Channelling my inner Marie Kondo to totally sort my pandemic garage

Written by Nigel Simpkins

Isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing out the crazy in many of us. Cooped up at home binge-watching Netflix, baking way too much bread and spending far too much time cooped up in my house, I found my thoughts drifting to Marie Kondoing my garage.

If you’ve ever seen the Netflix series, you’ll know the show revolves around Marie Kondo visiting families and showing them how to tidy their homes. The family then identifies items that do not “spark joy” and ruthlessly discards them, thereby making it easier to organize the items they keep.

Watching these families beavering away on their mission to declutter motivated me to get off the couch and tackle the black hole in our house. Our garages are where the ghosts of past lives go to die. House moves, babies, Christmases, birthdays, graduations and holidays, they all eventually work their way through to a half-way twilight zone that is my garage.

1. Crafting A Vision for My Garage

Yep, sure I can fake that. Personally, I found it a little disconcerting that Marie continually asked her homeowners to outline a vision for their home. In visioning my perfect garage, the best I could come up with was:

  • Being able to open my car door without knocking over a box or inadvertently scraping my car door on a garden tool
  • Being able to put my hands quickly and painlessly on my stored items by clustering them into categories
  • Sort out items to donate and sell
  • Store some items for future use
  • I want to be able to walk into the garage without sighing and feeling depressed.

Armed with my garage2.0 vision it was on to phase 2.

2: Declutter By Category

Working through my garage category by category rather by area makes my decluttering effort faster and easier. I channelled my inner Marie Kondo, took all my stuff and sorted it into three heaps.

A. Clothes

The gospel according to Marie sees clothing as a useful place to start. For me, it was my easiest category. I’m not that into clothes. Most days my style could be described as “rolled out of bed today.

B. Books, Videotapes and DVDs

I discovered boxes of mouldering videotapes, 8mm film reels and audiotapes in my garage. When I looked through my tapes I discovered mould was eating them away much to my horror!

Torn between the desire to declutter and nostalgia, I took advantage of new VHS to Digital transfer technology and migrated my old content to digital. I not only saved my personal history, but I was able to eliminate a lot of clutter from my garage plus I now had access to old content after I uploaded my digital files to my Cloud account. Problem solved!

C. Paper Clutter

So much paper! Aside from a mountain of old journals, magazines and newspapers, I uncovered what felt like tonnes of financial reports and bank statements, receipts, invoices, legal contracts and even a carton of greeting cards.

I clustered my paper into current stuff, a rolling retention stack and legal, financial stuff/ keep indefinitely. I culled my financial and tax paper mountain, according to a legally mandated retention date and scanned the rest, giving me access to my historical records without the need to keep physical hard copies.

3. Komono (Other Junk)

Typical Komono comprises gym or sporting gear, electronics, household stuff, kitchen appliances, garden equipment. You guessed it, my garage was overflowing with komono stuff.

Here dust, mould and mildew reign. I quickly realized when I found the padding in my old rollerblades and motorcycle helmet perished that keeping stuff was not the same as caring for stuff.

4. Keep Only What Brings You Joy

This simple tenet lies at the heart of Marie Kondo. Choose what you want to keep, not what you want to ditch. I found deciding what to keep channelled a much more positive vibe while getting rid of things felt seriously negative. 

Marie Kondo suggests you look at each item in your pile and ask, “Does this spark joy?” Thumbs up = keep. Thumbs down = ditch.

Marie suggests Starting with a simple item you either use regularly or wear that you recognize as bringing you joy. Think about how that item makes you feel. Channell that feeling and apply it to your treasure trove.

5. Put Aside Before You Go All Soft And Wimpy

Sifting through each item in my categories, I distributed them around the four corners of my garage. Partway through the process, my garage looked like a disaster zone, but I sucked it up and ploughed onwards.

A. Recycling Or Garbage

I eventually sorted out over 20 empty boxes of stuff I never used and that was just taking up space.

B. Give Away Or Donate

I filled my boot with toys, books and old appliances. I gave my family the first option on anything before taking them to my local op shop.

C. Sell

I personally hate this category. Instinctively I know some of my stuff is worth selling. I also know this process involves a degree of hassle and inconvenience. I am lazy ergo this pile rarely shrinks and ends up just looking like an actual garbage sale without the sale bit.

I managed to sell some stuff. The cash didn’t send me over the moon but it did bring a frisson of joy so I figured Marie Kondo would give me a ‘Pass’ on this one, so I banked the joy and moved on.

D. Retain

I ended up keeping a ton of stuff. But everything was labelled and I knew where to put my hands on it if needed. Plus, I could open my car door without triggering an avalanche. So I felt the joy and gave myself a tick for a job well done.

Final Observation: Thank Your Items for Their Service

Yeah, Nah, yeah I skipped this bit. So not me. I muttered “Hasta la vista baby” when I loaded my pile of donation items into my boot. Slam the trunk give it a farewell slap, see ya later, job done. 

Oops, my bad!