Do you have an incredible number of things that you could live without?

It hurts to admit it, but I no longer need the 14 Model T Ford motors that are in my henhouse. In 1951 I started to accumulate Model T Fords and Model T parts. Every time I could get my hands on 10 or 15 dollars, I would buy something that could be driven or dragged home. It was part of a well-thought-out plan that went like this: When I am 27 I will have lots of spare time and money. I will buy a sandblaster, clean up these rusty frames, paint them black, assemble several Model T Fords and have fun driving them around.

That was the plan. No thought was given as to where the money or free time was going to come from. When one is 15, money and a carefree lifestyle come with the territory of being incredibly old. The acquisition of money requires no thought or planning. Like marriage, it just happens.

Seventy years later, my thinking had changed a bit. Although I could buy a sandblaster, I wouldn’t have the energy required to operate it. But I still cherished the belief that I was leaving the granddaughters barns choked with valuable antiques that they would accept with tears in their eyes and gratitude in their hearts.

This seems to be not the case. When we offered my wife’s beautiful 1999 Rav 4 to a granddaughter so she could gad about, we were turned down flat. High school girls think of 1999 as being a long time ago, and those who aren’t lucky enough to have their own recent models can use one of the sleek family cars in a pinch.

You have heard me say that my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, would quickly throw away the letters her great-grandfather wrote to his young bride when he was holding Grant’s horse at Appomattox. I believe that the term that best describes this type of person is “minimalist.”


You remember reading how Thoreau threw away three pieces of limestone because he had to dust them every day. At the time you and I read that, I don’t think that the word “minimalist” was in vogue. I seem to recall that he tossed out his floor mat, too, so perhaps he was also a compulsive neurotic.

My wife worries that, although we are leaving the children a nice farm, every outbuilding is crammed to the gunnels with “clutter.” A 1928 Maytag with the service manual. “What are they going to do with it?” Another ancient electric washer made of copper.

Why do they have to do anything with it? Why can’t it just stay there?

Years ago, not knowing any better, I bought several houses. And four or five of them were jam-crammed with stuff. A nice old bureau I brought home from a house in Nova Scotia is here in my office-bedroom. The farmhouse in which we live was completely furnished when I bought it, so there was no need to figure out where to put things. In a 200-year-old house, furnishings had pretty well worked out where they belonged before the Civil War. Buying a perfectly furnished home also made it difficult to become a minimalist.

So I think of old houses and old barns blessed with eclectic items to be fun. There are interesting things to be discovered. What’s this? A suitcase full of Donald Duck comic books from the ’40s and ’50s? And Mad Magazine? The finder has two choices: What a feast, or into the dumpster.

What do you do if you inherit an old farm with empty barns and sheds? Fill it with your own clutter, of course, which will have to age for 80 or 100 years before it even begins to develop any character.


You should know that what got me started on this minimalist rant was some cracked plaster in an upstairs bedroom. For two years, management has been wringing hands because of that crack, and today was the day I was going to fix it. I knew that my crack-fixing tools and material were in a desk drawer where I had put them after fixing plaster cracks in the ceiling.

But when I went to get them, the desk was gone. I was gently reminded that “we” had put that beautiful desk on the front lawn down by the road last summer when we were “downsizing.” The contents of the drawers were shunted out to the barn.

And that is the price of minimalizing today. The last time you repaired anything, you threw away all the scraps and leftover parts. Now, before you can tackle the simplest job in the home, you have to go to town and buy everything all over again. Our friends in China are glad.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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