The Horrid Garage

The garage is bad. As in, we haven’t been able to park a car in it for a long time. We require people to sign a non-discloure/confidentiality agreement before they go in. We keep a stack by the door.

Okay, maybe not, but we definitely threaten retaliation and/or death by noodle thrashing.

Before this weekend, there was literally a foot wide walking path in there from the door to the house to the garage door. Part of it is because we’ve got stuff from inside the house jammed in there, including the refrigerator. But, in all honesty, it was horrid before then.

To the Dumpster

Since we have a commercial dumpster in the driveway, we decided to take advantage of it. A lot of old cabinets from the kitchen were taking up space in the garage, so into the dumpster they went. I’m really not sure why we held onto them.

Except we opened one of them and found shelves full of dishes, candlesticks, serving pieces and a fondue pot. We got them for our wedding. 18 years ago today. Clearly, since I opened that cabinet and was shocked by their presence there, I don’t need them.

If you’ve forgotten you even have something and it hasn’t been used it in over a year, you probably don’t need it. I’ve got a charitable organization coming to pick it all up in a couple of weeks.

A box of old pictures frames? To the dumpster.

Building materials we won’t use? Dumpster.

Boxes of papers we haven’t looked at in God knows how long? Dumpster. (They weren’t tax returns.)

This fugly pot? Complete with dirt still in it? Dumpster.

Seriously, why?

Seriously, we were keeping it why?

There are a lot more boxes of I-don’t-know-what in there. And random piles of fill-in-the-blank. We’ll be making our way through them over time. We’ve also got a lot of cleaning supplies and old paint, so I’ll need to investigate where to take those since they can’t go in the dumpster.

I’m telling you, it feels good to be rid of all of that junk. Really good.

Not Yet Ready For Garage Organization, But I Can Gawk

I read a blog called A Bowl Full of Lemons. Right now she has weekly cleaning challenges and one of them recently was the garage. Her garage was the complete antithesis to ours. Tidy. Labeled. Actually clean. And room for two cars. Who knew?

After I gawked at the photos of her perfectly organized garage, I howled at the “it should only take you a few hours” comment in the “Tidy Upper” option. When I caught my breath and my stomach stopped aching from being doubled over, I thought, Yeah, no. Days. Days, I tell you, is what our garage will require.

Days upon days upon daaaaays. *Insert dramatic swoon*

I never took a picture of the garage before the clean up this weekend, for which Stephen and the kids get all the credit. Yes, we made the kids help. And they happily earned money for their effort. But here is a picture after the work they did. You’d think that would be the before shot.



But it’s progress. And I’m good with progress.

34 Responses to The Horrid Garage

  1. I had been quietly reading this blog from Year One and I was always too shy to leave a comment until today’s entry. First, good for you for making an effort to unclutter your home. However, at the same time, I am a little appalled at what seems to be your glib, unthinking solution of throwing everything into the dumpster. That stuff is going to sit in a landfill. Perhaps the building materials could be donated to a local Habitat for Humanity Restore, and the picture frames placed on Freecycle or donated somehow? The box of papers could be recycled. Frankly, it bothers me that you acquired so much of this junk without much thought to how you obtained them, and then you toss them out without so much as a thought of how it will eventually impact the environment. To unclutter your home without any sense of ecological responsibility or accountability seems pretty selfish and self-serving to me.

    • Alison – Thanks for commenting. We are putting items up on freecycle, recycling and donating what we can. And believe me, there has been a lot of thought and guilt as to the amount of stuff we are sending to the landfill.

      • Sometimes the task of getting rid of stuff is so overwhelming that “the dumpster” is the only way to be able to do it. You should not let (other peoples) environmental concience make this task to big. Use the dumpster to reach your goal, and then proceed with environmental care.
        Regards from a far away country

    • Just as there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to de-clutter … there is a right way and a wrong way to give feedback. You just demonstrated the wrong way to give feedback. Candice has learned a bit more about how to recycle responsibly – hopefully you have learned something about giving an opposing opinion.

      • Alison, I agree with your assessment of “the dumpster technique”, and I’m surprised your environmental conscience and honesty in commenting is being criticized here. I believe that Kandace has her “big girl panties” on and can accept your criticism, and I’m embarrassed for Kandace that some people seem to think she needs to be handed sugar-coated comments. She’s an adult; she can take criticism!

  2. Hurrah for progress! I totally understand the situation — we don’t have a garage, but we have a similar situation in our guest bedroom (as if a guest could actually stay in there. They’d have to find their way to the futon first, and then they’d have to unbury it from all the stuff on top of it).

    But I’m curious about your use of “to the dumpster”. Do you mean that literally or are you just using it for a metaphor for getting rid of things? I kind of took it as the former, but it seems as though if you’ve got a charitable organization coming to pick stuff up later in the week why not give them old frames, etc. rather than consigning them to the landfill? Or you could try putting them on the curb with a “free” sign (which pretty much means they’ll be picked up in about 4 hours in our neighborhood)? Old kitchen cabinets can go to the Habitat for Humanity Restore if they’re in decent condition. I totally applaud your desire to declutter, I just cringe a bit at the idea of lots of useable stuff being treated as trash.

    • “To the dumpster” doesn’t mean it is literally all going to the dumpster. We are putting things up on freecycle, recycling and donating. Our recycle bin is full, we have charitable organizations coming every couple of weeks to pick things up and we are donating what we can. There is a lot, however, that is going to the dumpster. The kitchen cabinets are not in good condition, unfortunately.

      • I agree with the previous posters –you’d be surprised at what people will want for free on Craigslist or Freecycle. Last week, I posted 32 egg cartons on Craigslist for free, and within an hour I had two people contacting me wanting them, and one person offering suggestions on what to do with old egg cartons (they make great charcoal grill fire starters, apparently). Egg cartons! People use old, ugly kitchen cabinets for workbenches in the garage and basement, and probably many other things. Your trash can be so useful to someone else.

          • I’m happy to hear you’re trying out Freecycle! I hope your husband pulled the cabinets out of the dumpster to spare your back the pain of that task 😉

  3. Decluttering can be overwhelming, especially in a space as cluttered as your garage. I know from experience–we have 3 weeks to pare down our 2 story house to what will fit in a mini-van sized motor home. I would love to stay true to my ideals and send everything to the best place for it, and produce little trash. But guess what? I’m only human, and sometimes the overwhelming process just has to get done. I’m not proud of the amount of trash that we’re putting beside the curb, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it. We’re decluttering and creating a new life for our family, and that’s something. Perhaps next we’ll work on producing less waste. Baby steps.

    • Bethany – You’re right. It is overwhelming. I’ve been reading the Zero Waste Home blog and book and am aware each time I throw something away that it’s going to the landfill. We are learning about producing less waste, but it’s like a big firestorm right now. The push and pull of decluttering, while trying to limit what we send to trash. We are donating/recycling/freecycling what we can, but a lot is going to the landfill. Not ideal, but it is reality. I’m not proud of it either.

  4. Hi!
    You are working really hard on your goal and I know from experience how exhausting decluttering may be.
    Actually, I think, if it frustrates you and slows you down very much, it’s better to dump some things – you are intending to simplify and if you stop aquiring stuff these will probably be about the last things you dump so easily, which is a good thing after all.
    Still, I encourage you to find other solutions of passing your stuff on to others, also because I feel it actually also helps mentally to be aware of all the possibilities people pass on stuff to each other – if you need something later, you might get it for free or cheaply second hand as well and that realization might make you more willing to part with certain items. You are already trying to donate and give away as much as possible, so I’m sure this will be what you will do in the future. It’s normal that it takes some time until one has figured out all the different methods to pass on stuff and has found the ones that are coming easiest to oneself. So, just keep up the good work! Don’t beat yourself up, if you don’t succeed in finding a second home for each and every item. You’ll learn as you go and it’s important to keep your mental health during that whole exhausting process as well. 🙂
    I’m living in a 700sf apartment and have been decluttering for three years! Still not done. 😀
    You are going really fast over there! You’re doing great!

      • As much as I appreciate your offer to throw yourself into a vat of trash, I was kidding. Although, I do like it. I have an affinity for jade colored Asian looking crap…er, art. We are in the process of moving in the next two weeks anyway and I don’t even have an address yet :). I love what you are doing BTW, even if I don’t comment often since I don’t want to be too intrusive.

        • Well, I suppose you could just print the picture out, frame it, put it on your nightstand and stare longingly at it before you go to sleep each night. 🙂 You wouldn’t be intrusive. Comment away! Good luck with the moving.

  5. Sorry about the prior comment- didn’t get finished. In our area there are a couple of places that actually take unused and gently used building materials. Renew, and Habitat for Humanity run a place. They can use cabinets and all types of items that you take out of your house. Kinda like one mans trash is anothers treasure. This might be an option to look into for this remodel, etc.

  6. While I agree that most things probably can and should be repurposed rather than going to landfill I also agree that sometimes, in order to keep the momentum going, you just have to “dump it.” And . . . I had an uncle who used to regularly visit the dump to see what he could find. 🙂

    When we last moved I held yard sales – altho I gave most of the stuff away. In fact one woman refused to pay the two dollars I was asking for an end table and insisted on giving me five dollars.

    We put a lot of furniture, etc. out at the roadside and it was always picked up within a couple of hours. Eventually we just had to put some stuff in the dumpster because we ran out of time. The sale was closing and we had to get out.

    I believe that people always do the best they can at the time and no one needs to get all self righteous in anyone’s face so ignore them. You are doing a great job and I am rooting for you!

  7. I’ve found it amazing what people will take on Freecycle and at the curb, and usually start there even before driving to donate at the thrift store. From your posts it appears that you’re making great strides really quickly – well done!

  8. That comment is horrible. To say “You have been so lucky, for so long, that you have had enough money to buy materials endlessly with no thought to use or need that now, being done aquiring, the answer is the garbage to save yourself from the difficulty of processing the materials on the way out either…? Ugh.

    There are people who will come and pick it up. If you pile it on the curb many stores like goodwill or veterans thrift stores will send a truck around to pick it up. As easy as throwing it away and it saves the haul fees.

  9. Life is about learning. It sounds like you donated what you knew you could. I personally pick up other peoples trash and fix it up to either give away or sell. I grew up being reminded that we only had so much land to put our trash so I was always careful. That being said there was a time when the resources weren’t there to donate things so easily and I had more trash than I do now.

    yes, I cringed when I read that you were tossing things in the dumpster, but I know its a process that you are new to. Good for you for being open enough to admit where you are in this phase.

    • I recently did some volunteer work in thrift store and they have A LOT of items that are staged in the back. I was sorting through items and I learned that several items would be trashed by the thrift store because they felt that no one would buy them. After seeing some of crap that was donated (and would never make it to the floor) it became apparent to me that thrift shops have to sort through items and decide. If they put all the stuff (and crap) on the floor they would no space whatsoever. My point is this: Don’t feel to bad about throwing crap away as the thrift shop will most likely have to have a volunteer do it anyway. Besides, it sounds as if you are making a strong effort to not accumulate so much stuff in the first place.

      • But even though the thrift stores can’t use it there are always people who are in college, have been recently homeless, or enjoy “upcycling” who will take that “crap” and use it if it’s offered on Freecycle or Craigslist. Please don’t use your experience at one thrift store (My mom volunteered briefly for a thrift store who trashed things they didn’t want as well, so I get where you’re coming from.) to discourage people from rehoming things they don’t see as valuable. It has worth to someone. There would be no furniture in my home if people didn’t freecycle/Craigslist old, battered furniture, and I’m not ashamed of it.

  10. Kandice, first, good for you and your family for even chronicling your journey for us to read. I’ve been working on this for awhile as well. We’ve moved all over the states due to my hubby’s job but I grew up in Dallas-love my hometown-but it is very easy to get caught up in acquiring there, as with many cities. I am blessed to live in a small town in the Pacific Northwest and found a charity which will come by my house every week and pick up things which they then sell or utilize in some manner to help developmentally challenged kids and adults. I have a child with some challenges so it does my heart good to help those who help others. However, I have been very disgusted and ashamed of all the things I had accumulated since the death of my Mom in late 2010. Shopping and eating became my therapy and my way to keep the pain squashed down deep so I wouldn’t have to face the unbearable loss. It is hard but working through it. I commend you for taking on this challenge and I’ve faced many a stuffed garage in my life. You will feel so good when you drive your car into it!!!! Keep it up and keep sharing!

  11. Oh how easy it is for people to guilt us. I love your progress. I drive by homes and see garages like that. It is easy to collect things. I go through my house at least every other year and send items to Goodwill. We live in a small 2 bedroom trailer This is the year to do it again. I’m almost through and reading your posts help. I’m getting ideas from your post on storage and organization. Keep up the good work.

  12. I didn’t know we had a refrigerator in our garage! Which begs the question: Why are you in my garage, taking pictures of it, then posting them on the internet for all to see? There is a reason I don’t allow anyone in there! 😉 (Seriously, though, I may have to steal your confidentiality agreement idea.)

    Being a military family, we move often. I’m embarrassed to say there are boxes we’ve not opened in multiple moves. Each move I vow to get rid of it all before the next move, and to move into a smaller house(unless it’s a Victorian, I’m okay going bigger for that). Instead, we get a larger place, fill it with more stuff, and hide the rest in the garage/attic/etc. I accept that my reality will be that, while I will do what I can, there will be far more than I like going into a landfill.

    Basically it boils down to this for me: Do what you can, when you can, and know better, do better.

  13. We just did a good garage cleaning in order to get a car in there. Some things were filled with mouse droppings, so might be better (as in healthier) thrown away. Glad to see Kerry is reading your blog because I wanted to let her know that I “channel my inner Kerry” when I shop. She was really a good influence on me. So are you, Kandace. I’ve been cleaning off dresser tops also, love the before and after photos.

    • Glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog and making progress in your own garage! I would like to be able to use the garage for its intended purpose. 🙂

  14. That pot…it took me longer than I should admit to realize it was two elephants! I thought, “what a weird octopus!”

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