Springtime cleanup spares sports gear

Saturday, May 5, 2007 | 1:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:16 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008
Columnist Sharon Harl

There is one yearly ritual that I endure to ensure that spring is really here — and that is the annual garage clean up. My husband and I tackle the daylong task together.

First we remove every item that isn’t attached to the walls. This isn’t as speedy as it sounds. I usually stop every few minutes to exclaim “Guess what I just found!” or “I wondered where that smell was coming from.”

It seems that once Labor Day has passed, whatever has been left in the garage stays in the garage. In addition, throughout the winter months, if I couldn’t find a place for an item or I needed a place to stow a box, the garage was the most convenient space. By early March, parking the cars in the garage took some skill. I had to angle in just so to miss the pile of shovels and bags of snow melt. And there was so much stuff piled in front of where I park that I had to stop just millimeters past the garage door sensors.

Last year, in an attempt to make our garage look like the ones in the magazines, I bought three steel shelving units. My husband spent an afternoon putting two of them together, using language not very becoming of a grandfather. I remember him coming into the kitchen complaining that I had bought crummy, cheap shelves that wiggle like Jell-O. He announced that he didn’t have the patience to attempt the third, corner piece — it would have to wait for another day. That day arrived with the big cleanup. He assembled all the parts and I held the poles as he attached the plastic rings, slid the first shelf into place, and, using a rubber mallet, pounded the shelf at each corner. He was impressed by how sturdy this unit was compared with the other two. I continued to hold as he attached more rings and then slid the second shelf into place. This time when he pounded the corners, the rings slid down and the shelf became wobbly. “This one’s no better than the other two,” he growled.

I’m not normally the problem solver when it comes to manly things — translation: anything found outside the kitchen. But I looked at the second shelf and noticed he had put it on upside down. The only reason I knew this was the steel reinforcement bar that ran down the middle was on top instead of underneath. Suddenly, I became a super sleuth. I walked over to the two other units and, bingo — my dear husband had assembled all of the shelves upside down. It took us more than three hours to take them apart and put them back together, but in the end, we had a wall of shelves that won’t wobble in a wind storm.

Once we finished with the shelves I was ready to call it a day. Our garage looked great but our driveway was loaded. Putting stuff back is the worst part — that’s when the argument begins. And I want it to be known that I’m not the packrat — HE is.

The dialogue for the “put back” part of job is the same every year.

“What’s this?” I ask, holding a metal doodad that is both greasy and rusted.

“Oh that, ymmm, I don’t really know, but as soon as you pitch it I will remember,” he said. “It’s probably something real important — vital even.”

My husband has several boxes filled with “things” he can’t name, hasn’t used but refuses to throw away — his mantra is “We better keep it — just in case.”

We have a pile of two-by-fours that he has hoarded since we did some improvements on the house 14 years ago. Most of the boards are rotting, but he nearly throws himself on the pile when I announce that I’m going to put them out at the curb.

Also returning to the safety of the garage are several sporting items that haven’t been used in years but must hold some sentimental value. We haven’t played softball in a league for more than a decade, but he insists on keeping his glove, which is stuck shut, and his rubber-cleated shoes. He finally agreed to let me throw away my catcher’s vest when I put it on and it only covered half of my abdomen.

Once we’ve completed our task, our truck is loaded with stuff to go to the dump and there are several trash bags filled to the brim. Tools have been rehung on the walls and there are a number of newly naked shelves. I really should take a picture because the pristine premises will only last for a day before we begin the process of restocking.

This is my last column for a while. I’m going to take some time off and maybe write a book.

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