One thing I know for sure: you haven’t truly lived until you discover four inches of sewer poop water in your basement on a Friday night.

Yep, I spent my weekend running to the hardware store to buy a pump, writing a check for $475 to a plumber to find and fix the problem (at emergency rates, of course), sucking gallon after gallon of water out of carpet with a shop vac, driving 2 hours to pick up my dehumidifier from my cabin because I didn’t want to spend any more money to buy another one, cleaning and sanitizing everything that touched the water, mopping and sanitizing the non-carpeted parts of the floor TWICE, and staring at 50+ plastic tubs of random stuff and wondering how it all fit in the unfinished part of our basement to begin with.

Good times.

Actually, there is something good about it. We are taking this opportunity to evaluate all of the stuff we’ve been storing and we’re clearing out some of the clutter.

My idea was to randomly pick half of the bins and just throw them away without looking at the contents. That plan was not approved by management.

Instead, my wife and I are going through every item in every bin and deciding if it lives or dies.

It didn’t take us long to realize that what we’re really doing is cleaning up our past. That’s what’s really stored in all of those bins — bits and pieces of our past. There are mementos and memories of life both before and after we met, and a lot from after we had kids. There are keepsakes from relatives who are no longer with us. There are many items we wrongfully assumed we would use again someday.

We get to pick and choose which parts of our past we want to take into our future and which parts we’re willing and ready to let go of. We certainly don’t need it all. In fact, we don’t need ANY of it, and that’s the beautiful part. That attitude lets us keep whatever we love, and trash or donate everything else with no guilt or remorse whatsoever.

We talked a bit this weekend about what a great metaphor this is for life. We often hold on to way too much of our past. We not only hold onto the good parts, but we keep a grip on the bad parts, too.  If we keep holding on to it all, it can become burdensome and we don’t even realize it. We run out of room for new possibilities. We are carrying so much baggage that it becomes impossible to move forward.

So we just sit there with all of our stuff, wondering what happened. We suddenly can’t understand why we aren’t excited about the future like we used to be.

When we realize how much of our past we’re dragging around, we typically do one of two things:

  1. We dump it all — the bad AND the good. We quit our jobs, we quit our relationships, and we look for something better — something that appears to be without baggage.
  2. We keep holding on to all of our baggage and telling ourselves, “I guess this is what life looks like from now on.”

There is a third option that very few people seem to discover:

We can look closely at our past. Keep what serves us. Dump what doesn’t.

I hate that our drain backed up into our basement. I did not enjoying wading through sewer water or spending my weekend up to my elbows in Clorox wipes. But if this hadn’t happened, it is possible we would have never stopped to “clean up our past”. Sometimes it takes a river of poo — literally or metaphorically — to grab your attention and make you aware of what is holding you back.

Here’s another thing I now know for sure:

You can’t cross a river of shit holding on to all of your baggage. 

Last night I stood in the unfinished portion of my basement for a few minutes, thinking about everything that had happened since Friday. It looked so different than it did just a few days ago. It is so clean now. So clutter free. Such a blank slate.

It feels good.

It feels peaceful.

It feels like possibility.

As we begin to move stuff from our past back in, I’m weirdly excited about bringing back only what we want to keep and being very intentional about how we organize it. I’m looking forward to letting go of what doesn’t serve us any more. I’m also going to do everything in my power to make this a new way of being so the baggage doesn’t sneak up on us again.

Yes, I’m still talking about my basement. Or am I? 😉

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