I grew up in a garage. Not as in chained up in a garage with just enough food and water to keep me alive. It was a beautiful two-story apartment my grandparents converted when my mom suddenly found herself a single parent.
That converted garage was even cooler than the Fonz’s. And those four walls bore witness to every perfect childhood memory of mine. Birthdays (and the cupcake coma after every birthday), family dinners and TV nights, listening to Buddy Holly for hours on end, going to see E.T. and swearing to everyone within earshot that I was going to marry Henry Thomas someday*…that garage was my childhood. And it became the springboard for my mother’s mid-life transition into total freaking awesomeness.
As a professional organizer, I specialize in highly functional, visually stunning spaces that inspire people in life transition (retirement, marriage, new baby, down/upsizing, divorce/separation, etc.) to be their best selves. If you, or your garage, have found yourself in a mid-life holding pattern, remember this:
1. You Are Capable of Making Clear Decisions
If you are standing at the threshold of your garage and can’t see the forest for the trees… chances are, you think you suck at making decisions. And I’m here to tell you that’s not true. Every human being on this planet comes equipped with a navigational system. Here’s how to re-introduce yourself to yours:
- Take everything out. And by everything, I mean every. single. thing.
- Find an offloading area that is protected (for you and your stuff) and still creates enough of a sense of urgency that you won’t leave it for weeks until it kills your grass. Or your neighbor’s grass. No grass should be harmed in the making of this garage.
- Scrub the walls, floors, and corners like you’d scrub your indoor dog just sprayed in the face by a skunk. Not with tomato juice – this is not a Stephen King movie – but scrub it like your well-being depended on it. Or hire someone else to do it. But clear the air. Mark my words… it will change the energy in the room.
- Handle one box/thing at a time. Touch and make a deliberate decision about everything. And do not move on to the next thing until you’ve made a decision about the last thing. Make sorting signs using these categories as your guide:
- NOT SURE
- GOES IN ANOTHER PLACE
- And if you get stuck on something, flip a coin. It does NOT matter what the outcome of the coin toss is…what matters is your reaction. Heads, you keep the Pink Princess bike helmet that doesn’t fit anymore. Tails, you give the helmet to an actual princess. If heads it is, and your gut reaction is to scream “Damn it!” while shaking your Pink Princess bike helmet in the air, now you know what you really want.
2. Don’t Let Fear Be Your Basis for Making Decisions
If you are holding on to something you “might need in the future,” don’t currently use but “spent good money on,” or that you think is hideous but feel obligated to keep because it was given to you by someone you love(d), you are limiting your potential for bigger and better things. If the universe brought you that universal shower head with seven settings before, it will again. Let the fact that something existed once be proof that it will exist again… but when you actually need it. You can’t reach for something new if you are holding on to things that don’t serve your life right now.
3. Think Outside the Proverbial Box
Gone are the days of cardboard boxes. When it comes to garage storage, if you can imagine it, somebody makes it. Do you want to cover every wall with scratch-resistant slat board panels in taupe and antique white? They make that. Do you dream of a wall of cabinets that will be the conversation piece of the neighborhood? Feast your eyes on this (used here in a commercial bathroom and kitchen installation but it could easily be done in a garage using local vendors):
- Cabinets so stunning they’ll make you cry
- A finished look at cabinets so stunning they’ll make you cry
Do you pine for an innovative way to tame every electrical cord in your life? I just read an article on 61 ways to organize your wires, cords, and cables. Don’t even get me started! I could write an entire article on cord wrangling for every budget. I’m tempted to name my firstborn Cable Turtle. Cable Turtle Jones. Now you understand why I’m 40 and still single.
And it doesn’t have to be new to be innovative. Do you love old Coca-Cola crates? They made that. 50 years ago. And now you can use them in the 21st century to store odds and ends in a way that is both highly functional and visually stimulating.
My point is… If necessity is the mother of invention, garages have the hottest mom on the block.** If you can imagine it, someone makes it.
4. A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Curse Words
Do you seriously think I would ever get through a single lean legs and buns workout if I didn’t have the photo of the Gap sexy boot jeans right in front of me? PFFFTTTTT! I wouldn’t even make it through the warm-up. For 93% of the population, lunges, squats and garages are zero fun. Actually, I just made that statistic up. I have no idea. But I do know that you need inspiration to make it through a garage organization. Start looking for photos…in magazines, on websites…you can even skulk around other people’s garages and take your own (I’m kidding. Don’t do that). But pull together a visual representation of everything you want for your new self in your new garage. Make an inspiration board or notebook and refer to it every time you want to yell Mommy’s special word and just torch the whole house.
5. And Finally… Know Thyself
I remember the first time I asked a client whether she preferred open or closed garage storage. She looked at me in such a way, I was sure she’d heard “What color underwears do you eat your Haagen Dazs in?” In reality, she’d heard me correctly. She just hadn’t thought about what she wanted in a really long time.
When was the last time you thought about what inspires you? Do you want to see your belongings or do you like them tucked away? Which do you prefer, concrete floors or brick? Do you lean towards bright colors, earth tones, or just clean white paint? Do you dream of space for entertaining AND housing the vehicular love of your life? Or are you a purist who believes nothing should live in the garage but your car? Trust me. You think you’re just making decisions about stuff. But you are actually reacquainting yourself with all the little things that make you you.
Now go springboard yourself.
*P.S. Dear Henry Thomas, I am available for dates, Tex-Mex, and making your closets look like art installations. Have your people call my people (except I don’t really have any people).
**P.P.S. If you repeat this to anyone, it should go “Elizabeth Jones says, ‘If necessity is the mother of invention, garages have the hottest mom on the block.'” 20 years from now, I don’t want to see this on Brainy Quote as said by “Anonymous.”
About today’s guest blogger:
Learn more about Elizabeth Jones.