to her colleague, “Could this be a remnant of cabinets gone by?”
“Naw,” her colleague will say, “it is an artifact of a promise gone by. The one where a husband promised to replace the knobs in the vanity but forgot where he tossed it.”
If the object is large, it goes in The Stair That Lead Nowhere.
The stairs lay hidden behind a door in our hall. This useless staircase ascends straight up into the ceiling. It is if the contractors who framed our house did not share the same blueprints. The crew who framed the first floor thought the house had two stories and the crew who framed the roof failed to mention the error, leaving the staircase as their little joke.
But the stairs have found a purpose. We use them as shelves to hold everything we want to keep handy but out of sight. We keep the big stuff at the bottom and toss the little thing to the top. Unfortunately, the little things get jealous of all the attention the things at the bottom get, so they slide down to create a big mess at the base of the stairs.
But no worries, whenever we want something, we simply open the door and everything tumbles out. By methodically tossing it back in, we stand a good chance of finding what we are looking for.
So once I have stashed the magazines back in the living room, the phone charger in the junk drawer and the extension cord to the top of The Stairs That Lead Nowhere, I return to the contentment of my basement.
That is when my wife’s phone rings.
Through the floor, I hear the faint murmuring and mutterings of a conversation that ends with an audible GASP!
Bump, thump, bump, CRASH!
But I get no response. All I hear is footsteps scurrying frantically overhead.
After threading my way back up the stairs, I ask, “What is going on?”
She shoves a large section of the living room reef into my arms. “I promised to host a baby shower on Friday. Do something with this!”
“But.. but..” I stutter.
“Quite arguing and get busy – and for Pete Sake, do something about YOUR Pile in the Basement.”