I hate garages. Despise garages. If it were up to me, people wouldn’t have them. They would keep their cars outside, left to collect dust and rainwater. They would forgo the extra fridge or freezer, stuck with using the already generous one in the kitchen. And, most importantly, without the nooks and crannies and shelves and space, they would let things go. When you don’t have a garage, storing the Puffy Paint you’ve had since your child was in kindergarten would be impossible. You would throw away the excess scraps of fabric from that couch you never reupholstered. You would sell all those items of outdated furniture you couldn’t bear to part with but couldn’t stand to use. In a word, you would be forced to move on, part with, forget.
From a psychological perspective, I believe a garage represents an almost nightmarish need for nostalgia that errs on the side of self-destructive hoarding. We keep things around which have already served their purpose. Certain times require certain tools, and as time moves on, our need for those tools – be it art supplies, home décor, clothing, etc – evolves.
In our refusal to admit that time charges on, unrelenting locomotive that it is, we keep the tools, clutter our lives with their useless evidence, kept with the thought “I might use that again. Who knows?” And while I don’t know for certain whether that rug under my car bumper or the chandelier in my attic may come in handy one day, I do know that it will likely sit untouched for years, a sad homage to past lives, old friends, dead relatives – a futile attempt at cupping my hands under the sands of time, hoping to catch every grain.
A couple times a year, when I am feeling particularly anxious for one reason or another, I will dig through my closets, purging my life of items that I no longer need. They are often things that I have already held on to for far too long, their inevitable disposal requiring a long lead-time of mental detachment before getting tossed in a plastic garbage bag.
A bottle of perfume from an ex-boyfriend, for instance, which was given to me in January 2011, lived in a proud and prominent place in my medicine cabinet until it was demoted to the back of my armoire, purposefully crammed behind extra bottles of shampoo and body lotion purchased in bulk. There it stayed for a year and a half, something I would regrettably stumble upon every now and again.
Near the end of 2012, when I recognized that wishing for that time of my life again was as stupid as willing the resurrection of dead childhood pets, I threw that bottle of perfume in the trash can, buried it under banana peels and coffee grounds. In truth, I could have kept it forever, put my nose to its spray nozzle once every few years and transported myself back in time and space. But it wouldn’t have been good for me. As long as I dedicated some portion of my energy to that memory, I was taking up space where something new, better, relevant could be housed. Because while not all of us have real, physical garages, we certainly have mental ones.