Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Do you ever watch HGTV, the Home and Garden channel? Certainly there are better ways to spend valuable free time, but frequently I've found myself sucked into the wacky world of home decorating drama and all the nonsense that goes with it.

I've stressed out with first-time homebuyers searching for a house with walk-in closets for her, a media room for him and a fenced yard for the dog. I've commiserated with the plight of anxious sellers whose house is too cluttered, reflects too much of their personality or has not been properly staged.

I have actually heard myself tell Rick, "That accent pillow would really make our sofa pop," or, "Solid surfaces in our kitchen would enhance our resale value," and I've wondered where that voice was coming from! I know that deep down I am a minimalist with simple tastes. I am perfectly content in our comfortable home with a roof that doesn't leak and plumbing and heating that works well. Solid surfaces, popping pillows and the like belong in someone else's vocabulary, not mine.

The trouble with programs like the ones on HGTV is that they emphasize

what you don't have. In my kitchen I don't have granite countertops, a

sub-zero freezer, a food prep island or a designated wine refrigerator.

In the master bath, I don't have a jetted tub, his and her sinks or a

steam shower with spa-like ambiance. In the dining room there is no

tray ceiling, chair rail, crown moulding or shabby chic chandelier. In

fact, we don't even have a dining room.

Experts half my age with names like Candace, Kim and Clive spend an

entire episode of their lives trying to make me feel like something's

missing in mine and test my confidence in my color, style and dandeacute;cor

choices. Who are they to tell me to de-clutter and de-personalize? I

like my precarious stack of magazines and books on my nightstand and

the photos of my family on the dresser.

I woke up on New Year's Day with an idea. I vowed to turn off Home and

Garden Television and spend that time on a home improvement project

that would make me happy. My countertops work just fine and there's no

place for crown moulding in a room with floor to ceiling windows. What

I've wanted most since we've moved into our home is to be able to park

my car inside the garage. Having to scrape ice off my windshield

recently helped move this project up on my priority list.

The boxes in our garage contain "stuff" we have not needed or looked at

since we moved to the coast in 2001. Several of the boxes have my sons'

names on them and reflect the 11th hour packing of a young man's life

into a box as a moving van waited impatiently in the driveway. In one

box there were gym socks, Tom Petty and Bobby Brown cassette tapes,

report cards and a rolled up poster of Dan Marino. In another box I

found the bedding for a twin bed that belonged to my youngest son. I

sold his bed with the house. By then he was living in a college dorm

and would never return to his cozy trundle bed or our family home again.

Memories crept out of boxes and bins that had been stacked up and

shoved against the walls of garages in Brookings and Crescent City for

the last seven and a half years. When I first attacked the project

Saturday morning I was certain that I would be able to throw away most

of the "junk" and organize the rest to make room for my car. But

instead, I lingered over treasures lost and found, pulling out a stray

photo album from a 1993 family trip to Disneyland and the yearbook from

my sophomore year in college. Every box had something of personal value

in it. No matter how I tried, I could not make the contents of the

boxes disappear. I had to do what any woman on a mission to eliminate

clutter would do: I drove down to the nearest storage rental place and

signed a contract on a 10x20-heated unit.

It's a win-win situation. My old Christmas ornaments, the boys' school

mementos plus the odds and ends I can't bear to part with yet have a

safe warm place to wait until I need to press them into service or find

the courage to toss them out. And my garage, now spacious enough for

two cars plus the shop vac, chop saw and new interior paint that's my

next project, is now a clean slate, just like this brand new year.