The Watch House, or screwing around all winter

My friend Holly Schindler is posting about her less than successful efforts to declutter on Facebook this week. I can empathize as can Sister Kate. Neither of us has recovered from the nearly three year odyssey known as cleaning out Mom’s house. That involved entreaties to the Vose Library, the Union Historical Society to take what they wanted, numerous trips to the Maine Womens Writing Project with boxes of Mom’s letters, notes and manuscripts, filling a couple giant dumpsters and even running out to people who stopped to look at the free stuff by the mailbox while screaming, “Wait! There’s lots more inside!” This is my own variation on that story.

When we moved to Hartland in 2003, one of the attractions on the property was the storage building which we later learned had started life as a watch repair shop. In Chelsea, I’d built two storage buildings, but they were particle board and nowhere near as big as this one. It filled quickly as storage spaces are wont to do…overflowing shelves, miscellaneous pieces of wood overhead, multiples of hammers, pitchforks, shovels, etc. leaning in corners. In sum, it was comfortably messy and sometimes impossible to navigate.

The monster overhead

Last year, Beth got fed up with my lackadaisical acceptance of dry rot appearing in several floorboards. After we dug out a few spots, I hired my friend Rod to do repairs. It didn’t take him long to report that the entire floor and the underlying stringers were toast. He set to work replacing the stringers (which were closer to waterlogged cardboard than wood by that point) with pressure treated 2×6’s and then laid 1/2” plywood over it. When he was free a couple months ago, Rod installed hard pine over the plywood, we coated it with a clear heavy duty finish and it was time to move stuff back in.

Stay or go? That is the question

It was also time to face reality. At 70, how much of that stuff was I ever going to use? Here’s what followed that question. By the time we had to replace the floor, our accumulation of ‘stuff’ had grown to include lots of items from Mom’s, things I’d picked up at the dump, others bought at Liberty Tool, purchased from library patrons, or retrieved from my father-in-law’s place when he died. Given that he was retired industrial arts instructor, as well as an avid woodworker, what I brought from his place was substantial.

The early sorting projects fit here, but no more.

As you can see from the photos, there’s a ton of triaging ahead. It helps that I have a 66 drawer oak card catalog I got from the Maine State Library as well as an eight drawer sliding microfiche cabinet from UMA, but even then, how many sockets, adjustable wrenches, nuts, roofing nails, etc. Will I need? Fortunately, I’m pretty clear headed about the future as it involves handyman tasks. In essence, Like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, I know my limitations. The easiest way to deal with the excess would be to take it back to Liberty Tool and get a few bucks. However, I’m considering some interesting alternatives. Are the recently arrived Amish families interested in any of the extras? How about local community organizations working to winterize or repair homes in bad condition. My experiences on the campaign trail have introduced me to pockets of poverty that are both sad and scary. My fellow Democrat, Sue Mackey Andrews, running for our local senate seat, has made 25 referrals to agencies of people she’s found living in seriously unsafe homes, so the need for tools and the like is there, the challenge is in making some matches.

I figure there’s a couple blizzards worth of sorting in these boxes.

Whatever happens, my moderate OCD tendencies will be sated as I sort out nail and screw sizes, accept that the can of new springs deserves a new home. Stay tuned for how it all unfolds.

Top drawer is screwdrivers, the next is a bazillion wrenches, sockets and drill bits.

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5 Responses to The Watch House, or screwing around all winter

  1. Gram says:

    Staying it seems we all have a similar problem as we get older. The kids all have their own stuff and don’t want any of it!

  2. Kate Flora says:

    Planning to tackle this when I return

  3. Julianne says:

    I love it!! I’m the daughter of two parents that survived the depression as kids and lived through the depredations of WWII. So…I have the same tendency to save for later use. My husband is turning 70 in a few days and has the same trait. Since he retired this May, he has been trying to make headway through all the shelves, bins, boxes, tins, jars, totes, corners, truck bodies, school bus and garage (we’re talking a 34 X 60 former semi truck and trailer size) full of useful objects and parts. It’s going to keep him busy for ages. The fact that we heat with discarded pallet wood adds all the terrific lumber that is salvaged from the crates, skids, boxes and framing we haul in. Oh, the painful decisions in store.

  4. Lea Wait says:

    Sympathizing .,.. and coping with similar issues. Most of mine in-house stuff, not in-barn stuff … but plenty of both. And agree — hate to throw out something someone else would find useful!

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