A Labor of Love

Happy Labor Day! According to the United States Department of Labor website, Labor Day, constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” While researching this simple fact, I found it very interesting that Americans have celebrated this holiday for 130 years.

This Labor Day, I will be with my mom, cleaning out and taking inventory of the contents of her basement. Having already begun this process, I think my parents have been collecting junk for 130 years (just kidding, Mom)! I’m amazed at how much stuff they managed to accumulate over the years. Every nook and cranny of their basement is filled with…well, you name it, and I’d bet you my parents have whatever comes to mind.

My Own Basement Mess

On the one hand, pulling old items from the back of shelves provided moments of levity. “I remember those bowls we used while growing up,” my sister squealed after finding our 1970’s era daily kitchenware. Just the sight of the bowls brought back memories of the four of us around our kitchen table. On the other hand, staring at bowls that haven’t been used or thought about in decades begs the question, “Why do we still have these?” Most times, the answer is, “I have no idea.”

We’ve all been there. We’ve bought some item, maybe we paid a lot of money for that item, and then later on decided to upgrade or change the item. It seemed a little foolish to throw the original item out. It’s not broken. It still has value. I might want to use it again someday.

So we box the item up in a container filled with other items we think we might want to use again someday and store them in the basement or attic or storage building or wherever your family chooses to keep things. Somehow, years go by and we can’t even get to the items in question because they’ve been shoved back into the recesses of our basements, attics, or storage buildings. At some point, the amount of boxes and storage containers begins to overwhelm us. We are then forced us to finally open the boxes and begin the arduous process of deciding if we need to keep the items or, in most cases, give them away—something we should have done years ago. Many times we were too emotionally involved with the item to take that final and essential step.

My parents were raised by parents who lost everything in the Great Depression. Their parents never threw anything away and they taught their children not to throw anything away. At some point this nasty cycle has to stop. I’m going to try my very hardest to break the cycle of keeping what I think I might need someday. Is this going to be difficult? Yep. It’s much easier to box things up and store them in the basement as opposed to taking the boxes to a local charity where people actually will use them. Will I keep trying to break the cycle? Yes, because as interesting as it is to discover old relics in boxes, having to deal with the boxes has been a burden I wish my mother didn’t have to endure.

So Happy Labor Day, everybody! If you end up spending the day in a labor of love like me, I hope you’ll share!

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About Christy Hayes

A wife, a mother and a writer of romantic women's fiction. I love dogs, exercise and cable news.

Posted on September 3, 2012, in Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I started this year off with that fun chore–cleaning out the attic at my Mom’s house. There was only 10 years of accumulated stuff up there, but it took my kids and I nearly two days to finish. I vowed we’d come home and do the same at our house. And, now it’s Labor Day, and we still haven’t done it! When you get done at your mom’s stop by may garage. 🙂

    Before you finish at your mom’s, though, pick one thing and save it. Something fun to give to each of your children. While it’s good to get rid of the junk–especially if someone else in need can use it–it’s nice to preserve something that was significant to you and pass it on to the next generation. It keeps the story of you going. Have fun!

  2. Try not to bring anything back to your house.

  3. I’m just back from a lovely weekend with my family. We get together every year at this time and it’s always a blast. 🙂

    When my husband’s parents moved off their acreage, they had so much stuff, we came home and started clearing out our junk. It seems like it’s a continuous task because more stuff always seems to show up.

    You’re much braver than I am, Christy. If I went to my mom’s to help her clear out her basement, I’d be chucking and she’d be putting it on the shelf right behind me, lol. Needless to say, she’s sorting through stuff slowly and one by one, she’s making room in the basement. I know it’s hard for her because she takes anything that anyone is throwing out, so in my case, I’d be a hindrance instead of a help.

    So glad to hear your mom is weeding out now.

    • It does help to hear everyone has been through this before. You are right, Sheila, it is a continuous process. It seems very tempting to fill up those empty spaces with more stuff. We got a lot done yesterday and thankfully my mom knows this was just phase one of our cleaning journey!

  4. Hi Ladies:

    I am Christy’s mom, and she and my daughter Kim spent almost the entire weekend starting the process of cleaning out my basement. I could not have accomplished what we did without their help – when I was ready to throw in the towel and give up, they kept me going. We discovered that my dear departed husband was not only a pack rat, but an impulse buyer. He had not only one of everything, but two or three and then some of everything. He had everything very neatly packed away and probably didn’t even know himself he had so much stuff. We had a good laugh over the duplicates and triplicates we found.

    Thirteen years ago, we moved my parents to Atlanta from the Washington D.C. area and I spent an entire week going through the stuff in their house. It was daunting! They had lived there since 1953, and like most of their generation, threw nothing out. I took bags and bags of stuff to Goodwill and more bags to the dump. I vowed to come home and start cleaning out my own house of excess stuff so my girls would not have to go through that someday. Well, guess what – I never got around to it, and not only that, I accumulated some of my parent’s stuff that they couldn’t take with them into the assisted living facility and that I couldn’t bear to part with, so my already crowded basement became even more so.

    It’s quite liberating to get rid of all of the excess things we manage to accumulate over the years. Thank you Christy and Kim, for forcing me to do something I should have done years ago and, more than that, for keeping me going these part months. I dearly love you both!

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