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Cleaning our life's garage

By Darrel Hammon

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 11 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Our lives are really our garage, filled with non-essential things.

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One chilly, snow-spitting morning not long ago, I went on a morning walk. While I walked, I noticed a disturbing pattern, at least for me. Numerous cars, caked with ice and sleet, sat forlornly in front of closed garage doors.

Now, I have noticed this phenomenon before, but that cold, snowy morning, a monster question emerged: “Why are those cars sitting outside in the driveway instead of inside a cozy, sometimes warm garage?” The majority of the cars weren’t clunkers. They were Suburbans, Chrysler Town and Country vans, Ford Explorers, lots of Toyota Camrys, a few Hondas, Silverado and Ford pickups, a Cadillac Escalade, a Volvo station wagon, an Audi, and other assortments of vehicles. And, yes, a few clunkers took up space in the driveways and in front of houses.

Cars and trucks are not cheap. Just recently, my wife and I were hunting for a new vehicle, and we priced lots of cars. I suspect in each driveway and along the road in front of the homes, there were $30,000 to $60,000 worth of cars and trucks, lolling around gathering snow and ice. To me, that amount is a bunch of money.

Then, just after that realization burst through my brain, I noticed another driveway leading to an open garage. Slowing my pace and peering surreptitiously into the garage, I noticed a few things: boxes stacked three or four deep, old boards and a decrepit-looking metal shelf with additional smaller boxes stacked haphazardly on the shelves. Also, scattered helter-skelter on the floor were all sorts of toys, trikes, a bicycle or two and a cadre of other things.

I thought to myself: “How much does all that stuff (i.e. 'junk') add up to in dollars? After a quick and dirty calculation, I thought perhaps less than $5,000 — maybe only a few hundred bucks — may be stuffed inside the garage. So, $30,000-$60,000 outside the garage and less than $5,000 inside the garage. The expensive, valuable stuff on the outside, the not-so-expensive on the inside.

This is analogous to ourselves. Our lives are really our life’s garage, filled with non-essential things. Often, we keep old, not-so-valuable stuff inside our life’s garage while simultaneously disallowing ourselves to bring in the most important or most worthwhile things into our lives. So what can we do to clear out the “junk” — or or the things we haven’t used or thought about for years — from our life’s garage?

1. Analyze what’s actually in life’s garage.

For some of us, keeping the horrific and long-hoarded burdens seems like the thing to do. For instance, in our regular garage, those old shirts and pants we wore back in the '90s are now passé. They no longer belong in a box in the garage; they need to be tossed. I suspect if we truly analyzed everything in our life’s garage, we would quickly discover that we don’t really need or want most of the items. They do not have value. Because we didn’t know what to do with the stuff, we just tossed it in a box and carried it to the piles already there. Instead of taking care of the issues right then and there, we placed them — yes, even hid them — in a box and placed them in the piles, hoping we would forget about them. Unfortunately, that stuff never goes away unless we take care of it.

2. Determine what should be kept or thrown out.

In our life’s garage, we sometimes carry certain burdens and I-wish-I-could-forget-that-thing items and allow them to haunt us. Yet, we erroneously believe we need to keep them close when we really don’t. With a firm determination to sort through the good and the bad, we must be willing to toss out that which has no use or value to us.

My daughter adheres pretty religiously to an adage that states: “If I don’t use it in a year, I don’t need it.” She then gives it away, sells it or tosses it out.

With some of our challenges and inner turmoil, we must determine whether we want to carry that around anymore. For example, what about the grudge we have held for years against our sister or used-to-be-best friend? Or the Facebook story that just popped up that really wasn’t true? If we don’t want it, then we figure out how to cast it out, either by visiting with a counselor or friend or clergy.

3. Determine those things we want to bring into our life’s garage.

Often, because we have so much junk squirreled away in our lives, we literally don’t have space to welcome any good things into it. Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote in his book "Of One Heart," “Sometimes we draw the things of the world so close in our line of vision, we obstruct the big picture.” How true is that?

Sometimes, the things we thought were so important to us have not been relegated to non-items, but we hoard them like they are our best friends, when, in reality, they are no longer even our acquaintances. Some of them even haunt us.

4. Fourth, seek the good things to bring into our life’s garage.

Seeking the good things in life can push out the old, rotting stuff, modify our behavior, help us see differently and more positively and enhance our talents immensely, thus replacing the things we really don’t need or want with positive, uplifting things. But there are other things we may want to bring in, like furthering our education, learning a new skill, seeking new friends, adopting new and invigorating thoughts, etc. We can determine what those good things we want in our lives and go after them.

5. Take care of our precious, valuable items by maintaining them.

Once we have tossed out the old and decaying items and gathered up good things, we need to maintain and enhance the new, precious and valuable items. Nothing is worse than buying an expensive car and then allowing it to sit outside in the driveway and collect dust and dirt, chunks of bugs, and snow and ice. When we maintain the interior of our literal garage, we can park our cars there no matter what the weather.

So, too, with our life’s garage.

When we routinely purge the clutter that may build up and then consistently self-evaluate, we will be amazed at how many good things we can now park safely within our life’s garage.

In reality, long-term maintenance is not a huge job, but we need to be consistent and vigilant and remember how good we feel and how clearly we think with the old stuff eliminated from our life’s garage. And once it is gone, we must never drag it back in.

So, when you walk down the road and see those expensive cars huddled in the driveway while a few dollars of stuff gather dust in the garage, think of yourself and how it is time to clean out the boxes of unwanted burdens and challenges, and replace them with the better and more valuable things you deserve.

It won’t be easy, but we must challenge ourselves on a daily basis to have a clean life’s garage where we can park those important things out of the cold, the snow and the deteriorating whims of nature. And, finally, we will be filled with things that have value with room for more.

An Idahoan, Darrel Hammon likes being outdoors, growing things and seeing things the way they could be. More of his musings are at darrelhammon.blogspot.com.

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