Tina's garage

I returned from living overseas for many years, started teaching elementary school and became a pack rat! Ten years later, my garage is filled with textbooks and storybooks.

I love my home and have decorations for every season, as well as paint and supplies for unfinished projects. My fiancé is a computer technician and has several shelves loaded with books, as well as tools. I would like to use my two-car garage for two cars! Help me!



It's all about limits. Think about when you're teaching kids and they have to keep different subjects in different notebooks, or they have to keep a reasonable amount of stuff in their lockers—it's no different with your garage.

You need to establish a clear limit on what you're okay with keeping. Two shelves for textbooks, three bins for holiday decorations, an album and memento box for each of your overseas trips. Then you need to consistently work through the items in the garage for a half hour every day, working toward cutting items down to the limits you set.

Doing nothing is the worst thing you can do. Set some limits and understand that small steps, consistently applied, will yield results.

— Peter
Lynn's basement

This is a look at our basement; our garage looks about the same. I combined households with my best friend of 25 years after my husband died in 2002 and my son went into the Army that same year.

Our house has looked like this for as long as I can remember. I say I want it different, but I just don't seem to know where to start—there is just too much. It is completely overwhelming.
— Lynn

You need to make a "grand occasion" of the decluttering of your garage and basement.

Decide a date, send out invitations to four of your good friends, arrange for some great food to be available (and maybe a bottle or three of goodwine!), rent a Dumpster, get some boxes and trash bags, line up a charity to stop by for a pickup at the end of the day and then get to work!

Decide you're going to work for two- or three-hour stints, and you'll be amazed at what you'll be able to achieve with the support of friends, a fixed deadline and a plan.

What are you waiting for? Get started on those invitations now!

— Peter
Jessica's garage

My boyfriend purchased a home in 2006, and we were financially burdened by an adjustable rate mortgage. We were recently able to refinance, but I find that I blame our home for all the financial and emotional stress we endured.

In order to pay the bills, my boyfriend works close to 70 hours every week, and his only day off is Sunday. I'm a full-time student in my final year, but I also work part-time to tie up the loose ends.

I've tried organizing everything, but our living space has become the last priority, as we were just trying to survive. Our garage and office have gotten so bad I find myself opening the door and shoving stuff in with my eyes closed.

It's very frustrating. How can we take control of this mess?

— Jessica

These rooms are not as bad as you might think.

You need first to set aside some time to tackle this. Your motivation is that the stress you're feeling is definitely—in part—due to the clutter. By decluttering and organizing these spaces, you'll remove some of the stress that is clouding your lives. You'll also find added peace and improved focus in your studies.

The clutter is an impediment to the lives you and your boyfriend should be living, and it has to be a high priority for you to deal with.

If you both invest time in doing this—the very next Sunday that your boyfriend is off work—it will return huge dividends.

— Peter
Jennifer's garage

We have a wonderful home with a three-car garage that, right now, barely fits one car! I feel like I live in someone else's house because I am not acting like someone grown-up enough to take care of it.

The garage is by far the worst. Like so many, I struggle to part with things, so they end up in the garage. My mother shares this "disease," so she parts with things by bringing them to me, and that stuff often ends up in my garage. We tried a couple of garage sales but had very limited success.

I signed up for a freecycle group on the Internet. I gave away a desk last week and felt liberated. I'm hoping I'll be able to liberate a few more treasures, either with the Freecycle Network or Craigslist. What else can I do to take on this problem?


This may sound harsh but you have to work to create the life you want. That sense of "liberation" you felt was what an adults feel when they are in control of their lives.

The fact that you feel like you're living in someone else's home reinforces this idea for me. You are an adult, and this is your home! Embrace that!

You must take a first stand with your mother and insist that she no longer offload things onto you. Let her know that if she does, those items will go straight to Goodwill. Similarly with the items in your garage—there are many people far worse off than you. Instead of the yard sale idea, consider donating items to charity and continue with the Freecycle idea. Spread some kindness, maybe even get a tax deduction, and let go of that clutter once and for all.

Reclaim your home and your life. Welcome to adulthood!



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