I must confess that I cannot help garage snooping when I go for my strolls around the neighborhood. After all, this symbol of suburbia is the first thing you see when you approach the ubiquitous tract home, and the doors are often wide open just begging for a quick assessment as I walk by. (Don’t worry. I never leave the sidewalk, although tempted.) I’m always struck by the different levels of organization found, and the variety of stuff displayed in these showcases of lifestyle dead ends and buyer’s remorse.
I consider this particular appendage of the average suburban abode to be valuable real estate. After spending four years out in the boonies of a cold climate state garage-less, I am completely committed to using this space for what it was originally intended — horseless carriages. Who wouldn’t want to hop into a dry, relatively warm vehicle in the middle of a winter wonderland, rather than spend five hours starting, brushing, scraping and otherwise resuscitating a frozen piece of metal sitting in the driveway deep freeze? Not to mention digging out the giant igloo created by over-zealous snowplows if you are unlucky enough to park on the street.
And yet, placing one’s car “inside” seems to be a novel idea in the burbs, at least in my neck of the woods. Sometimes, there is one car residing in the 2-compartment models, with the other side piled so high that it would make the builders of the pyramids jealous. Or, the majority of the space is devoted to the enthusiastic overflow from hobbies such as camping, fishing, engine tinkering, paint-by-numbers, drumming or beer drinking. Plus, there’s signs of excessive devotion to the Church of the Everlasting Yard Work with its altar tools of lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, shovels, clippers, edgers, blowers and assorted fireworks for removal of small rodents.
Before you think I am a judgmental jerk for pointing out other people’s annexed sins, I will admit that I am just as guilty as the next suburbanite of cultivating a mess. My family does manage to fit our two cars into a small garage, but it’s a tight squeeze when you add bikes, gardening tools and a grill. We have never been able to bring in the patio furniture for the winter, so we tell ourselves the rusting table and chairs are acquiring a “vintage” patina.
We also have no real do-it-yourself equipment to speak of, which is just as well since there is no space for a workshop. And not much skill as do-it-yourselfers. My husband is an excellent housepainter, however, so we have collected a nice range of ladders and a bin full of painting supplies.
Oh, and don’t forget the gates, crates, feeders and straightjackets (for the people) necessary to care for our animal companions. You throw in suitcases, potting soil, recycling and awkwardly shaped seasonal decorations, and you’ve got overcrowding on the scale of India in your carport. Did I mention that we live in a tri-level house and all THREE attics need a contortionist to access them? A contortionist, I ain’t. Sorry.
So without further ado, here’s my list of rules to stay sane and keep my garage from overflowing to the street and clogging the sewer drain:
- Hang em high: Use walls and ceilings whenever possible to get stuff off the floor and onto shelves, hooks and chains. Pegboard is hard to paint but worth the storage. That’s prime space up there just waiting to be utilized.
- Paint it light: The use of white or any light color on the garage walls prevents the “black hole in deep space” syndrome. We have yet to implement this trick, but I have seen some very nice examples during my walks. Leftover interior paint will do nicely and not end up in the landfills.
- Keep it in: DO NOT, under any circumstance, leave your automobile outside. Once it’s out, like a bad teenager, it may never come back in again. You get used to the extra room, and before you know it, you’re using the ping pong table as a depository for the yard sale you will never have.
- Take it out: DO clear out the trash, recycling, leftover party guests and any other jetsam that gets dumped in the garage as a temporary holding cell until you get around to hauling it away in the car or dragging it out to the curb.
- Make it nice: My husband is very conscientious about giving our garage a thorough sweep. It’s a good thing too, since I’m lucky if I notice that the kitchen tile has changed color (and no, we haven’t replaced it recently.) I also try to keep anything edible in bins so that we don’t have to take out more unwelcome visitors (see #4).
It is my sincere hope that we can downsize to one car in the future, which will be better for the planet — not to mention our wallets. And if we’re still living here in the suburbs with the all-important suburban symbol, we can finally hold that world championship ping pong tournament we’ve always dreamed about.
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