Clearing the Basement – During

Leanne is a highly skilled sorter
Leanne is a highly skilled sorter

I showed you the basement before we cleared it out.

I showed you the basement after we cleared it out.

Now witness the middle part. The during.

If you haven’t been following, there is a simple explanation as to why we need to clear out the basement to be found on the post I call Before/After.

I keep promising some neighbours to host a seminar on how to reduce your household waste. I mean how to recycle, compost and otherwise eliminate waste before using the option of sending it to the landfill. I could probably reduce the seminar to something like these pithy words:

Don’t throw stuff out.

I know, what??

Okay, it’s a little more complex. Clearing out your basement is a great example. There is a tremendous urge to borrow a truck, throw everything into it and pay the tipping fee at the transfer station. A lot of the stuff is banned from the landfill, of course, but you could probably lie and get away with it. That guy next to me when I took our year’s worth of garbage in seemed to be disposing of perfectly good wood without anyone getting after him.

Don’t do that.

Instead, we committed to poring through it all and separating it into a several categories like:

-I love this thing! Bring this thing upstairs because we need this thing right now!

-oh yeah, this thing. Okay, put this thing in a box and store it for the duration of the reno (just can’t deal with this thing right now)

-Hmm, we’ll need this thing in a few months. Put it in a box and store it near the front so that we can get at this thing if we need it (winter clothes, for example, because we will probably need them before the reno is complete)

-Put this thing aside because it looks cool and historical and somebody might want to see it when we give the heritage tours (which better happen quick because soon the house will be on stilts!)

-Aawww look honey it’s this thing! Give this thing away to specific people because it is special to us but it’s time to say goodbye to it

-Wow, why do we still have this thing? Give it away to anyone who wants it: first try Hammond Treasure Days and then take this thing to a charity thrift store (I’m sure a lot of Hammond Neighbours couldn’t believe that we thought someone might want some of the junk we put out on the curb, but you never know…)

-Nobody could possibly want this thing. Recycle this thing! (put it out for weekly pick-up, or, if necessary, take it to the depot)

-Brain…hurting. Can’t think of anything I can do with this…thing….Aaaargh! TAKE THIS THING TO THE TRANSFER STATION AND COMMIT IT TO THE LANDFILL FOREVER! SOB!

That last category was a last resort but we did, out of sheer exhaustion, throw more stuff out than we would normally do.

tatamiroomAll the while we were conscious of how much easier our lives would be if we hadn’t obtained the stuff in the first place. Life is often like a Japanese room; the more stuff you take out of it, the more beautiful it gets.

Just after I wrote that sentence, I saw something a friend had posted on Facebook about a Japanese tidying expert, Marie Kondo, who recommends keeping only those things in your life that bring you joy. It is an idea Leanne and I use for clothes a lot, and it works. Perhaps this reno is an opportunity to truly purge.

Speaking of the recycling depot, did you know our property was the site of Maple Ridge’s first recycling depot 43 years ago? It was started by local members of S.P.E.C., the Society for the Promotion of Environmental Conservation, including Leanne’s Mom and Dad. As recycling grew, it split off from SPEC and became the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society. We found the old sign!

One of the pieces of history we found: the original sign
One of the pieces of history we found: the original sign

Leanne works for the Recycling Society and I know they don’t like to toot their horn, but we can recycle a lot more stuff here in Maple Ridge than in most other communities. They used to pick up from residences in Pitt Meadows (that’s why they’re called Ridge Meadows and not Maple Ridge) but that city contracted all collection services to one private company. Now they don’t even pick up glass at the curb. Progress.

Here is our pile of recycling part way through:

To be recycled
To be recycled

But we still had work to do:

Meanwhile, I was tackling Carl Whitehead‘s old workshop which was also used by Dave-the-Father-in-Law when they lived here. Dave already took what was his and had been telling me about what some of Carl’s tools were for. I packed those in the tool cupboard for historical interest.

Sophisticated sorting system
Sophisticated sorting system

As you might expect, there were a lot of containers of nuts, bolts, nails and screws. I decided to separate them so that someday I might actually be able to use them. I hate that feeling when you are forced to go to the hardware store to buy some screws when you know you have lots somewhere–but where?

Metal recycling
Metal recycling

There were many which were useless, so I recycled them. Dave taught me to retrieve nails from fireplace ashes using a magnet. He would then put them in with the cans and juice boxes and recycle them curbside. I’m not so hardcore. I took these to the recycling depot.

Things really started cooking when I pulled out the hat, to keep the cobwebs out of my hair, and the headlamp for looking at bits of metal. A few hours of this with the low ceiling will put a crick in your neck.

Sh#%^ just got real
Sh#%^ just got real
Leanne is also skilled at removing shelving while juggling cats
Leanne is also skilled at removing shelving while juggling cats
These beauties are puppet theatres--very hard to store
These beauties are puppet theatres–very hard to store
We really thought we only had one bag of trash for a while. We ended up with two. Not bad!
We really thought we only had one bag of trash for a while. We ended up with two. Not bad!

Marie Kondo is right. Look at each object in your life and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If it doesn’t, find it a new home. That is more work than simply throwing it away and filling up the landfills. The good news is that there are plenty of people out there and we are all connected and that object will probably bring someone else joy.

I’d like to add another sentence to my waste reduction advice now:

Don’t get stuff in the first place.

This is a little challenging when you’re shopping with your kids and they want stuff. The game Leanne came up with that worked for us was encouraging them to pick stuff off the shelf to show us. We would admire it and talk about it and then say, “where does it go?” They would show us its place on the shelf, put it back, and we could move on. Exploring stores became much more fun and much less stressful for Leanne and I. We could even leave stores empty-handed!

Happy purging!

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James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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