Sheds are a suburban phenomenon. Actually I’ve seen them in the inner-city, as a kind of communal garden shed, and of course in the country of a much larger scale, but the suburban shed is a different beast. It requires some basic skills to erect and a space in which to erect it. Sheds are built so things can be put in it. Things. The things of a shed are not things like other household objects, because they are no longer of the household (in the restricted modern sense). The things of the shed are no longer immediately useful, but they may be useful in the future, such as tools and the like. There are other categorical distinctions for particular divisions of things into shed and house, mostly gendered and some along a cleanliness/dirtyness axis. Is it also an expression of an anxiety for the potential future utility of a thing? Like, have patterns of utility changed between generations? The shed was once for non-household things of utility and now with shifting patterns of durability in commodities this has produced some sort of anxiety around utility itself (rather than the utility of the thing)? Or is it a question of sentiment that envelopes things like a blocked river of sedimented memories?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been taken by Stephen King’s book Lisey’s Story. The action of digging through stored artifacts brings into sharp relief the relations between the events of one’s past and objects stored for future (unknown) utility. Is the possibility of future utility actually a way of valorising the past, to hold onto something because it might be useful in the future, is a way to valorise the past, and also sometimes the present. (Like how I just spent $250 on new tools to fix a car that I will probably never drive again.) Throwing things out and severing those connections does not mean that the past is necessarily unworthy, only that the past no longer needs this haphazard totem of memory and suburban existence. It exists on its own fully interwoven into the present, and at this point perhaps even forgotten.

I promised my dad I would help him sort out the main shed in my parent’s backyard. There are two sheds. One was built for big things that should not have been stored outside in the weather (bikes, etc). The main shed was where all my dad’s tools were kept when I was a kid. I used to play around building things, normally some kind of vicious weapon inspired by histories of vikings and nomads, and children’s cartoons. I once built a particularly effective crossbow that fired satay stick skewers. I put one through the webbing of my hand once and my dad took the crossbow from me and snapped it without a word.

Helping sort the shed has meant cleaning it out from this:

old shelving arrangement

And then rebuilding the shelves so they are slightly more user friendly. This involved removing everything from the shed and distributing it throughout the backyard. A train of memories. My mum’s stuff from when she was a trainee teacher more than 30 years ago is in the mix there, some old toys, lots…

things from the shed taking over the backyard

This is where we are presently at, with my dad tightening the bolts on the shelving frame. I had cut all the supports in half with the 4″ grinder:

reorganised shelving, rock and roll!

I thought of posting some slightly suggestive shots of me attentively grinding and sparks flying everywhere but that would be wrong.

3 replies on “shed”

  1. Sheds are more than just a suburban phenom … it’s the twilight zone meets a time capsule. Stuff gets tossed into the shed and forgotten for months, years, even decades. Seeing those household items unearthed and spread across the yard must have brought back some big time memories.

    The things I miss the most are the things I didn’t get to throw into the shed. The stuff that fell by the wayside and got tossed into the trash. The car parts that Mom thought were junk but were really gold.

Comments are closed.