For over twenty years, I lived in a home that indulged my penchant for saving and collecting. It had a full walk-in attic and a full basement with enviable storage space. I enjoyed raising two daughters there and, as they grew, I saved the toys, books and dolls they played with at each phase of their development as well as some of their clothes, too "adorable" to discard. I had space for it all!
During that period of my life, I also loved antique stores! "Antiquing" with my Mom and sister was a favorite shared pastime. I also had a friend who was my cohort in arising at the crack of dawn to be first in line at estate sales. We thoroughly enjoyed hunting for beautiful things with a history, and I invariably returned from these outings with a new treasure or two.
At that time, I was unaware of the Feng Shui rule: when something comes in, something goes out. But my home was not cluttered. There was room for everything and everything had its place. Then came a divorce and a move.
My new home had no attic or basement. In anticipation of the move, I made three piles - one literal and the other two in my head. The literal pile was made up of things I absolutely knew I didn't want and went into a garage sale. The second, virtual pile consisted of items I was sure I absolutely had to keep and the third were those things I just wasn't sure about! Guess which pile was biggest? If you guessed, the "not sure" pile, you're right.
What does one do with a truckload of more stuff than there is room for? Well, I had one car and there was an empty two-car garage. A trip to Target produced a solution! Footlocker trunks, 21 of them! They stacked beautifully along one wall of my attached garage, fully loaded with my past. Problem mostly solved!
Life kept expanding. As you know, I couldn't stay away from gardening, so an assortment of gardening tools, soil, fertilizers, mulch, pots, trellises, etc. began to fill the garage. The garage also held a freezer, an antique china cabinet, lawn furniture and a lot of miscellaneous accumulation, in addition to a woodpile. Oh, and, of course, my car. Sound familiar? But what did it matter? It's just a garage, after all!
Wikipedia defines a garage as a building or a residence for storing a car. The history and evolution of garages is engaging:
Keeping up with the racing popularity of the automobile was a heady task at the turn of the century. Along with a need for paved roads, traffic controls, and sources of fuel, automobiles posed a unique architectural challenge: How to best shelter the machine? The answer was the garage, a new building type that was pronounced "part of every modern home" by 1923. A direct design descendant of carriage houses and stables, the garage - from the French word garer, the act of docking - evolved in surprising ways to meet the demands of the automobile age.
The earliest garages were often separate buildings from the house ("detached garage"), almost resembling modern sheds. As automobiles became more popular, the idea of attaching the garage directly to the home grew into a common practice around the 1930's. After 1945, the attached garage was recognized for its added storage value.
It was true - I needed and appreciated the added value of storage my garage offered. It started out well organized, but, admittedly, as the years passed, things were getting out of hand. I tried to ignore the sense of clutter that was emerging, as I was too busy with my full-time job and adjusting to being single.
Several years later found me eager to begin studying a new concept I had just heard about called Feng Shui. Feng Shui theory takes the statement, "What does it matter? It's just a garage" to a totally new level. I learned it does matter and it is MORE than just a garage!
People are often shocked when they learn the garage matters in their space. The attached garage, an often ignored dumping ground for miscellaneous "junk," is an integral part of our living space. Its energy greets us every time the garage door opens. Is your garage organized and clean or, as in my case, out of control?
"Clutter is stuck energy. The word "clutter" derives from the Middle English word "clotter," which means to coagulate - and that's about as stuck as you can get." - Karen Kingston
An attached garage is considered part of your living space, and is included in the Feng Shui energy map, the Bagua. Using the front door as the orientation for overlaying of the Bagua on my space, the physical location of my garage places it fully in the Knowledge, Family and Wealth areas of my life.
Knowledge stands for new and accumulated wisdom, self-cultivation and the information required for your work. Family represents your family of origin as well as your own family and any group that becomes "family" through association: church, book club, etc. The upper left hand corner of your space - in my case, the garage - represents Wealth, the flow of abundance in and out of your life. The garage, where the energy of these three life areas resides, had become cluttered and blocked. Every time I entered, it drained my energy. What, then, was this saying about those areas of my life?
Clutter is sneaky - it knows just how to hang on! It's very much an emotional and psychological issue and presents in many forms. These might include saving items "just in case" you might need them - I call this "someday clutter." Clutter can evolve from too much of a good thing. Think collections. Or it might come from possessions you've inherited and keep to avoid family conflict even though your need or "like" for them has long since passed. And then there are those sentimental things to which your identity is attached in some way. This is my personal clutter Velcro. For example, I love keeping old theatre ticket stubs, programs, and greeting cards. They serve as reminders of what I enjoyed in the past or how friends and family felt about me at a particular time in my life. It seems a bit silly when I write about it, but when I sort through those old items, the memories and emotions are very real.
I am convinced that clearing clutter is not a solitary task. Serious de-cluttering and re-organizing are too emotionally and physically draining to do alone! Have you ever begun a "cleaning out" project with enthusiasm and resolve only to find your energy quickly drained when the project takes longer than expected or is more than you bargained for? It is essential to have an objective, supportive person(s) to assist!
Just such special people showed up unexpectedly this summer. Knowing I have struggled with my garage over the years, they approached me with the statement, "If you are ready, we are here to help!" How many of us can turn down such an amazing offer?
The first part of the statement was critical. We often believe ourselves to be ready, but when it comes right down to it, we may be fooling ourselves. Perhaps that is what happened with my previous attempts. I wasn't sufficiently ready to "let go" of a lot of my "stuff!" Sometimes you can't know that until you begin the process. Other times, you simply run out of steam if you don't have the support of others to help you keep going.
When I moved those many years ago, I had to make many challenging and painful choices. Deciding what to and what not to keep was too difficult during that emotional time. And through the years, I now realize, I still clung to some of my old life. But that was then and this is now. In the meantime, I became partnered and a second car and two bicycles were added to the garage. Now it affected two people! I had an offer too good to refuse.
Our friends offered to build a closet in my garage to hold the majority of items. With a new closet and shelving, I had to be careful to avoid the "organized clutter syndrome." Don't let anyone fool you. The lure of lovely bins of all shapes, sizes and colors is powerful. Even if you organize your stuff in neat bins, boxes, etc. it is still clutter if you don't love it, use it, or can't find it when you need it!
The fact that 21 footlockers have remained in my garage has been a bit overwhelming, to say the least. They contain items from my daughters' childhood that remain important to them. Both are in small apartments with absolutely no storage space. I began the decluttering process by going through each trunk, keeping what I know they still want and letting go of my own attachment where they had none. I eliminated three trunks. Eighteen were left, but this was good progress!
Everything else was placed in a big pile in the middle of the garage, allowing a large workbench, worktable, shelving and metal cabinet to be removed. With those items gone, the space began to open up and breathe. That gave me the energy to continue. . .
Many of us have clutter zones - areas that seem to draw clutter. They might be the main entry, a closet, drawer, bedroom, garage, office, desk, or car. Mine was the garage. I'd love to hear if you have a clutter zone. If so, where is it? Have you de-cluttered? How did you manage the process? Please email me or visit on Facebook with your thoughts.