It’s About Time

Ruth Wong

Friday, April 23, 2004

Get after that clutter
-filled garage

Are you battling clutter in a certain part of your home and is the clutter winning?

For me, my Battle of Waterloo is my garage. It's a huge clutter magnet. I didn't realize how long my garage had been a problem until last week when I was sorting there and came across a paper in my handwriting, entitled "Letter to Myself about Cleaning the Garage." It was dated Aug. 3, 1991.

Now, I don't usually write letters to myself, and I don't remember writing this one, but I must have been frustrated!

The letter was amusing but also discouraging because it made me realize that I hadn't made much progress in more than 12 years. Why is it that I can help other people deal with their clutter, but have such difficulty with my own?

I'd like to share with you parts of the letter. Some of you may identify with my feelings:

"My goal is to clean the garage but it's such a mess I get discouraged before I begin.

"Where to begin? Well, first of all I can get rid of the obvious stuff -- newspapers, cans and bottles to recycling; clothes and things to Salvation Army.

"I have so much stuff under the loft, things like boxes to sort, empty boxes for packing, the globe, foot massager, and stereo turntable. It would be ideal to put these items in the wall cabinets but those cabinets are already stuffed!

"Perhaps I should put out everything that needs to go into the wall shelves and keep only what I have room to store. That would force me to make some decisions. I guess that's part of the problem -- having to make some decisions. It's much easier to just keep everything!

"First I want to get rid of the foot lockers, then work clockwise around the room. I'll tackle the upper shelves next, and throw out things I don't need to keep, because if I keep things and don't remember I have them, it's as good as not having them! Besides, it will be a load off my mind NOT having to wonder what is in such and such box. And why keep so many pieces of sandpaper? And nails? I must get ruthless!

"But I certainly can't do it all in one day. How about doing the freezer wall tonight, then the back wall Sunday, and the wall cabinets Monday, and Tuesday, getting rid of the extra stuff? Ideally I see the garage storage thusly: (I included a sketch of how I wanted the garage to look).

"When I'm pau, I'll reward myself by ..."

SOME OF THE steps I identified back then are:

» Start by getting rid of the obvious.
» Keep only what you have storage for.
» Decide to make decisions.
» Look for organizations that might benefit from your excess.
» Work clockwise around the area.
» Have a simple plan.
» Don't keep too many of an item.
» Don't try to do it all in one day. Slow and steady is better than fast and furious but sporadic.
» Have a vision of how your finished area will look.
» Plan a reward for yourself when you're done.

This time I'm determined to win the war on garage clutter. House guests coming in three weeks are good incentive!

I encourage you to tackle your problem area. It will be time well spent and relief to gain order out of the confusion.

Happy battling! See you in three weeks!

"It's About Time," by Ruth Wong, owner of Organization Plus, runs the fourth Friday of each month. Contact her at "It's About Time," care of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or e-mail


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