Does Your Garage Have Curtains?

by Jennifer Miller on November 12, 2009

in Personal Effectiveness

Lately my musings on the people equation have turned to the human tendency to compare ourselves to one another.  It must strike a chord with people because the blog posts have generated some lively discussion.  See my posts on the effects of praise and how to “run your own race” to see the thread of the conversation. This theme continues with a random observation from my lunch hour today. . .

On my lunch hour walk, I passed by an architecturally lovely home in my neighborhood. The exterior of the garage faces the sidewalk and has two windows. When passing by the garage I noticed that the garage door was open, giving a glimpse into its interior. A quick peek inside (from a discreet distance, of course) revealed two beautifully constructed custom-made curtains hung above the windows on the inside of the garage.  From the street side you can’t see the curtains, because the homeowners have installed mini-blinds for privacy. (To keep out prying nosy neighbors like me, I suppose.)

My first reaction was “Huh. Fancy curtains in a garage. That’s a bit over the top.  You can’t even see them from the street.” As my walk progressed, my thinking evolved.  Why should it matter if neighbors can see the curtains or not?  If the homeowners want a nicely decorated garage interior, that’s certainly their prerogative.

Then, because I study human nature and simply can’t help myself, the thoughts continued to flow. I began to wonder (metaphorically speaking) how many of us have “curtains in our garage” and are judged harshly by those who are passing by?  If the décor isn’t hurting anybody and it gives us satisfaction, why not have curtains in our garage?

Why not? A few thoughts come to mind:

  • Other people will think me frivolous
  • One time, someone told me I couldn’t afford curtains and now that’s become my reality
  • I know I want curtains, but can’t seem to get off the dime to go buy some
  • My garage doesn’t need (deserve) curtains

OK, so enough with the drapery theme.  You get the idea.  How can we as leaders, co-workers, friends and family encourage people to “decorate” their lives in a way that has meaning to them, regardless of whether or not the prying, judging passerbys approve?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Deirdre November 13, 2009 at 4:38 pm

So I am the person who has a garage facing the street and let’s just say, it’s not attractive. And it bugged me. So when we did some major renovation on the house, we spruced up the garage along with installing new, slick windows. It wasn’t necessarily for passerbys – it was more for. I live things to look good and I feel better pulling into my garage. I have no curtains and like my windows visible.

I also blog openly – both personally and professionally. I don’t mind if people look in. Some people may feel that its too much – that I SHOULD have curtains, that it’s TMI to share what I do. Fascinating don’t you think?

Such a fabulous post on what we want people to see.

Thomas Waterhouse November 14, 2009 at 5:52 am

Hi Jennifer. If I understand the metaphor, then the “garage” is our inner life, or our soul. The “curtains” that I personally hang there is my faith, and of course that drives every thought, affection, and purpose I behold. If the “garage” is our “soul” and the “curtains” are the worldview that leads us to a productive life, then people would be wise and loving to honor our “drapery”, even if they cannot “see” it, or understand what it looks like. In fact, I believe that our most effective leaders have incredible “curtains in their garage”. Thank you for your work!

Jennifer November 14, 2009 at 8:17 am

Dee, you know, I struggle with the whole “how much to share” on my blog as well. To stay with the analogy… mostly the garage door is ajar– just enough so people can see that I do have something inside 🙂

Jennifer November 14, 2009 at 8:18 am

Thomas,

You sure do have the metaphor correct and once again, you add so much clarity to the discussion. For some reason, this notion of “does your garage have curtains?” really resonated with me. This post is about our interior lives. And yes, leadership, whether formal or informal, always starts with one’s inner self.

John November 22, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Hi Jen!

I liked this post a lot because it made me think of excellence. How many of us go to the trouble or REALLY living a life of excellence? I hate to admit, but my garage is somewhere between tidy and “lived in”. Like you, I thought… who cares? But having read your blog, I realized that it could be a reflection on excellence. Your neighbor wants a life of quality… at least where it comes to how things look. I know if I had the time, I would love to clean my garage, scrub the floors, put in more storage etc… While I could say I haven’t got to it because it’s a matter of priorities, your neighbor obviously made it one.

They chose, at least in this case, to make their garage something of excellence. You probably noticed I’ve been hedging here a little. My counter thought is that just because their garage looks nice, doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of their lives are in synch with that. But I suppose that is your point. It isn’t my place to judge…

Best!
John

Jennifer November 22, 2009 at 2:21 pm

John,

I do so enjoy a person who can flow with my wacky analogies! You really seem to “get” this post and have offered a fantastic perspective– one of excellence and priorities. I really appreciate you pointing out the crucial, yet often overlooked step of MAKING a priority happen. We can SAY something is important, but until we actually do something tangible to move it from “I really should…” to “I just did….”, it’s only words.

Thanks for stopping by!

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