Since January 1, we’ve had a basement bootcamp. In preparation for selling our house, we have to purge years of stuff stored in various parts of the basement to get the house ready for the market.
Potential buyers would be aghast to see the basement disarray. Books, craft materials, and other things that have accumulated during twenty-five years of living here fill the finished areas. The unfinished areas housing the furnace, water heater, and water softener are in worse disarray — if that’s possible!
The Bootcamp Strategy
Bootcamp is a strategy advocated by Gretchen Rubin in her podcast, Happier With Gretchen Rubin, as a method for getting things done. She recommends setting aside a weekend, a week, or a month to focus on completing a task or a big project.
It’s not dissimilar from taking a week of vacation to attend a spa that concentrates on kick starting a health, fitness, and weight loss program or going to a weekend yoga retreat. Basically, a bootcamp involves scheduling concentrated time to barrel through a job that’s been avoided and needs uninterrupted time for completion.
The bootcamp strategy has worked for me on several occasions. In November, I set aside a week to clean the kitchen cupboards and pantry. I’ve taken various online blogging courses that involved 4 to 6 weeks of focused learning. Often, I do a cooking or baking marathon on a weekend to stock the freezer although cooking and baking never feels like a bootcamp. Most readers will remember those all-nighters when we crammed a course load of knowledge into our heads in preparation for an exam.
During the first week of bootcamp, we sorted and organized. This sounds easy but every box brought decisions and memories. What should be kept? What should be discarded?
Much of the sorting involved reading or reviewing documents filed in dusty banker’s boxes. There were boxes of note books, journals, agenda books, annual reports, and conference notes that required shredding. There were boxes of data that my husband collected when writing his dissertation as well as boxes of tax returns, financial statements, bank statements, invoices and insurance policies. We laughed while sorting a file drawer full of guarantees and warrantees as most were for appliances or equipment or vehicles we no longer own!
There was a day of non-stop shredding.
A huge pile of books, journals, and magazines to be taken to the paper re-cycling depot now fills one corner of the garage. Dusty boxes filled with cables, cords, antiquated electronic devices, hooks, and other unknown contents were set out on garbage collection day last week.
We sorted sports equipment including bicycles, ski racks, skis, soccer boots, skates, baseball gloves, footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, weights, and weight lifting benches. Some things went directly to the garbage and some are ear-marked for donation.
We’ve set aside a pile of boxes of our son’s possessions that remained at home after he left.
These include sports cards, toys, games, books from grade school through to university, music tapes, sports team gear of all types, boxes of awards, school report cards and trophies. We will rent a van and drive these to his house for him to sort or donate.
During the second week, the tougher decisions came. Which books on the shelves that line one long wall should we keep? Most are dated but loved. Disposal means another trip to the City’s re-cycling depot.
We are still faced with boxes of video tapes, CDs, and audio tapes; several large plastic containers filled with Christmas decorations, lights, wrapping paper; containers of knitting supplies; small electrical appliances in working order; and boxes of antique preserving jars inherited from my mother. Most of these things need a new home — perhaps in the dump.
The keep or toss process brings on enormous bouts of decision fatigue. It’s stressful. It takes time. It’s also a lot of physical grunt work.
I’m looking for the feelings of relief and emotional lightness from purging.
This process makes me think of a Winnie the Poo story that our grand-daughter enjoys. In the story, Winnie the Poo, Tiger, Owl, and Piglet set out to look for the pot of gold under the rainbow. They don’t find a pot of gold but they find the treasures of friendship and a walk in the sunshine. Perhaps our treasure will be the freedom of a down-sized lifestyle, time for hobbies, and many new adventures.
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