As usual, life moves faster than my publication schedule. Two weeks ago a friend and I donated much of what has spent the last year in a storage unit to organizations that try to make life more affordable for those who can’t keep up with the rising cost of housing in Midcoast, Maine. At one location, the donations manager consulted a list of needed items. “Do you have any tents,” she asked on that chilly October day. “Some of our people are living in the woods.”

Little miracles fell from a half-clear sky, in Rockport, this morning.

I was on my way to what turned out to be possible my last physical therapy for this round of musculo-skeletal tinkering. With the unpacking almost complete, my shoulder isn’t getting the abuse of the last few months; with the arrival and settling in at long-term housing on my own, the tension is leaving my neck and spine.

I have begun to look at this process of one in which values are balanced with goals.

Unpacking the past, and in particular deciding which parts of my history are ready to move on, has turned into the sort of deep cleanse espoused by health nuts and mystics. Discomfort and resistance meet somewhere in the middle.

In the last week, I have opened five of the moving boxes strong people call “medium” and one of the really, really big ones. The boxes were all (accurately) labeled “kitchen” and held glasses, dishes and other crockery, along with cookware, cutlery and the kitchen towels and table linens that protected all but two pieces from damage. Since opening them, I have found space here for about half, and passed the rest along.

Even cut in half, it took some doing getting all those plates, bowls, cups, glasses, forks, knives, pots and utensils into this apartment’s existing infrastructure for such things.

I used a glass-doored bookcase for the glass, the kind for drinking and also my ambitious collection of canning jars, and had room for a few pretty little things that fit between the spaces. The reflections make the room feel lighter and larger.

Dishes, enough to feed a pre-or-may-we-hope-post-COVID sized dinner party, fit into the largest of the kitchen cabinets, the one that shares wall space with the pass-through over the sink. Three cabinets cover the opposite wall, short ones over the fridge and stove, and a taller one above the counter between them. Foodstuffs are on the bottom of the shelf of that middle one, with most of my spices, canned goods, pasta and baking, supplies in the pie cupboard and a gift from someone who loved antiques as much as she knew I love cooking.

The smallest cabinet, above the stove, has a vent pipe running through it and now holds odd flat things that I rarely use, but still find worth keeping. The rest of that side of the kitchen, both the cabinets and the large, smooth-opening drawers below the counter, hold cast iron and big stuff, like the salad spinner and pasta machine.

Drawers on the other side made room for glass baking dishes and plastic containers, silverware and utensils, but only if I found a place for anything lightweight that could hang up.

So, yesterday I installed a pegboard. I bought the two-by-four-feet piece of evenly punctured masonite a week ago, and it spent the ensuing days leaning against a wall while I tried to figure out how to mount it. I’m not planning on hanging anything heavy there, but I wanted it to be secure. I resisted suggestions to use plastic anchors, because I’ve never had success with them.

Mom used to use molly bolts and they always intimidated me, but the helpful person behind the contractors desk at the local hardware store showed me how to use toggle bolts. Those seem more straightforward, so I went home with them, picked up the borrowed drill, and found that behind my kitchen wall there is another … something. The drill didn’t seem to want to go there, and since it’s not my drill, I backed off and explored the hole with a long screw. The screw bit, so I went back to the helpful person at the local hardware store and traded the bolts for some machine screws that he said would do the trick.

The helpful person was right. Hanging all those measuring spoons and strainers and pastry brushes and graters, I found places for the tools that help me find my happy place, my best self, my center.

While the term housewife hasn’t sat well for quite some time, I like to consider myself a homemaker. Those canning jars, reflecting the afternoon light, are waiting for a batch of applesauce I will make this weekend. In going through the boxes and letting go of as many useful, and even attractive items, I kept, I thought a lot about their new homes. Not in my drawers and cabinets, and no longer in my hands, but ready to make and serve food in other kitchens and with other hands.

I still have more than I need, but one soufflé dish is less than the three I had. Two glass creamers, for a person who doesn’t take cream in her coffee, is excessive; one is an excuse for company.

For a while, the boxes seemed endless, and my goal of emptying them all and fitting a four-bedroom house into a one-bedroom life seemed impossible. But these things are not the purpose of my existence; they are always a means to some end or other. Much of their value lies in the sunlight shining off the glass, the casserole shared with friends, the clink of spoon on cup as someone I haven’t seen in months stirs her tea.

The rest of their worth is in the gifts they have become, some for my own family and others to be found in the secondhand stores and given again, by others.

I’m told the secondhand stores are getting overwhelmed. Instead of lamenting the inability of the big box to get the next new thing, I’ve spent the last few weeks discovering a trove of good old things to pass on. If you’re having trouble finding what you are looking for this holiday time, maybe unexpected treasure is waiting among the arbitrary collections at the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. Or even in your own attic.