These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Confession time. Are you ready?

What favorite things do you have in boxes in your attic, basement or hall closet that you just can’t let go of? How many times have you moved them?

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Old medicine bottles we’ve collected and now catch the light in our kitchen after years in boxes.

I’ll confess to being something of a hoarder. I tend to vest objects with such sentiment that it’s hard to toss them in the trash. I also don’t believe in buying new things when the old still have life in them, even if those favorite things are still packed away.  One day, of course, I will find exactly the place for them and I’ll be so glad I was vigilant.

Right? You’ve been there?

When we bought our summer cottage in Chautauqua, NY, built in 1895,  the house was fully furnished. A previous owner, whose family had been here for many years, had filled it to the roof and from what I’m told at that point the house was no longer habitable. The next owners cleared out much of it, did basic repairs and renovation and stocked it with used furniture, dishes, cooking utensils, even towels and sheets for renters.

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Cruets a previous cottage owner must have collected

By the time we came along there were still some items that had obviously lived here for decades, if not for more than a century. Our task as the newest owners was to sort and toss, not a good job for anyone who feels a personal connection to plates she’s never used and furniture that is interesting, if useless.

And, of course, we still had boxes of our own treasures to integrate.

Our favorite roadside find. Love the authentic shabby chic paint job.

Our favorite roadside find. Love the authentic shabby chic paint job.

Several years have passed, and little by little we’ve given away things we don’t need and repurposed or displayed other items we just couldn’t part with. Very little went into the trash–see above. In fact we’ve taken things from the roadside to use in the house, the favorite way families recycle here. In turn others have taken things we no longer needed.  We’ve refinished two gorgeous desks, installed the oak table my children grew up with on our porch and in every possible way combined our own treasured objects with those already here.

A previous resident loved to paint and these three canvases were hidden in our attic. So we framed them and now they have a place of honor in our dining area.

A previous resident loved to paint and these three canvases of local scenes were hidden in our attic. So we framed them–the chapel is right down the street–and now they have a place of honor in our dining area.

I thought you might enjoy a look at some of the things we found and repurposed. We still have a stack of old sheet music we’ve been carrying with us for forty years–no, I’m not kidding. But we’ve selected the ones we plan to put on the wall here, and once they’re up I’ll show  those in a future installment.

Maybe there’s a metaphor here for life. Finding the things we truly value, taking care of them until we need them, using them to adorn and enrich our lives, and sharing whatever we don’t need with others who do. Whether there is or not, take a look.




  1. Lorraine Thacker on August 26, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Those are really special things. I love that you were able to use those canvases. The man that built and lived in our home with his wife for it’s first five years had a love of useable items and I’m so glad they did! It’s one of the things that made us love our home and buy it. An old door for the hot water tank space (he even cut slits in it and put old iron nails on it to hang the bathtowels, the slits allow the warmth from the tanks to warm the towels). An old door with the original glass knob for the hall coat closet and best of all an old window in its original frame (chipped paint & bare wood) for the transom at the top of the stairwell, which allows warmth into the hallway with the guest rooms, 2 bed and a bath. We close it off in the winter so that we don’t have to heat the entire upstairs, those rooms have wall heaters so the transom keeps it from getting too cold in our climate.

    • Emilie Richards on August 27, 2014 at 8:03 am

      I love all those “innovations.” And warm bath towels? Talk about a luxury.

  2. Marsha Markham on August 26, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    You remind me of the woman I see in the mirror. While I am not a hoarder I find I am way too attached to “stuff”! I love the pictures that you found…as for the sheet music, I’ve seen wreaths made of rolled up sheet music…how crafty are you? Also, that might be good to donate to a school. I save cards I’ve been given and pass them along to a friend who home schools to use or to the grade school down the way. I find I can part with some things as long as someone else can use them but I’m still probably too sentimental.

    • Emilie Richards on August 27, 2014 at 8:01 am

      The sheet music is from early 20th century and one of the pieces is something like “Please Mr. Edison.” Since Edison lived here in the early years of the Institution I can’t wait to get that one up on the wall. Whatever we can fit on the walls here will feel very at home.

  3. Lynn Ross on August 26, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    I really enjoyed your favorite things and all you said about them. I especially loved the paintings. Ted and I are pack rats so our apartment is stuffed. We’ve had to downsize a lot, but I will never part with the old upright writing desk that I refinished that my mother and her siblings did their homework on as well as the two coal oil lamps that I remember my grandparents using before they got electricity. I also have their depot/school wall clock and my paternal grandparents’ gonging kitchen clock and a small table that I refinished. Yes, I know that ruins the value, but I couldn’t live with them the way they were. I won’t even go into all the stuff in boxes that I don’t have a place for. None of it has monetary value, but I can’t let it go. I’ve already given up my bell and music box collection to our daughters. And Autumn has all of my music. 🙂

    • Emilie Richards on August 27, 2014 at 8:00 am

      Love the sound of all these, and the work you put into the refinished pieces makes them special indeed.

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