Three Crucial Tips for Cluttering Your Basement
Essential advice for effective amassment
As I carefully traversed the precarious faux-city-skyline of plastic-bin towers that rose above the ground-covering of paper shopping bags densely packed with VCR tapes, kitchen gadgets, and ill-fitting clothes, I marveled at the transformation my wife and I had brought to fruition since we purchased our home only a few years ago. Our basement had once been nothing more than a vacant space, a pointless void of unfulfilled potential. We have since filled almost every cubic foot of the area with potentially useful items.
If it sounds like I’m bragging, you’re right. There’s room for anything in a crowded basement, except false modesty. Good clutter doesn’t just happen, it requires diligent effort. If you’re stumped about how to convert your own underutilized space into an impenetrably dense historical record of your existence, these three essential tips will help:
Optimism is crucial: Is there anything sadder than when a person gives up hope? I say no. I expect there are cynics who would assert that my deck of 49 playing cards is doomed to remain incomplete, but I know the three missing cards are in the house, so I know it’s only a matter of time before they show up. Why save the scratched non-stick frying pan we replaced four years ago? Because the day may come when we have a dozen guests and we need to quickly serve them all grilled cheese sandwiches. That’s the mindset that allows me to see the value in a dull set of cheap chef knives and a bag of used canning jar lids. Apply the same logic to your treasure trove, and remember, this isn’t a numbers game, so ignore the temptation of phrases like, “What are the odds we’ll use this again?” That’s the kind of phrase that makes you look like a fool in front of a dozen grilled-cheese-craving friends
Believe in possibilities: People with limited vision might look at the water-damaged ½” plywood slab that I rescued from the neighbor’s yard and think, “What good is this piece of junk?” That’s the wrong attitude for developing dense, personal clutter. That plywood will be perfect for some future project, and it’s never going to reach its full potential without my support. Whatproject? I don’t have a crystal ball, but who am I to play god for that plywood, or the enormous spool of speaker wire, or two shopping bags full of pine cones? Apply the same optimism to the items you are thinking of donating or throwing away: every bag of worn-out shoes, every cigar box of old cabinet handles has a destiny, and only you can help discover it. There’s no smug elation like the moment when you can say, “Wait, did you say we need a water-damaged ½” plywood slab?” Be patient, and you will be rewarded.
Prepare for the inevitable: You can’t plan for everything, but there are certain events already visible on the horizon, and there’s no reason you can’t be ready. For example, birthdays and holidays always require bows, wrapping paper, party bags, and empty boxes, so make sure you save all of these items as they come into your house. For bows, I like to disperse them into several bags to improve my odds of finding them when I need them; for wrapping paper, fold and save the still-perfectly-usable paper from large gifts you received; as for party bags, try to amass a huge, diverse collection of holiday themes, cartoon characters, floral patterns, and abstract geometric designs in metallic prints so that you will have exactly the right bag when the occasion arises. (Pro tip: even if the perfect occasion arrives, keep in mind that using it will leave a gap in your stockpile. My own gift bag collection would never have become this impressive if we actually used them.)
Remember, the empty floor space in your storage area isn’t going to fill itself. If you’re concerned that you simply won’t have enough material to fill the space, take heart: this isn’t a weekend project; it’s a long-term lifestyle choice. Don’t you have a paper sack of knit hats languishing in the shadows of the coat closet? Isn’t there a bin of twin sheets stashed under your queen bed? Do you even remember what that dusty device on the top kitchen shelf was designed to do? Trust me, you have the clutter?—?and all of these things have a place in your attic or basement. Commit to the cause, and soon you will be confidently pursuing the path to divine density. Of course, until that path is blocked by a defunct infant swing and a three-legged footstool, you’re not yet there.
(This piece originally appeared on Medium)