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America’s Hidden Monster: The Garage

America’s Hidden Monster: The Garage


Bring order to your garage

The HIdden Monster

With most Americans unable to park either one or both cars in the garage and with most garages overstuffed and overburdened, it has become one of our main areas of unmanageability. We have dumped whatever we don’t want to look at or deal with as well as years of accumulating stuff we’ve never purged. Many people don’t even know what’s hiding in the many cardboard boxes stacked on shelves and in corners. With old computers, broken bikes and toys and unwanted clothing, we have neglected an important part of our homes for usability. How many of us were forced to rent a storage unit to hold the rest of our stuff?The garage was never intended to be the catchall for what we want to  neglect or ignore. The garage was intended for our cars and to store seasonal items, sports equipment, files and memorabilia. The problem is that things continue coming into our homes and cycling into the garage while nothing goes out. New items get piled onto old, belongings break and we think someday we’ll fix it or we think one day I might need this thing. The problem is, “one day” never arrives and we are stuck with a cacophony of unused and unwanted items.

When clients call me they are often overwhelmed with this area of their home. Just opening the garage door and bringing light to their issue sends pangs of overwhelm through their veins. It’s painful to see and seemingly more painful for them to address. My job is to fearlessly get in there and begin opening boxes and looking at the hidden. I work side by side with clients to walk through the fear and embarrassment together.

I start by pulling everything out of the garage and in that process we can start to sort: some things are clearly garbage and get dumped; others are things to be donated or recycled or sold via Craigslist, eBay or garage sale;  some things need to be repaired and others are items to keep and reuse. I like to get clients out of cardboard boxes. That is part of the problem in the first place–keeping things hidden. By using clear plastic bins and purchasing shelving units if need be, we can clearly label what’s in the bins by category and then start creating zones for groupings of like items. By doing this, things now have a home in which to reside. The client knows where to go to obtain the desired item and where to return it when finished. The process has begun.

I am amazed at how much cardboard and paper is hidden in garages. Boxes upon boxes can be recycled and new space is made for the items to be kept. There are often multiple computer parts that can be sent to ewaste, and other items sent for creative reuse, or toys and clothes sent to a women’s shelter. Maximizing space is my specialty and it’s key for the garage to be used as efficiently and functionally as possible. Many clients are woefully missing shelving/storage units and systems that would utilize their space to greater benefit. By containing items and shelving them, once lost floor space is regained.

What should I do about memorabilia? Memorabilia requires a discerning organizer to help the client how best to deal with it. Sometimes, it’s just a collection of t-shirts, rock posters, magazines or record albums and one easy way is to photograph the items and save them to a digital format for computer viewing. The actual item has outlasted it’s worth and value and doesn’t need to be saved. Other times, people have truly valuable collectibles. These can either be sold or saved and if saved, they need an appropriate place. If they overrun the garage’s usefulness, then a secure temperature-controlled storage unit is the best bet.  I have one client with whom we are archiving her children’s art, photographing it, saving what she wants and storing the work by school year. Her own items are divided by periods of her life and into specific categories, placed in clear containers and clearly labeled. This has brought great manageability to her life and she can find what she wants as needed.

It’s  exciting to watch a buried space come back to life. The garage was meant to be used for practical purposes and to hold our desired things. Garages were not meant to be our hidden secret where unwanted, unusable things get tossed, buried under other things we’ve put there. It’s time to reclaim our garages and their original purpose. Shine the light on this hidden place and bring the order you need so you can use this space to its maximum benefit.
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