Why most garages aren’t what they seem


It’s more widespread than I thought.

A man came to clean and restore the seats in my husband’s car recently. He travels all over South-West England to do this and is a master of his art. It’s amazing to watch him work.

And what he said as he was leaving was just as amazing. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘I’ve been in business for 25 years and this is the first garage I have EVER seen that actually has cars in it!’

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a garage as a “building for housing a motor vehicle or vehicles”.

I think the time has come to redefine it, and here’s what I suggest: “A building designed for housing a motor vehicle or vehicles, but more commonly used for storing clutter”.

And if this continues, perhaps a ‘b’ will need to be added to the middle of the word garage to truly reflect its modern-day purpose.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2012

Related post
Is your clutter worth more than your car?
How to tame car restoration clutter

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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10 Responses to Why most garages aren’t what they seem

  1. It was in one of Don Aslett’s books where he commented that cars are worth so much more than the junk that usually gets stored in garages, and I held this in mind until we purchased a new home of our own. When we had both purchased new vehicles we made room in the garage for them, and it is a joy to pull them them out on winter mornings, frost and snow free!

  2. One of my friends has a tiny one-bedroom flat which literally has four rooms in it but he has kindly (maybe not for him!) given me permission to store some of my household stuff (clutter?) from my old flat in his garage which is too small to get a car into with much ease. He is a very tidy person and I tend to create mess wherever I go although I long to be tidy.

    So two walls have car-orientated equipment, tools and so forth in there and the other two walls are given over to shelves with my things in. I am gradually going through this stuff and getting rid or passing it on as it’s doing no-one any good just sitting there although some of it I will keep.

    It’s actually easier to sort out stuff once it’s out of your own personal environment as you seem to break the connections between the item itself and thoughts like ‘oh I used to make my poached eggs in this saucepan’ or ‘Auntie Maud gave me this book’. It’s also a bit shaming to see it stacked on the shelves like some sort of second-hand shop so that’s another incentive to just keep the things that I do love.

    Incidentally, the garages for the flats are in a separate block not attached to the buildings which seems to make it easier to keep clutter out of your living space.

    1. Hi Lisa

      Thank you for these insights about how much easier it is to sort out stuff once you’ve taken it out of your own personal environment. Not everyone has a friend who is so understanding or accommodating, so I hope you make the best of this opportunity and sort through it all in lightning quick time.

      To help you understand why this helps, our possessions are not just physical objects – they also act as anchors for our mind and emotions. When you take something out of that environment, you remove it from the web of emotions it was connected to, and you can evaluate it much more objectively.

  3. It’s interesting to know about that. Most of movies and tv plays show garages are for cars. In China, most of people are having trouble to park cars. We envy people who have garages. I was surprised garages are not used well there.

  4. Hi Karen,

    On my small island of Singapore, we don’t have garages. For a country of high-rise public housing, they use car parks (covered or exposed) dedicated to cars. Even for the super rich with four or five cars, we never build garages. They would have a car porch (made of whatever materials they can afford) which is basically a lean-to shed.

    Keeping a car in a dedicated enclosed space which has entrances within leading into the main house violates a local expectation of hygiene. It’s a common expectation that you never keep cars (which travel lots and pick up yuks from the road) close to your personal living space. What is interesting to note is that this idea goes beyond physical dirt. Cars and their roles, regardless of actual physical contamination, are expected to be outdoors, further away from the living quarters, and housing design follows that criterion.

    I think this is the case because in Singapore, we are influenced consciously or unconsciously by our cultural cosmology of Feng Shui. Adding to this, much of the Singapore building foundation and city planning was indeed set by Feng Shui. Mr. Lee Kwan Yew, our founding father, had for most of his country planning period, worked closely with a very famous Buddhist monk for all Feng Shui advice until the death of the latter in his late 90s.

    1. Thank you for this information. I’ve visited Singapore many times and now that you mention it, I realize I’ve never seen a home with a garage.

      As to the practice of building garages attached to properties or even integral to the buidling, that’s such a big topic I will write a separate blog about it.

  5. Interesting one, this. I suspect part of the issue is also the lack of internal storage in new houses. The home I grew up in, built in the early 60’s, had a garage for one car, which it did house but also room to hang long ladders along the wall and still get in and out of the car, and in one corner was a chest freezer. Fridges were just fridges in those days! We also had a coal shed for coal, a boiler house for the boiler, a minuscule workshop for DIY tools and supplies, and a small garden shed for garden tools and the lawn mower. Then between house and garage, a useful sheltered but unheated space to house a rabbit hutch, outside shoes and outside coats. On occasion it also housed sacks of veg bought from the local farmer.

    Another aspect I have seen as a designer is developer plans with garages of 5 x 2.5m, which is wide enough for most family cars as long as you don’t plan on exiting the car once it’s in! Theoretically, average cars are 1.8m wide and you need a door clearance of 600mm and clearance on the passenger side of 300mm making an absolute minimum 2.7m! I would propose garages these days are not designed to be used for cars ….. well maybe Smart cars (2.8m long!)

    1. The design of modern homes certainly has a big part to play in this. The amount of storage space in most of them hasn’t kept pace with the growth in quantity of possessions.

      I grew up in in a house that had most of the things you’ve described, Rosalind. It wasn’t a huge house but there was room for everything for a family of five.

      People these days have much more stuff. I went back to visit my childhood home a few years ago and was shocked to see how much the current owners had packed in there. It was easily ten times more than we had, and you could see how stuffed their lives were because of it.

      So the answer is somewhere in the middle. If architects would design homes with more storage space and people would cut down on how much stuff they keep, it would work out about right.

      As for the width of garages, that’s always baffled me about the English. I put it down to living on a small island. On big islands like the US or Australia they have much wider garages with room for cars, a workbench,and lots of other things too. They are custom designed that way. But even so, guess what most Americans and Aussies use their garages for these days? More clutter than the English because they have more room for it!

      1. I would suggest it also has a lot to do with squeezing as many houses and therefore profit, from as small a space as possible.

        Of course having a garage cuts your car insurance and is perceived as increasing the house value regardless of whether the car actually fits within it. 🙂

  6. Karen, you are so right! Garages are not supposed to be junk sheds, but that’s what they have become.

    This reminds me of one of Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy jokes: “Your home is a garbage processing center where new things are purchased and slowly demoted through various stages of trashification until you’re done… The garage can be one of the longest phases for the object. But it is the most definite. No object in human history has ever successfully made it from the garage back into the house. Even the word garage seems to be a form of the word garbage. When you’re living in the same room as the garbage cans, well, it won’t be much longer now.”


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