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Waging a war in the garage

We have been waiting for a break in the temperatures so we can work in the unheated garage. This is not exactly a joyful undertaking, but we promised ourselves.

I don’t mind wearing layers of grubby work clothes, but I can’t sort old letters, sheet music or silk flowers with gloves on. That puts 20-degree days off the table as garage slave days. Even at 40 degrees my crooked fingers get so cold that I am forced to return inside, run them under hot water, and, oh yeah, take a ten-minute breather with my feet up. Then it’s back to the salt mines.

We started in the garage on Saturday. And resumed battle stations again on Sunday for another two hours – each. We had to open the outside doors just to warm up the dead, frozen air inside. Two hours each for two days equals almost eight man-hours – remember those 10-minute toes-up sessions. And we have only made a dent in the mess.

Spring is prime de-cluttering time, because any date past the middle of June in the non-insulated garage is comparable to seeking shade in Death Valley. That leaves March and April as the designated un-junking season.

Since Dear Richard works a few days a week, he wasn’t available until Tuesday for another work session. With the forecast being sun for the rest of the week, we made a date to slog together again.

Silly me, I remember when a date meant a pretty outfit and high heels, dinner out, maybe even some candlelight.

A date in the garage means dragging out my stained garden duds pre-season, the only appropriate uniform for this kind of warfare. Actually, for some of the disgusting situations I have uncovered, biological warfare isn’t a stretch — and I don’t own that kind of protective gear. Except masks. I suddenly have lots of masks.

Our tactical goal is twofold. Dear Richard is sorting through everything he brought here when we merged households, and I’m sorting through all the precious goodies of my lifetime. Most of these “goodies” were not precious enough to make it into the house when I moved here in 2005.

We will donate the stuff we’re not using. The detritus will be pitched, and the remaining stuff will be organized. I’ve been repeating this mantra to myself for 15 years, but now I have a co-worker. Unfortunately, my co-worker doubled the clutter. After we added the bags and boxes from both of our deceased moms, the clutter piles grew into Mt. Clutter… a formidable climb.

But we are committed. There are a few really nice things out there that risk being ruined by garage life.

The mice, squirrels and chipmunks have had their way with many papers, fabrics and cardboard. Also, we have a large infestation of silverfish. Those nasty buggers are teeny, slippery, speedy little devils. Who knew? Yuk.

I’m not worried about rodents or insects eating my brass candlesticks, but they sure do a number on ribbons, gift boxes and Christmas hand towels. When I saw the amount of cardboard they consumed, I did wonder about their delicate little digestive systems. I shouldn’t have worried.

When it came time to store the second half of a humongous bag of birdseed last fall, I was careful. I’ve had birdseed raiders in the past, and I don’t buy the money-saving size just to ensure the health and well-being of chipmunks. I congratulated myself when I found a large, empty cat litter tub with a tightly sealed top and carrying handle. When I picked it up three months later, the top was still tightly sealed, but it was empty. I was stunned. The rodent population had chewed a hole in the bottom. So much for their tender little tummies.

I’ve decided that heavy plastic totes with tight covers are going to be the preferred storage container for everything going forward, especially for paper and fabrics.

They are pricier but worth it. And because they’re stackable, I’ll be able to label them on both the tops and the sides. That should make them a little more idiot-proof than the piles of boxes teetering atop flower pots, picture frames and folding chairs.

The goal this first week is to create three clear paths at the base camp of Mt. Clutter. The area I completed Sunday, about 6- by 6-foot, is now twice as spacious and squared up. After a final cleaning with the Shop-Vac, it was positively beautiful — well, at least to me.

This afternoon I’m going to tackle untangling indoor and outdoor Christmas lights. I ask for your prayers and supplications.

Marcy O’Brien lives in Warren with her husband, Richard, and Finian, their schizophrenic Maine Coon cat. Marcy can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com

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