What I did on my Staycation

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
With his faithful dog Tex to guard against unexpected wildlife, Messenger reporter/photographer Hans Madsen begins the daunting Staycation task of cleaning out his garage. The first item tossed, a 16mm film produced by the Chinese government on life in China.

There’s nothing like the first day of a week of vacation.

The possibilities of what to do stretch out in front of you and it seems like it’s going to last forever.

(Cue the sound of birds happily chirping)

Then the reality of your vacation plan — the Great 2019 Garage Cleanout and Organization — rears its ugly head.

(Cue the sound of glass breaking, tires screeching and for us old folks, a phonograph needle sliding across a brand new Iron Butterfly album.)

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
After removing all of the stacked up “treasures” from one corner of the garage, Messenger reporter/photographer Hans Madsen prepares to ambush the creature that chewed a hole through the wall. Contact with the enemy did not occur as the culprit did not return.

My wife, Carol, and I enjoy a detached two-car garage at our residence. It has, since approximately 10 years ago when it was last cleaned out, become the repository for a lot of our “stuff.”

Priceless treasures galore: broken things that need fixed, brand new stuff in boxes, a crate of tempera pigments, unplanted flower seeds, teacher things, rusty sockets — none in 10mm — and not one, but two, realistic plastic spiders.

Day one of Staycation: Do other things.

Day two of Staycation: Lumber for the shelves and workbench has arrived. Actual work begins.

This, like all other projects, should have some sort of plan, a workable one, a plan that will survive contact with reality.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The final “Big Push” resulted in, well, another mess but still, now there’s a workbench to put stuff on and shelves where things can be stored and forgotten. Even after a week of Staycation work, tasks remain to be done.

The “plan” starts with a few minutes of simply staring at the piles and deciding where to begin. I contemplate calling my attorney to see if it’s legal to set fire to your own property as long as you don’t file an insurance claim. My friend Rob’s suggestion, using a tactical nuclear bomb, is rejected outright — mostly because I don’t have one. None of my friends own a bulldozer.

First contact with the enemy.

For some odd reason, my Love, whom I love, had brought home a box of 16mm films. Unfortunately, this box did not include the infamous fourth-grade “film” but it did include a reel called “Life In China,” produced by the Chinese government. Communist propaganda filed where it belongs … in the bottom of a giant, extra-heavy-duty 47-ply garbage bag.

The processes continued, move this over there, throw this away, wait till later to ask my Love whom I love about this treasure. This continued until a space roughly half the length and half the width of the garage was cleared out down to the floor.

Day three of Staycation:

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen < br> Tex, Messenger reporter/photographer Hans Madsen’s dog and declared presidential candidate contemplates fleeing as the Staycation Garage Cleanout and Organization 2019 officially begins.

Construction of the workbench and shelving begins. A workbench is important, it’s a place to work on things. It can also serve, much as the kitchen table does, as a place to put things, like your mail.

Avoid this.

After several hours of work and much foul language, the results did indeed resemble an object one could reasonably infer to be a workbench. A set of floor-to-ceiling shelves and a rack for photo backdrops were also built.

None of it square or level.

Day three of Staycation, version 2.0:

Dropped a half sheet of plywood on my right foot while sorting, moving and arranging things just so. Don’t do this, it hurts. Work suspended to “rest” the injury.

Day four of Staycation:

Continued to sort things, move them around and haul objects to the curb. The growing pile of detritus finally attracts the first “collector” of objects found on curbs.

The collector, a middle-aged woman with a lit cigarette dangling from her lips, mumbled incoherently to herself as she sorted through the pile. She stowed a ShopVac — with no motor unit or hoses, along with a Kenmore vacuum cleaner — also minus hoses or attachments, in her minivan. She drove away in a cloud of dust, lit cigarette still dangling.

I hope she enjoys her new appliances.

The last day of Staycation:

We’ll call this “The Big Push.” That means that added up, much of day five and six were spent doing other things and the project got behind — although I did think about it. Things like making actual prints in my actual darkroom, driving around on photo safari to shoot a roll of 1970 vintage film, being attacked by the trained killer sheep at the Dayton sewage lagoon and being sociable with my family and friends proved irresistible.

So did going inside where it was warm.

My dog Tex also required walks and feedings.

The Big Push resulted in there almost being room again for My Love, whom I love, to actually drive her 2013 Prius into the garage. She could do this before the great cleanout but it required covering the outside of the car with butter. This was getting expensive. It was also attracting small butter-loving animals that were damaging the paint.

Any passengers, such as me, had to exit the car before she drove the tiny go-cart-sized car into the garage.

The Big Push resulted in the largest collection of filled trash bags we’ve ever placed on our curb. They were gone in the morning, leaving only the uncollectable: two plastic chairs and yellow love seat that for some reason, nobody seems to want.

There only remains one final project and that’s organizing and moving what My Love, whom I love, refers to as the Lead Mine. This is the section of the garage where with proper ventilation and other safeguards, I while away many a pleasant hour casting bullets.

Moving the prudent reserve of lead ingots, all two tons of them, along with the buckets of scrap still to be melted, will be a post-Staycation project with a reserved spot at my chiropractor to follow.

Garage organizing tips from a non-expert with a sore back

• Carpentry is a skilled craft best done by actual carpenters. If you need one, hire one. I wish I had.

• Electricity is very dangerous. Unless you really actually know what you’re doing, don’t mess with wiring. I had to move a light fixture and I almost fell off the ladder.

• If someone texts you while you’re testing your new workbench by standing on it, ignore the text — or better yet, take a selfie with your torso up in the rafters.

• Efficient use of space is the key. For example, a lot of things can be stored — and forgotten again — in the rafters. Another great storage area — especially for broken furniture — is your backyard fire pit.

• Unless they’re mumbling incoherently, thank the scrappers who pick your scrap off the curb.

• Have someone check on you every so often in case you become trapped under a pile of stuff that fell over.

• Dogs are quite awful at helping you organize; they are however, quite skilled at creating furry tripping hazards when you’re moving something that prevents you from seeing the dog. Your dog will never understand why you’re suddenly laying on him amid a pile of Halloween ornaments and a broken tote.

• A loaded shotgun is a perfectly normal thing to have on hand if there’s an old couch or chair in your garage. See the “Infestation Hypothesis” episode of the Big Bang Theory for more information on things that live in chairs.

• At the conclusion of your garage cleanout, hanging a “STOP BRINGING HOME JUNK” sign will prevent both you and your spouse from bringing home more junk — until you place some junk in front of it and you can only read “HOME JUNK.”


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