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It’s time to come clean as a hopeless hoarder

Sunday was one of those rare, picture-perfect hot summer days in Spokane, the sort of day you dream about when December rolls around and you’re cold and shivering and trying to remove the snotcicles that are dangling out of your nose.

At least I heard that Sunday was great.

I have little firsthand knowledge due to the fact that I was stuck in the cobwebby recesses of my dimly lit basement, preoccupied by things like empty pill bottles that were issued in 1967 to my grandmother, now long departed.

“How’d we end up with these?” I asked my lovely wife, Sherry.

The answer, alas, is as lost as the current whereabouts of Amelia Earhart.

In our near-40 years of marriage we have managed to accumulate an unholy amount of Clarkian crapola.

Because of this, we spent sunny Sunday in a sweaty subterranean cleaning frenzy.

I actually blame the London Olympics for this.

Sherry, you see, doesn’t like the suspense of not knowing the outcome of events.

This violates the Guy Rules of Sports Watching, of course.

Sherry doesn’t care. She goes online to get the results, which are posted hours before the belated TV broadcasts.

This foreknowledge gives Sherry the freedom to flip channels, which is how she landed on one of those programs that exploit the mentally ill.

I walked into the den to see my Olympic athletes replaced by this extremely obese woman who was weeping in a room cluttered with at least three feet of old clothes, empty cereal boxes, diapers and cat droppings.

“What the heck?” I muttered.

“That’s us,” announced Sherry. “We’re hoarders.”

We are not, I told her. We don’t even own a cat.

“Have you been in the basement lately?” she asked.

A minute later found us in the gloomy furnace room, staring at our own dirty secret: misplaced tools, boxes of dusty books, broken lawn furniture, discarded appliances, rusty nails, half-used paint cans dating to 1989, my childhood chemistry set …

It was my turn to moan.

“We ARE hoarders!!”

And so began our archaeological dig.

On and on we labored, hauling garbage bags filled with the detritus of our lives up the stairs and onto an increasingly growing mound.

Two busted lamps. A rusted weed whacker. Moldy ice chests. Mops. A bug sprayer. A now-mildewed sport coat that once belonged to my father. An empty jug of wallpaper paste remover. A torn crib mattress …

I know right now my buddy Scott, who hauls junk for a living, is reading this with a big grin on his face.

Friendship aside, he sees me as one of his best repeat customers.

Oh, sure, I could try to give this stuff to the indigent. Except that if the indigent saw this they’d turn into the indignant.

“Here’s the manual for our Sony Betamax,” I said, laughing.

“You mean that?” said Sherry, pointing to a rectangular dust-covered box that was abandoned on a shelf next to a broken skateboard.

“Yeah. That’s the one.”

I found a bag of freeze-dried stroganoff from my backpacking days in the 1980s.

“Think this is still edible?”

Sherry opened the pouch. Whatever it was had an acrid and skunky smell.

“I’ll be glad to watch you eat it,” she teased.

No thanks.

I found my collection of old guitar magazines arranged neatly in boxes by months and years. Hundreds of them. I hadn’t looked at a single issue since I put them there.

“Toss ’em,” I told Sherry. “Just wait until I’m out of the room and not looking.”

But it wasn’t all junk. We uncovered scores of forgotten cool collectibles that I had amassed over the years and boxed up.

Old metal toys. Hand-painted ties. Rotary dial telephones. Antique signage. Portraits of Elvis on velvet.

“We’re not throwing any of these treasures away,” I told Sherry.

Slowly, a strange transformation took place. An actual room began to emerge.

Now this is the part of the story where you might expect me to see the error of my over-consumptive ways.

Or maybe I should tell you how this act of de-junking the basement is a golden opportunity to streamline my life.

Well, I do see opportunity.

In fact, I can’t wait to go out and buy some more even cooler stuff to put in all this new space.

“You’re hopeless,” said Sherry.

Guilty as charged.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or at dougc@spokesman.com.

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