Cleanliness is next to ....

September/October 2010

Ever watch the TV show "Hoarders"? It's about people who are absolutely, positively unable to parts with or organize in any meaningful way ANYTHING they own until their entire house/living space is completely uninhabitable. Many times, the hoarding goes beyond simple accumulation of Stuff into downright unhealthy and hazardous living conditions.

Well, minus the unhealthy and hazardous living conditions, our garage, circa 2010, was exactly like that. Our garage is about XXX square feet. It has 6 gorilla rack shelving units that store all sorts of Stuff that we have accumulated over the years. We had organized the shelves so that similar items were stored together, for ease of re-finding them at a later date. Amazing idea, huh? :-)

There were areas for Tom's automotive stuff, painting stuff, home repair & maintenance stuff, areas for my excess sewing implements of distruction (not so much my crafting/sewing stuff because all of THAT valuable stuff lived in the house :-) ), and general household/general living stuff that we had accumulated over the years that we felt was necessary for our activities and living.

This system worked out rather well for a very long time. But then ... and you knew there was "but", didn't you? ... I'm not quite sure what event or series of events happened ... or perhaps it was a case of well-intentioned actions that were never followed through ("I'll just put this here for now and rectify it later on."). But, the inevitable happened ... the empty/clear areas of the garage became a Throne Thrown Room because everything just got THROWN into it willy-nilly. Over time, it became so much simpler to simply throw more stuff on top of the existing stuff than to take the time to put anything away properly. And heavens knew that Our Time was taken up by doing Very Important Stuff.

Both Tom & I can handle quite a lot of clutter for quite a long time, but eventually the visual (and organizational) clutter is more than distracting ... it's detrimental to finding ANYTHING. While I might take the time to attempt to find whatever it is that I'm looking for (and sometimes actually finding it), Tom gets frustrated because he's been stymied in whatever activity he's doing (fixing the car, fixing the house, fixing whatever), so he goes out and buys another whatever he was looking for and couldn't find. Eventually, this has led to multiple copies of whatever it was that he couldn't find. :-/

Eventually, he bought himself a wonderful work tool chest and spent some quality time finding his tools and organizing them properly. He now spends less time looking for his tools and is much happier. :-)

Not so all the Other Stuff in the garage. I'm not sure when the last time the garage got a thorough cleaning, but I assure you, it was many years. It had come to the point where I just couldn't stand it any longer ... but ... I really couldn't DO anything about it because most of the stuff in the garage was Tom's. I could certainly move things around and shelve them .. but I couldn't toss anything because I had no way of knowing whether any of his items were still valuable or if their shelf life had expired. [aside: I would have a hissy fit if he went into my sewing room and started tossing stuff that he thought hadn't been used since the last Ice Age ... so I paid him the same courtesy of not assuming anything of his was fit to toss until he had made that decision himself.]

Well, the week before we had hosted the Rodgers Ron-day-voo (a family shindig), which entailed a LOT of cleaning up of the property. While not anywhere near Better Homes & Gardens standards, I must admit I thought the place looked pretty doggone good ... seeing that it was basically just cleaned up. While we were basking in the afterglow of satisfaction, I asked Tom if he would spend some significant time with me to clean out the garage. To my utter delight, he agreed! :-)

Wow. Am I an easy person to please or not? :-)

So, after the Rodgers Ron-day-voo, we dug into the garage, starting with the gawdawful mess in the middle. We have a one cubic yard trailer that Tom made, which he uses for hauling stuff to the dumps (and hauling other stuff other places, if needs be). As we moved stuff out of the garage, it had a 'one touch' rule ... touch an item once and decide what to do with it. In our case, it was Freecycle/thrift store .... keeper .... dumps.

It was extremely unfortunate that the week we decided to start this endeavor, our area was having an unseasonable spate of warm, nay! HOT .. weather. No matter, we just worked more slowly and decided that we would work until the trailer was full. And that is what we did.

The first day, we worked 2-1/2 hours in 90+ heat to fill the trailer. We were very glad to stop. The Freecycle/thrift pile was modest. The dumps trailer was full. The keeper pile was humungous.

The second day, Tom took the trailer to the dumps and upon his return, we worked 3 hours in 90+ heat to fill the trailer. We were very glad to stop. The Freecycle/thrift pile was modest. The dumps trailer was full. The keeper pile was a larger humungous. By the end of the second day, the Freecycle stuff had been diminished, as I had a wonderful response from the local members.

The third day, Tom took the trailer to the dumps and upon his return, we worked 3-1/2 hours in 80+ heat (oh THANK GOD for the cooler weather!) to fill the trailer. We were very glad to stop. The Freecycle/thrift pile was modest. The dumps trailer was full. The keeper pile was of truly Biblical proportions.

Part of the problem with the keeper pile was that it was spreading horizontally on the ground, whereas in the garage, a lot of the stuff had been stored on the vertical shelving units. BUT, eventually all that stuff needed to either be returned to the garage, an other more appropirate storage area (i.e. the storage sheds) or tossed.

By the end of the third day, the garage was empty. I mean capable-of-echo empty! I was deliriously happy. :-) And in order to fill the dumps trailer, we even wandered to the back patio (which we never use because it's so doggone hot back there) and cleared out THAT area of the Stuff that had been parked there over the years. Wowsers ... a significant accomplishment! And that felt tremendously satisfying! :-)

Oh that little room in the upper right corner of the picture? That's what we call the 'radio room'. No radio lives there now, but when we bought the house in 1978, the previous owners had used this area as a home for their ham radio equipment ... hence, the 'radio room'. We never demolished the drywall and kept it as a separate room within the garage. Originally, Tom used it has a workbench area, but over the years, even THAT room had become a Thrown Room. It will eventually be dealt with ... but not today.

Since there was still daylight left at the end of the third day, I moved the gorilla rack shelves back into place. Nothing was put ON them ... that was for the next day's work.

What I did manage to do was to put all of my Mom's square dance dresses into a small cedar-lined free-standing closet/armoire that had been my paternal grandmother's. I had always admired it and when my Nana died, the closet came to my Dad. Sadly, the spot in his garage that my Dad stored the closet was exposed to the elements and the veneer become detached. More sadly, repairing/replacing the veneer never got to a very high place on the List of Things To Do, as other activities of our family took a higher priority. BUT the insides was still very good ... and I finally found a proper storage place for my Mom's square dance dresses.

Mom died in 1998 and I had asked my Dad for her dresses previously, as Tom & I had taken up square dancing for a while. I altered my Mom's dresses to fit me and was exceedingly proud to be using them. When we stopped square dancing, I packed up the dresses and petticoats in one of those 'space saver' bags ... which never worked properly, by the way. Eventhough I had stopped square dancing, I couldn't get rid of the dresses ... they did/do have such a strong memory of my parents for me. I'm still not ready to pass them along, so I'm glad I discovered that the small closet can hold all of them. As for the petticoats ... those I did pass along to Freecycle/thrift stores, as the "poof" had long since gone out of them. They would be perfectly wonderful for a girl's dress-up or costuming. More importantly, *I* was ready to let them leave my life.

Now the fourth day is significant ... this was the day that we started to repopulate the shelving units! The bare shelving units were moved back into the garage, spaced so that there was a walkway between them. The Stuff that had been in the Keeper pile was steadily picked over until at the end of Day 4, it looked like this.

By the end of Day 5, the Keeper pile was EMPTY! All of the items had been properly stowed away in its very own Proper Place on the racks.

I can't even BEGIN to tell you how utterly satisfied this makes me feel! But, for one thing, I know that it will stay somewhat tidy for at least a while simply because it *isn't* the interior of the house where 5 people live! And knowing that the area will remain organized in the foreseeable future simply makes me feel content. :-)