How to Quickly Convert a Barn.  Part Three. Clearing out

The golden rule of converting a barn is ‘Start with an empty space,’ and the rule of shared living is ‘Anybody can leave stuff anywhere, and nobody knows who did it.’  For decades people squirreled things in there, before going off to new homes and travels, or back to their room to enjoy the extra space they made.  It was like a department store, full of things that nobody wants.

The Cycling Department

Right at the entrance, making it hard to get in the door. So many bikes.  Were they breeding?  

Too many bikes

My first electric bike. The start of effortless commuting. Shooting up hills past Lycra men, streaking across the valley, immune to high winds, and finally crashing, because it was too big and wobbly. 

Tip. If you buy an electric bike do not get the first cheap one you see. Find one that fits or you will get hurt.

The next, smaller, bike, two more that are roadworthy, and then the gatherers.  As people moved in and out over the years.  The question ‘Who’s bike is that?’ would remain unanswered.  The answer was always ‘Think Sam left that, or ‘Oh that’s James’s, or Simon’s’   Followed by ‘Better not leave it outside.  He might still want it’.

Too many bikes

These are the silent breeders, leaning casually together or sometimes crashing simultaneously to the floor if you dared try and edge past them.

You can’t lend them out.  If you say to guests ‘Oh we have loads of bikes, plenty for you to borrow’ they get hours with pumps, and puncture repair kits that don’t have glue. It is fact that only 1 in 350 people know how to mend a puncture, and that person is never here.

Sometimes you can give them away. The folding bike went on holiday to France with friends, and got a free service from a friend in the city, but always came scurrying home. They are homing bikes as well as breeders.

Nobody likes a bike that bites your finger when you fold it up.

You can kill them slowly if you pop them outside for a minute. This one had no owner to rescue it.

Autumn dusted it with leaves, winter froze up the gears, spring rain got in to soften the tyres and then it was ready for the dump. This is a BAD thing to do. Don’t ever do that. Get them to a charity shop.

The Food Hall and Homeware

Treasure upstairs included four pumpkins, a carton of oat milk and ‘oh wow look at that,’ a brand new Kenwood mixer.

We carried the mixer triumphantly into the house and wrestled it together. The next week was about grinding up special pastes for curry, and smashing beetroot and carrots into burgers.

The curries were good and the burgers were nice, in a chewy way. But the mixer put up a good fight about cleaning all the parts, so it stays in the cupboard. It has right to remain, for now.

Storage Solutions

Old desks from work. 

broken desks

So useful with all those drawers, until you stuff them with tools and suddenly they aren’t drawers any more.

Hardware Section

You never know when you might need stuff like this

Because you suddenly want to put a tap half way along a pipe, or you can’t find your bike reflector.

Do we need 150screwdrivers, 40 chisels, clamps, ratchets or a bandsaw from the friend who thought he wanted to make musical instruments, but wandered off and left it with us?

old tools

It got worse, 10 extension leads, 10,000 screws, nuts and bolts in no order, power tools that might work, more power tools that will never work, 12 socket sets, a box of plastic skeletons, the Christmas lights that were missing at Christmas, and a shower cubicle.

The shower cubicle was delivered by mistake in 2009 so we kept it for emergencies. Luckily the shower in the house is leaking now, so this was an excellent find.

Miscellaneous Mechanical

Oil your saw, top up a gear box, lubricate all the bikes, weld tyres together, and fix that dent.

Collection of oil and stuff

The opportunities were endless.

Decorating Department

All the paint was in one place, and only half the pots were empty. 

old paint

A retired heat gun, dried up cove primer, bottle of blue stuff and nicely solid wood glue.  But then it degenerated into abandoned carving projects, goggles, woolly hats, an office chair, some envelopes, a toaster, and an oxford dictionary.  No brushes or rollers yet.

Plumbing World 

Once upon a time a plumber lived here. If anything broke, he would fix it. When he left, he kindly gave us a few boxes of pipes, connectors and gutter brackets because we ‘might need them.’


The toilet broke and the stuff did not come out and mend it.  The gutter leaked and the brackets did not leap into place. I found a new plumber, paid him, and offered this stuff as a bonus. He backed away laughing and said ‘all plumbers have a boxes like that.’ Ungrateful.

Outdoor Sports Department

In 2006 there was a small boat. We cruised the river Exe, watched seals on the sandbank, and survived terrifying forays out to sea. 16 years later there is an outboard motor, gallons of special oil, lifejackets, a flag and fishing stuff.

All saved in case the mackerel line can go out again one day. A tangled collection holding onto rosy memories. ‘Please keep us’ they say. ‘we are the key to a lifetime of boats, open seas and fresh fish suppers.’ Even fishing rods will lie when the car is waiting outside to go to the dump.

Mosquito hats from a family camping holiday in Sweden. I did not go on the holiday but they talked about so much I think I have now. 

Mosquito hats

I remember everyone in these hats all day, and the night somebody got up at 3am for a noisy snack and everybody else thought it was a visiting bear. They were too scared to get out of their tents and look.

Magazine Rack

A box of heavy metal magazines. Google announced that Kerrang 2001 to 2006 were worth £10 each.

It took a month of gloating over them, and counting the money, before we realised we didn’t know how to sell them. I took them to Oxfam, told them what Google said, and felt good about it.

 Music Department 

A beat box, drum cases, an amp, a broken guitar and half a pair of drum brushes. 

drum brush abandoned on a shelf

Visiting musicians called this place the ‘Black Hole’ and blamed it for stealing stuff that they were incapable of remembering to take home. Some things never got found.  

Toy Store

It took three months to get everything out.

These were the last two items and then it was done. All good department stores have to close eventually. Lots of them turn into homes. Maybe this one will.

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