A Haven of Order

wfmwThis may not look like your typical Works for Me Wednesday tip, but the nuggets of truth and wisdom are there. Buried deep. Beneath our stuff.

Let’s just call it:

How to Motivate Your Wife to Clean the Garage
by Tim

One of the things I often notice as I stroll up and down our street, is that garages are almost exclusively a male domain. Women may rule the kitchen, the living room and (in some cases) the laundry room, but in most cases men decide how garages are organized. In a day of rampant post-feminism, the garage stands proudly as one of the last bastions of masculinity. Men who walk timidly in their homes, carefully put the seat down on the toilet, and who meekly accept all manner of flowery decor in the bedroom, can still puff out their chest in pride of a well-maintained garage. Testosterone-promoting automotive supplies, tools, heavy shop-vacs, and lawn care equipment reign supreme in the inner sanctum of the garage.

Bikes galore
Run for it, David, before the garage subsumes you!

Some men have each item carefully labeled and kept in its proper place, carving out a quiet pool of order in an ever-changing, chaotic world. Men who can’t parent their children, whose marriages are in shambles, whose finances and careers are spinning wildly out of control, can still have their tools lovingly racked and stacked in the garage.

Not too long ago I had occasion to visit one of my neighbors, and while I was there, he showed me his electrical circuit box. As the garage doors rolled silently up on well-oiled tracks, the gleam from the sealed and painted floor nearly blinded my eyes. Apart from a few tools and supplies, each carefully placed on individual shelves the garage was entirely empty. Even the shelves were discreetly small, and occupied only one of the walls. Waving dismissively at what might have been a fleck of dust on the floor, he gruffly apologized: “Sorry about the mess.” I marveled at the mindset of a man who could so effortlessly maintain a two-car garage as a monument to order and serenity. My eye was caught by the words on the spine of a single tome, on one of the shelves: The Feng Shui of Garages.

An ordered mind?
Not my actual neighbor’s garage, but it might as well have been.

I am not that sort of man.

Our house has, in defiance of all reason, a three-car garage. This is odd, because we have only two cars. It is also curious, because there is really no need at all for a garage in Western Washington, unless you own a car with a water-soluble paint job. If you are afraid to have rain on your car, or dislike running your windshield wipers, you’ve probably already moved to Phoenix.

Feng Shui ... not!
I feel more serene already, don’t you?

When we first moved in to this house, Kathy’s eye gleamed at the sight of this 600 square foot garage. “Look at all the space for bookshelves,” she chortled. (My wife is a bookshelfopath, stemming from a tragic and un-treatable genetic disorder. Her father suffers from the same dreadful malady, and is even now building bookshelves in Texas. He lives in Michigan, but there is no reasoning with those afflicted with this condition.)

“Hey,” I objected, eloquently. “Garages are supposed to be space for men!”

“Oh, how you do babble on,” Kathy replied absently, directing the final resting positions of the couch, game organizer, extra refrigerator and not less than five bookshelves.

Almost enough bookshelves
Wait! There’s room on the wall for another small bookshelf! Don’t tell Kathy!

Over time, we’ve used the garage to store all our Christmas decorations, dozens of bins of clothing, at least five bicycles, lawn toys, two guinea pigs, a fussball table, a treadmill and an elliptical machine. The circuit box is technically accessible, as long as you don’t mind standing on one leg, extending your left arm to the full limit of its reach, and blindly flipping random circuit breakers through an opening slightly wider than your hand.

My secret stash
OK, I admit, a lot of the mess is generated by me, especially the part involving cases and cases of Diet Coke.

I’m also allowed to keep a few tools and hardware supplies there, sprinkled randomly throughout the garage. When my father-in-law visits, we love to play a little game I call Tool Treasure Hunt, while he tries to serve his daughter as general handyman. “You should pay Joshua $100 to organize this garage,” he quipped, toward the end of a hard day of Tool Hide ‘n Seek. “Har, har, har,” I guffawed, in wry appreciation of his wit. One year, I actually found many of my tools before Kathy’s Dad came, but it seemed to take a lot of the fun out of the whole operation. “This is great!” he raved, crossing maintenance items off Kathy’s list with wild abandon. He seemed entirely insensitive to my efforts to lower the bar of male competence in home repairs. Some in-laws are just rude like that, I suppose. :)

Harsh light of day shines on our garage
I was wondering where that card table was hiding.

Truth be told, this garage is frequently cleaned up. Whenever our Small Group Bible study meets at our home (we alternate months with another couple), Joshua is pressed into service. In exchange for being allowed a free pass to watch the Lord of the Rings movies (all three of them, of course) he tidies everything up so that the hordes (sometimes as many as 20) of children have somewhere to go. As you can see, it has been a few weeks since we hosted Small Group.

When I heard that Scott was featuring a Tour of Scary Garages on his blog, I knew that the time had come for me to take my place near the top of that list. Let this be an encouragement, in contrast, to all the well-organized men out there in bloggy-land.

Stop by Rocks In My Dryer for other helpful ideas. Let me know if you find anything that tops this one.

Project 366 – Day 57

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18 thoughts on “A Haven of Order”

  1. Wow.
    This post accomplished exactly what I was hoping with the Garage Tour this week. I can see that other people have garages that actually have STUFF in them. I’ve seen a couple of those pristine garages and it aches my heart.
    And I’m always impressed how you figure out ways to utilize your indentured servants/children.
    Also, what nice shelves you have. That’s some serious shelfage.

  2. If I had a garage, I imagine it would look a lot like yours. That’s about what my trunk looks like: lots of books (though no shelves to put them on) and boxes of various amounts of Diet drinks (preferably Dr. Pepper), mixed with a good assortment of everything that I don’t ever need.

  3. You’ve GOT to be kidding–you want your SICK WIFE to clean the garage? I just know what she’d do to that couch, and she wouldn’t be moving it!

    I think this falls under Life Skills for the children… or maybe Kathy’s dad needs to come out again?

  4. ha! I’m glad we are not the only ones with a garage full of bikes and at least one couch!
    Kathy, if you don’t want to give Tim the garage, you should at least give him one game chip for every 100 square feet!
    Have a great day Edgren Family:)

  5. Yep, we’ve got a garage like that too. It’s detached and the door doesn’t work well, so we’ve never put our car in there. Not that we ever could, because it’s full of stuff. We sort of clean it out once a year when they have neighborhood clean up.

    I love the “Tool Treasure Hunt.” Our girls used to play “Adventure Explorer” in our basement, going through the stuff and seeing what they could discover.

  6. My garage is a nightmare! I’m awful about just tossing junk out the door into the black pit that is our garage. Somehow I think it will magically disappear from existence. I love the beautiful glazed garage floors, maybe if we did that to our garage I’d have a newfound respect for it…

  7. Kathy, you are a very understanding wife to let Tim post pictures pre-Life Skills time.
    I remember one time when our apartment at Bible School was shown to prospective students after Greg and Ema had been sick for a week and we had just come back from a retreat. Very scary. I do not think think there was a blank spot on one of those 350 square feet.
    But I know you know where to find pretty much whatever it is you need from the garage. My desk is the same way. To the uninformed outside observer, a mess of piles and clutter. But you ask me where something is and I will find it for you. I may have to shuffle piles to do it, but it is there!
    Just keep a place for us to crash! :)

    Not offended at all about the ‘boring’ comment on our blog. You were right, it was boring looking.

  8. Our garage looks OK–not much room once we park two cars in there–but our basement looked worse until my fabulous husband started cleaning it last week. Wowza, what a difference! Great job for a guy–that’s my opinion. :-)

  9. I want to see the after pictures. We have a 2 car garage that can really only fit 1 car and our stuff. My dh insists on putting 2 cars in it. So far my ds has tore off his side mirror, my dh tore off his side mirror, and I scraped the whole side of my van on a wheelbarrow. Sigh… That’s it we need to buy a new house with a BIGGER GARAGE!!

  10. Very witty post! As the wife I do try to let my husband have this one “room”–though I fully admit my part in trashing it: I stand at the kitchen entrance and chuck recyclables in with my eyes closed. Used to do it with eyes open until I saw a black widow scampering away from the light.

  11. Oh. My. Word. I didn’t think there was another garage on the planet that looked remotely anything like ours – LOL! I’m afraid ours has yours beat though… in spades. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to provide photographic proof in a public forum… you’ll just have to take my word for it. :)

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