There’s something to be said for culling out, cleaning out.

They say we spend the first 40 years of our lives collecting things and the last 40, getting rid of them.

How true this is.

We decided some time ago that we have too much stuff, both at home and at camp and, before we are physically unable to, we’d better lighten our load.

Some people say we have a lot less stuff than they do and they probably are right.

Our friends marvel at the fact that our basement at camp is virtually empty and the house basement is very close to empty.

We have had the sense, over the years, to avoid relegating items to the basement, knowing that one day, it will be harder and harder to haul stuff back up the stairs again.

At camp this summer, we spent a few days going through each room and bagging items we just don’t need or use. We went through closets, drawers, cabinets, and cubbie holes, plucking each item out and asking ourselves just how badly we need to keep it.

We culled out old books, dishes, bake ware, pottery, quilts, sheets, towels, candlesticks and other odds and ends. There were a couple of boomerangs Phil’s uncle Steve brought back from Australia many years ago, his mother’s green glass vases, silverware, an ancient rolling pin, a wooden duck, two heavy concrete bird baths and an old doll carriage, among other items.

We had to think about just how attached we were to the things and decide whether to preserve or pitch.

When we moved back home after Labor Day, we repeated the process — room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, shelf by shelf. We weeded out more dishes, candles, jewelry, room fans, pottery and ceramics and baskets. We plucked a brand new plastic red gas can from the garage, as well as a rake we never use, an old bicycle seat, plant pots and removed a tile-topped, wrought iron bistro table and chairs from the back yard. Dang, that thing got heavier and heavier each year as we placed it in storage in the fall and hauled it back out again in the spring.

Rather than give it all away, I decided to have a lawn sale and coaxed my friend, Karol, into joining. She had a lot of Christmas stuff in her attic that she never uses, so brought it all along and we set up early on a chilly Saturday morning, two full hours earlier than I had advertised.

I learned a lot in the few minutes I stood at the counter at our newspaper, ordering a lawn sale ad. A woman behind me overheard my conversation and said: “Your best customer is leaving for Florida.”

“Oh?'” I asked. “Who is that?”

“Me,” she said. “I have a whole van full of stuff I bought at lawn sales and I’m on my way to Florida to sell it. I’m a good buyer, too.”

She offered me a few words of advice about hosting a lawn sale: “Don’t turn away early birds, ’cause they’ll never come back,” she said, and “don’t price things too high. Let people dicker.”

I took her tips to heart. We advertised the sale to start at 8 a.m. and at 6 a.m. as we were placing items on tables, a man drove up and asked if he could go through the boxes.”

“Sure,” I said.

Later, another customer arrived in a truck, and then another, and I began to surmise these guys were dealers. They were some of our best customers and spent the most money.

Lawn sale enthusiasts came and went all day and bought all sorts of things. The best part about it was listening to the conversations. There were three women who were just delighted to find bargains. Then there was a charming older man with a cane who asked if we had any buttons or marbles.

“I don’t really need any buttons,” he said. “I have more than 100 bottles, full. And I’d just get the marbles for my wife.”

Some customers didn’t buy anything — they just talked. About politics, about their plans for the day, their aches and pains, about the people on the next street who were also having a lawn sale, but theirs was in the shade, and wasn’t it good to be at ours, in the sun?

We sat there in our chairs on the grass, enjoying every minute, as the sun rose higher in the sky. As the temperature followed suit, we shuffled off our gloves and jackets. We sipped coffee and tea, breathed in the fresh air, watched, listened, greeted, thanked and chatted.

A perfectly lovely day, something different, and a few hours away from anything digital, technical or electronic.

Between Karol and me, we netted about $200, which wasn’t bad, and whatever didn’t sell we either gave away or donated to charity.

The best part? We lightened our load and got to witness strangers embracing our old treasures.

It’s good to shake things up, move stuff around, make room for something new.

That’s true, not only regarding the stuff we collect, but also of life itself.

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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