I'm pleased to say that it wasn't as hard emotionally to get through the rest of the boxes, and that I have indeed looked inside and sorted every box down there. Phew! I have a tally:
7 boxes of files from school and previous jobs that will get recycled
8 bags of trash
12 bags/boxes of stuff to be donated to Goodwill
I need to buy some more plastic boxes, amazingly. There were things that were in cardboard boxes or just in bags, like Mr W's stuffed animals and artwork from school, that I want to put in plastic for long-term storage.
An aside. A couple of years ago I went to one meeting of a book club here in town. While there, I was chatting with a guy whose apartment was in a building that had caught fire (big story, still unresolved). His stuff didn't burn, but a lot was damaged, A) by smoke, and B) by the SPRINKLERS. He said he had stored stuff in flip-top plastic boxes, and that if he had used the kind that have a solid, one piece lid, a lot of his stuff would have been OK. That thought has stuck with me and if I have to buy plastic storage boxes, I get the ones with the one piece lid.
The plan is to move as much as possible into what I call the furnace room, which is dry, but dark and cellar-like. I have a (more or less) finished room as well, that's about 12 x 20, and I want to turn that into usable space. The ceiling is kind of low, but it think it will be nice to finally have another room that Mr W can use if he's got friends over.
This is an idea I saw on Pinterest for making a rug on the cheap out of carpet samples:
She bought some good seaming tape and taped the wrong sides together. I imagine there are bolder colors out there that would make a fun rec room rug.
Feels good to be making progress, but it'll feel even better when it's done. And then I can move the contents of my kitchen down there when it's being remodeled! ;-)