Inez Castor

I know there are folks who consider summer the time for travel, picnics on the river and being generally carefree. It's safe to assume they aren't squished between the needs of an old house and a small income.

All year 'round I save, tucking away money for the summer projects. The biggest concerns are always the jobs I can't do myself.

During the last three years I've replaced the refrigerator and bed, George replaced the water heater, the toilet and the rotted back steps, and John made major roof repairs. Early this summer Ron built a new front gate, and last week he and Ken built a new pump house.

I'll never again lie awake worrying on stormy winter nights for fear

the tarp has blown off the pump. Sometimes I've checked, found my worst

fears realized and ended up flapping on the edge of the tarp like

longjohns on the clothes line, scared and helpless.

While the guys were building, my friend Judi was hanging grasscloth

on my fireplace wall. It's totally me and I'm thrilled with the results,

but basically hanging wallpaper is a one-person job. There was little I

could do beyond cutting on the line she marked.

At one point I sat on the back steps watching the guys work,

explaining that I was being "an equal-opportunity irritant." It's so

hard to stay out of the way while someone else works on my house!

But last week we finished the jobs that require outside help. From

here on, with mowing by the crew from GH Outreach, I can handle the work

that needs to happen. If the appliances hold out, I might even get a

breathing spell between big expenses.

I've spent several years re-doing one room at a time, making House

mine instead of my mother's and grandmother's. I've given Shannan the

family keepsakes and am extending the time I'll be able to live

independently by getting rid of clutter, furniture I can't move and

other hazards.

As an elder caregiver, I found many women simply became overwhelmed

by their "stuff," and were now unable to make the changes that would

have permitted them to remain independent for much longer. I lost one

friend that I'm convinced died simply because it was the only way she

could think of to get out of the mess.

So the new bed, replacing a 2x12 frame topped with particle board and

foam, is a light metal frame with wheels and a real mattress. The heavy

recliners have been replaced by outdoor lounges that are both

comfortable and lightweight. The vacuum cleaner that whipped me two

falls out of three has been replaced by a little one that doesn't.

I'm down to three rooms that need work, and there's nothing in them I

can't move. Every trip to town includes recycling or dropping off

goodies at St. Vinnie's. Best of all, with each simplification, I become

more carefree.

Reach Inez Castor, a longtime Triplicate columnist, at