A German philosopher wrote: “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.”

Although German philosophers had a habit of dying in insane asylums, their words are still revered by many.

Because there is no end to the repairs and improvements requiring attention on a Maine farm, it is to the occupant’s advantage to be organized. Otherwise, he will find himself driving to town to buy a half-inch copper elbow when he already has a dozen of them hiding out in ancient wooden Moxie cases.

What Maine man does not know that his barn and its contents embody family life? Is not an organized barn as important for family health and well-being as his daily bath or shower?

He has seen frustrated farmer friends reduced to tears as they searched for a misplaced emasculator in piles of old grain bags and rusty iron.

So must we not agree that an organized barn reduces stress and inefficiency, even as it saves time and improves the quality of your life?


Although I blushingly deny being an organizational genius, when pressed by admiring friends I simply point to rows of neatly labeled filing cabinets. Perhaps you already know that there is nothing like 15 or 20 filing cabinets for organizing a barn. They are cheap; you can get them for a buck or two apiece.

I have filing cabinets for plumbing, filing cabinets for electrical work, filing cabinets that contain drills and electric jigsaws. I have drawers for clean rags and short pieces of rope. There is a drawer full of odd gloves picked up beside the road over the past 30 years.

Because there is limited wall space to hang things in a barn that has many windows, I am presently pressed to have a drawer that will contain only C clamps. And then there are the necessary drawers for unidentifiable items.

You know that when you organize the clutter in your barn or on your workbench, there are always enough funny-looking metal things left over to fill a coal hod. You have no idea what they are or where they came from, which is why the most valuable drawer in any filing cabinet is labeled: “Stuff left over the last time I cleaned off the workbench.”

If you don’t have a drawer for these esoteric items, it is impossible to organize a workbench, a small pile of clutter still offends your sight and you have to admit that you worked all morning without accomplishing much of anything.

People like my wife, Marsha, who would cheerfully burn a bundle of letters that President Lincoln wrote to her great-grandfather asking for help, simply dump anything left over into cardboard boxes and have a garage sale.


Garage sales are an excellent source of filing cabinets and other inexpensive items that you don’t really need, if you understand the science of buying. Rule No. 1 is that you don’t buy from people who want to sell: You buy from people who have to sell. So you never miss a moving sale.

You might want to keep all this in mind the next time you’re in a position to negotiate a purchase.

The seller, or seller and companion, are often sitting in the sun behind piles of assorted junk.

As I slouch my way up their driveway, they might shout, “How are you today?”

Encouraged, I open with, “Today, I am trying to boost the local economy. I want to give you as much money as possible. Please tell me how I can help you.”

Delivered slowly, so they don’t miss a word, my unexpected offer puts them at ease and on my side. I am a delightful, harmless curiosity.


After chatting awhile, I might head out as I say, “You and I seem to have much in common: You have a lot of wonderful things that you and I can live without. Thank you.”

Or, “That is a very nice-looking filing cabinet,” as I extend a hand holding three $1 bills. I’ve tried the action and know that although the lock is smashed, it is a top-of-the-line model that I’ve seen online for around $300. I can already see it beneath the Kendall Morse Humor Show poster in my barn. “I’d really like to have that wonderful filing cabinet. Would you take $3 for it?”

Yesterday the woman selling it had nothing else in the yard but a little girl who was 10 or 12 and odiferous piles of clothing. She took the $3 and we thanked each other. Feeling a pang of guilt for robbing the poor, I gave her another dollar.

As I scrubbed out the five drawers inside my new filing cabinet this morning, management came by and said that there would be no more filing cabinets bought and hauled home. Management feels that I already have enough filing cabinets.

Dare I remind management that she has an entire four-drawer filing cabinet in the barn dedicated to sandpaper, paint brushes, paint rollers, drop cloths, scrapers and her other fun toys?

Sorry, but our expertise helps you organize only the clutter in your barn. Those who would organize their homes must seek elsewhere for enlightenment – the Stepford Wives?

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:


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