The task seemed insurmountable.
My parents’ garage was so full of junk, er, I mean important lawn care and manly tool items that you had to double check the perimeter before closing the door to avoid breaking a stray rake.
It wasn’t my junk. I don’t live there. Then why, do you ask, was I standing in the driveway Sunday next to Heather, strategizing how to best attack the madness? I accidentally signed up for it. It was almost like a dare I couldn’t turn down. I was bragging to my dad about my organizational skills, explaining how my coworkers often comment on my pristine corner of the world. When Richard, my general manager, sits on the calendar on my spare desk, he inevitably leaves it crooked when he stands up. If I see this happen, I absolutely cannot allow it to stay that way. I’m the same way with everything; I can’t leave loose papers on my desk when I leave for the night (that’s what file folders are for), I always straighten my computer keyboard (it just looks better, Ok?!) and my pens have to be safely home in their metal cup (that matches the desktop drawers to hold business cards, naturally). Call it OCD, call it tidy, call it whatever you want – it’s how I like things.
So as I was boasting about my clean desk, my clean car and my clean apartment, my dad scoffed and said I should take on the garage next. Later, when I searched in vain for a tennis racket in that black hole of porch furniture and came up empty-handed, his off the cuff comment carried more weight. Why DON’T I put my skills to good use?
For some reason, I took the suggestion to heart, and Heather and I had a full day task ahead of us. Like my penchant for vacuuming, I looked forward to the Herculean task in my own weird way, because I knew how tangible the improvement would be. It’s not necessarily a fun thing to do, but when you’re done, it’s unbelievable how much you can accomplish.
Rather than invade the spider carcass-infested territory, we decided the best approach would be to remove everything from the garage and break it into piles.
Fun and games
My proclamation of the latter title as I stacked up two sets of Bocce elicited a hearty laugh from Heather. And no, we don’t just love Bocce. I can almost guarantee that my parents probably didn’t know that a second set was lost in the abyss.
The same was clearly true for golf balls. My parents’ Warwick garage is where golf balls go to die.
Golf balls, golf tees, even golf pencils. You’d think my dad was Tiger Woods. You might also think he was a murderer. Like any homeowner, he mows the lawn, trims the bushes and cleans the gutters, but mixed in with the debris were a rusty hatchet, three saws (including one that clearly looked like a torture device), a pitchfork and, if you can believe it, a railroad pick. I’m pretty sure my childhood home was not a site for the railroad, so why we own that, I really couldn’t tell you. Nor could I explain the foghorn, the six bottles of Antifreeze scattered throughout the garage or the motorcycle oil for a motorcycle my dad has never owned.
In short, it was a mishmash of, again, junk. Our trash pile grew exponentially faster than any other pile, and was soon flirting with the pathway forged between it and the fun and games. But naturally, my high school field hockey sticks and a set of badminton needed to be salvaged. Remember, it was my sister and I making these keep or pitch decisions – a dangerous decision on the part of my father.
Fortunately, when the time came to put stuff back into the garage, the volume had been cut by more than half. The furniture was put on the deck out back and a mountain of garbage was precariously balanced on the side of the house. Thanks to Heather’s handiwork, we installed quite a few new hooks and relegated most of the lawn tools to the walls. Handheld tools were moved into the basement and I spent a solid hour arranging cleaning supplies, automotive products and lawn potions into perfectly aligned rows inside a metal storage container.
It was nearly 4 p.m. when the piles were whittled down to next to nothing. The garage was perfect, with the majority of its dirt and grime transferred onto me and my sister. We were sore, hungry and absolutely exhausted. We fell onto the couch, cracked a couple of beers and waited for our pizza to arrive.
Heather sighed; “Maybe we’ll take a week off before tackling the basement.”
I never signed on for that.