Pewter and Potpourri: The Weight of Stuff

Boo and I spent Saturday going through all of my bins and bins of supplies.

Remember the before with 82 bins of supplies?

ideas for organizing craft supplies via Lil Blue Boo

Here’s the after:

On Saturday we took all the bins out to the studio and went through one at a time…..sorting into piles: keep, give away, donate, sell.   It took 8 hours….and we watched 6 episodes of The Waltons while we worked. I was able to get all the supplies I wanted to keep for ongoing projects to about 10 bins. Boo set up a little shop and tried to sell everything back to me.  I didn’t take the bait.

Lisa and Gicela cut all the remaining rolls of fabric last week and most of them are gone now.  The house looks a little emptier and I feel lighter every day.  I’ve still been listing my “yard sale” items day by day to raise funds for moving etc.  Thank you to everyone who’s made a purchase.  It will help us get through the next year as I begin to “write” for a living.  We’ve had a few showings of the house recently and I know it will sell when it’s the right time (maybe the de-cluttering will help!).

I’ve been thinking a lot about owning stuff lately. When each of my grandparents passed away it was easy to tell what they valued, because they had so little. I can’t imagine anyone being able to go through our house a month ago and single out what I valued. It’s getting a little easier each day I think as I go through the process of getting rid of things.

For the past two weeks I’ve parted with things I never thought I’d part with. Every day I do a pass of the house and pull things to sell, donate, and throw away. A new look at each area changes my perspective each day: do I want that? do I need that? And my ultimate test is: if I died tomorrow, would I care what happened to it? It really whittles things down to the barest of essentials. There are things I’ve saved for years thinking I would use items or supplies for a project…now I just realize I could find the supplies again if I needed to….and I realized that the weight lifted from parting with it is worth much more than the value of the item.  But as much as we’ve already gotten rid of so far, we will probably end up storing some items with my family in N.C., I don’t want Boo to look back in a few years and wonder where everything from her childhood went.

The prayer of confession two Sundays ago I wrote in my journal because I love the message:

We Cling to our possessions

You call us to be pilgrims, to follow you in a journey of faith.
We cling to our possessions, trusting in them for security.
You lead us into unfamiliar places, asking that we trust in your will.


A reader Abby passed this quote along:

Getting Rid of Stuff via




My Aunt left me a message that she’d found something in her drawer that she thought was yet another sign that we were meant to move to the Hemlock.  When I opened up the small package she sent in the mail I found a small bag of potpourri that my grandmother had purchased 31 years ago at the Hemlock Inn gift shop:

The Hemlock Inn Potpourri from gift shop c. 1983

I asked her how she knew that it was from the Hemlock, I couldn’t understand how a bag of potpourri would still be around after so many years.  My aunt explained that my grandmother Marge owned very few things. In fact, Marge’s dresser drawers were empty except for just a few items because she was never able to go outside of the house without assistance, so she never had the chance to accumulate things. She was diagnosed with MS when when she was fairly young. She had many complications from it, including having a kidney removed in the 1960’s.  She stayed in the hospital for over a month and had to learn to walk again.  That’s when she got her first little motorized cart, like the one you see in the photo below:


Top Row: Mom, Perry, Dad, Uncle Steve, Aunt Sharon
Bottom Row: Me, Paw-Paw, Cousin David, Swen, Grandma Marge

The weekend in the photo was the last time that my Aunt Sharon saw Marge .  It was the last vacation we all took together as a family because Marge passed away soon after that.  But we have the photos, and there’s the potpourri, a small $1.75 bag of dried flowers.  Most people would have probably thrown the potpourri away by now. It’s long lost it’s fragrance. But according to my Aunt:

“The Hemlock Inn was the one place where your grandmother was able to shop on her own.  She could make it from the dining room to the office with her walker because they were connected.  Each time we visited she would pick out a few things, usually a jar of pumpkin chips, maybe a few piece of pewter dishware and of course the potpourri.  She kept that potpourri in her drawer. I knew exactly what it was when I found it. And for some reason I kept it all these years, and now I know it was so I could tell you that story.”


And now I know that it was so that I could tell you all that story too.

Back in January, Mort let me go through some of the file cabinets at the inn when we were visiting. I found a few of the original guest registrations in the Hemlock’s records that my grandparents and parents filled out:

On the back of the June 1979 registration are the hand written gift shop purchases my grandmother would have made: 4 pewter dinner plates and 4 pewter desert plates.

The pewter dishes have a whole new meaning for me because my grandmother picked them out and purchased herself.  I can imagine how extraordinary it would be to have that little bit of freedom, to feel that little bit of independence.  I think I take that for granted every single day.

Marge’s Pewter Pitcher:

As I simplify the things we own, the pewter pitcher and the potpourri are being kept.



A few people have asked where I will be writing when we move.  Right here.  You’ll start to see some organizational changes though on the blog to keep things better categorized.

To read all the Hemlock Inn posts to date click here or the photo below:

A Year at the Hemlock Inn Bryson City, NC Ashley Hackshaw  / Lil Blue Boo

P.S. Despite all the de-cluttering I bought 9 used books at the library today. Books don’t count right?  I do think that one of the first things we’ll be doing in our new cottage at the Hemlock is installing some bookshelves!  (oh and did you know the Hemlock has a library?  that could be a new project too….a “trade-in” shelf where I can share books and get new ones.)





  1. says

    Love the pewter and potpourri story. Such special memories. Oh, and books are my downfall when it comes to decluttering. No, they don’t count. 😉

  2. shelley says

    I cried reading these beautiful memories about Marge and the Hemlock! What a new exciting adventure you are already on!
    I love the prayer of confession…..we are called to be pilgrims…to an unfamiliar place to trust you! As children of God, we are pilgrims on earth!
    I am so happy you are parting with earthly bondages that you do not need. You are in our fervent prayers! mom

  3. Kat says

    I LOVE getting rid of stuff. My recent move is making me into a minimalist I think :) I love reading about Hemlock. It sounds like a dream!

  4. says

    I’m so looking forward to reading you, fiction? non fiction? In the meantime I’ve just received the book you recommended in another post (Bryson city) It’s on my to be read list just after I finish the Call the Midwife trilogy.

  5. Jessica Kent Ange says

    Ashley – I hope you read this – because I live right down the road from Bryson City in Sylva. You may not remember me, but we were sorority sisters at Wake (I was a few years ahead of you). Perhaps when you get to the NC mountains we can reconnect. Your blog has inspired me for the past 2 years. I am a family physician here and have one 5 year old son. We love exploring the mountains hiking or on the lakes with our kayaks and paddle-board. Please let me know if we can help you get settled in when you get here! – Jessica Kent Ange