Döstädning


It must be the sun becoming warmer (or shining for a change) that has had me doing some cleaning.  It could be the fact that the cobwebs have taken over the house and clearing them out always involves moving everything in a room.  Let’s call it spring  cleaning, that sounds more hopeful when it’s still mid winter.

The truth is that things have been weighing on me of late – big things, huge things.  When my father died he left a collection of some of the biggest machines any ordinary man could own.  A couple of them I always saw as hobbies but there was a point where it crossed over into obsession.  The time has come for us to dismantle it.  There is a huge building that houses 2 large stationary steam engines and all that goes with it including a steam turbine generator and a sawmill run by diesel and steam.  Equipment so large that a rigger will have to be hired to get it out and moved.

It’s fairly easy to ignore that building with everything in it.  Walking into it is a time capsule of sorts but it weighs on you.  We are not getting any younger and the idea of leaving that to my kids is not appealing.

Every year about this time we make lists of the things that need to be done, sorted in order of importance.  This list begins by realizing that your kitchen is so cold and could be fixed in an hour or two with very little effort.  You just have to wait until Spring to do it.  This is the list that extends through the year consisting of all the maintenance and repairs that every homeowner has.

There is another list and that concerns the cleaning out of the property.  It’s the death cleaning or döstädning as the Swedish call it.  This has taken some time to embrace, probably because it’s my childhood home – there are memories I’m not ready to let go of and it causes me to hang on to things that no one would understand.  In talking about it Bill very astutely said “These were your father’s dreams not ours”.  That one comment changed my perspective on a lot of things.  I’ve gotten to the point in life where my list of long term dreams is beginning to be whittled away.  The sawmill is an example.  Ten years ago we thought we would use it.  There are always people who want lumber cut and it could also be useful to us in the repair of our buildings.  Last year we realized we were probably never going to use it and said it out loud.  We found it a home with someone who will use it and take care of it and be part of his dream.

The steam equipment is another story.

The out buildings are the bigger problem but there are things in the house that present similar challenges.  There’s the piano.  A huge, rosewood Chickering square grand – built about 1870.  It needs a full restoration.  No one plays, no one ever played it (well my mother hacked out a couple of tunes and my uncle would play something wildly out of tune when he visited – all vivid childhood memories).  It is large, heavy and no one wants it.  I’ve contacted museums, previous owners, piano restorers, craigslist, social media offering to give it away if  someone will move  it.  Nothing.  That leaves taking it apart and getting it out of here.  I’ve been saying I was going to do it for two years but haven’t, probably hoping something magical will happen.  It’s got to go, now it’s come down to what pieces I will keep. (Yes, more junk in storage – baby steps).

I realize that I’m entering into old age (although I will always be 27 years old in my head) and in the paring down of dreams comes the need to get rid of  stuff so no one else has to do it.  Döstädning, death cleaning, not a sad thing at all but really done with an eye to the future.

 

Finishing Up

140929 DawnThe sunrise view from my current bedroom window is amazing, especially in the spring and fall.

The dumpster project, now affectionately called, is almost complete.  Two more days before it goes.  It’s been a crazy journey.

The attic was finished Saturday morning.  Everything that was going was pitched out of the window a few days before and I spent the last two days sweeping, then vacuuming with a shop vac.  During the sweeping phase I finally decided to wear a respirator, the dust was extreme.  My father and I figured the last time it was swept was around 1946 – no lie.

It was a sentimental journey through the rooms on the third floor.  Sentiment mixed with disbelief that so much stuff was just thrown up there and forgotten.  Houses had been cleaned out.  Things I recognized from my grandparents homes and some from my great grandparents.  Fear not, most of it was categorized, packed and stored away.

There were treasures.  Big boxes of crap that had to be gone through, piece by piece because there were treasures.  My grandfather’s Hamilton pocket watch, a makeup compact from the ’20s belonging to a great-aunt, a small model train engine, books from childhood.  Photographs tucked in with report cards from my father’s elementary school days. There were scrapbooks and letters and journals from my high school years, reminders of a distant past now seeming like someone else’s life.  Toys, games, puzzles, all holding memories for me and my siblings of rainy days spent together. I don’t think anything was ever thrown away.

It has also lifted a great weight. It had felt as if that third floor was crushing down on the rest of the house.  A job I knew I was going to have to do in order to make my childhood home into the home I will spend the rest of my life in.

The last few days have been spent cleaning out and moving things around on the second floor.  All of this with the knowledge that we will be dealing will structural issues in the bedrooms, mostly crumbling lathe and plaster.  Nothing at all has been done up there since the early ’70s.  There isn’t heat up there (and currently it’s without power – a story for another day).  There was water damage years ago so ceilings are beginning to go.  These are the photographs you won’t see, unless I’m getting ready to do something with a pry bar and a hammer (respirator in place).  The photos recording before and after.

The grand motivation to all of this has really been the need I have to transform a room into a place to put my looms, my fiber, my fabric, my books.  Creativity for me doesn’t happen without making a big mess but I need that mess to be contained in it’s own space.  I brought home a third loom (yes, I now have three), last weekend.  It’s so large and heavy it will have to remain on the first floor so the two on the first floor will have to move to the second.  Along with the last two looms I’ve brought home has come their previous owners stashes of fiber.  Fun stuff but if you can’t see it you don’t use it.

I use situations like the looms as motivation to deal with the things I don’t want to do.  It really works for me.  That and having a 20 yard dumpster dropped in the side yard.  I work well under pressure and having that there really did the trick.  Although the past couple of days have seen decision fatigue set in and it’s become easier to throw things away. Fortunately I also have that saving gene and understand the importance of seeing the handwriting of my ancestors.  Things are categorized and saved and put back into the attic.  This time with some notes attached so in another 80 years or so when someone feels the need to clean out they will have a better idea of why this stuff was saved.