The cleaning project I wouldn’t have done had I planned it

I think if I had planned to do it, it wouldn’t have happened. But the circumstances fell into place, and my friends who helped me were the perfect ones to assist me with the project.

My late husband Jim’s workshop/boat storage/lawn mower storage building had become a real mess. It was disorganized when Jim was alive — he was still in the process of finishing the inside of it to be his woodworking workshop when he became ill.

It’s an insulated and heated space, so the temptation to store things there is irresistible. I’m sure its catch-all status would have totally irritated Jim. But it also has made it difficult for me to function.

Because of the mess, a simple search for a screwdriver became a treasure hunt — not very conducive to keeping up with those little house maintenance chores.

Add my haphazard use of the space by stuffing things into it temporarily until I figured out what to do with them, and taking the rider mower and the push mower out and putting them back still covered in grass. And the items related to the boat stored in the space during the winter, my bicycle and treadmill, and stuff from the camper that needed a home until the next season.

And none of that to be outdone by the little hole in the framework of the side access door that had allowed mice into the space to make their unique kind of mess.

Anyway, you get the picture.

A shelf to hold odds and ends will help keep the workbench clear for working.

A shelf to hold odds and ends will help keep the workbench clear for working.

When close friends from The County were going to be down this way visiting family, we agreed it would be a good idea to replace the door — a snap for our carpenter friend. I also mentioned that I should borrow his wife, who is known in our circles for her cleaning and organizational skills, to help me get control of the space.

So he asked her and she said yes. I was committed.

They came one weekend morning and while he replaced the door, she and I began to put order in the chaos. What a job it was, but as we began to haul bags of trash and discarded items out of the building, and develop a system for where tools could be found, and actually labeled cabinets and drawers, and watched shelves and racks go up on the walls for storage, my spirit felt lighter and lighter.

There were a few sad moments, like when we turned on the CD player and found it still contained Jim’s favorite “Cher” CD he had loaded into it himself. Or little memories associated with tools from Christmas or birthdays or a bargain he was especially excited about from a truckload sale. Or the items we had replaced because they no longer functioned properly but Jim wouldn’t throw them out. You never know. Might need parts.

But it was OK. My friends love Jim too, and they could understand my need to work through those moments as they arose over the two-day project.

In the end, I hadn’t realized how much the weight of all of that stuff in the workshop/garage and the chaos it was in affected my sense of well-being. I find myself making excuses to go out there now, just to make sure all remains in order.

And as I look over the space in its new state of organization, I feel empowered, and I know in my heart that Jim would be happy with the changes. I am happy with them too, and happy I was able to share the process with friends who are so dear to both of us.


Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.