When the Truth Hurts │Minimalism and Garage Problems

No place to park your car in your garage? You might have a problem.

Today on my morning walk, I was nosy. 

I wanted to see how my garage measured up to everyone else's. Our garage is relatively neat and everything is in its place (because minimalism is doing quite well in our home) and our cars fit nicely. 

But, keeping the garage tidy can be a chore with all the cars, four different schedules, and myriad projects happening at any given time regardless of my minimalistic wishes.

I wondered: Did everyone else have a better-looking garage than mine? I'm a minimalist but it's hard to maintain minimalism when four adults live under the same roof.

I also live in a neighborhood where we're told to put our cars in the garage no later than 10:00 PM. This is because of our HOA. This is our choice; we want to live in this neighborhood because it means clean streets and well-kept yards. But, it also means, no cars on the street or driveway after 10 and before 6AM. 

While that rule can be frustrating at times, it's not the issue. And in a way, my HOA is helping me maintain my minimalist lifestyle. Which is not something people can say often. A positive HOA experience is hard to find, but it looks like I've just found it!

So my walk was like a little investigation. A garage door would open, and I'd sneak a surreptitious glance into their garage. At other times, I'd say a friendly hello and glance a little longer their way trying to see how full their garage was.

I saw one garage immaculately neat and clean it put mine to shame. It was so clean I could've slept on the floor. With the rest of the homes - and I looked at about six garages - the situation was more dire. There were boxes tipping over like the leaning tower of pizza, stuff stacked to the ceiling, trays, plastic bins, boxes, and floor lamps. All this stuff and no one was using it.

Here's the conclusion I came to: 

If you can't park your cars in the garage because of your stuff, you have a problem.

I realize there are exceptions to this rule. If you've just inherited someone else's household because they've moved in with you, or they've passed on and you now have to sort through their stuff at your convenience (and it was cheaper to store it in your garage rather than a storage unit), that's different. 

Also, if you live in a big city and your dwelling is the size of a postage stamp, then having a storage unit is understandable. If you live in an apartment and can't hold everything you own because you had to downsize quickly, that's understandable too. (But going through the "stuff" so you don't have to pay for that storage unit should be a future goal.)

I'm talking about people who live in homes that are 2000+ square feet (with storage space available in the garage cabinets) who still can't park their cars in their garage. 

That isn't a garage or house size issue. It's a stuff issue.

Did you know that over a 1/3 of Americans use self-storage? About four in 10 Americans have a storage unit.  How many people in my neighborhood have a storage unit just so they can park their cars in the garage?

A lot.

Because I have to keep a clean garage to keep our cars in there (HOA), here's what I've learned. If you're looking to get out of being a statistic and want your garage back, take a gander at these suggestions.

  • The workout equipment needs to find a room in the house: I know many folks who work out in the garage, that being their main "stuff" in the garage. Instead, find a corner in the guest room, and break up the pieces into several rooms. Do what you can to get a space back into the garage for your cars. We did this and put the treadmill in the office and random other equipment in various bedrooms. Separating equipment is not ideal, but it works. Diversify your exercise equipment and you'll instantly have room in your garage.
  • Break Down the Boxes - If you're saving boxes for the "right time" to use them, don't. As someone who ships items of clothing to people worldwide, it's tempting to save that box every time. Especially if it's just the right size! (The Holderness Family did a hilarious video on this subject.) But, one box turns into three. And three turns into ten. I only hold onto a few at the time and dismantle the rest to store flat (which takes less space) or dump them into the recycling. 
  • Give Your (Older) Kids Their Stuff - So many boxes hold memories. And those are hard to go through and eliminate. This will take time, but it's also a crucial part of why garages are full. They're filled with memories you aren't looking at and most likely, your future generations won't look at either. Box by box, take them inside, and sort through them. Throw away what isn't pertinent, keep a few things that really mean something, and give your kids all of their papers from grade school! My parents held onto my papers for decades and gave them to me when they finally downsized. If I had known, I would've told them to trash them a long time ago! Give your (older) kids their stuff.
  • Pare Down Your Collections - Lots of boxes are filled with collections, dinnerware not being used, or stuffed animals from when you were a kid. (I know, because this was me) These are things that have sentimental value but have zero value sitting in a cold garage in the winter and baking in the summer. I'm a collector at heart and always will be so I know how hard this is. But, by eliminating collections you aren't using (donating or gifting them), it will free up space, and let someone else use what you can't anymore. This way, everyone wins.

Sift, sift, sift. What takes years to accumulate will take weeks and months to disseminate. So, give yourself time to go through every box, and every bin. Furniture is another big garage filler. If you're not using it in the house, it doesn't belong in your garage, that's for sure. Donate it or sell it on Facebook Marketplace. Also, get rid of electronics (responsibly) that are stacked in the corner just waiting to be recycled. 

The truth hurts. We don't want to be told we have boxes of stuff that aren't helping us but actually hindering us from living free lives. We don't want to hear we're "hoarding" or holding onto things that aren't important. I get it. I've been there.

But here's the result of listening to that truth: Being able to pull up into the driveway, open the garage, and pull into it!

It's worth it. 

The truth serves to help us if we let it.

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