Hissy Fit - May 2018

Dirty Garage? Don't Clean it Up

HissyFit 0518

I never mind helping my mother with anything. She is 87 years old and still goes out daily to work in her yard, weather permitting. She has done so much for me and my family throughout my life, I am willing to do anything for her. If it weren’t for her standing up for me, and being a role model of a strong woman, my life would have a very different outcome.

I love my mother and consider her my best friend. So, it is not only my daughterly duty to show up to help, it is what friends do for each other. I truly believe this with all my heart except there is one thing looming between us. It’s the garage—her garage to be exact. She has asked my sister, Martha, and me for more than two years to help clean out her garage. Quite frankly, I would rather wear my pajamas to Wal-Mart and let people take pictures of me than take on this task.

It was 1968 when we moved into the house Mom lives in today. Over the past 50 years the garage has actually been clean maybe three times. I only recall a car being parked in it once. In essence, it has always has been somewhat of a ministorage unit. However, I’m an optimist. I know this garage can be clean…when the next family gets there to do it.

The biggest problem is Mom doesn’t want to get rid of anything. She is not a hoarder. Her house is always neat, clean and beautiful, but the garage…sigh. I guess saying she doesn’t want to get rid of anything isn’t fair. There are things she wants to sell in a garage sale. I am allergic to garage sells; they make me break out in hives, which more than likely stems from the time my ex sold the Oriental rug out from under the kitchen table for $11 to a stranger who showed up a day early for our moving sale. The rug wasn’t for sale—it was in the house, not in the garage.

Suddenly, I have gained a deeper understanding for my aversion to Mom’s garage project. I have PTSD from the rug being pulled out from under me. And now I’m also beginning to believe over-filled garages might be genetic. Here’s where things go from bad to worse: Mom wants to clean the garage, prepare for a yard sale, price everything, and find a “home” for everything she’s keeping, which is most of it, without ever taking anything out of the garage. The thought of this just made a welt break out on my neck. This is not how I operate. It’s the equivalent of Fred Flintstone moving one pile of rocks to another. Every time I go in her garage I anxiously await for the bird to scream, so I can slide down Dino’s back and go home.

My method would involve taking everything out of the garage, placing shelving around the perimeter, and putting back only what she wants to keep. Box the rest up by category or price, if we must have a garage sale, or call a charity to come get it, which is my preference. I tried telling Mom the benefits of getting rid of clutter far out weigh the $500 she will make at a sale. Clutter is bad for both physical and mental health. Too much of anything is, well, simply too much. However, she is from the great depression era, and functions differently than today’s disposable society. I understand and respect her value system: Five hundred dollars is five hundred dollars, and she could make more. I have suggested hiring a professional organizer to help, but that defeats the purpose of turning a profit at the sale.

Each time we have started cleaning the garage, we go out there, pick up a few things, comment how pretty they are and then she decides to keep it. We do the Fred Flintstone shuffle with a few boxes, open a cabinet or two, discuss what’s in there, feel overwhelmed and go in and eat ice cream.
The irony is Mom is coming to my house next week to help me. Our first task is cleaning the garage. I don’t dread it as much because I am fairly good at throwing out and giving away. I already told her to be prepared for me to get rid of stuff. She said OK and asked for the green magnolia vases. They match her garage perfectly.

I told Mom about a new way I read about on how to consciously clear clutter. I explained how the author said we should thank the object for its service and release it to go serve others. She asked me what in the hell I was talking about. I didn’t buy into it either, but I’m trying to come up with some way to help mom realize concepts such as a pair of mom jeans can come into your life for just a little while. They don’t have to stay so long they morph into grandma jeans. Am I the only one who notices there is only one letter difference in garage and garbage? The difference is I’m the one who has to “B” involved in Operation Garage Sale Hell.

Martha doesn’t want to do it either. She secretly told me…and her secret is safe with me. Both of us work all week, sometimes weekends, too, and Mom’s garage is not a one-day project; it is more like a four-full-weekends-day-and-night project. Did I mention my mother will make us work from early morning until well past midnight. (Yes, I got my work ethic and drive from her.) She will give us the evil eye if we yawn or sit down. To this day, she thinks my sister and I use the bathroom more than anyone she knows—a ploy for respite.

I think the best plan is refuse to clean it because she’s “determined to get the garage clean before [she] dies.” If we don’t do it, then we get to keep her forever! Sorry Mom. We love you way too much to clean the garage. Happy Mother’s Day!