What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

– vintage Mercedes alloy wheels

I am, I confess, a recovering car-holic. I shake my head now to think of all the cash, care, sweat and shivers I spent keeping cars running and on my deferred dreams of restoring vintage classics. (Not that Nimue and I are free of private automobile possession, but a series of exorcisms have done much to put the demons in their place. We’re down to a practical little Toyota Echo and our white cargo van “Remodelmobile.”)

I went through a long Mercedes phase, and Nimue came along for the ride. Twenty, even ten years ago we could afford a 1970s or 80s Mercedes diesel, address its issues, and then depend on it for a hundred thousand miles so long as we kept the filters and oil changed. But those cars are older now, most of them “B.E.R.”: beyond the cost of economic repair. The world has changed, as have we. As it recedes in the rearview mirror, I find I don’t miss it all that much.

Left behind is a lot of Mercedes “stuff”: parts purchased but never installed, filters, technical literature, tools … material for future sheds. Today I’ve posted an extra set of alloy wheels to craigslist. I told myself they were worth a hundred bucks for so long that I feel I have to try to sell them for $40. But I suspect I ought to just give them away.

The "bundt" style allow wheels, made for Mercedes by Fuchs, graced a lot of Benzes from 1969 to 1985.

The “bundt” style allow wheels, made for Mercedes by Fuchs, graced a lot of Benzes from 1969 to 1985.

shedding style: resell
destination: someone else’s garage or, better, old car

Comments welcome … have you any corners dusty with the ashes of former flames?

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– reel mower

We so wanted this to work. We loved the hope of never buying nor burning lawn mower gasoline again.


But American sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua) and white oaks (Quercus alba) lean out over our “lawn,” which is a rough patch of bermuda grass and Indo-European herbaceous colonizers of disturbed ground. By hundreds, the gums drop the spiked, remarkably rot-resistant balls that are their fruits. The oaks rain down thousands of acorns on top of them. It’s the ambition of each and every gum-ball and acorn out there to jam the whirling blades of the mower and bring it to a jarring halt.

Maybe we’ll get a goat.

shedding style: resell
destination: the grass that’s greener in someone else’s lawn

Comments welcome … has your “simpler” ever turned out to be much more complicated?


– water garden pond liner with DIY stand

Twenty years ago—how they’ve flowed down what watersheds!—Nimue and I moved to northeast Georgia so she could start her Ph.D studies at the nearby state university. Among our inheritances from the Previous Occupants of the house we moved into was a fish pond. The male P.O. had dug a hole in the side yard, lined it with plastic from an old waterbed mattress, installed a pump, and filled it with goldfish and a foot-long koi.

That arrangement didn’t survive the gap in occupancy between the P.O.s and us. When we moved in, the view out the bedroom window was of a hole in the red Georgia clay, holding a scummy few inches of water, around which a sheet of plastic flapped in every breeze.

As soon as I had a spare moment, I determined to yank the liner out and fill in the scar in the earth. Until I watched as frogs plopped! into the scant water that was there. This, I realized, was someone’s habitat—and it would be a long, hot, dry hop and crawl to reach the nearest fresh water.

Nimue and I researched and re-thought. We could, we realized, fairly easily patch the holes in the liner, rim the edge with locally-sourced stones, add plants and fish and snails, and have—hooray—a water garden! It turned out to be not quite that easy, but it almost was, and it gave us a lot of pleasure until frosts threatened.

The hardy water lilies would overwinter outside, but my goodness, I had all of perhaps $15 invested in the water hyacinths and water lettuce. So I bought a rigid plastic pond liner, built a stand for it, and moved the tender plants and a few goldfish inside for the season.


By moving this today, did I perform a kidney transplant?

That’s how we wound up with our above-ground pond. We’ve hauled it and a water lily to three more addresses since, though none of the places we’ve had for siting it have been ideal. It finally occurred to us we don’t have to do so anymore. We’ve downsized to a modest tub, in which our 19-year-old “James Brydon” can still thrive. I listed the liner, stand, and cuttings from the lily for sale, and today handed them off to their new owners.

shedding style: resell
destination: a new water gardener’s garden

Comments welcome … I think there’s no “less” in this at all, only “more.” What else in our world, I wonder, might wear that mantle if we’d see it that way?


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– water garden pond liners

If you’d given me as many chances to guess as the odds against a talking Cheeto actually becoming the next President of the United States, I’d have never offered up what the purchaser of our water garden tubs said he plans to do with them. “I have two 200-pound mastiffs,” he said. “Their last water bowl broke. These will be great!”


Thirty-gallon water garden pond liners or tubs … that’s 60 gallons in dog H2O.

Drink up, doggies!

shedding style: resell
destination: kennel

Comments welcome … what’s your most absurd re-purposing story?


– underbed storage containers

On the first page of almost anything written about organization, you’ll probably read, “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” It makes sense. If clutter is something out of place, it can’t stop being clutter till it has a place and is in it.

For years, Nimue and I knew we had a clutter problem. But we thought our trouble was we didn’t have places enough. So we studied closet organization systems like they were guides to the Holy Grail. I built so many shelves, it appeared I’d opened a small furniture factory. We went on an organizational pilgrimage … to IKEA. And we bought storage containers in great variety and quantity.

Now we think that, though it’s true that everything should have a place, it’s not that we didn’t have enough places. We had too much stuff. Stuff we used often enough we thought we should have extras. Stuff we used seldom. Stuff we never used, but planned to someday. Stuff we never used because it was broken, but imagined we might repair. Stuff we didn’t like, but kept because someone gave it to us. Stuff we once used, but didn’t anymore, but kept because we paid good money for it. Stuff we didn’t want, but thought someone might, so we kept it in hopes that person would knock on the door and ask for it.

All that stuff did need a lot of containers … so many that they became just more stuff to keep ordered, clean, and in its right place.

Now that we’ve been shedding possessions that we don’t like or don’t use, we need fewer storage containers. Like these under-bed jobs that look great because they claimed “wasted space” that otherwise just bred dust-kittens. For me, however, they just became black holes of out-of-sight, out-of-mindness. Nimue put winter clothes in hers … but our mild winter weather didn’t encourage getting them out.


We freed them up by giving away most of those clothes. Now the containers are going, too. Maybe they’ll work better for someone else. We sold two the other day. Two more are available on craigslist.

shedding style: resell
destination: craigslist

Comments welcome … is your desire for containers contained? (We’re still fools for those clear plastic “shoeboxes.”)


– the tandemobile

We’re back! And today’s shed is a rather big one.

1992 Ford Aerostar,

1992 Ford Aerostar, “the tandemobile”

I can’t remember how long ago I met the tandemobile—perhaps 15 years past. It’s a 1992 Ford Aerostar mini-van, a really rather useful melding of a passenger car chassis with a light-duty truck frame. My father acquired it as grandchildren began to multiply, so he and Mom could take them all into town to eat out. After complications due to glaucoma took his eyesight, my brothers and I were designated its drivers on those family outings. And when Dad finally decided to sell the Aerostar, Nimue and I bought it, because we’d just planned a big family gathering and we wanted to haul the g-kids to the mountain vistas their fathers and I so enjoyed when we were their age.

We intended to sell it immediately afterward. But one of us wondered: if we took the seats out, would the tandem bicycle fit in the back?

Ready, set, swallow!

Ready, set, swallow! (Not pictured: the bar we concocted with a fork-mount block to secure the tandem.)

By about half an inch, it did.

So the Aerostar became the tandemobile. For the last few years, it’s hauled the bike to dozens of rallies and remote ride starts. We’ve even slept in it a couple times when we didn’t want to bother with pitching a tent.

But “entropy happens.” We dealt with it as it arose. I deliberated and decided to spend a day or two crouching on concrete and straining to remove and replace most of the brake system. I signed the credit-card authorization (gulp!) to have the air conditioning system converted to R134a. But replace the whole front-end (that is, pretty much all the steering and suspension parts)? It’s a job—if you don’t have a lift and a shop, or on the other hand a $um more than the vehicle is worth—that requires banging away with chisels and hammers for hours whilst twisted into a pretzel underneath the beast. Not for me, not after some wisdom’s finally begun, however painfully, to accrue in my body and brain.

We spent today giving the tandemobile a bath and manicure before advertising it for sale on craigslist. I told the truth about what it needs. (How could I not?) There are guys and gals younger than me out there, with bodies less worn and spirits hungrier, who’ll be willing to tackle it. But at this point in the adventure of my life, I think I’ll save my hunger for riding and the road.

shedding style: resell
destination: someone else’s life

Comments welcome … what might you shed today?


– books

Happy Valentine’s day, dear readers! We hope whatever your weather, it’s warm at your hearth and in your hearts!

Though we haven’t posted lately, we haven’t been idle at Casa de WIST. We re-mortared the field stones that were loose in the fireplace surround and painted the sitting room. (At last!). And we’ve undertaken the soul-searching and muscle-straining labor of culling our library. How many books do an academic and a philosophically-and-theologically-trained clergyperson acquire in years, nay, decades of voracious reading? We don’t actually know … we gave up counting long ago. But: lots of lots.

We knew when we committed to lightening up that shedding books was going to be hard. Some are such good friends … others involve long- and closely-held hopes … and collectively they come to such a sunk cost. But we’ve come to see that, though a few books are tools of our trades that we use over and over, most are like meals we eat. Once we’ve enjoyed the experience, we should pass them on so others may as well. It’s crazy to build more and more bookshelves to hold them while they fade and gather dust.

Speaking of bookshelves, those are another potential shed. But back to today’s—

A church nearby occasionally rents tables for rummage sales, thereby raising funds for good works. Last fall we took mostly housewares. Today we set up a used bookstore for a half-day.

Nimue's bookstore

Nimue’s bookstore … hardbacks cost a buck, trade paperbacks 50 cents, mass-market paperbacks a quarter, or five for a dollar … we aren’t getting rich this way.

I don’t think we have second careers ahead as booksellers, but a few dozen books are now in the hands of new readers. Most importantly, we have several boxes full that we’ve already mentally parted from; we just have to decide on their destinations. Options abound: thrift stores, our community “Friends of the Library” booksale, Better World Books drop-off boxes, a venerable local used bookstore, and (for a very few volumes) internet resellers.

“Of making many books there is no end,” Ecclesiastes said, “and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes was frequently a grump. Let books abound, we say! Let them never settle too long, but circulate!

shedding style: resell
destination: new readers 

Comments welcome … any ideas for other happy ways to pass books along?


– corn planter box

The previous owner of our house left a curiosity beside the garage where the trash cans sit: an open steel box. It has remained there because I couldn’t think of anything better to do with it, though I tried. It seemed like something I ought to do something clever with, like organize things in. (Ah, but what “things”?) Or fill with plants in pots. (But our pet plants are perfectly happy sitting out where they get some air.)

The box is constructed of galvanized steel. It has two bail handles and a hole with a nipple at the bottom of one end. I thought it was the ice compartment out of an old icebox, but when I took a closer look today I found lettering on one side that says, in part, “Holden’s Ideal Corn Planter” and “Des Moines.” So it’s a piece of an old seed corn planter. I’m glad to know that, but I still can’t think of anything to do with it, except pass it along to someone who can via craigslist.


shedding style: resell
destination: a home that uses pinterest

Comments welcome … have you ever had part of someone else’s project hanging around cluttering your space?


bicycle transport bag

Things there are in heaven and earth that most people never need nor want, like very specialized luggage. If you’re one of the few who need a bicycle transport bag, you likely know so. I acquired mine to bring the Lady Eliza home to Georgia from the UK.

The Lady Eliza, an early 1950s Hercules roadster

The Lady Eliza, an early 1950s Hercules roadster

Though I can see myself possibly world-traveling with bicycles again, one trial with a soft-side case was enough to put me off that style. (Though, reinforced with panels I cut from a carton, it went through coach and airport baggage handling without damage to the contents.) I’m grateful ads on craigslist are free, because I expect to feel somewhat underwhelmed with interest!

Blueberry are Muffin aren't sure what it is, but are convinced it concerns cats.

Blueberry are Muffin aren’t sure what it is, but are convinced it concerns cats.

shedding style: resell
destination: another adventurous cyclist’s life

Comments welcome … do you have any clutter that’s just too weird to easily pass along?

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hooded litter box

You get a cat. Great! It’s like having a stuffed animal that’s warm, loves you back, plays with you and purrs! Bringing the cat home isn’t enough, however; you have to provide your new friend with some essential accessories—most urgently, with a litter box filled with litter. But lucky you, “housebreaking” is a word that need never pass your lips. Kitteh was born knowing what to do in it. It’s all good!

Except after awhile, it’s not. Litter doesn’t stay in the box. You recoil from the feel of it under your bare feet when you go to the toilet in the middle of the night. You think, “There must be something better … what about one of those litter boxes with a lid?” So back to the Pet Tactical Support Center you go, and out you come with a designer-styled, veterinarian-recommended, state-of-the-art kitty elimination station.

Did you ask Kitteh what Kitteh thought? No, you did not. If you had, Kitteh would have told you that Kitteh likes to do that business with a view, thank you. Would you crawl into a smelly little box to do yours? Neither will Kitteh. Kitteh will just do it on the floor, right outside the fancy new box. Thank you very much.

So you remove the hood. At least the tray can still be used. But after awhile, you think, “There must be something better … what about one of those high-sided litter boxes?”

Ask Kitteh.


Muffin advises: scoop it daily and change it weekly, and no one will get hurt.


Well, our cats strongly prefer open boxes, but cats are notoriously idiosyncratic—someone else’s spillage may vary. Or perhaps every cat household has to try a hooded box once. In the interest of enabling another’s experience, I’m offering ours up on craigslist.

shedding style: resell
destination: another hopeful dreamer’s bathroom

Comments by cats welcome … what waste disposal infrastructure do you prefer?