I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff lately. And by “stuff” I mean the various things large and small that have accumulated around Rusty Metal Farm in the three-plus decades I’ve lived here.
Believe it when I say there is a lot of stuff here.
My late husband Patrick was a bit of a pack rat and his collecting of stuff skewed toward anything large and rusty — the larger and rustier, the better.
I’ll never forget the late fall day years ago, as he surveyed his collection of five tractors, one farm truck and the 1976 Unimog troop carrier — all of which he managed to cram into the garage — looked at me and uttered the immortal words, “I think you might have to park your car outside this winter.”
I’ll spare you the details, but this fairy princess did not park outside that winter. Or any subsequent winters, for that matter.
Not that I’m in anyway innocent of accumulating stuff.
I have bookcases filled with old cookbooks, a section of the garage has been taken over by mushing gear and then there are the bicycles that have their own special “homes” in and around the garage.
The amount of stuff on the farm reached epic proportions when my dad moved here 15 years ago. He’s since passed away, and now I find myself “keeper of the stuff” and somehow loath to relinquish any of it, despite the fact there is really very little of it I really need.
I’ll never forget one house-cleaning marathon years ago when Patrick and I tried the “if we hadn’t looked at it, touched it or thought about it in a year, out it goes” method.
I have to say, we tossed or gave away a ton of stuff that fit that category, and none of it did we ever miss. But that was a one-time event and since then, the amount of stuff on the farm — rusty and otherwise — has grown.
What is it about “things” that makes it so hard to get rid of them?
Sure, some hold monetary value, others are sentimental and others just make us happy to look at them.
Still, do I really need a basement full of every single thing that we took from my dad’s former house? Much of which was still packed in boxes up until last month when my dear friend Julie spent a day bringing order to the chaos that is my basement.
Just like I did not need the accumulation of wood scraps, lumber, nails, bolts, screws and related items overflowing in two outbuildings. Most of that was take care of courtesy of several dumpsters and the loving — yet firm — direction of another dear friend, Kim.
Which really underscores the point, when it comes to downsizing stuff, never underestimate the importance of help from an objective third party.
If left to my own devices with regard to the basement of my dad’s stuff, it either never would have gotten done or if I did manage to tackle it would have moved in glacial speed as I touched, reminisced and waxed poetic about every item down there.
Friends keep us on task.
I saw this again firsthand a few weeks ago when I traveled downstate to help an old friend who was holding an estate sale at her late parent’s house.
I knew her parents and really liked them. But wow — did they ever collect stuff. Even after an antiques appraiser came through and purchased various items, there was an impressive amount leftover for that sale.
That was my first experience helping out with a summer estate sale in Maine and I suspect in a month or so, I will be fully recovered.
The sale was advertised in several newspapers and on signs nailed around the neighborhood as running one day, starting at 8 a.m. Promptly at 6 a.m. the day of the sale interested buyers started circling the block.
By 6:30 a.m. we began letting them in and by 6:45 stuff was leaving the house in the hands of savvy buyers on grail-quest intensity searches for dishes, tea cups, stuffed animals and old vinyl records.
It was impressive and a bit scary, all at the same time.
It got me thinking pretty hard about things I have laying around the farm for which I have little if any use. Sure, there are things that belonged to Patrick, heck some of them still in the last place he set them down.
But maybe, just maybe, I’m ready to start letting the memory of those things, of that stuff, be enough and let go of the tangible items.
I’ll say this — it would be one heck of a yard sale.