How I move my stuff along

Eight years ago I moved from a small apartment in a big city to a big farmhouse in a small town. The outward appearance of this green-shuttered, 1860s Maine farmhouse is one of quaintness and tranquility. Open the door, however, and you will see what goes on behind this deceptive facade. Unplanned in its original design are transfer stations, key sites in the house where objects on the move rest temporarily.

One of these sites is the corner of the dresser in my expansive second-floor hallway. The route from my bedroom to the first floor leads by this handy spot. Here I place items that need to go downstairs on my next trip: a to-do list, letters, canceled stamps to add to my collection, newspaper clippings, or any of a dozen miscellaneous items that now belong anywhere but upstairs.

The second station, for items to be transferred upstairs, is obvious. It's on the stairs. More specifically, it's between the spindles that support the stair railing. This location is a natural one, slots between spindles being numerous on the 16-step staircase. Its central location and easy access invite the well-organized person (me) to take advantage of these apertures.

Doing so accomplishes two things. It ensures the transmission of items to the next floor of the house, and it satisfies my sense of order.

My most effective transfer station is by the front door, where items are placed to be permanently transferred out of my possession, not simply from one floor to another. The only drawback is that, for an inveterate saver, classifying objects as dispensable is a bit of a challenge. The exception is the newspapers that collect in their own out-station on the chair at the foot of the stairs. In the winter they are used to start fires in my fireplace. Spring through fall they find lodging in the garage on their way to be recycled.

Two cartons reside in a corner of the living room just off the hallway. Into these cartons are placed objects to be sold at a mammoth group yard sale this Fourth of July. The sale benefits the vacation home association to which I belong.

Even if more than a few of the items eventually find their way to the ultimate transfer station (the town dump), I shall never be the wiser.

Not only do I delight in generously inviting friends to choose from my collection before the sale, but I also have the privilege of changing my mind if an object suddenly rises to a need-to-keep status - such as the cheese dish.

I think I really do want to keep this cheese dish with its gray swirled marble base and clear glass dome. I envision it housing a choice cheese at room temperature waiting to be sliced and placed on high-end crackers (the kind I never buy). Sitting on my sideboard, it would attract admiring glances from friends. I can imagine them having to reassess their image of me as a connoisseur of fine imported cheeses.

Sadly, my Yankee logic reminds me that I have no space for single-use objects, nor am I the least bit knowledgeable about cheeses, particularly not the kinds that might reside under a glass dome. This line of reasoning allows me to magnanimously part with such treasures.

In my rural community, the official transfer station (originally called the town dump) is now a high-tech operation. It boasts an enlarged version of my upstairs/downstairs transfer stations in the form of a small structure that houses unwanted but still usable items. One acquaintance of mine, who lives in an affluent community with correspondingly affluent refuse, collects trash to refurbish into treasure from a similar structure. Her "business" is booming, and as long as there's an enclosed repository for discarded items needing attention, she'll not want for the castoffs she repairs, refinishes, and resells.

My growing collection for the aforementioned yard sale does not include items that need refurbishing. Everything in my burgeoning boxes is in good condition and will find, I anticipate, a useful place in someone else's household. In a grand effort to stay in control of this forward motion, I'll continue to nudge long-term possessions I no longer need or want into position for take-off. If I haven't found a use for them yet, I can get rid of them, I tell myself. In merely writing about my intentions, I can palpably feel the relief of passing along useful articles that no longer serve a purpose for me.

My upstairs/downstairs transfer stations will continue their modest operations, however, helping me to stay reasonably organized on a day-to-day basis. For now, stuff that's earmarked for someone else's use and doesn't catch anyone's eye, including mine, will be available for purchase at the July sale.

After that, I'll have to come up with another plan for the bric-a-brac that multiplies in cupboards, closets, and corners of my house.

The only solution I can think of that might produce the desired result is the prospect of moving to greatly reduced quarters. That option isn't in my immediate future, but - considering my indecision about what to part with - shortly after July 4 might be a good time to give it some serious thought. At the very least, the result would be a pared-down interior to match the spare exterior so characteristic of a picturesque New England homestead.

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