If it is March, then it's garage-cleaning time

March 6, 2012

As we begin to look forward to warm days ahead, the month of March may stand to remind us of our American duty. That duty is to throw out anything you can touch, feel or see, even assuming we are in the early stages of cataracts.

Yes, March is one of those months when Americans take to their garages, pitching and shoveling like some mad dictator in the throes of his last days before the coup. It’s the kind of frenzy you often experience if you are leaving the presidency and the Mayflower moving van is backing up to the White House well ahead of schedule.

If the inside of your house or garage has started to resemble a branch of Sam’s Club, then I’d say it’s project time. Sure, it’s embarrassing to recognize just what one will accumulate when they have no life and no friends, but those oven mitts in the shape of lobsters will never be returned to the QVC network now. This is why I always do my spring cleaning in the middle of the night.

Now, you can donate a lot of items to the less fortunate. But in your case, the stuff you own is probably in such pathetic shape even the downtrodden will shun it. Believe me, they would rather curl up in their corrugated boxes in the alley than accept what you have festering in your garage.

Books are items that many people have stored up for the winter. It’s fun to go through them, especially if you have multiple copies of valuable historical novels such as “Valley of the Dolls,” “Return to Valley of the Dolls” and “The Extra Optical Big Print Valley of the Dolls.” In fact, very often I get bogged down just skimming the important parts, which usually begin with, “and the windows steamed up as the two bodies came together…” well, never mind. The point is not to get distracted with the stuff you are throwing out, unless of course it is underlined in ink or there is a picture of a pirate tearing off a maiden’s blouse on the cover.

Now I also seem to have a lot of metal and canvas stuff in my garage, which I assume was some kind of furniture at one time. You never know, though, when you are going to need a three-legged beach chair that has one plastic slat attached to a rotted termite-infested wooden handle. So you have to pick through this stuff carefully.

Okay, I really should warn you also of the hazards of cleaning out a garage or attic, for that matter. Very often, you will find that you lived another life. Not that you will understand this, but you will have to be prepared for questions.

For instance, one year as I sorted through the rusted-out Weber grills piled along the side of the garage, the car batteries that had eaten through the cement floor and the mountains of expired coupons, I came across a very unique item. It was sort of oblong and unfolded with four legs that followed in that shape. There also was a ragged canvas cover on it.

Eventually I realized it was an ironing board. Which brought up the question, did I live some sort of life where I ironed clothes? Maybe I worked in a dry cleaner's. Maybe I was destitute, raising six kids alone in a shack in the prairie land and took in laundry.

Oh, I had heard of ironing before; I just didn’t realize I might have experienced such a thing.

And a word of caution, keep away from that area where you have stored your adult children’s belongings. Just because they moved out long ago, don’t think they won’t want a full accounting of where those wallet-size photos from the first grade or their plastic first-place trophy with someone else’s name on it are stored. The best advice I have when you raise that garage door this spring is to look carefully at the items and then just go out and buy a boat. I think you may be able to squeeze it in if you work it right.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.