Taking Over the Castle
by Becky Gunderson
For some men the garage is their castle. I know my husband feels this way, something to do with being a guy. However, he doesn’t actually like spending time in the garage unless it’s drinking beer with the neighbor.
To me a garage is where cars sleep, trash cans hide out, and tools live harmoniously together in an organized state of ecstasy.
We moved into our house nine years ago and only one car fit in the three-car garage. Broken down boxes and excess stuff we didn’t know what to do with expanded to take up every available inch, some special law of physics that I don’t know the name. “Let’s clean the garage this weekend!” became my favorite phrase. Hubby’s reply was, “Nah, that’s no fun. I’d rather sleep in, write, read, play video games, stab myself repeatedly with a dull kitchen knife.”
I find it absolutely ridiculous that only one car fits in a garage outfitted for three. True, my car was getting the rock-star treatment of spending each night in the garage, but that wasn’t the point. I wanted both vehicles sleeping side-by-side happily ever after in the garage. Why were we allowing empty boxes and stuff we no longer wanted or needed to occupy this precious real estate?
I finally stopped nagging and just did it. About an hour into it, the hubby realized what was happening. He reluctantly helped. It took the better part of the day, but we made room for his car. Hubby claimed he likes parking in the garage, but probably said that to shut me up. I squealed about 37 times “isn’t it amazing how BOTH CARS fit in the garage?!” Yes, jazz hands and flying arms included. I get excited about such things, I can’t help it.
A couple years later and the garage fell into a horrendous state again. Same argument ensued. Eventually we cleaned the garage. Now in 2015, another couple years have gone by, and here we are again. This is unacceptable.
While the hubby plays video games on the Xbox, I play the female version: Pinterest. With over 3,000 items pinned, some being projects I want to build, it’s clear a tidy, organized workspace is needed. We did build a kick-ass coffee table, loosely based on something I pinned, but that’s another story for another time.
During our most recent talk about the garage, I told the hubby, “I’m going to clean and organize the garage. I know you don’t enjoy or want to be a part of this and that’s fine. Here are the ground rules: if you want access to the garage, other than parking the car, then you need to help today. (Apparently I’ve adopted General Motors’ negotiating style). If you don’t help, the garage is mine.”
The look in his eye reads: this is too good to be true. Eyebrow cocked, head titled he asks, “Really?”
“Really.” I nod, proving I mean it.
“But…” his fingers resting on the keyboard, the bright screen screaming for his attention.
I know he wants to read, write, research, do anything but leave that chair. “Really,” my noggin imitating a bobble-head.
I love that he enjoys reading, researching, writing, cooking, and baking. He quickly and easily organizes his thoughts about anything: a movie, a book, a Supreme Court decision and then expresses it articulately. The hubby spends far more time in the kitchen than he ever has in the garage. He loves to cook and bake. He makes bread from scratch, regularly. Breakfast was homemade sour-dough bread he’d made into French toast. Last night we enjoyed freshly baked baguettes with the dinner he grilled. He’s prepared and cooked more meals in our 11-year marriage than I have made in my entire 41 years on the planet. I don’t enjoy cooking, as far as I’m concerned a bowl of cereal is a meal.
Me? I’m not articulate with my thoughts like the hubby. I ramble on and get lost and can’t remember what we were talking about. But physical spaces? I’m OCD when it comes to that. A place for everything and everything in its place.
I kiss him and head to my new domain.
It’s a cool Saturday morning, about 50 degrees. I remove everything from the space. Wow, my castle is huge! I looked around and admired the space, my space. Oh yeah!
All the boxes on, under, and near the workbench are now next to the recycle bin. The neighbor approaches, “You moving?”
“No, just cleaning out the garage.”
“Where’s the otherhalf? He still sleeping?”
“He’s inside writing.”
“Neat trick. How do I get my wife to clean the garage?”
“Hey, want a lawn mower? It’s filthy, but I think it still works.” He rolls the mower into his yard with the plan of donating it. I’m sure his wife is not amused by this but I’m thrilled to get it out my garage. We have a lawn care service; clearly we have no need for the grass eater.
Boxes recycled, I sort and group similar items together. What can I get rid of? Less is more. What the hell? Seventeen screwdrivers, really? Not in my castle! Off with their heads.
I admire my garage again. This is an opportunity to rearrange everything to fit my needs. No longer will the plastic shelving reside in a useless corner because that was the only option at the time. The pegboard with the much used hammers, screwdrivers, etc. will inhabit the wall next to the work bench. It drove me bonkers where it used to be. I had to contort myself because the useless lawnmower, set of golf clubs, and the trash bins were always in the way. Oh, MY space will be amazing when I’m done. I know just what I want and I have a plan. Victory will be mine.
But no. Whamo! My husband appears. So much for my plan.
“Um, whatcha doing?” I ask.
“I’m here to help!” my hubby replies as he sweeps. Now, this is tricky. I hate sweeping so this is good, but…
“Uh huh, but why?”
I thought he would do finger calisthenics on the keyboard; inside, far, far away from my kingdom.
“Well, I figured I should help. What do you want me to do when I’m done sweeping?”
This is a delicate situation. He clearly thinks of the garage as his domain. But I’d explained the rules clearly: he stayed inside and thus forfeited jurisdiction. When did our “Cool Hand Luke” moment happen? I stand there dumbfounded.
“Ah, ok, well, um, after you’re done sweeping will you hang the pegboard over here?” I show exactly where I want it, what height, etc. “No problem!” he says with a smile. Where the hell was all this enthusiasm of his coming from? I find myself in another part of the world… how did I get here? This is not the same as it ever was.
We’re in an alternate reality. Hubby works on the pegboard. He’s measuring and cutting it to size. I clean the items that get to return to the garage. We’re both in our zones pretending everything is going well. I’m freaking out on the inside. He’s sighing and muttering. The actual hanging of the pegboard proves more challenging than originally thought. The new location doesn’t have studs in the ideal location. While nailing a chunk of wood into a stud the wood falls and hits hubby on the shoulder. Uh oh, we’re quickly returning to our normal reality. Hubby picks up the chunk, throws it, and it splits. We stare at each other. Yup, it’s dawning on both of us that the garage is NOT my husband’s castle. We both know this, but don’t want to admit it. We grew up in traditional households and it’s challenging letting go of beliefs that don’t fit us.
We finally agree that I’ll give up the kitchen (and all nagging about it) and he’ll give up the garage. This is more than fair since I only use the kitchen for filling my water bottle and making the occasional boozy dessert. Since striking this deal he’s been amazing at maintaining the kitchen. I see the pride he takes in himself and his new space, and it’s beautiful to behold. I think my husband views the garage situation as a failure on his part. I view it as freedom. He’s no longer tied to space he’s not interested in and the tradeoff is he’s free to explore and do things he not only enjoys, but excels at.
And I get the bigger, better space, a space with power tools! It’s a win-win.