The Hinsdalean - Community journalism the way it was meant to be

Downstairs at the Hartmanns


Last updated 10/23/2019 at 2:50pm | View PDF

Our family moved to Hinsdale in 1976, buying a more spacious house on a wooded lot with an easy walk to the train.

An especially appreciated feature was our much-needed, first-ever basement. We quickly took it for granted, never suspecting that, on three occasions, basements would rivet our attention in coming years.

By 1999, we were building a new house on Third Street, an all-consuming, creative project. However, as work proceeded, I started stressing about our upcoming move because, after 23 years, our current house was filled to the gills. When forced to act, we prepped for the move ... but deliberately saved the basement for last, hoping it would just go away.

It didn't. So, for many days, we meticulously sorted workbench items, household goods, clothes, paperwork, a model railroad layout, memorabilia and more. In the end, we donated some, kept a lot and disposed of 125 full green trash bags.

On moving day, we were overjoyed to occupy our new house and start fresh putting everything in its place! Predictably, our saved basement items went straight downstairs.

And guess what? We gradually filled that basement, too. This mattered when, in 2011, we decided to finish half the basement to create, among other things, an office for me. While thrilled about the new office, I dreaded the basement-emptying chore ahead.

This time, we hired professional junk collectors to remove heavy items, including old TVs. (Can't recall how they got down there in the first place.) Then we tossed what we didn't need and deposited the keepers in our remaining half-basement on shelves full of unopened boxes we'd moved from the old house.

More recently, for no special reason, we worked downstairs, diligently going through those boxes we'd stored for years. In the process, we unearthed some delightful artifacts: my mother's typewriter and dolls; a multi-media self-portrait "For Mommy" from our once young daughter; mounds of my 1981 dissertation data; and a cheeky note our son wrote to a high school teacher, defending late homework. That project ended days later with our recycling 25 shopping bags full of paperwork decades past the "use by" date.

Looking back, clearly our basement jobs were exhausting, but, on the bright side, each propelled us towards an awesome outcome: moving to our new house, building my office and finding sweet reminders from the past. As for our (always dry) basements in general, one after the other, they've served us well since the day we moved to Hinsdale, each still an "especially appreciated feature."

- Sally Hartmann of Hinsdale is a contributing columnists. Readers can email her at [email protected]


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