Please don’t judge me. I am about to share a source of great embarrassment for myself and my family.
In August of 1988, my husband and I and our then four children moved from New Jersey to Arizona. The day of our closing, we spent our first night in the house without any furniture.
The very next day Greg started his new job, leaving me to deal with the movers and the kids, who ranged in age from 21 months to 9 years.
At Greg’s suggestion, I instructed the movers to stack the boxes of stuff to one side of the garage, leaving ample space for us to park the car.
The movers ignored my instruction and dumped the boxes all throughout the garage.
During the next weeks, I found and unpacked the most critical boxes, in between registering Carly and Matt for school, finding a preschool for Erin, meeting the neighbors and familiarizing myself with our new surroundings. But are you familiar with the adage, new house, new baby? I soon discovered we were expecting child number 5, and my energy level plummeted. Unpacking took a back seat to just doing what needed to be done on a daily basis.
And of course, once the pregnancy was over, I had a newborn to take care of, and my rate of unpacking did not improve.
To this day, we have never yet parked a car in the garage.
Over the years, instead of the number of boxes in the garage decreasing, they multiplied, supplemented by bags and other random stuff. Sometimes when the kids were overwhelmed with the prospect of cleaning up their rooms, Greg would say, “Just bag up your stuff and put it in the garage. We’ll sort it out later.”
From time to time we valiantly attempted to deal with all the stuff. Once Greg lugged box after box of stuff out of the garage and into the driveway. Then a biker friend stopped by and invited him to take a ride. The call of the open road was stronger than Greg’s need for order, so he hopped on his Harley and told Carly to guard the stuff until he came back.
For the next hour, drivers stopped at the curb and asked Carly if we were having a garage sale. I finally had pity on her and moved everything back into the garage.
A couple of years ago, my twenty-something daughter Katie asked me, “Mom, when you and Dad die, what’s going to happen to all this stuff?”
I surveyed our vast empire and said, “Darling, when we’re gone, all this will be yours.”
Surprisingly, the look on her face was one of horror, not delight.
A friend of mine recently downsized to a smaller living space. She hired a professional organizer to help her whittle down her possessions. The professional asked her questions like “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you get rid of this?” They threw away everything that was truly garbage. Anything useful but superfluous the organizer put in her car, to be immediately deposited at Goodwill Industries after the session. When my friend got paralyzed by decisions like throw away or give to Goodwill, the organizer said, “Let Goodwill decide.” My friend calculated that she paid for 107 hours of assistance, at $25 a pop.
Since as of this writing I am still unemployed (see my previous post, In Transition), I theoretically have time to do things I couldn’t accomplish when I was teaching. And as horrifying as the accompanying photo is, I’ve actually made a sizable dent in this disaster.
I decided to benefit from my friend’s experience and save myself $2,675.00. At least once a week, I’ve been spending an hour chipping away at the clutter. I start with three doubled brown paper grocery bags. One for out-and-out garbage, one for recycling (you have no idea how many bags I’ve filled with papers from my grown children’s school days), and one to give away (a veterans’ organization sends a truck to our neighborhood on a regular basis; my goal is to always have something to give to them). I replenish the bags as necessary, usually filling as many as eight in a session.
Recently, I unearthed a couple of boxes that were part of that move from New Jersey. Inside were a number of family heirlooms—an Ethan Allen wall shelf I’ve been worrying about for decades, two needlepoint pillows that my late mother-in-law stitched, and an engraved silver cup that Greg’s Aunt Honey gave us when Carly was born thirty-five years ago. I feel great satisfaction that they have taken their rightful places inside our home.
Someday I hope to post a new photo on this blog—of our cars actually occupying the garage.
Do you have any suggestions to help this process go faster? Would you like to post a picture of your own garage? Click on the Comment link below to leave a comment or see what others have written.