Decluttering and so on

One of my goals for this winter was to start a new writing project. Well, it’s mid-January and I haven’t yet written a word. But I did finally start my research in earnest yesterday, so there’s still hope for finishing it before time to start planting.

So what I have been doing instead? In addition to the regular demands of the farm (a full time job) I’ve used the winter slow-down to tackle a long list of “winter projects” that I’ve been compiling for years.

One task that I assumed would be a major headache turned out to be surprisingly easy. I did a lot of family research 20-30 years ago and dutifully saved all my work on floppy disks (the state-of-the-art storage media at the time). I assumed it would be difficult and expensive to convert all those old disks into something useful today. I was wrong about that. I bought a floppy disk converter from Amazon for less than $10. All I had to do was plug it into the computer, insert the disks, and, presto, the data was transferred to my hard drive.  That was a relief. Now what I am going to do with all these video tapes onto which we transferred the old family super 8 movies? Hopefully that task (which I’m saving for another winter) will be just as easy.

Those old floppies also had some writing from the way-back days and I’m happy to have rescued it. I made the disks with our first home computer. It was a Sony Vaio. We were probably among the last people in America to get a home computer. I wasn’t sure if it was more than a fad. A partner recommended the Sony. “It’s the only computer you’ll ever have to buy in your lifetime,” he told me. “It has more computing power than the Apollo space program had.” So I swallowed hard and shelled out nearly $5,000 for it at Best Buy. Within a couple of years it was little more than a toy. I held onto it much longer than it deserved, but eventually threw it away when we moved. A vastly superior computer today would cost less than 1/10 what we paid for that thing.

Another long-delayed winter project involved going through all the old farm records we had found and saved back when we were remodeling the old house here on the farm. We had receipts, correspondence and journals dating back to the 1870’s. Trying to organize them and separate out the more personal items, like letters and photos, took a long time and still left unanswered the question of what to do with them. If I just put them in a box in a closet there’s a good chance they’d someday end up in a dumpster after my death. Fortunately I arrived at a great solution. We donated them to the special collections department of the University of Virginia library. The folks there seem pleased to have them and now I know they’re going to be well cared-for.

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The Old House after this weeks snowfall

While in Charlottesville I even sold my my old UVa sports memorabilia collection, accumulated during a time in my life when that kind of thing was important to me, to a local store that specializes in that kind of thing. It was of no interest to anyone in my family and no longer to me either. It was just collecting dust and taking up space. I’m glad to pass it along to someone who may find some pleasure in it.

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I hadn’t been back to UVa in a long time. It was a beautiful day.

I did major service on our tractor and RTV, and some work on fences that wasn’t urgent, but needed doing. I even cleaned out my truck. But the major decluttering projects were our basement, barn and equipment shed. I hauled off truckloads of stuff. Stuff that I’d been afraid to throw away on the theory that I might someday need it. I felt pretty good about my efforts until I finished reading The Lean Farm by Dan Hartman. I now realize that I wasn’t nearly thorough enough. So I’ve already added decluttering to next year’s winter projects list and this time I’m going to be ruthless.

So I’ve checked off the items on the winter projects list, and that’s a good feeling. That list had been nagging at me for a long time.

Now, about that writing project…

 

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34 comments on “Decluttering and so on

  1. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, I see you are staying busy. Decluttering is my downfall as well. I’ve been picking at it for years but need to have a serious deep decluttering. This Winter I’ve been plagued with plumbing issues that has eaten up all my Winter down time. First it was a toilet running until the flush handle was giggled. Then it was a clothes washing machine that wouldn’t shut the water entirely off after the cycle was over. Then it was a kitchen sink drain that leaked. Then it was a clogged sink drain in the bathroom. Then it was a dripping faucet in the bathroom. And now it a leaky drain pipe under the bathtub. Ugh! It’s driving me crazy. The house has made its own New Year resolutions and they have become mine. Hopefully, I can get this all under control before seed starting begins in February.

    When does the hoop house start getting planted? Have you figured out the planting for this year’s crops. I say crops because one of the advantages of hoop houses is secession crops. Two sometimes three can be grown in the same space under a hoop house. Good luck with first year hoop house growing. I will definitely be interested in reading about the plans and successes you with have with a new kind of growing.

    Have a great decluttering day on the White Flint Farm.

    Nebraska Dave

    Like

    • Bill says:

      The hoop house is planted now. In fact, I’ve been working in it all day getting ready for the opening day of winter market tomorrow. Right now we have radishes, Asian greens, turnips, kale, spinach and lettuce growing in it. The tentative plan is to put in summer crops in April. I’ve really enjoyed working in it so far and it’s great to have our winter garden still producing even after sub-zero temps and heavy snow!

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  2. Decluttering is hard for me …. my mother’s favorite remark is that she is a woman of few possessions but still has everything she ever owned. She is not stretching the truth either. I have carted garbage bags of “STUFF” she has saved over the years from her house to mine and then out to the trash. I Go through each bag just in case there is a “jewel” worth saving… but that is usually a waste of time. I think of my basement and tell myself I need to purge it soon .. maybe during this weekends ice storm I’ll get a little section gone through.

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    • Bill says:

      It seems that 3 generations of my family never threw away ANYTHING. I spent countless hours sorting through mountains of paper in our old house, because I was afraid of throwing away jewels. They saved seemingly every piece of mail they ever received. It was near the very last part of my 2 year cleaning job that I found, at the bottom of a large pile, a canvas bag with all the farm receipts from the 1870’s through the early 1900’s, so my diligence paid off.

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  3. You’ve been busy! Those old farm photos and receipts would be so interesting! Good luck with your wiritng project. ❤
    Diana xo

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  4. Ed says:

    Back when I did my conversions, I bought a used version of the following on ebay and used it.

    https://www.amazon.com/Easy-VHS-DVD-3-Plus/dp/B006GOFW3E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1484316271&sr=8-3&keywords=vcr+to+dvd+converter

    It just plugs into the back of a working VCR and your computer and was super easy to use. The only downfall is it only converted in real time so a 2 hour tape took 2 hours to convert. However, you didn’t need to be right beside the thing so I was able to do other things and just come back in once in awhile to take the DVD out and put in a new tape and blank DVD to start the next one.

    I am mid stream in converting 8mm to digital format but since I don’t have a cheap way of doing it with satisfactory results, I hired it out. I should get them by the end of this month.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Many years ago we hired someone to put all the old home movies onto VHS. It’s good to see that we should be able to transfer those tapes to DVD ourselves. Thanks for sharing that!

      Like

  5. mukhamani says:

    The old house is beautiful, do you live there ? It was good of you to give away your collections to someone who is interested. And decluttering , I am sure makes the house feel lighter 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      No, we don’t live in it, but it’s on the farm we live on. We rent it out for “farm stays” thru AirBnB. We considered living there, but when we moved here the house was in a terrible state of deterioration and we weren’t sure it was going to be possible to save it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. avwalters says:

    When we left California, everything went into the truck. Not quite everything. I took the opportunity to ‘lighten the old legal files’ and had a truck come and shred nearly 50 boxes of old files. So all the rest, which should have been de-cluttered, came with us. Living on the farm had been an exercise in what not to do. My landlord, a chicken farmer, had been “moving towards retirement” for going on twenty years. As he emptied the barns of chickens, he filled them up with things that might be useful some day. He’s still doing it. His girls roll their eyes when they contemplate the idea of having to clear his lifetime of frugal retention. Me? I’ll have to do the painful sort when we unpack from storage. And yes, I’ll be ruthless.
    Your solution was wonderful and elegant. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll find a museum who’ll want my trash.

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    • Bill says:

      We had a yard sale before leaving Florida and got rid of a lot of stuff that way. But not enough. And I’ve found it real easy, like your landlord, to accumulate stuff, rather than toss it out. Even though I’ve had no use for the stuff in all these years, it was still painful for me to throw away pieces of wire, rope, wood, metal, etc. that I’d stashed in shed because I might someday be able to use it for something. Reminds me of a story on the Onion recently with the headline “Man Actually Uses the Piece of Wood He Saved in His Garage” (or something like that).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Michelle says:

    What a beautiful house! And your time has been well spent, even if you’re not writing yet. Paring down and not bringing in any more is what I’m doing this year….

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That list of projects has been lurking in the back of my mind for years. This year I decided that I wasn’t going to do anything else until I’d cleared the list. It feels good to have it done, even though I’ve already started compiling next years list. 🙂

      Like

  8. Melonie K. says:

    I bet the librarians at UVa are over the moon about that donation of documents. You’ve probably helped someone immensely with family history research in the future. What a treasure!

    We’ll be moving this spring, so I’ve been decluttering a bit as well – the bulk of the things here are homesteady items like extra canners and jars that actually belong to my mom (and are going back to her house). While we’ve lived nearby they’ve been with me, as she thought I’d use them more and she could grab them if needed; we’ll be halfway across the country so that plan won’t quite work any more. 😉

    Thank you, by the way, for stopping by my site and taking the time to comment. I know you’re busy and appreciate the visit!

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    • Bill says:

      I just followed the pingback and was pleased to discover your blog. Aside from all the other interests we share, I was glad to find another lister of books. 🙂

      Like

  9. allisonmohr says:

    That is a great looking house! After cleaning out two relatives’ houses after their deaths, we took it to heart that we had to pare it down. Then, when we moved full time into the RV, there was no choice. We now are forced to practice one thing goes out when one thing comes in. It’s good that you found a good home for the old records.

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve heard that story over and over again–the trouble that comes with having to clean out the cluttered house of a deceased loved one. I understand that some people just have that personality, and it’s especially hard for people who lived through the depression to throw anything away that might theoretically be useful later. But the solution is to pare it down to the true essentials and genuine keepsakes, and just get rid of everything else. Your lifestyle, like the tiny house movement, doesn’t leave any options and that forces you to make wise decisions. It’s way to easy to just stuff something in the attic and forget about it, rather than taking it to Goodwill or to the dump.

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  10. Joanna says:

    Oh Bill my worst nightmare is attending to the de-cluttering we really need to do. It is such a slow and painful process. I did at least go through some filing boxes the other day and now there is a box for shredding or for paper for the fire. Even managed to persuade Ian to go through some papers of his. Now I have two empty filing boxes and have to decide what to do with them. As for the writing? That is a slow, slow process but at least I’ve started.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I literally filled the bed of my truck with stuff in our basement that we were never going to use or need. I was feeling proud of myself until reading The Lean Farm caused me to have another look around down there. I spared way too much stuff. Next year it all goes!

      Like

      • Joanna says:

        My hesitancy is also thinking about where it is all going, transferring my problem to someone else’s by dumping it. I am trying to be mindful of where it goes and some of it I dump on our own land by using cardboard for paths and making sure anything that is compostable is composted. I never throw away material as gradually we will use that up to make other things, like art waistcoats. What I am trying to make sure is the potential waste coming in, does not increase.

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  11. I just love “decluttering”, but you definitely have to be in the mood for it to move along smoothly!

    I’m getting rid of books…..hundreds of them. Years ago, I could have not seen myself parting with any of them…….now, it’s just a relief—a burden lifted. I take 25 every week to the local library. They’re thrilled with the donations, and every month, 100 books are out of here. I should be done in about 92 years.
    Sigh

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Well you’ve identified one of my major weaknesses. We have bookshelves filled in our basement, our studies and our den. With the shelves full, I have piles of books waist-high on the floor of my study. We simply have WAY too many books. But when I got to that part of the job this winter I couldn’t do it. I didn’t get rid of a single book. Next year…

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  12. shoreacres says:

    One of the great truths of life seems to be that, about a week after I toss something, I forget that I ever had it. Every once in a while I have a fleeting thought about the boxes of books or dishes that are gone, but honestly? If something only lives in a box in a back closet, what’s the point?

    It is hard, even for those of us who are pretty seriously committed to a leaner lifestyle. But the pleasure of finding that extra space more than makes up for any waffling. I even went through it with the change in my blog format. I loved that old theme, but now that I have fresh-and-new-and-empty to work with, going to my own blog is a pleasure in a way that it wasn’t. As for the blog, so for the basement, or truck, or back closet, I think!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      You make a great point here. After all the fretting about whether to get rid of something, I don’t give it another moment’s thought once it’s gone! Good point too about how cleaning out clutter is like discovering new space to put to a better use.

      Maybe I’ll think about freshening up the blog someday too. 🙂

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  13. valbjerke says:

    I’m a hard nosed lean and mean declutterer. Husband- quite the opposite – he can’t throw anything out without some strong encouragement. We’ve had to come to a compromise over the years – basically, the house and guest cabin are MINE. The rest of the spaces I do my best to ignore. Still – it’s never ending.
    Me: “Bruce why is your chainsaw in the house?”
    Bruce: “It doesn’t like to start at minus thirty”
    Me: “So put it in the barn by the wood stove”
    Bruce: “But it’s really dusty in the barn”
    Me: “When you take the saw out, take the broken surge milked with you”
    Bruce: “But I’m going to fix it”
    Me: “Today?”
    😂

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That sounds familiar. 🙂 That’s the dynamic here too. Cherie is great at organization and can’t stand clutter. I’m no slob, but I’m FAR more reluctant to get rid of some useless thing that’s been taking up space for years. If the barn and equipment shed were in her principal domain, they’d have never become cluttered to begin with. Unsurprisingly, the only clutter in the house is in my spaces–my closet, my study, the basement.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You are doing great at preserving what you want to keep and finding new homes for the other items. Getting photos, videos, etc. into a digital format is really good. The old media just doesn’t stand up to time let alone any other issues of heat, moisture, etc. Locally, I know a guy who converts VHS for people. He was way better than a service where you send the tapes off to be done (tried that first with one). Hope your way works smooth.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      We used someone locally to convert the old home movies to VHS many years ago. If I can do the digital conversion easily myself then I will. If not, I’ll try to find someone locally. I’d rather not trust the tapes to the mail.

      Like

  15. Your writing will happen I know it will.. It just sounds as if other things have had to take priority..

    But what a great way of preserving those old documents.. 🙂 Fantastic.. Knowing they will be looked after and useful..

    I keep decluttering slowly but surely.. I went through some old boxes the other day and threw away all my old study papers that I had in my Support work days.. 🙂

    Have a good week ahead Bill..
    Sue 🙂

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’ve been tossing out old school papers too. Being honest with myself, I knew I was never going to go back and read notes from classes I took. I’ve still got work to do, but my goal is a completely uncluttered life!

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      • Yes I have loads yet to clear out.. A whole attic could do with going through with a fine tooth comb.. over 40 yrs worth of things up there.. And if I do not start now.. We will soon not be able to climb up there LOL..
        Here’s to uncluttered Life!! 🙂 Have a great week Bill

        Like

  16. Scott says:

    I’ve tried twice to be “ruthless”… It takes dedication and self control. Good luck!
    You filled the bed of your truck? I’m going to rent a 30-yd dumpster. No joke, I’ll fill it easily if I’m truly ruthless like I should be.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      When we first started cleaning up the farm we had TWO of those dumpsters here and we filled them both!

      Just today I was in the basement and I noticed a large crate filled with my old compact disks. I am never going to listen to them, so why the heck am I keeping them?? And in the barn today I noticed an old push mower that my son wanted for mowing the dam on the pond. He never used it once and now it’s just taking up space. Now multiply those examples by 100 and that’s the situation here. Next year…Ruthless!!

      Liked by 1 person

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