By Danielle French

Unpacking

Packing and unpacking can be such a chore. Moving generally is stressful. There is excitement about a new place and setting new roots but unsettling to leave years of memories behind. I have moved many times over the past 40 years. Moving to Canada from the US for university (and never leaving). Moving for jobs, moving for family. Moving overseas for a short while with two cats and a six month old in tow. 

Each time packing, unpacking, buying the odd new kitchen utensil, a new chair or sofa. Every move seemed – and I’m sure it was – just a bit larger. When you have a growing family, small children who need new things, old things stay to be passed down.  I didn’t find I gave away much over the years. I knew I could always use it somewhere and who knows, the kids might want things one day! Well that left me with a farm full of things I had accumulated over the years. 

South Pond Farms

The Farm at South Pond was really our longest permanent home as a family. The girls were young when we moved there. Aubrey Rose only 4 and Carlyle 12 and in between, Grace and Olivia. We all settled into life on the farm. We piled all of the “city furniture” into one room and called it the parlour. The rest of the house was a blend of country and refinished furniture.

It was a lovely house even though it was old and drafty. We tended the cook stove and fire as if it was our most important job which in the winter time, it was. I met Barb, a woman who could refinish and paint anything and give it new life and beauty. I am someone who likes change and moves furniture around often and painting and repainting regularly.

Starting and event business

I didn’t really mean to start an event business but the idea of serving food in our restored barn appealed to me, especially growing my own food and sharing with others. I wanted to build a community of people who appreciated fresh, uncomplicated meals and I could offer them in a place that was unique – a country environment like out in the field or forest or inside the magnificent barn.

So it began, years of accumulating plates, antique champagne flutes, tea cups and buckets of kitchen utensils to fill the tables in the barn. I also simply couldn’t understand who wouldn’t want these beauties when I found them.

Bar - unpacking

Time for a change

Sixteen years later, I knew in my heart it was time to let go and for someone else to pick up where we left off. The overwhelming work, the covid pandemic and not having time to really spend with my family called for a break. The house really didn’t seem as much of a family home anymore. It now felt like a family business with people coming and going and regular events. 

I was fortunate that another family was ready to step in. Luck also presented itself with the new owners happily taking on my years of collecting. The dishes, furniture and kitchen equipment all got to stay with the farm. That didn’t mean I didn’t have a lot to gather up and pack. Would it be ok to take 6 measuring cups? 20 bowls for mixing, a dozen funnels, what about glasses – wouldn’t we need several sets of 20 each?

Tasting Day

Downsizing

In our new home, it is spacious yet smaller. No large barns and sheds for storage. Over a short period of time I needed to downsize. All my girls are still young enough to not know what they need nor have the space for storing what they think they might need. It is tough when the things we want to pass on to our family may not really be what they may need or want. You come to the real hard truth of having to let go. One set of glassware, just a few measuring cups. Dishes – these were most difficult to let go of. 

There are so many organizing books and creative ways to live simply. For me I hit a wall of realization that I may cook simply but living simply was another matter. I remember a story I once heard about a moving truck filled with belongings never arriving at the destination. It left me wondering if after the anger and sadness about losing these items passed, there might also be a little bit of relief and the feeling of being unburdened. 

I spent a month loading family photos into the cloud and onto hard drives, keeping only the clothing I loved and whittling sentimental pieces down to very little. A crazy point came this week when I wanted to transplant some things in my very tiny garden and realized I had given away my shovels. I went into the hardware store to buy one.

unpacking - danielle french new kitchen
unpacking-cookbook shelf

Settling

I am still unpacking and still putting things into piles to give away. I found a home for my cookbooks in a former bathroom cabinet that Barb re-painted for me to fit into my modern surroundings. Houseplants are my new “garden” at least for now. I am looking for ways to repurpose both furnishings and utensils which occupies a good amount of time. I am grateful for what I do have and I don’t miss a single thing that I’ve sent away. I believe I have been able to repurpose everything and give those things a new life with others who need it.

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