Clear the Clutter

“You have such a tidy farm!” is a common exclamation after guests have taken one of our educational farm tours. “That must be so much work.”

And they’re right—it is. When Grandma and Grandpa first bought the old Fullington farm in 1968, the buildings were in much need of repair, some were beyond repair and needed to come down, piles of old boards and farm equipment lingered at the perimeter of the barnyard, and the farmhouse was ready for major renovations.

The summers of ’98 and ’99, when my love of chickens brought us north to create our first chicken coop, we hauled away the old rubble piles by the trailer-load. Even today, each autumn or spring we pick an out-building to clear out, organizing what needs to stay and divesting of that which is either no longer usable or desired. In the process, we occasionally find an odd keepsake from another era—a vintage blue medicine bottle, a long-lost horse shoe, a German coin from WWI.

Clearing the clutter is tedious work, but it feels so good when you walk into the workshop and can find the tool you’ve been looking for. The space changes from dank and dusty to smelling airy and feeling open. There’s a real sense of accomplishment when the last bag of detritus is hauled away, the last tool placed on its peg, and the broom replaced in the corner.

That need to clean out the clutter must have been on my mind this last Thursday as we were hosting our evening Spoken Word event at Farmstead. During the event, we feature local authors and poets, host open-mic readings and storytelling, pass a story, and have a three-word poetry writing challenge. Here’s the three words I drew and the writing that ensued.

Three-word poetry challenge: pollen, silt, plain

There’s a charm to keeping things plain.
Just what you need
With a little artistic whimsy thrown in
To keep your soul going.

Too much stuff collects like silt
Clogging up life.
Learn to divest mischievously
Like how the lovely flower
Coats the bee with pollen
As it rumbles its love
In the trumpet of nectar.

Divest down to the basics.
Keep the musical instruments
To sing in the spaces
You’ve not built in your life.
Your old clutter
Might be just what someone else
Needed on their journey.

Travel lightly
But bring the sketch pad.
Catch those moments worth holding onto
Add a touch of color,
A language all of us speak
More or less fluently.

When minimalism creates potential
We more wholly realize
The incredible magic
Of the flight of honeybees,
Which physics still cannot explain.

In a time of commodity
With its whir of consumption,
Where we use things to show who we are,
Choose to be old-school.
Keep to the basics
Embrace plain again
With a little whimsy here and there
For your soul.


Clearing the clutter can also be the way you work your day—building in moments to enjoy the golden sunrise on the tips of grasses across the pasture, stopping to pick the glossy blackberries alongside the roadside, or taking that nice long walk with the dog. Rushing around chasing business and the next relentless item on the “to-do” list is a clutter modern living doles out each day at a frenetic pace. Clutter, clutter, everywhere!

So take a moment to stop, clear some clutter, and enjoy the afterglow from your accomplishment. You might even have a moment for a poem. See you down on the farm sometime.