I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”
(Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," The New York Times, August 7, 1991)
Our basement poses some particular challenges. Cleaning it involves sorting through books and movies that we no longer want. Plus, Mike is part of that "we," and he is on record as an official conscientious objector to my War on Clutter. Actually, he's been swell this whole week, but if I want his cooperation, I need to make it easy on him.
I have long maintained that we have plenty of bookcases. A quick count of individual shelves, not counting the ones devoted to holding CD's, and mentally averaging out long and short shelves:
- 33 shelves upstairs
- 15 shelves on the main floor
- 64 shelves in the basement
But I needed to start somewhere, and this idea occurred to me: a new bookcase would provide a staging area to help us get rid of stuff. So I tooled up to Big Lots, bought two bookcases, drilled one together and filled it with the books and VHS tapes. I stuck a note on it, saying, "Keep anything, but move it to book cart." (I have an old, wooden library shelving cart because I'm a geek and because a previous employer, inexplicably, wanted to sell it cheap. It's much older and junkier -- but more authentic-looking -- than the one pictured here).
I stacked every homemade VHS tape on the floor for Mike's review, and I put every taped movie that we also own on DVD into bags for the library book sale. I alphabetized all the DVD's that are downstairs, then did the trick that Mike and I have found works well for cooperative weeding: I push in everything I want to keep. He will push in everything he wants to keep. What's left sticking out is given to a library.
All this got me about a third finished with this room, so I decided to suspend my rules. I know I said each room gets only a day; but with another day, I can make some fantastic progress in the basement.