Burn Couches, Not Bridges

Last week I changed the transmission fluid in our Dodge Caravan. I have not formally named the Caravan yet to my shame. My brother Matt usually comes up with catchy names for his vehicles such as Benedict Arnold. I need a catchy name for our Dodge Caravan. Any suggestions? Maybe I’ll come up with one by the end of the blog. Anwyay, I was changing transmission fluid…

Occasionally I’m struck by how much junk I have. Usually this happens when I need a 12 mm wrench. I remember seeing one of those at the back of garage so I open the garage door and am met by a mountain of junk that’s so high I encounter different weather conditions as I climb over it. It’s like an archeological dig with varying levels that reflect different years in my life. I climb past aluminum extrusions from the teardrop camper my dad and I built a few years back. Then I find carburetors to a motorcycle I bought soon after the camper was built. After that I clamber over a 35cc chainsaw that I bought at a yard sale for $5 which I was planning on using for chainsaw carving (but still isn’t quite running). Once I achieve the summit, I find a bucket of bolts to a motorcycle I currently own, but am not driving. This is because when I was putting the motorcycle back together I couldn’t find the bucket of bolts I just climbed over. I make a mental note, “There’s that bucket of bolts! Remember where that is.” I slide down the other side and find my 12 mm wrench then fight my way out of the garage and into daylight again. Typically after this ordeal I realize it wasn’t a 12 mm wrench I needed but a 10mm and the process starts over again.

When you get married you learn a few things about yourself (mostly from your wife pointing them out). I always thought I was disorganized (and you may have assumed that based on the first paragraph of this blog post) but I’m finding out that I actually really like organization and feel quite satisfied when everything is perfectly square, neat, and functioning well. In real life, however, things are rarely perfect and when I can’t perfectly categorize and organize my things, I get frustrated and throw everything in a bucket, bin, or tin of some sort. If I don’t have a system, it doesn’t annoy me that the system isn’t working. If I have a system of organization, it drives me crazy when things don’t fall into that system. When something isn’t working properly, it drives me nuts so if I don’t have a system in place (like with my tools, for example) then my brain isn’t stressing over the mess because it isn’t breaking any systems in place. Does that make any sense at all?

All this to say that recently I was working on my Honda CB175 I bought for $50 from my brother-in-law, Leroy Detweiler.

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The amazing 1972 Honda CB 175 my brother in law found for me in an old guy’s barn.

It struck me that I spend most of my time finding the tools to complete a task than I do on the task itself. Also, I spend needless amounts of money buying Harbor Freight 12 mm wrenches that disappear under and into junk piles. Junk piles seem to grow to point where they have their own gravity pull and actually start absorbing items into themselves. If you don’t watch it, the gravity pull will become so strong it will actually pull things off of shelves and actually suck the walls closer to the junk pile. This is why messy garages rarely seem large enough, the walls are pulled in too closely to the junk pile. However, if I had a system that kept track of tools and whatnot, I could find and replace tools much easier thereby keeping the gravity pull of the junk pile to a minimum. This may seem obvious to organized folks such as yourselves but it took me 25 years to admit organization is worth the pain it causes. I began organizing my shop and getting rid of projects that I will never get done. It’s freeing to get rid of dumb projects, mostly because I don’t have to climb over them to get into the garage anymore.

This zeal carried over into the house. One day I was in the living room and just had enough of it. Our house was full of stuff! Also, the padding on our couch and loveseat were so bony it looked like we had a famine stricken herd of cattle with sunken ribs grazing in our living room. We had bought the set for $75 several years ago and so we had got our use out of them. Meanwhile, upstairs we had a couch that our landlord, Trenton, was storing at our house. Trenton and I had tried to move it to his house awhile back but we could not get the couch to fit around the corner in the steps so we gave up and put the couch back into the “nursery” room. It occurred to me that if we get rid of the bony couch and loveseat, we could put the landlords sofa down in the living room. This way we could free up space upstairs and downstairs, and also spill coffee and drop popcorn on someone else’s couch. Win, win.

How do you get rid of couches? I had gotten rid of our old dryer that didn’t work by simply sticking it out on the driveway and putting a “free” sign on it. I promptly left for the weekend which got me out of any work required in helping to move it further. When we got back the dryer was gone! If that didn’t work I was going to try putting a “For Sale” sign with a hefty price tag on the dryer. This would guarantee that the dryer would soon be gone immediately without a trace. A “Free” sign is far less effective at getting unwanted items out of your possession. The problem with getting rid of our couches that way is that people also can’t steal couches quite as easily. Did you ever try to quietly and quickly shove a stolen couch and loveseat into a car without being noticed? It doesn’t work well. Plus, no one wants bony famine stricken couches, even in the slums of Goshen where we live. I quickly devised a plan in which the Dodge Minivan would be loaded with a couch one weekend, driven up to the in-laws farm in Michigan (where we go every weekend anyway) and then burned in the trash pit. The following weekend I would take the love seat. Janice informed me that this was not aggressive enough and that I could fit both couch and love seat in the van at the same time and take them both to the farm in one trip. Not one to discourage optimism, I agreed that I could likely get them both to the farm in the same load. If you have enough ratchet straps and a roof rack, anything is possible. Also, I thought overloading a vehicle with precarious and unusual cargo might be good practice for the mission field.

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The love seat sat nicely on top and the couch fit (almost) into the back. We could still legally strap Adilene into her car seat!

The couches burned surprisingly well. I was a bit taken aback. Having a couch sitting in your living room is basically the same as stacking barrels of gun powder around your coffee table.

It felt good getting rid of junk so I decided to keep the ball rolling. Later in the week I sold my Kawasaki KZ750 which, by far and away, was the worst motorcycle I’ve ever owned – even worse than my Yamaha Seca II which I bought wrecked and pieced back together with zip ties and duck tape in my parent’s shed. The guy who owned the KZ750 before me either took a chainsaw to the wiring harness or let his rabid Pit Bull dog chew on it so maybe it’s not fair to blame all the problems the motorcycle itself. The bike left me sit beside buys highways routinely and every time I fixed something I would think, “Well, now it’s one less thing to fix.” I never got the turning signals working and after the wiring harness melted together in a spectacular manner at an intersection in Elkhart, Indiana, I never quite forgave the motorcycle.

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A bucket of bolts and letdowns.

I listed the motorcycle on Facebook Marketplace at a ridiculously low price so no-one could come back later and accuse me of ripping them off. 

“Maybe I should even offer some money to take it,” I thought.

It occurred to me that I bought the bike, the seller seems to be in a similar circumstance. When I saw the motorcycle on the internet the price was ridiculously cheap, it came with an extra bucket of parts, and the seller tried to convince me not to buy it. Internally I thought the seller was probably just too inept to get it running. I, surely, with all my ingenuity and creativity, can make something of this project. Two years later, with my head hanging in despair, I tried to talk the buyers out of buying my motorcycle for an hour before they insisted I take their money. I could see they were convinced that they could get it running and I was probably just too stupid to fix it properly. Good luck, guys.

Also, here’s a video of Adilene chasing the hose around the backyard. If you’re not 1 of my 12 followers on Instagram you haven’t seen it yet. Every time I try to clean out the chicken coop, she’s trying to jump in front of me and get sprayed. Haha. It’s funny until mommy finds out daddy has been spraying baby with the hose.