A Year of Living Thoughtfully, Part 2: The Consequences of Acquisition

I was reminded, as I brought in yet another box of books and other belongings that have been in storage for several years, of an old Gary Larsen “Far Side” cartoon. A frowsy, bespectacled woman in a housedress is pushing an upright vacuum cleaner along a path through a thick jungle, and the caption reads something to the effect that she is wary because “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Perhaps my front room presented too tempting a void for the laws of physics. Is it possible, I wondered, that this is the same room where just a few days previous, I had actually taken the front panel off the piano and vacuumed its long-silent wires? where I moved a reading chair and floor lamp into position as the only other pieces of furniture and measured the window bay, envisioning actually being able to have a Christmas tree this year? As the new stacks of boxes climbed toward the ceiling fan, I steeled myself with a silent reminder that I am not one to leave this as is – that “for now” will not turn into “forever”. It did beg the question though: if I haven’t used whatever’s in all these boxes for this many years, will I ever? How much will feel like long-lost treasure, to be immediately put back into day-to-day usage vs becoming fodder for online auctions and newspaper ads? We’ll soon see. I made a point of putting those labeled with the last move date closest to the outside “layer” so that those could be opened and sorted first. I was not disappointed to find that among the boxes of books – there was a mix of “mine, yours & your late mother’s” so that at least a few of the boxes were to stay only briefly.

Journal Entry July 10th

I have figured out a tiny niggle in one of my habits. I automatically turn on the hot water faucet at the kitchen sink, expecting warm- to- hot water for washing my hands, soaking dishes – whatever. The boiler and accompanying domestic hot water tank are more than 30′ away, and I hardly ever keep the “hot” water on long enough to actually use it. I turn it on without thinking, it travels a short way from the equipment room at the far corner of the garage toward the faucet, and then I turn it off and it cools down. I’m wasting not only water, but “hot” water and the fuel it took to heat it and keep it hot! Okay…think….

Solution: since the issue here is money, I got out a dollar bill, wrapped it around the hot water faucet handle, fixed it with a rubber band, (it looks for all the world like a green butterfly!) and now, when I go to turn that left faucet on, I am stopped short. Do I need really need hot water? am I willing to wait for it? and why? I’m smiling my smug smile.

The rest of the month of July passed in something of a blur, as weekends became an accelerated exercise in storage space evacuation. I had given notice to the people who ran the self-store facility, and began stopping over at lunchtime, picking up anything that could fit in the trunk of my car and ferrying it home after work. Evenings were a game of “what’s in this box, and do I really want to know?” Meanwhile, without a breath of warning, my birthday was sneaking up on me.

Journal Entry July 21st

Happy Birthday to me! What a good day this has been. I must have gotten a dozen email “cards” when I got to the office, and three of my favorite people at work treated me to lunch. This evening, I toasted the sunset, filled with wonder at how much of a difference a year can make. It struck me at lunch that before now, it’s entirely possible I would have missed out on the friendship and warmth of these people. I was too wrapped up in myself, in all that I felt responsible for, and far too remote to hear them. Not all the changes have been easy or comfortable, but they’ve all been for the good, and I wake each morning filled with gratitude at being right here, right now.

By the time the month of July came to a close, my dog Barney had figured out that when I pour the first cup of coffee each morning and head toward the central hallway, we’re likely going out onto the front porch and he sits and waits by the door. He bounds around in the dew, playfully “threatening” the cats until he senses I’m at the bottom of the cup and it’s time to go in. In the meantime, I am treated to an orange sunrise concert to the tune of birdsong and bugs.

Unofficially it is mid-summer. There are tomatoes to pick nearly every afternoon, jalapenos turning from dark green to red, hummingbirds weaving back and forth between the feeder and bright scarlet tubes of the Bee Balm, and surrounding all, a sense of quiet and peace. The time between when I leave for work in the morning and when I return home does not seem like the hub and only really satisfying part of my day anymore. It is a balanced, essential part that has its place; and when I leave it at the end of the day, I am ready for the larger part that includes a home, animals, things to do, plants to tend and a new kind of home life to build.

My friend Laura, a self-appointed “Jewish mother,” tells me I can’t keep pushing things like relationships and a personal life off onto the back burner forever. When she says things like that, I think to myself that at this point, I’m lucky if I can find the stove; but I suppose at some level she’s right. Now that I’m actually making plans, you just never know what kind of life may happen.

About SherryEllesson

Sherry Ellesson is a freelance writer and part-time homebuilder who lives and works in central Delaware. Originally from New England, she credits having been raised by hearty, self-sufficient people for her willingness to stay the course on the journey back to homesteading.

2 thoughts on “A Year of Living Thoughtfully, Part 2: The Consequences of Acquisition

  1. In the kitchen, I heat the water I think I am going to use in an electric coffee maker when I think I am going to need it. No need to keep hot water “at temp” when I only need it a couple of times a day. In the bathroom we have a small water heater set to 120 for bathing and hand washing. I carry a gallon from the bathtub faucet when I want to wash dishes. It is all I ever need. There are 2 of us in this house! It could be different with kids.

  2. Here in Alaska, water is a precious commodity. We used to have a water tank that had to be filled by tanker truck monthly. Now, we are on a well. We adopted some frugle water habits that we still use. The water is still costly, the pump, the water softener, the water heater, the over 100ft heat cable so the well line won’t freeze. When I run the hot water to do the dishes, I put a watering can under the spigot and that way save up to 2 gallons to use for plant watering. We also have a bucket in the tub to catch the water until it warms enough for the shower. The garage roof catches a lot of snow in the winter and we put rain gutters on it and catch the snow melt in a forest of buckets. I use that to water the greenhouse until we can safely turn on the outside water line.
    we put in a front loading washer and that has made a huge difference in the amount of water we use. Also saves on salts for the water softner. The garden is in the lowest corner of our property and the land drains in two directions to the garden. It is built over an old dogyard so the drainage in the garden is really good. It stays moist but doesn’t flood.
    From golden Alaska, first snows about 2 weeks away.

    Linda Mullen