By Becky Nelson
It’s funny how a thing can draw up emotion. I have been cleaning out, sorting out and throwing out a whole lot of “things” from storage of late. I have come across a million things, a whole lot of stuff and dumpster loads of “what the heck did we keep this for” items. During the process, I have come across some memorable and not-so memorable items, and some items that make me step back with love, admiration, even some hope and thankfulness.
We changed households, moving from one house to another on the farm property, about five years ago, I think. Time sure flies, and I really have no clue when we moved as the days all sort of meld together for me. With the move came thirty years of stuff. Boxed and piled in the garage.
We are living in what was my aunt’s home, and in it were mountains of the sorts of things that accumulate when you spend sixty years in one place. She built the home, so it was packed with all the things that made her and her partner of some forty years happy. We packed up most of her things and sorted, shipped, trashed and sold everything that was of value when she landed in a nursing home until the end of her days. When my husband’s father died, all of his stuff came here. When my Aunt Elaine died, all of her stuff came here. When my son moved out and my mom moved in, her stuff came, too.
Stuff. Lots of stuff. In the stuff were the things that drew up some “feels” and emotions as I sorted. Pictures of our kids when they were little. Pictures of my relatives in various stages of life. Diplomas. Tassels and graduation gifts. Certificates of appreciation, of recognition, of distinguished service. Old vinyl albums from teen years. Trinkets picked up over lifetimes from vacations and special places. A few antiques from generations two or three back. Sometimes even a note or a letter or a card or a message from before.
With each discovery of wonderful things came ten or a dozen discoveries of no need and no consequence that hit the trash. For any of you who have cleaned out the belongings of a loved one or tackled a storage unit, garage, attic or cellar full of “stuff,” you know the angst, blood, sweat and tears that go into the sorting, saving and chucking.
One of my favorite discoveries from one of these bouts of cleanout was a collection of dozens of old license plates from cars and trucks and tractors of the past. Many of these were from before my time, and my son displays them in his “man cave/workshop” in the old farmhouse. Some were from more recent times, and I wanted some way to display the tags as reminders of where we had been at the farm. I took time this week to display some of the plates around the walls of our store, so others can get as much of a kick from them as I. Looking for the year I was born (no such luck), finding the plate from the year my husband was born, finding a couple from when my father was a young man, finding lots from the ‘70s when I was in high school, they brought up lots of fun memories and lots of emotions with every discovery.
Most of all, these license plates made me thankful. Thankful for the family I have. Thankful for the experiences in each and every of the years displayed. Thankful for people I met along the way. Thankful for experiences that made me who I am today. Thankful for the wonderful state we live in and the opportunities available both then and now. Just plain thankful.
With Thanksgiving Day creeping up on us in just a few days, I urge you to take a trip to the attic, garage, cellar, storage unit or closet full of stuff and do a cleanout. You will come across things that make you thankful — guaranteed. Whether it is a memory or just the opportunity to declutter, it is a thankful, not a thankless task.
Becky Nelson is co-owner of Beaver Pond Farm in Newport, New Hampshire. You can contact her through the farm page on Facebook and Instagram, visit the retail store or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.