A year ago, I wrote a blog post on how my husband Tony had made great strides in reducing his hoard of stuff in the garage. Alas, life happens and not much further was done in the garage in the intervening year. Then a friend asked if we could store some boxes for him and being the kind person that he is, Tony agreed. Once again the garage was at bursting point and something had to be done, not only to accommodate our stuff but the friend’s boxes as well.
So, instead of celebrating our heritage with a braai, Tony and I spent Heritage Day sorting out the garage! To be honest, I was not too optimistic that we could make it work, knowing how hard it is for Tony to let things go. The first couple of hours were very slow and I admit that I was a little frustrated. Tony needed to look at each item carefully before making a decision. But once I decided not to fight him but join him, the whole process went a lot more smoothly. I took out two deck chairs, made some coffee and we sat while he went through each book that he had been storing in a cupboard for the past 12 years of our married lives (and never looked at once!). Nonetheless, he kept about one third of them (which have gone back into the house for a second look) but at least he made a fair bit of storage space available.
We also rediscovered ‘the beer mugs’. The beer mugs have been one of those emblems of our early marriage which Tony brings up from time to time when talking about how I organised his (now our) house when I moved in. A collection of about 10 beer mugs, acquired all over the world, decorated a high ledge in the lounge when I first met Tony. To my mind they were not particularly attractive and were collectors of dust and cobwebs. So when we got married, I insisted that I was not having beer mugs in my lounge and they got relegated to the garage in a box. Anyway, I guess over a decade of (good) marriage has softened me. On Heritage Day the beer mugs found their way back into the house – not back in the lounge but at least stored where they can be appreciated. And in the process, I let go of some things in the sideboard, so that there was space for them.
The upside of coming alongside Tony in this garage clear-out was that he was then able to get rid of some other things that he had been holding onto, such as some wooden drawers that his dad has made but which he had never used. Ultimately we were able to take a full trailer load to the dump. In the meantime, I remembered that we had some empty space in the kitchen cupboards in the granny flat. So we were able to store the friend’s boxes comfortably between the garage and the granny flat, while also being able to access all of our stuff more easily. Ultimately it was a productive and satisfying day!
This personal experience reinforced for me as an organiser the importance of working with my clients from the place where they are, that is, to work alongside them and to take my cues from them. They are more likely to make positive progress when they feel that you are supporting them and not pushing too hard. It also shows how within a marriage situation, give and take can be a powerful tool to encourage the person more inclined towards hoarding to let things go. It can also diffuse resentment within the hoarder and make them feel valued i.e. that what matters to them is recognised and supported.
The positive experience with the garage has motivated Tony to work on his study this coming weekend. He has boxes of sailing memorabilia and piles of sailing magazines which he needs to go through. Meanwhile, his 20+ year CAR magazine collection, which he decided to let go of during our last clean-out, is still languishing in the spare room cupboards. Several attempts to sell the collection on OLX and Gumtree (for a nominal amount) have not been successful. Any takers will be thankfully accepted!