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A hairy invasion

Columnist Shannon McKinnon on words of wisdom to simplify.

There’s an old joke about how we spend the first half of our life figuring out how to get a mate, have children, buy a home and launch a career and the second half figuring out how to get rid of it all.

Often, the older we get the more we hearken to the words of Thoreau “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Though if he really meant it, he would have only said it once.

I believe in simplifying one’s life as much as possible, though not to the point of dumping the spouse and children! Living in a small home with no basement and only a small storage shed helps.

I can’t stand clutter and when you don’t have room to spread out it makes it easy to take a minimalist stance. But it’s more than that.

Stuff has an insidious way of owning us instead of the other way around.

RVs need to be winterized, ATVs need to be routinely serviced, even a wheelbarrow needs to have its tire inflated and a little bit of grease added now and then.

With every purchase large or small comes a second expenditure of time spent caring for it.

My favourite part of Thoreau’s Walden is where he finds some pretty pieces of limestone.

He brings them into his modest cabin and sets them on his desk. A few days later he realizes the limestone needs to be dusted so he tosses them all out the window.

The pretty glass bauble that delights us in the store is nothing but a time thief once we bring it home.

And then there is the time spent worrying about our possessions. The more coveted they are the more the potential for stress.

We have to insure them, lock them up and worry about them getting scratched, broken or stolen. And we wonder why things never make us happy!

This spring I spent three horror-filled days sorting through our storage shed.

The horror came not because of all the stuff we’ve managed to accumulate but because of a hairy invasion.

Not only had some mice found their way into the shed over the winter but something much larger had joined them.

I won’t gross you out with the details but let’s just say its large digestive tract was very healthy.

I’m thinking a weasel, since (fortunately?) the shed wasn’t permeated with that distinctive packrat odor.

Count your blessings where you find them I suppose, but it was still traumatic; rubber gloves, bleach water and disposable scrub brush kind of traumatic.

Almost everything was packed in rubber containers with the exception of an ancient hamper from my childhood filled with an assortment of treasured toys and stuffed animals.

They represented what was left after years of clutter reduction.

Memory loaded toys that I didn’t need but couldn’t part with. I had carefully packed them in a solid hard vinyl hamper that I had assumed was rodent proof.

You know what they say about the word assume.

Apparently the bottom was made out of thick cardboard and the big whatever-it-was managed to chew its way under, up and in.

Oh, the horror of lifting the lid and discovering my stuffed animals had become … well, unstuffed. Perky the Pekinese dog stared up at me — or rather he would have if his face hadn’t been chewed off.

Cuddles the bear lurched on his side with his stomach leaking out and Monkey the Monkey was missing an entire arm and most of his right knee.

It was like a ripper scene from a movie (insert the reeee, reeee, reeee, noise here).

What hadn’t been chewed had been compromised beyond redemption.

There wasn’t enough bleach in the world to make those animals cuddly again.

My heart dropped with each plunk into the garbage bag.

When all the memory and urine soaked toys had departed along with the hamper I realized three things. One, it’s not what I hold in my hand that is important but what I hold in my heart. Two, storage sheds are crazy.

We spend money to build a shed to hold stuff we don’t use. How much wiser it would be to shed our stuff than stuff our shed. Three, we need to do some serious rodent proofing around here.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns or check out her garden blog by visiting