You may know one.
Or be related to one.
It may be a neighbour, your granddad, your dad, your partner, your husband.
You know the chap, he has A Workshop. Not your average a-few-spanners-and-a-pot-of-screws workshop mind you. A Serious Workshop. The kind of workshop that he spends hours and hours in, Fixing Things. It could be in a shed, or a garage, or that seemingly endless space under the house that goes on, and on, and on…
The Serious Workshop is similar to The Den, Dad’s Office and The Garden Shed. Whatever the form, it is the place of refuge for the Bloke of the house and if it is Serious it is usually packed to the rafters with Stuff. So much Stuff. An overwhelming, confusing amount of stuff that appears to have absolutely no value whatsoever and smells funny too.
You’ve probably been aware of the sheer volume of Stuff in The Workshop but it’s not been a problem. You’ve maybe rolled your eyes or smiled fondly or just growled a little at the mess. Until now…
Until you think about moving or downsizing his stuff.
These kinds of workshops are usually built up over many, many years of dedicated collection of Things-That-Might-Come-In-Handy. They are often the work of a lifetime. He probably still knows exactly where everything is, even if it looks like chaos to you.
And now, now it’s time that you or your folks are thinking about shifting into something smaller, something low maintenance, without all those stairs. Or moving into a lifestyle village or closer to family. (Note – I’m not talking about people with serious health issues here.)
You may have found some resistance to this idea from the owner of the Serious Workshop, possibly just expressed as not wanting to move (but it’s actually not wanting to be torn away from The Serious Workshop). Fair enough you think, this has been his home for decades. But it’s just moving to a better place!! Why is he being so stubborn? (It’s that workshop…).
At this point it’s really important to keep a few things in mind:
This Bloke of yours has likely had the role of Provider for his family for a very long time. He has always been The Fixer Of Things, the go-to man for that little doohickey that you need or that big thing that the neighbour needed built.
He may have lived in a time of less easily available Stuff. Most young couples struggle when they first start out, but especially so when our parents and grandparents were young, when most things had to be made or grown at home and fixed instead of thrown away. The sign of a good Kiwi husband or dad was a man who could do things himself and the satisfaction and pride of knowing he could made him happy.
Often the owner of the Serious Workshop has the idea that The Workshop is HIS space, and everything else is HER space. Old fashioned? I see it every day. His space can be an escape, a place of peace and quiet or a place where he can drown out sounds with power tools and have a good think. Or not.
His identity as a man and a father and his feelings of self worth may be so tightly wrapped up in his ability to serve his family, be helpful to his friends and neighbours, be essential to his community, that the thought of losing his Serious Workshop – the source of All-The-Useful-Things – is too much for him to even think about. Even more so, the contemplation of losing his own capabilities.
This dedication to collecting all those Handy Things may have been handed down from a beloved grandfather or father. Most of the things he has probably have memories attached to them. That time he used his best spanner set to fix your bike when you were 5, the set of screwdrivers his brother passed down to him before he died, the mower he’s been maintaining since your mum was bouncing you on her hip and waving at him through the window as he mowed the lawn on summer’s day.
Are you looking at the workshop with dread? Have you been slowly trying to tidy it up, move a few things out, clear away some of the “rubbish”? I bet he goes right back in after you’ve left and puts things back, or moves things around. Settling himself. He wants to make you happy but it’s really hard for him to let these things go.
However, this doesn’t mean he will never leave.
You just need to start communicating from a different position. Talk to him about his Stuff, let him know that you respect his wishes and his feelings about his workshop. Try to work out some compromises. Don’t expect miracles just because you’ve said you understand. This is going to take time.
Try taking him to a local MenzShed – http://menzshed.org.nz/about-us/what-is-a-shed/ Go with him and talk to the lads or ask a mate to go with him. They also can help with re-homing good tools.
If a new home is on the cards make sure that he knows that it is definitely going to have a space that he can convert to a new Serious Workshop. An even better, but smaller Serious Workshop.
Let him know he will have help, he won’t have to do it all himself, but it will be respectful help.
It is very, very difficult for people to give up their things unless they have decided to do it. They must be motivated by something, or it’s just not going to happen.
Make sure that he is in charge of what stays and what goes, if possible. Start as soon as possible, so it doesn’t have to be done in a rush. Most importantly, don’t take things away or hide his Stuff without his knowledge. It’s important that he knows he is still the boss of his workshop.
And you know what? Sometimes even this approach doesn’t work. Sometimes mum moves to Tauranga and dad stays put and they visit. Or not. Sometimes other compromises have to be made to make sure he can live in his home safely for as long as possible.
Life is about compromise and our priority is the happiness and wellbeing of our loved ones, which may mean the result is not what we think is the right thing to do. But it will do.