Too Much, Part I: Garage Days I Wish I'd Never Visited


OCD is a little bit like claustrophobia.  You literally feel constricted and suffocated in certain situations.  Like Dani's parents' garage, for instance.

You know that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where they roll the crate containing the ark into the vast warehouse of artifacts?  I sometimes think that was filmed on location in that garage.  No, in reality it isn't that big, but in my mind it is huge and overwhelming.

The family had moved from El Paso roughly twelve years before I met Dani.  In that time they had somehow never gotten around to unpacking an entire two-car garage full of their belongings.  Not that there was any room inside the house for it, but that's a rant for another time.  I'm not even sure how this happened.  It wasn't like there were certain categories of things they felt they could do without, so let's just leave those boxes for later; it was a bit of everything.  Still, even if there is a little bit of just about everything, it is possible to organize it all, right?  Well, they didn't.  There was no underlying system, and to me that feels like hands around my throat.

Dani's parents resisted any and all suggestions that they could, oh, I don't know... clean their fucking garage.  But finally an opportunity presented itself that didn't give them a choice.  They went out of town for a holiday.  Dani went with them, and only I remained.  They asked me to feed their cats and pick up the mail while they were away.  Well, if you're going to get me to sustain the lives of animals I would rather send to the bottom of any nearby body of water, you're going to get your garage cleaned, like it or not.

Every day that I went over there to put out food for the little shits, I would spend an hour or two (or three) getting things organized.  It was a monumental effort that ultimately lasted about a week.  I mean, how do you organize things in a space so filled with junk that you literally can't even move?  Well, first thing is to get rid of a few things.

Now the last thing I was going to do was actually throw anything out and be accused of "taking" their stuff.  However, that pile of mud and the pile of rocks were fair game.  No, seriously, there was a pile of mud and a pile of rocks on the floor.  These started out as a bag of soil and a bag of pumice for the planter out front.  Over the years since they had been purchased and never used, the plastic turned brittle and flaked away until there was nothing but piles of earth on top of mats of dry-rot plastic.  Most people don't need a shovel to clean their garage, but in this case I did.

There were loads of empty boxes and packing material that Dani's mom couldn't bring herself to throw away.  Ostensibly these were to pack things to send the grandkids up north on their birthdays, etc.  Somehow the concept of consolidation escaped her, however, and small empty boxes inexplicably sat next to large empty boxes.  I couldn't begin to tell you how much space magically presented itself once I turned the box collection into a giant nesting Russian doll with about a dozen layers.  However, even with the extra space, I still had to put things out on the driveway just to have the room I needed to move the remaining lot around.

Actually, I lied.  I did throw one thing out.  When I was moving around cans of paint that had similarly sat there for a dozen years or more, one of them was so badly rusted that the handle literally pulled off a chunk of the can.  Lacquer poured out of the gaping hole in the side before I grabbed it and tossed the can in the trash.  I say lacquer because even though this was paint, the pigment had long since settled to the bottom, and the floor of the garage wasn't stained.  Honestly, most of the chemical was sucked up by the thick layer of dirt that had accumulated.  After all, you can't exactly sweep your garage if you can't even walk through it.

Throwing things out is about the worst sin you can commit around a hoarder.  They cannot get rid of anything.  Ever.  This is in spite of the accumulation of not just dust, but pretty much everything else they don't need.  For example, there was a shelving unit in the garage that was filled with Thomas Kinkade cottages, about twenty-five of them.  These were all in the original packaging, and indeed, the cellophane wrapper on most of them had never even been broken.  In spite of her apparent disinterest in these pieces, Dani's mom had previously resisted my advice that she could (read: should) unload them on eBay.  Admittedly, this is a woman who has so many shoes that the master bathtub became a makeshift shoe rack, forcing them to shower in the bathroom in the hall.  I just consolidated the Kinkades on a few of the shelves and left them alone for the time being.  Being in the garage was enough of a health risk already; I didn't need to risk certain death removing anything from it.

At this point I wasn't even bothering with the boxes of things that had never been unpacked.  The main goal was just to make some sense of the other things that were scattered throughout the garage.  After all, don't you keep all the tools in the general proximity of the workbench?  Don't you keep the gardening implements in the same corner?  Not here.  I fixed that even though it ultimately ended up being a giant game of Tetris in which nothing ever disappeared.

As you might have guessed, once Dani and her parents returned from their vacation, it took considerable convincing on my part to prove to them that everything was in fact still in the garage.  With boxes stacked intelligently and the random items that were previously strewn about finally boxed up, you could almost use the garage to, say, park a car in or something.

Still, every time someone went looking for something they hadn't bothered to look for in years, it was always my fault that they couldn't find it.  This was in spite of the fact I could tell them that I had never seen the items they were looking for, so I doubted had ever made it to that garage from El Paso in the first place.

I learned my lesson though.  Where Dani's parents are concerned, no good deed goes unpunished.


Copyright 2007 Alexplorer.
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