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Published: Friday, 7/11/2008

A wave of activity in a flooded basement

The other day a chance visit to the basement after a serious downpour resulted in a shocking discovery. An inch or more of water was covering the floor.

You re probably thinking that s no big deal, considering the torrential rains we have had recently. What does he have to complain about?

And I m not going to get any sympathy from folks whose basements were flooded and suffered serious damage, costing them their furnaces, appliances, and sometimes thousands of dollars in repairs and ruined possessions.

But it s not sympathy I m looking for. Not even a mild aw, shucks!

It s what I learned from the experience and can share with you.

Age apparently never taught me not to put off things that can be done more easily if done sooner. In fact, some chores should be done before it s too late to do them at all.

For openers, I installed the sump pump with my own two hands and my own 10 thumbs about 20 years ago. Never checking its working condition was a clear mistake. Age, weak knees and a few imagined infirmities kept me from re-doing the installation this time.

So, a friendly handyman/plumber rushed to the rescue. After coming up empty at two plumbing supply stores, completely out of sump pumps after the Toledo-area rains, we finally found one. He installed it quickly, leaving me, my wife and a young helper to clean up the mess.

Here, however, is what I learned and want to pass along:

My basement, I ll bet like so many others belonging to seniors, became a growing repository over the decades for whatever was used, forgotten, or collected not only by the seniors but by their children who left home years ago. They never returned to fetch their once-prized possessions. And the couple who remained continued adding to the piles.

And, if they re like me, they have sworn every year for ages that they d eventually tackle the junk and de-clutter the basement. They certainly wouldn t want to bother their children with the chore during their advanced years or even after they re gone.

But it never seems to get done.

Now, like someone holding a gun to our faces, the broken sump pump in my basement took it out of being a voluntary job to a must-be-done-now job.

Boxes of goods, luggage, storage chests, toys, and much more were waterlogged and suitable only for the trash.

Even more storage boxes were piled on top of the damaged ones and had to be moved. There was nothing wrong with what was in those boxes.

This, then, was a golden opportunity to do what should have been done years earlier: Get rid of all the stuff that s not needed.

What was the reason it wasn t done before? Age, lack of motivation, no real necessity, (insert dozens of other lame excuses here) to haul all the stuff away?

Then, the longer I waited, the more daunting the task became. We re talking about dozens of trips up and down stairs, carrying heavy, unwieldy items. I told myself that a senior, even in reasonable condition, was looking for trouble with such exertion.

So I had all the excuses I really needed.

However, my wife is quick to point out, a little bit a day, even one trip downstairs and back with one item, would have the mess cleared out sooner or later.

It s amazing the things she claims to have said but I never heard.

The helper hauled everything not to be kept to the vacant two-car garage, where it completely filled half of the available space. He stacked it on two sides of a line: half to be hauled to a dump, the other half to be donated.

The trash has been hauled away. This week, a pal with a van that we loaded to capacity carried off a large portion of the remaining, usable items for his wife s church thrift shop. This included boxes of perfect toys, area rugs, blankets, clothes, luggage, etc. that folks going through some hard times can use.

If the residents of the area near that church can t afford even a nominal fee for the goods, the church gives them away. That s my kind of charity!

If your basement is like mine before the waters came, perhaps you ought to start now to de-clutter. The work won t get easier as you age, and you can save someone else the task of doing the work for you.

Moreover, if there are possessions that you don t use, or maybe haven t even seen for decades, there s a good chance someone will cherish them and put them to use.

Do it now while you can. And if you have parents who are seniors and might need a little help, pitch in and make it a family project.

Dave Murray commented on Drama in the mall food court

You made me feel like I was with you at the food court watching this sad situation. This, and cancer, are probably my greatest fears as I look toward the last 30 years of life. I can't believe I'm saying this but between the two I'd chose cancer. At least I have a sense I could fight that.

I hope the woman finds some peace, along with her husband and family.

Donald Terry commented on Don't needle me for playing vinyl records

I am 60 and have hundreds of LPs that I could not play anymore because my old record player finally gave out. I went online and bought a Crosley record player that also has a radio, CD player and tape player. Now I can relax and enjoy all my old records, including some 45s, and tapes.

Sandy Radabaugh commented on Hail to this conquering hero

I loved your article about Joe. I also feel privileged to know such a kind, humble person. Listening to his stories are a real treat. Joe is certainly a terrific example of our armed forces past and present.

God bless them.



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