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Me vs. Garage: Who Will Win the Decluttering Showdown?

This garage was upon a time nicely organized

It’s out of control, and you’ve put it off for long enough. Yes, I’m talking about that garage stuffed to the rafters with stuff.

The garage that once upon a time was nicely organized. The hardware shelves. The sports gear and exercise equipment. The boxes of old clothes. The heirloom tchotchkes you have to store somewhere. And now all of them are having a party together without any detectable rhyme or reason.

Let’s drill down a bit. My garage is being held hostage by a funky collection of sacred relics: old Gourmet magazines; clothes that are too large, too small or unthinkably dated; antiques without identifiable purpose; power tools missing a vital part; electronica that lack charging cords; expensive hiking boots that never fit; office equipment for an office I no longer have; ex-husband’s 20-year-old stereo; rusted soda fountain chairs from grandfather’s grocery store.

Plus, there’s a layer of what in polite terms might be called dust. Schmutz, crapola, grime. A garage gets unclean pretty quick.

I set out to tackle my garage situation recently and discovered that I truly had no idea what I’d stepped into. Example: At the top of one of those tall white cabinets with doors that line one wall of the garage sat a very long, thin crystal vase that was a gift from my parents. The problem is that I’ve never used it, don’t like it, and it’s so tall that it can’t fit onto any of my cupboard shelves. That’s why it’s on its side at the top of the garage cabinet. Do I throw it out? Do I give it to the Goodwill?

To avoid having to decide, I turned to a stash of file folder boxes filled with notes from courses I taught 20 years ago. Sure, it’s fun to reminisce, but I wasn’t going to use those notes again. The folders were easier to toss than that skinny crystal vase. Valuable space was being held hostage by that vase, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.

Also easier to toss were the four remaining mason jars filled with orange bitters I’d made as Christmas gifts 15 years ago. It felt good to take control over those little jars, throwing them into the recycle can. But let’s be honest, I only liberated space roughly 10 inches by 10 inches. Inches! Not exactly a fresh start.

Did I really need to keep every single New Yorker just in case I wanted to reread that clever opera review by Alex Ross? That’s what the internet is for. How about that hexagonal wicker shelf organizer whose odd shape prevented it from fitting neatly anywhere? A beautiful object that served exactly no purpose in my life. Coffee mugs from a former sister-in-law who lived in Slovakia. Hideous student artwork, the 20 rolls of toilet tissue I ordered from China at the beginning of the pandemic? Ugh. What to do?

Well, dear reader, what I decided to do was close the garage door, step into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine. I told myself that I’d tackle the garage mess next weekend. Or maybe the weekend after that ….

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