Column: When in doubt, just throw it out

One can never have too many walking sticks and canes. At least that was my thinking as I collected scores of walking sticks and canes over the years.

Walking sticks from just about every national park we ever visited. Canes from my very favorite shop in the world, James Smith & Sons in London, and from Appalachian mountain woodcarvers who inherited the craft from their Scottish ancestors.

Eventually, I was prompted to enlist a local craftsman — Ray Gurriere of the former One-Legged Chair shop on the North Road in Mattituck — to build a big wooden box to house the collection. And still it grew.

Why do we collect things? Is it, as some psychoanalysts might suggest, to replace something of value we’ve lost earlier in life? Like Blackie, the dog, who was sent to the pound after biting 5-year-old me for the third and last time?

Or perhaps we should ask those serial hoarders who now seem to have their own cable television network.

Whatever the reasons, I recently seem to have reached the point in my life when the need to simplify has superseded the impulse to collect.

It began simply enough with the sale of a vacation home we could no longer afford to maintain (and most likely had not been able to afford in the first place). Thankfully, it sold in less than a month. Which probably explains the frenzy of divestiture that followed.

Next it was the big motorcycle we’d ridden across America in recent years. As Medicare eligibility fast approached, clearly it was time to quit while the quitting was good. That is, before bike, driver and passenger encountered a tree, truck or a rain-slicked roadway. It, too, sold quickly.

Hey, what about the boat? It’s more boat than we really need, isn’t it? It, too, sold quickly, proof once more that if you really want to sell something, price it to sell.

As you may have been able to tell by now, the urge to simplify had descended squarely on the Gustavson household.

The next logical step, of course, was to rent a dumpster from North Fork Sanitation. Into it we dumped 90 percent of the contents of those by-now soggy cardboard boxes that sat in the basement year after year. And the out-of-date guidebooks from trips past.

Next we will turn our attention to those temples of excess — the attic and the garage.

As a lifelong collector, I thought this would be harder than it is. Simplifying one’s life turns out to be liberating. I can even envision the day when the former Joan Giger Walker and I have simplified our lives to the extent that we can fit all our worldly possessions into a VW Vanagon — just as long as there’s a rack on the roof for those walking sticks and canes.

How many years did we drive past Brecknock Hall in Greenport and lament the bygone era when its windows were illuminated with the light of human activity?

Answer: too many.

But those dark days of inactivity and decline are now forgotten, thanks to the fine folks from Peconic Landing and the dozens of volunteers and craftsmen who have meticulously restored the Floyd family homestead to its original grandeur.

Have you been inside Brecknock Hall recently? Not only has it been restored, but it has become the setting for numerous gatherings, parties and even wedding receptions. It is now, arguably, the grandest quasi-public space on the North Fork – living and breathing proof of the inherent value of historic preservation.

Well done, one and all.

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