Cleaning Out The Garage

The End

Image by Stéfan via Flickr

With both the temperature and humidity in the 90’s, I decided to launch a full-frontal attack on a nagging personal issue. It was finally time for me to clean out our garage.

While not quite to the level of a televised intervention, our garage had certainly slipped into chaos and lawlessness. Our two cars were on the verge of being displaced by the overflow storage needs of the main living areas. All winter and spring, our motto has pretty much been, if you are not quite sure where to put something, shove it into the garage.

Bravely I pressed the button which opened the overhead door and thus launched the first salvo of my assault on disorganization and clutter.  I wanted to get the cars to safety, so I backed them both to the very end of the driveway. With any luck, they would remain clear of the blast zone and would not suffer any collateral damage.

Approaching the gaping hole of mess that would quickly surround me on three sides, I mulled my battle plan. Some cleaning tacticians are capable of small surgical cleaning strikes which are contained to a narrow area and work sequentially from one part of a garage to the next, leaving an ever growing path of order behind as they progress.  I find that I am more confident if I first evict all the garage’s contents to the driveway, sidewalk and yard and place them into temporary refuse-refugee camps. One pile is designated as the Goodwill area and my job will be to not succumb to the pleadings of my other family member clutterers who will no doubt attempt to rescue these items from deportation.

Once the garage had vomited all of its contents onto the driveway and front yard, I am tempted to simply pull the cars back into the now cavernous space, push the remote control button that closes the door behind me and put a sign on the front lawn that reads, “free please take” for the rest of the stuff. Now drenched in sweat and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the task of finding a place for everything that it is alleged to have, I place a lawn chair in the middle of the now empty garage, sit down with a glass of ice water, and survey the relics of our life.

I can see enough stuff that I don’t want and don’t need to nicely equip a small third-world village. It’s funny how quickly our desired purchases that we spend our hard earned cash on, depreciate to the Goodwill pile. In my Goodwill pile is now a compact stereo unit with a five CD changer, AM/FM radio, dual cassette tape recorder/player and four speakers for surround sound. It works perfectly well, but even my youngest daughter, who at age 9 has no understanding of a cassette tape and its uses, prefers her MP3 digital player to this now obsolete unit. I reflect back in a moment of nostalgia to my cassette collection and the mix tapes I created and feel my age. At least it doesn’t play vinyl LP records I think as I plan to add it to the truck of my car for it’s final drive to the Goodwill store.

There is also an alien item in the pile. An artificial Christmas tree that was abandoned by a previous owner of our home, still in its original box. Was Christmas an unhappy occasion for this person and so rather than relive the bad memories each year, he/she chose to leave the holiday behind for me to deal with? Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s box of bad holiday karma, I am all too happy to place this foreign relic in my trunk for disposal.

Other items are a toss up on tossing away or giving away. The only half-worn brief case that I no longer carry. It shows the marks of one too many airline seat rails but was too expensive to just throw out my mind rages. Maybe some homeless person can use it to carry his/her resume to a job interview and look like he/she has some travel experience by carrying it. It goes into my trunk for Goodwill, next to the stereo and Christmas tree.

This sorting and tossing continues all morning and on into the afternoon. There are many water breaks and reflections in-front of a box fan as the heat wears down my resolve to complete my campaign.

I think about the future archeologist who will be sorting through our local landfill trying to make a picture out of the random puzzle pieces of my life’s trash and former treasures that will soon be buried together for eternity. It amazes me to think that at some point, someone in my family or I thought we actually needed each piece of this mess to make our lives better and happy.

By 3:30 PM I have bagged, boxed, sorted, straightened, cleaned, cussed and cleared away the chaos. I have made one viscerally satisfying trip to the Goodwill store. I also have returned home feeling a lot less incumbered by unnecessary stuff. There are no less than two garbage cans and six large trash bags to be disposed of on Monday. They take on the appearance of body bags of the casualties of my assault.

I did discover a few lost artifacts that I returned to their rightful owners. Order is now temporarily restored to our parking space. My relationship with my wife of 24 years survived the great pickle crock debate of the summer of 2010. (She won. I secretly promise myself a rematch in 2011.) I pitched the car seat that both of my girls have now safely outgrown. I traveled down many memories and swore oaths of cleanliness, frugality and simplicity for my future.

At the end of the day I realize that we all have our “stuff.” It’s a part of life and just sort of piles up. The important thing to remember is that we each have the responsibility and ability to choose what we keep, what we give-away and what we throw away because we don’t need it anymore or have outgrown it.

What’s in your life’s garage? Do you have some memories that need to be thrown away? Can you clear out your mental clutter so that you can clearly find what you have to use in this short feature called life? Can you find some parts of you to give-away to others so that they can benefit? The way to having more meaning in life is found through having less attachment to meaningless stuff. Most stuff fits into that pile.

Be strong. Make the first move to choose to order you life in a way that leaves you feeling satisfied and fired up!


About Andrew W Dix, MS, BCC
Author, Board Certified Executive Business Coach, Trainer, Reiss Motivation Profile Master and Private Pilot. Expertise in motivational intelligence, leadership development, strengths, management, coaching, and change management. Available for keynote addresses.

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