Mountain Passages: Reorganizing And Cleaning The Sacred Garage

The garage is the last sacred place in our house. This is where I keep my tools and toys. Blue Eyes has no say in how things go in my garage. It is my zone; the rest of the house, not so much.

Sure, I have little islands in the house that are sort of mine. The basement racks, where the off-season toys are stored, are usually left alone, unless a stray down bootie is inappropriately stuffed in the first aid supplies by persons unknown. And then there is my humble little desk in the basement that is routinely sacked for writing implements or treated as a landing zone for anything I’ve left lying around upstairs. Of course I have my side of the bed, and we have all agreed that this is a “no-dog zone” unless I’m traveling. And there is the leather chair by the fireplace where I am allowed to read and sip beverages in comfort, as long as I don’t spill.

But I am the garage alpha wolf—the garage decider—and the one person in the world who (sort of) knows where everything is. This is not to say that no other person or dog is allowed in the garage. Blue Eyes parks her car there. Her off-season tires are stored in the garage as well as her bag of small garden tools and her bike, and skis. Willy the dog has a hook for his leash and a shopping bag full of (empty) poop bags. And of course we have a rack of larger garden tools that we share, but the rest of the garage is my stuff and is pretty much sacred.

“The garage looks like poor people live in it.”

“No one is living in the garage.”

“It looks like the part of a trailer that survived a tornado.”

“That’s insensitive.”

“If you are sensitive about how the garage looks why don’t you do something about it?”

“The garage is fine.”

“If you are pack rat.”

“I resemble that.”

This is a redacted version of a semi-annual conversation that I don’t initiate. Just as a benchmark, the conversation usually comes in the spring or fall when there is extra clutter because our toys are in transition between seasons. For example, in the spring a road bike gets pulled down from a ceiling hook for one of those amazing warm days in March, but never quite makes it back to the ceiling rack. So the bike sits out among the ski gear giving the uninformed an overall sense of clutter and disorganization.

This uninformed person may then offer a soliloquy that sounds something like this:

 “You say you are going to clean the garage…but then you don’t get around to it…and then when you do, it takes a couple weeks…and we have cars parked out front like we are running a hostel.”

This is when I put “clean the garage” on my “to do” list, an action item I then ignore for a couple weeks until I really need to find something that I know is in the garage, but appears to be hiding from me. It drives me nuts to absolutely need something immediately and not be able to find it. My silent monologue may sound something like this:

“Where the hell are the needle nosed pliers?…Probably under all this stuff piled on the workbench…Nope, not there…Hanging on the wall where it should be?…Nope…How about on the floor under the workbench?…Obviously SOMEONE has used the needle-nosed pliers and did not put them back…Damnit, put my stuff back!”

That I often discover the unnamed culprit wears about the same running shoes that I do simply doesn’t matter, the important part here is recognizing the steps in the process of getting started on the semi-annual garage cleaning and reorganization that starts with a rant.

sacred garage

The process is quite simple. After putting off the job for most of Saturday morning I move Blue Eyes’ car out of the garage and set-up a door on a pair of sawhorses where the car was and use it to sort and pile stuff in an organized manner. As I sort and pile, I’ll find something that requires a trip to the hardware or outdoor store to buy the absolutely necessary thing that I need to complete this season’s cleaning and reorganization. Then, whatever that absolutely necessary thing is will get left in a bag on the reorganization table while I go for a run. And then it is cocktail hour, then dinner time, and time to read before bed.

 “Nice job so far.”

“Hey, it’s just Sunday morning, lighten up.”

“I can’t get my car in the garage.”


“This is going to go on for a couple weeks.”

“I deny that.”

“Those who ignore history are doomed to relive it.”

Actually, I can sometimes get it all done in a day or two, particularly if the weather is bad and I can’t think of anything else to do. It really is a full day’s work and if spread over four or five days, with an equal number of trips to the store(s), Blue Eyes only has to park the car outside for a week.

After the semi-annual cleaning and reorganization the season-appropriate toys are all racked downstairs or shelved, the tools are in their designated boxes or chests or hung on the wall in order, and the detritus on the floor from the previous season has been swept away. The workbench is absolutely clean and clear of stray toys.

This pristine condition lasts for an extraordinary period of time, say 24 to 48 hours before some item magically appears dumped on the workbench. This could be a tool used and not put back where it came from, or a bag of something purchased for some future use, or maybe a rag used to clean something but not thrown away or put in the laundry. No one knows who the perpetrator is. It is the stealth garage trasher. And often a person who has no sense of the sacredness of my garage, unless of course, the stealth garage trasher is me.

Alan Stark is a member of Bryan Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol and lives with this Blue Eyed person and the counter surfer, Willy the Dog.