Living with Stacks of Stuff: 2020’s lessons

Several weeks ago we started a basement remodel. I know, I know. Adding this huge project in the midst of a pandemic seemed a bit crazy. But we are crazy like that; what’s one more thing right?

The excitement was real as I trekked up and down the wood stairs, hauling box after box of memories and holiday decor to our family room. Happily stacking them all in place, I was ready to face the next few weeks with joy.

The first few weeks of the remodel went well. The crews showed up on time. The framing was completed quickly and the project seemed real. We were finally going to have space for guests and friends.

The stacks so neatly piled just off our kitchen continued to remain. As each week passed, the stacks began to weigh on me. I’d go over and rearrange; desperate to find a way to make it neater. I’d dust and continue to mutter to myself, “When will they be done so this can be moved?”

Yesterday was the day. The basement is 90% complete. Baseboards and doors are so overrated these days. (We worked with a builder who does permit work while we handle carpentry. That said, baseboards and doors are top priority for Thanksgiving week.)

All day yesterday, Tobin helped me haul boxes down stairs. He helped me move every piece of furniture on our two bottom levels. We loaded a car with items for Good Will that have sat in our garage for over a year. We cleaned and moved all day.

This morning I came down for my usual morning coffee and reading. As I sat on this couch, I took a huge exhale. I feel peace. The house feels at rest.

It got me thinking about the power of stuff. The items stacked are all good things. Four large bins of Caroline’s art and writings from age 2 to 18. A few bins of favorite stuffed animals from toddler days alongside special pieces of clothing. Books read over and over again until the covers were so worn I had to tape them. Boxes of special Christmas ornaments, many made by our kids each year they were in school. The stuff itself is good.

What became almost overwhelming some days was the accumulation of the stuff. It just sat staring at me.

For me, this early morning, it was a metaphor to my life right now. I feel like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting for the strain of this Covid pandemic, the state mandated restrictions, to go away. I’m sitting here, holding onto all these things I will get to start doing once normal resumes. That’s at least what I tell myself. Normal has to resume at some point doesn’t it?

It dawned on me today, sometimes you have to sit with the piles and say thanks.

The waiting part can be overwhelming. We are transitioning one of our children to home school starting January. I have a friend with whom we have a wonderful new project we are hoping to launch soon. There are some things I need to just get done with it and I’m frustrated with myself that I keep tucking that awesome project to the side. I keep thinking I should put my gym membership on hold; I’m never there anymore as wearing a mask while running inside is horrid. Our kids’ sports look so different these days; one of them not even able to do their sport because of enforced mandates.

Each of these things, how they were pre pandemic, are good in and of themselves. Working out is good for my body mask mandate aside. Homeschool will be a good option for this child. That project; I can’t wait to see it birthed. No school run sports currently is forcing new athletic practices and training.

However, rather than longing for the normal, I need to see the treasures in the waiting. Rather than despising the pandemic and all it has taken from me, I need to see the good in it. The basement remodel stacked stuff taught me that I can handle a lot more junk lying around my home than I thought I could. Matt had bet me that I’d be fed up with those stacked boxes a few weeks into the project. (I lasted a bit longer.)

There will be light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. What will I have to show for the year of waiting? When we will finally exhale and start afresh, will the stuff of 2020 have been in vain?

My homework assignment for these few weeks of 2020 is reflecting on this.

While longing for the clean and fresh, organized and polished normalcy of a post pandemic world, what do I say thank you for right now?

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