As someone who collects extremely heavy, space-consuming media I have always had a very tenuous relationship with the spaces I end up inhabiting. Inevitably, what I look for is comfort for my belongings, and a small space to lay myself down at night. This has led to some very ridiculous living arrangements, and often at the expense of my own – or my roommates’ – discomfort. Just so I could have a place to keep all my comics. While I must admit that I have never been at the Hoarderslevel of stuff-ownership, I have noticed a downward trend in the number of friends who return calls whenever I have to move.
In December I finally moved in with my girlfriend, and this meant a complete reconsideration of things, and the spaces they take up. She was already settled into a nice two-bedroom apartment, small for the most part, but with enough space for the two of us to live comfortably.
Minus my stuff, that is.
While we did accommodate some space for some of my records, a small box of books, and several handfuls of comics, it was decided that there was just no room in the apartment for all of my stuff. The remaining things I owned stayed “in storage” – boxed up in a friend’s basement – and the rest of my records went to another friend’s house down the street.
There was a garage when I moved in, and it did have some stuff in it already. My girlfriend used the Garage in much the same way that a teenager uses a closet: if something is in the way, and doesn’t need to be in your way right now, put it in the Garage – anywhere, it doesn’t matter – and the problem is solved. I only added to the problem when I moved in and thus just threw other things that were now in the way into The Garage, and just shut the door.
There was always talk about taking care of The Garage, as if it were an illness that we couldn’t afford to treat just yet, but someday. Winter made it easy to avoid the chore, and by then we were already into the habit of putting things in there and forgetting about them. Our friend’s down the street even started doing the same thing with their books, which only drove me crazy, as now this space was taken up with other people’s books, while mine languished away in someone else’s basement.
The growing problem of The Garage began to weigh on me in ways I had not predicted, and soon I began to have irrational fears about The Garage. Somehow, The Garage would catch fire and burn the entire complex down. Somehow, there would be a water leak, which would cause the landlord to need to go in, and they would find something in The Garage that could somehow lead to eviction, like pornography, or worse, a huge messy Garage that looks like a fire hazard. (To be fair, The Garage was so messy that I would have evicted myself.) Soon, The Garage began to lurk and loom in my mind like a monster from a Stephen King book, never seen directly, but always there, ready to pounce and fill you with dread.
I first encountered this phenomena when I moved into my first house with a basement. I was so excited to have a place to store everything I owned comfortably that I was nearly overwhelmed. It just seemed like too much. During the first week I meticulously organized and stored everything, but very quickly I just began throwing things downstairs when it wasn’t being occupied by a roommate. Soon, the same concerns about flooding and water damage and whatnot began creep up. By the time I moved out I was convinced that when I meet homeowners, the look on their faces has everything to do with what’s being neglected in their basement / attic / garage.
So, apropos of nothing, I randomly went to The Garage, cleaned it from top to bottom, created new space in which I could store and sort things, and then returned to my usual day.
It’s a relief, that’s for sure. All day today I’ve had this sense of accomplishment, as if to say, “Yeah, there’s all sorts of shit that I need to sort out that is pretty embarrassing for a middle aged man to admit, but at least my Garage in cleaned and well managed.” When I went to the library earlier, I didn’t go through the usual checklist of, “What did I forget to do?” Because the thing I’ve been forgetting to do for months now has finally been done, and can be crossed off the mental list with a sign or relief.
Of course, The Garage is like anything else in our lives. It’s a continual work in progress. Just because you exercised once doesn’t mean that you are “in shape,” and that you never have to do it again. But it is nice to realize that if I need peace of mind and something to help anchor me, I probably just need to clean out The Garage, in all of its metaphoric glory.