Okay, yeah. It's been a little slow around here, as far as the cleanup of the yard goes. But, really: February. Massachusetts.
It's not just that there's some snow out there; it's that we got a foot or so of snow, then a couple days later another several inches; then it rained and melted a bit, then I swear several inches of slush fell straight out of the sky, which then froze solid, then we got more snow on top of that, then some rain, then it melted a bit, then refroze, and oh it's a mess. All mixed in with the dirt and sand from the town snowplowed into the yard plus the various twigs and bits fallen off the trees from the wind we got the other night. It's no longer that nice winter wonderland icicle fairy sort of prettiness; this is dirty, old, stale snow, on par with the thing you find in the back of the freezer that was probably a popsicle from last summer, but maybe it's a pork chop, who knows.
Anyhow it meant that today, when Tara and I were out in the yard, wonderin', we could most of the time sorta kinda walk on top of it. Mostly. Because every few steps one foot or the other would go crashing through all the way to the bottom with the same lurching feeling you get when you go down the stairs in the dark and miscount and find yourself briefly standing on air instead of the floor you'd expected. It was enormously aggravating, and far more physical work than you'd think. I watched enviously as the local stray cat blithely padded along on top of it all. Then again I bet her little feet were pretty cold.
It's true, it looks rather better out there now; all that snow covers up quite a lot of the gruesome details, though really it's the equivalent of piling up all the mess of a room then throwing a rug over it and saying, 'Look! Clean!'
So we did what we could today, which meant that after our brief and misguided foray into the wilderness we sensibly came back inside and started sorting things in the cellar.
Now, due to recent efforts the cellar looks rather better than it has in some time; back in November I think we made a real effort to get the south end of it somewhat clean. At the time that meant throwing away obviously broken tools, but putting the possibly useful ones back into the toolboxes to sort later. Now, I know, most of those tools, dammit, are going to leave the property if I have my way (and I will, since I'm the one who lives here), but, it is true, some of them are useful. It would be good to have one or two sets of things to keep in say, the garage which I hope to set up as a wood shop eventually, or the shop, that sort of thing. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. It would be kind of stupid, after all, to throw them all away and then go out and buy more, especially since, given the way things are made these days, I think a lot of older hand tools are actually of a far better quality than what you can get today.
Here's where it gets tricky, though. One of the big reasons hoarders give for never throwing anything away is that OH MY GOD I MIGHT POSSIBLY CONCEIVABLY NEED IT SOMEDAY! Even the abstract idea of throwing things away fills them with utter terror and panic; or at least that's how my father always reacted. I can't imagine what kind of soul-shattering failure it would have been for him to go buy something that he'd thrown out, knowing he'd thrown it out. Of course that would have had to follow him actually throwing something away in the first place. Or him actually having a soul, for that matter.
Anyhow. So today, in the little time we had (Tara had to be somewhere later) we went through one of the toolboxes in the cellar, one of five or six still in there.
Now, though I have aspirations of setting up (and using) a wood shop in the current garage, I'm not much of an expert on tools. Oh, I know what say a spokeshave or hand planer looks like, but I'm not sure what some of the other things down there were. To be fair, though, my father saved everything, tools for woodworking, metal working, masonry, machining, tools specific to Volkswagen or other car repair, and even tools that had been radically altered by some mad genius with access to a machine shop, which is never a good thing.
So not only is the sheer amount of the things overwhelming, even Tara can't actually identify half of them. Which has led to a sort of paralysis. A paralysis, I suspect, that is uncannily similar to the kind that goes through a hoarder's brain. And it's true, though I am not myself a hoarder, I learned, sorry, 'learned,' how to clean, and how to sort, and how to prioritize tasks by watching one; which means all too often I just have no clue myself. So a lot of what we've been doing has been just throwing the things back into the toolbox drawers to sort later.
Yeah well 'later' is now. I am also very, very aware that what we have been doing is awfully similar to churning.
Eh, what's 'churning,' precious, you ask?
Churning is what hoarders do when you can convince them to 'clean.' It is not, mind you, technically cleaning, of course, and in no way does it involve stuff actually leaving the property. They basically, I think, attempt to 'organize' their stuff, which, since they cannot actually part with it, means they go through all of it piece by piece as slowly as possible. So for example, they will go through a box of papers from twenty years ago one at a time, and throw a total of three pieces of paper away. It will take them two hours, maybe three, to go through that single box, after which they will declare themselves exhausted. In effect what it amounts to is that this pile of stuff over here on the left simply becomes this pile of stuff over here on the right.
Nothing of course actually gets done, though much effort is expended; and believe you me, that is a feature, not a bug: for if all your nagging and yelling for the hoarder to, you know, clean up their fucking junk gets that kind of result? You stop nagging and yelling, right? It's passive-aggression taken to an archetypal level; one might even call it passive-aggression deified.
So anyway, though we weren't doing it on purpose, the fact that all these tools were just sort of getting shuffled around was making me very uneasy, since I am understandably, I think, rather allergic by now to crap like that. So.
Today we took every last thing out of one toolbox. Then we sorted them into piles of things that we knew might be useful, like, say, planes, files, chisels, other woodworking tools, hinges, that sort of thing, while of course pulling out obviously broken things for another iron run hopefully by the end of the week. And even though we'd already been through those drawers more than once before, we still filled another three bins full up with scrap iron.
I think Tara didn't really see the point, it's true. And yes, the cellar is of course much better than it has been in the past, don't get me wrong; still, I actually want to see it clean, genuinely clean. Not just all the junk picked up off the floor and put on shelves, or even the junk reduced by 50%. Actually clean. And that means the unnecessary stuff goes.
Because I'm kind of done with it by now, you know?