My husband and I took a Saturday in July to clean out the garage - I mean all day - in 100 degree heat. Why? We are renovating and needed to make room for our belongings from inside the house. (The furniture went into a POD in the driveway.) This is not a garage that holds a vehicle. A former owner built the garage, built a sailboat inside it and then moved to the coast with his boat. The garage is rather large and holds a lot of stuff.

I have to admit, I was excited to get 12 years of clutter (six of those with my husband) purged and organized. The geek in me had my Sharpie and I enjoyed labeling boxes, grouping things together - who knew we had eight coolers and a surf board?! No more wondering how many boxes of Christmas decorations we have. (It’s officially seven)

The husband definitely was not as thrilled as I with the task. He hates to get rid of things, for me it’s freeing and for him it’s scary - “What if I need that later?” “But I like it.” I totally get it. Change is difficult. Deciding what to let go of and what to keep isn’t easy. Some things have a usefulness value while others have an emotional value. It took more time than I expected, I think because we were consulting each other often on what to keep and what to let go of. We were reminded of memories and sharing them. Together we were deciding what our future might look like. And even though all these things were not in my view daily, they were taking up emotional energy in my mind. I felt guilty - someone else could be using the stuff we likely would forget we even had.

We tackled this task with teamwork. Working together I think we filled three Hurbie Curbies, took four SUV loads to either the Habitat ReStore or Goodwill, a car load to the recycling place and put a huge pile on the curb. We ended up with plenty of room for ALL our belongings - don’t even have to rent storage space while we are moved out for the renovations.

At the end of the evening, - yes, it was 9:30 p.m. when we finally came inside for a shower, dinner and bed - I realized that something tender had happened between my husband and myself. It seems that by cleaning and organizing the garage, we had become closer. Sharing boxed up memories and a vision for our future through the dust and humidity. Cleaning out the garage became a metaphor for our life together, moving forward in the next direction and creating the life we want with each other.

And our teamwork literally payed off, too. I found a jar of pennies he had brought with him when we married six years ago. I added them to a gallon jug (our play money jar) I already had and it nearly filled it to the top! And we’ll decide - together - how to spend it.