Let’s just call it:
How to Motivate Your Wife to Clean the Garage
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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