Goodbye Grumblings

Find the good

Why my fuzzy optimism almost ruined the basement clean-up

This past week, Husband and I took the week off work and focused on the basement.

The plan was to get rid of as much as we could by recycling stuff, donating stuff or throwing stuff out. We agreed on goals and approach. We had an energetic mix of music of our choosing. We had the promise of lunch at a chip truck. Working together towards a common goal felt good. And, in spite of one sore back and one cold, we accomplished a lot!

  • Roxul insulation put up in the laundry room ceiling
  • Some drywall put up
  • Three carloads of e-waste recycling and donations to Habitat Restore and Salvation Army
  • Nine bags of books for the library
  • Another big box of books for friends and family
  • A big box of VHS tapes to donate
  • Dress-up clothes to donate
  • Several boxes (!) of craft stuff to be passed on to people who will use it
  • At least five boxes of paper recycling ready to go to the curb
  • A few bags of garbage

It was liberating to get rid of things, empowering to show the stuff who’s boss. We made progress, and we stayed focused. We found the basement floor!

This mess is so deep and so tall...

This mess is so deep and so tall…

By the end of the week, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Physically, from carrying boxes and bags upstairs and fighting a cold. Emotionally, from sorting through stuff and letting go of things.

And then came Grumblings, whispering in my ear:

How did you let the basement get so full of stuff?

It’s as bad as a reality TV show.

All that space, wasted.

All those toys and books and craft stuff, buried, un-played-with for 5 or 10 years… the poor deprived children!

Imagine what Mom would say if she were still alive.

What a refreshing change, having my grumbling directed at myself. Not!

So I tried logic.

How did the basement get so full of stuff? It started with renos, then life and habits got in the way of addressing the problem.

No, actually, it’s nowhere near as bad as the hoarders I’ve seen on TV (stop exaggerating!).

Wasted space? Ha! During renos, the five of us lived in an even more condensed space, with boxes all around us — and managed to laugh about it. We may even have spent more time together because the living room was the only place to hang out.

Thing One and Two deprived? They may have missed out on using some of their stuff, but they never missed out on family time and knowing they were loved. And based on the amount of stuff we recently swamped out of Thing Two’s room, and the stacks and boxes here in the office, formerly the domain of Thing One, neither of them suffered from lack of stuff.

My mother would be disapproving, and worse, disappointed. Not a news flash — after all, almost 20 years ago she gave me the website for Messies Anonymous. I’m not her.

Logic didn’t help bring up my mood. Talking it out with Husband, although it helped me feel listened to and understood, didn’t banish the flat, dissatisfied feeling. But now, with a few days’ distance and the help that writing provides, I’m starting to see a simple reason for my feeling of letdown: I was too optimistic — optimistic to the point of fantasy.

Once again, Grumblings fed on expectations: the before-and-after images in my mind were a tad extreme.

Before: stacks and piles and solid mess, with narrow pathways. A place where things and projects get lost and die.

After: an empty clean and shiny floor; magically brighter room; magazine-calibre cupboards and shelves (matching, of course) around the perimeter, containing just the right amount of organized stuff; an empty table or two just waiting for activity. A place where projects get done!

My expectations were sneaky. Not articulated or consciously recognized, but sitting in my imagination playing innocent and waiting to cause trouble. This sort of transformation was too much to expect in five days. This household ain’t no reality show: it took a decade for the basement to get the way it was, and it’ll take more than five days to fix it.

Recognizing that my unhappiness with our progress stems from unrealistic expectations does make me feel better. The voice of Grumblings on this topic is fading.

The good thing is that we now know what’s down there. We got through a good two-thirds to three-quarters of the stuff. Sorting and organizing the rest feels more manageable than it did just a couple of weeks ago. In fact, now that I’ve spent the week working this out, I’m feeling encouraged enough to go and get another box to sort. And the great thing is that I know just where to find it.

Have you experienced this vaseline-on-the-lens optimism when it comes to planning spring cleaning? How do you keep it in check without dropping it altogether? Let me know by email at susan at or in the comments.


About GrumblingSusan

Word lover. Story addict. Daydreamer. Optimist. Ottawan. Treehugger. Scouter.

12 Replies

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Thank you!

  1. Currently it seems like BlogEngine is the best blogging platform out there right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Hi, I’m using WordPress.

  2. I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of
    it. I have you bookmarked to check out new things you

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Thank you for your kind remark.

  3. Jen

    I remember the renos you were in…and I admired at how you handled it with such an easy breezy attitude.

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Thanks Jen… It was often a choice between laugh or cry! I have to admit that I lived more in books than in my living room at the time. Thank goodness we all liked to read. You know what it’s like; you had your share of reno havoc too.

  4. Louise

    I had optimism for my lawn. My Thing 1 was coming home for the summer and was going to do the lawn. Then he separates his shoulder and with Dads’s shoulder problem the lawn fell to me: Digging up weeds, spreading soil and seed. Thing 1 would have gotten it done in a day. It will take me a week. Groan. So now I will look at the good side of it thanks to your blog. I will chip away at it and enjoy the outside time while doing it too! The bright side – I’m off the couch and will enjoy this fresh air !

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Good for you! I am very glad to know you found a way to think of it in a positive light. You definitely found the good. (-:

  5. Anonymous

    I’m so proud of you Suzy. I know that voice of mother. Over the years her voice isn’t as loud. Keep up the good work. I love you bunches. If you’re still going to donate craft stuff I’ll take some for me & Hunter 🙂

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Thanks! I try to focus on the wise and funny and loving parts of her voice that still resonate. Not alwaus easy! Yes for the craft stuff! xox

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