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This week’s edition!

Out & About with Rachel Morin: Home project

This is the cottage near Willard Beach that Liz purchased as her first home (Photo by Elizabeth Morin).

As I write this article, we are in the month of May.  We are nearly halfway through 2020!  We are in the midst of the biggest pandemic, Covid-19, the world has known.  We are in quarantine and who knows for how long?  We have time on our hands and are adhering to Gov. Janet Mills wise advice, “Stay home.”

And so, daughter Liz and I, who have shared many projects over the years, decided one day last month, after eyeing her garage, that it was the day to tackle the garage and bring it back to its original pristine condition.

Out into the driveway went everything from the garage. Stuff lined neatly, up and down its length—neatly? No, helter-skelter, well, you get the idea.  The car had been moved to the street to clear the driveway for the contents of the garage.

We cleaned the interior of the garage and swept it clean.  We felt great about it!  We then returned 40 percent of what was in the driveway to the garage.  Yes, we deemed only 40 percent worth keeping! 

These items were placed in specific areas, keeping like things together, such as garden tools, rakes, shovels, winter equipment, summer equipment, wheelbarrow, lawnmower, leaf bags, etc.  

A bicycle that hadn’t been ridden in a year or two, was given space while Liz postponed the decision to keep it or give it away.

Her worktable, which is regularly used, held items for spring planting neatly arranged, and ready for her “I can’t wait to start my planting!”

Gone to Goodwill were surplus luggage, flowerpots, lawn chair, boxes of floor tile, ceiling lights, and finally, items destined for the dump, were hauled away.  We felt great and were proud of ourselves.  We kept returning to the garage to enjoy our results.

This led me to think of a similar project Liz and I had done years ago on the first house she had owned.  It was a cottage near Willard Beach, in South Portland that she had found on her own when she decided, after college and with a new job, she wanted to establish a permanent residence and be on her own. 

It was lovely.  The entire family went for a look-see.  We looked at it from the street and saw a small one car garage at the end of a driveway next to a large front lawn.  A closed-in, wrap-around porch was on two sides of the cottage. One side welcomed us into her tiny, but well laid out kitchen, with an adjoining dining room. 

Completing the first floor were two large rooms, connecting each other.  One was a library with built in shelving and two matching sofas on either side of the room, left by the previous owner.  The other was a large living room with a staircase leading to two small bedrooms and a small bathroom on the second floor.  The living room opened onto the front porch and a door to the outside yard.

The basement was the last to be seen in the house—there was a furnace room, a large laundry room with washer/dryer and two rooms for extra storage. 

The house had a large front lawn and an even bigger back yard with a deck and a small shed for storage.  It was perfect for her.  We were enchanted and loved it.  And to think she found this on her own! 

Liz bought the house and made it her own, moving in with her collection of books and music, college memories, clothes accumulated over years, furniture, old and new, plants, stuff left at my house—well, you can see where this is going.  She filled every room, the extra rooms in the basement, the extra bedroom, the shed, and oh yes, what we called the double-living room.  The house wasn’t cluttered or messy; it was just full.

And after 10 years of Liz living there, Liz felt cramped.  Was it time for a new house?  A bigger space?  “Of course not.” I advised. “You just need to make some changes to accommodate your lifestyle.   Less stuff and you will be happier.” 

 I offered my help to get it all sorted out.  We picked a date and I returned two weeks later, the night before the Big Change.  We went to bed early with plans for a big breakfast.

It was 3 a.m. that night and I still hadn’t fallen asleep.  I was restless and eager to get started.  I thought I heard Liz tossing in bed across the hall.  “Are you awake, Liz?” I whispered.  “Yes, I am” she replied in a wide-awake voice.

“Well, let’s get up.  No sense lying awake here.  Let’s go for breakfast.”  And so off we went to Becky’s on the Portland waterfront, joining the early morning fishermen before they left for their morning catch. 

 “I am overwhelmed as to where to start.” Liz confided over coffee and the bountiful breakfast. “We will start in the basement” I readily answered, explaining, “We will find items in the house that need to be stored and we will already have prepared a space in the basement for these items.  We will bring these items promptly to the basement.  

We went back to the house with a plan.   First, clearing out stuff through the cellar bulkhead for items going to the dump.  Next, we prepared a seasonal room for things to be stored—play and seasonal costumes for her niece and nephews plus their  board games, Christmas and seasonal decorations and out of season clothing and footwear.  

The second room would have all her craft work and paint supplies.  The large laundry area would be divided into workspaces for future projects.    As it was, a table was set up for folding laundry and a shelf held all the detergent bottes, brushes, and cleaning solutions. Brooms, brushes, rags and dustpans were lined up, along with waste baskets for future cleanup jobs.  

On Day Two, we started on the second floor with the bedrooms, closets and bathroom.  This was in the day before Kon Mari and we went through everything systematically, what to keep, what to give away or what clearly was on its last legs.  

This section was the hardest and took longest to complete as it held all her clothes (dressy, casual, office, recreational, seasonal), shoes, purses, scarfs, hair appliances,  jewelry, cosmetics, lotions, accessories (seasonal and other occasions), plus a collection of tote bags and luggage and so much more. Many bags were brought to Goodwill and I even ended up with a few sweaters.

On Day Three, we breezed through the kitchen and dining room fairly easily.  We made a new arrangement of kitchen appliances, cookbooks and spices making it more organized and easier to work from.  

The library showed many books being donated to schools and churches for their fundraising Fairs.  The living room had magazines removed and some throw pillows going bye-bye. 

The garage and back shed were saved for another day.

We like giving each other the gift of time and sharing this big work project together made the work go much faster.  We really enjoyed the work going so smoothly and were so pleased with the final outcome and congratulated each other on a job well done. 

Each day we started our day early with the fishermen—a big breakfast at Becky’s.  This way, we did not have to stop for lunch.  We worked right through the day and ended with an early supper, tired but pleased with our accomplishments and mapping out our plan for the next day.  We have since tackled many big projects for family and for each other, in just this way.   As the Shakers say, “Many hands make light work.”

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