Monday, July 19, 2010

Piling and Pedaling

I’m getting my posts back to life as a retired couple. There was one thing that drove me to distraction during the year I didn’t ask Joe to do anything around the house. It was the “elephant in the room”…the conversation that we never had. It was the cause of my tongue-biting on many occasions. It was the condition of our garage!

About fifteen years ago, Joe bought a book called “File Don’t Pile”. Out of it he created a new way of filing. It doesn’t use alphabetizing like normal people do. Every file has an upper-case letter followed by a number (example: T-1, T-2, T-3, etc.). At the front of all the “T” files is a green folder. Inside the green folder is a list of what all of the files contain. Do you see an inherent problem? Yes. That’s right. Only the person who created the files has the ability to find anything ever again. The “T” files are the only ones I am privy to: they are our taxes based on the year of filing.

However, the book didn’t teach any tricks about not “piling” things in the garage…and any other flat surface in the house. Several years later he also had custom cabinets made for the garage to solve that problem. He gave Closet World a call and they installed six large cabinets, a counter next to the sink and a desk that was supposed to be for my crafts.

Over the next year or two, as things came out of the cabinets (like fishing gear), they started reappearing elsewhere. Nothing ever seemed to go back to where it came from. Then when Joe moved from his Santa Ana office back to San Diego, he brought boxes of office supplies home. But instead of taking them to the new office; he put them in the garage. There was also the wood to finish the fence and gates for our yard; a project that never quite got finished when he and a friend constructed a new fence in 2001. The lumber was piled up in the garage just about waist-high…that made it a target for piling things. It was like having another work bench.

Joe has one of those of those rolling work benches that can be moved from place to place. The only thing it couldn’t be used for was “working”…because it was piled two feet high with bags, junk mail, unread newspapers, and boxes (many from QVC whose contents are a mystery). To give you an idea of how bad the “piling” got, when he finally cleared out the garage, he gathered up bags from Home Depot that still had the receipts in them and returned them all for over $300 in store credit. All of those items represented things he re-purchased because he couldn't find the original bags when he needed them.

I don’t mean to make Joe sound like a potential candidate for the TV show “Hoarders”. We’ve always been able to park both cars in the garage (barely) and there was a path from the door out of the house to the side garage door to get to the back yard. But other than that, every square inch was covered with items that were not “put away”.

Included in the many items stored out there is a pontoon fishing boat I gave him for our anniversary and Father’s Day in 2009. He had planned a fishing trip to Utah that June and the boat came in a cardboard box about five days before he was going to leave. Well, he didn’t unpack it and put it together before leaving; he just loaded the box on top of his car and took off on the long drive. He said he'd get help from some of the members of the fishing club to put it together when he got there. It started raining heavily on the drive so he stopped and got a blue tarp and covered the box. He never unpacked it at the fishing site. Instead he borrowed an already-put-together boat from a friend. The box, wrapped in its blue tarp, is still in the garage unopened.

I deliberately didn’t take a picture of the “before” because it was too embarrassing…when I had a mini-stroke last September, I asked him to clear the garage so I could get an exercise bike and use it while watching the TV he set up on “my” craft desk (which was piled three feet high with Joe’s things for several years). Motivated by my request, in January he contacted a pair of professional “organizers” whose ad was on Craig's List. He made an appointment to get help for the garage. BUT – after two or three appointments and cancellations, the organizers “flaked” and never showed up. (Rule 1 when starting an "organizing" business: have a calendar/planner with you when you return phone calls.) 

I wouldn’t have started this post if it didn’t have a “happy ending”. Over the past two months, Joe managed to donate, throw away, or “put away” almost everything that was filling the single car area of the garage and for my birthday he bought me a recumbent bicycle! The desk is clear! I’ve started a regular routine of going out there first thing in the morning before the day begins three times a week.

And - Joe ordered a "Power Platinum Total Gym" after watching yet another info-mercial. (I'll let you know how that works out. He said it was "kind of a pain" to have to pull it out and set it up each time. And, he hasn't watched the "how to" video yet. That's kind of like asking for directions, isn't it? Don't think I'll start on those stories.)
At the end of the day, it was worth biting my tongue every time I parked my car. This is a good place to restate a rule I’ve written before: “Nobody ever died from biting their tongue!”

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