My parents have the greatest garage, high ceilings, coated floor, drywalled, organized, heated, and sparse. It’s not the garage I grew up which was the more typical not dry-walled, crowded, we don’t pull our cars in kind of garage like most people had back in the day. Garages have come along way.
We’ve had our own garage evolution and then, de-evolution. Our first house was a condo, that did not have a garage, but it had two spare bedrooms. Those two bedroom became the first, proud parents to all our crap, our pseudo-garage, if you will. We kept the doors closed and avoided these rooms at all costs.
When we got married and moved to our first real house with a real mortgage, we became the proud owners of an unconnected scary space that we rarely went into, let alone parked our car in, which we called a garage. We used it to store our junk and miscellaneous garden tools.
Then came our move to Florida, to a house that was only five years old. Our garage got a little nicer, but not much neater. We were simply carrying our junk from one state to another too busy (and hot) to sort through it all.
Next, came our move back to NJ, to our best garage to date. It was a much bigger garage with high ceilings, drywalled, outdoor carpet remnants (nice ones) on the floor, and lots of shelving to store the crap that was following us from house to house.
I am ashamed to say, that even with our super garage and a storage shed out back, we lived in that house for six years and not once did I park my car in that garage. Lacking a basement, half of it housed my husband’s gym equipment and half of it housed all our children’s vehicles with crap in the middle and edges acting as filler. Here’s a picture, brace yourself. I’m not sure what it is about us, but when we move from a house we begrudgingly take everything out of the house, garage, and attic (like apparently you’re supposed to do). I say, begrudgingly, because we all know what happened in the last move when they refused to close until we came back and got it ALL out, which meant, my husband spent several hours of his life taking paint and motor oil to recycling stations and hauling stuff, some that didn’t even belong to us, to the curb. However, no one seems to do this for us.
When we moved into the aforementioned house with the wonder garage, it already came loaded with its own crap. You know what I mean, the stuff you save (or in this case, the previous owners saved) that sits on the perimeter of your garage, paint cans, bed rails, metal and wood scraps, because your sure you’ll need it again (but usually don’t). We seemed to think this was normal (or are just lazy) and left it there for six years.
In the case of our latest house, along with all the usual stuff people leave behind for us came dog hair (because they housed two dogs in the garage), a damaged three bay window, miscellaneous window screens and a refrigerator. Had it been a leisurely move and we, more demanding people, the garage would have been a blank canvas for us to junk up on our own, but this was not the case. And so, the garage in our current house, much smaller than our last, sat packed and disorganized for almost two years, though I did manage to get the window and refrigerator out.
Then, we decided to do something really novel, clean out our garage.
All I can say is holy, crap, which I mean both literally and figuratively. I have been storing stuff (with some help from my mom) since I was born. I found cards celebrating my birth from people I did not know, report cards, standardized testing reports, notes passed in class between friends (the original text message) from middle school, boring diaries that give a play by play account of my every move on a Saturday in 1985. I found awards and trophies and newspaper clippings and college notebooks, basically, my whole life in no less than six rubbermaid containers. Added to that, bins of books, VHS tapes, canceled checks from the nineties, random keys, body lotion, lint brushes, a dog collar, pay stubs, and at least four rubber maid containers of teaching materials, and it was a real mess.
Throw in all my children’s stuff, vehicles, sleds, sports equipment, a lawn mower, power washer (that we have used exactly, twice), a snow blower, three mops, three plungers, broken umbrellas, many random gloves, socks, doll house toys, Christmas lights, random decorations that didn’t make it into the bins that are housed in the attic, my husband’s memorabilia from his grandfather (cool beer signs and a dart board), a laundry sorter that was supposed to store sporting equipment but never held more than trash, a beach cart, beach chairs, paint cans (oh, the paint cans), picture frames, and other little stuff sprinkled around for good measure and you can see, that cleaning the garage was no small task. (Sorry, forgot to snap the before, but have a lot of progress pictures).
We moved 99% of the stuff out of the garage, did some rearranging and threw A LOT of stuff out.That took up our entire Saturday. Sunday, we began the process of putting it back and I took on the monumental task of going through all of my bins. It took me hours. I threw most of it in the trash, deciding that a story I wrote in third grade, while cute, was too cumbersome to read, again, trophies, useless, pictures of people I hardly remember or care about, taking up space. I tried to be ruthless.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this point. Purging was just not in my nature, it is a learned skill that I’m still working on, if you looked at my home office you would know what I mean. I am guilty of holding onto everything. I will admit that there was a time, when I was in my early twenties, when I would look through the memorabilia that eventually made its way to bins and enjoy reminiscing, but I didn’t feel that way this time around. In most cases, I felt like my memories were happier and better than the adolescent angst I was reliving in notes and letters, pictures in sharp contrast to what I remember (let’s face it, 80’s fashion was not good to any of us). What I did keep was sentimental, like a few letters I wrote to my mom, in which I reveal I was only late for school, once, and that was because of my hair, Lord knows it must have taken hours to get it so high and bleached out, letters my sister wrote me and some awards. In short, a snapshot of my life rather than a detailed account.
Our neighbor wanted to know if we were moving. I think the amount of stuff in our driveway was causing her distress, but trash day is Thursday, so she had to live with it for four long days. Thank goodness for patient neighbors.
Now, for the after:We, still, are not completely finished and it’s not perfect, but this isn’t a photo spread in Better Homes and Gardens. We’re real people with real kids who still use a lot of crap. I am also on a mission to find a bench where the kids can put their cleats and skates on, with storage underneath, and I want to hang hooks along the back wall where the bins are on the floor. Everyone can use more hooks. But for now, for the first time in my adult life, it’s like a breath of fresh air when I open my garage door and see open floor, and for that, it was well worth the effort.Who knows? Maybe, one day, I’ll even be able to pull my car in. A girl can only dream!