When I started playing Garage Tetris I had a grand scheme in mind. I could see the whole plan of action laid out in front of me. It was like looking down from the top of a mountain onto the beautiful valley you need to travel through to get to the place you want to be. I could see the path ahead running clearly to my destination. It was a vision splendid. 1st move, 2nd move, 3rd move, 4th move. Done!
I called it Garage Tetris because I was converting the garage in our new place into my studio. Ideally I would have done this by moving everything out, remodeling, then moving it all back in. As it was, we had no room in the rest of the house, so I devised a system of moving stuff around, so I could remodel a bit at a time. Hence the Tetris analogy.
The 1st and 2nd moves went brilliantly. I had things soooo under control, I was totally rocking this garage conversion thing!
Since the 2nd move, though, the reality has been decidedly less pretty. More scuffling, shoving and the occasional swear word, and less things neatly and evenly falling into place in a preordained and orderly fashion.
Technically speaking, according to my original plan, I haven’t really finished the 3rd move. The idea of this move was to unpack all my studio stuff (which I have done), get rid of all the boxes (err … maybe?) and get everything neatly organized on my newly painted shelving (ummm … well … no).
But, one thing life has taught me is that sometimes you have to be flexible. You can have the most brilliant plan in the world, and sometimes, for whatever set of reasons, it doesn’t work out. Then – however much you love it – you have to chuck it out and go with what you are given.
So this is the revised edition of Garage Tetris (3rd move).
It all started out well enough. At the end of the 2nd move I had finished painting the last bit of the window wall, the end wall, around the attic door and the shelving.
At this point all of the boxes were stacked down the other end of the garage.
I eagerly began moving furniture around and unpacking things.
The first rule of organizing is to figure out what you have, and then group like items. Which is fine if you know what you have. As it was, I needed to unpack everything, because a lot of the stuff had been in boxes since I packed up my studio in Sydney over a year ago. I actually had no idea what was in some of them.
So I unpacked everything:
And then I started sorting it out:
Things were going well, slowly order was emerging from the chaos. I had all my studio boxes unpacked, and things were on shelves, but I still needed to put like with like, and locate things close to where they were going to be used.
In addition there were a lot of other boxes of stuff, things we needed to keep, but that didn’t have studio stuff in them. These I needed to store.
Most of these boxes were surplus-to-requirements art works. That is what all those slim-looking boxes are. Some of them contained my work, and some of them held other people’s works which we had bought over the years.
The beloved and I both had a lot of artworks when we met. Which was lovely when we lived in separate houses, but a bit like having a museum collection when we combined our 2 households into 1. A museum only has about 5% of its holdings on display at any time, the rest they store. At our place, there were a few key works that were part of the permanent collection, and I would try to re-hang the rest every once in a while, so that each work had a turn at being on display. Playing curators is a LOT of fun.
But, I digress. In between my art making habit, and our art buying habit, we have a lot of art. Luckily in our new place we have a wonderful attic, which is perfect for storing work. Well, if I am honest, it isn’t museum-controlled-conditions kind of perfect, but it is hooray-it-is-not-cluttering-up-my-studio kind of perfect. Which will have to do. When those artworks begged us to take them home they knew what they were letting themselves in for.
So I had to schlepp all those boxes of art, and other random things like christmas decorations and snow skis and old files and spare vases and halloween decorations and all-that-stuff-you-have-to-keep-but-dont-have-cupboards-for up into the attic.
Which as you can see, was no easy task:
First I opened each art pack, and unwrapped the work and checked it’s condition. Then I wrapped it back up, re-packed it and wrote what the work was on the top of the box. I did this because our packers in Australia had just written what room the works were from (ie hallway, living room, etc) and the word ‘art’ on each box, NOT what the works were.
Which really wasn’t at all helpful. One art pack looks much like the next, and if you are looking for a specific piece which will be the exact thing for a particular spot, you have to keep opening art packs until you find it. Which, in my experience, is always always always the LAST one you open.
Consequently, I wrote what was inside on the outside, so when I next want to play curators, I can easily access the works I want.
Next I had to get the boxes into the attic.
I managed this by lifting each box, balancing it on the top of the shelves you can see on the left of the above picture, climbing the ladder into the attic, lifting the box off the top of the shelves into the attic, then storing it in an orderly fashion, before climbing down to do it again.
It was not fun at all. Lift, balance, climb, lift, store, climb down. Repeat. Repeat and repeat. All day.
So the garage slowly went from this:
Originally I had this cool idea of taking lots of pictures and making a time lapse kind of animation of the garage slowly emptying. But by the time I had been up and down a few times I was tired and hot and achy and dirty and sweaty and very very grumpy. It’s taken me 2 weeks of recovery to even be able to write about moving those boxes in a sane and rational fashion. Let’s just say the time lapse idea just died a natural death and leave it at that.
So far so good with the 3rd move. Things were starting to find their permanent homes on my shelves, the excess boxes had gone away, and I could see large sections of floor. At this rate I would have the last wall painted and be working in my studio by the weekend. Go me!!!
I totally had this studio thing licked. Right? WRONG!!!
To paraphrase the poet Robert Burns, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.’
What happened? Well, first of all I bought the china cabinet we dubbed the ugly duckling. It was to replace an open set of shelves that we needed for excess kitchen storage due to our tiny kitchen. This meant I had to relocate everything off the open shelves, so I could move them and make room for the ugly duckling.
My on-the-path-to-being-organized studio shelving suddenly had to do double duty as temporary-kitchen-storage shelves.
Then I decided to paint the wall behind where the ugly duckling was going to sit, which wasn’t part of the original 3rd move. I called it Garage Tetris 3.1. The wall went from this:
I then had to upcycle the ugly duckling. It went from this:
That took a week.
So a bit of a side track.
And then, while I was busy dealing with resolving the whole process that the introduction of the ugly duckling triggered and my focus was elsewhere, the garage started accumulating things. How does that mysterious process happen? What is it about garages that makes them – against the best will in the world – accrue stuff?
It was clear where some of the things came from. For example, the shelves that were replaced by the ugly duckling:
And the wonderful industrial shelving to be configured as a work bench that my beloved gave for my birthday. The thing I wanted most in the whole world: a sturdy, take-anything-you-throw-at-it work bench of my very own. Is it any wonder I love that man?
It is sitting there patiently, in its box waiting for enough room for me to assemble it.
But then it began to acquire other things, like the cat litter tray, that had to be relocated out of the guest room because we had someone coming to stay. And that is fair enough, I think most people would prefer to sleep in a room without a cat litter tray in it. It ended up in the garage.
Some other boxes of stuff slid their way in there. You know, those final boxes which you just chuck all the odds and sods left from packing your house up in the frantic 5 minutes before the removal truck arrives. The ones that have a random assortment of things, that you have to really think about where they belong when you unpack. Oh those are a pair of Nat’s undies that were under his bed, and here is a pair of scissors, and look: it is a digital guitar tuner. That kind of thing.
Last to be packed, last to be unpacked, in my experience. Those boxes were in the way wherever they were (probably the guest room), so they temporarily found a home in the garage.
The garage was doing it’s garage-y thing. Acting as a repository. My nearly-a-studio had backslid into being a garage.
I looked around the garage:
And felt more than a little despondent. I closed the door and did other things for a couple of days until I was feeling braver and stronger.
And then I decided the best thing to do was to declare the 3rd move over and move on to the 4th. I began shunting things around, so I could paint the last wall. The mess got worse after this, but sometimes things have to get worse before they get better, right? Right.
Because the sooner this is my studio, and NOT the garage-that-will-be- my-studio, the better. Once it is officially my studio, I get to be door-bitch. Which means the ONLY things that Get Through That Door are the things I say can come in. The rest will be met with a firm, but polite, hand raised in the stop position. No. Uh uh. Cease and desist. Find. Somewhere. Else. To. Put. It.
Not in MY studio.
While it is still a garage, it will continue to do the garage thing, and collect random stuff. I better get on with changing its persona, and put an end to this nonsense.
Back to rattling those paint tins.