When Dianne DeBellis decided to sell the motorcycle in her garage, finding a buyer wasn't a problem. The difficult part was finding the bike and removing it from her extremely cluttered garage.
"I even said I'd knock $100 off the price …" if a prospective buyer would help extract it, she recalls.
But the buyer took one look at her garage and fled. So the motorcycle stayed where it's been parked since 1989.
Dianne and her husband, Bob, are the winners of the Daily Herald's Extreme Garage Makeover Contest, sponsored by Junk Remedy in Lake Zurich and the Garage Store in East Dundee. The Roselle couple won the contest after Dianne wrote a letter to the Daily Herald explaining why they needed help. Expert judges then selected 10 finalists and Daily Herald readers voted for the winner.
"I was surprised we won," says Bob, who has been unable to park a car inside his garage since the early '90s. "But we're really appreciative of the contest and that we had a chance to win."
Though he looks forward to having an organized garage, he was visibly stressed out when the men from Junk Remedy showed up to haul away his "stuff" earlier this month.
"Close your eyes. Walk away. Let it go," his wife plead with Bob when Junk Remedy started loading the trucks.
Before the makeover, the garage was packed from back to front, and side to side. Bob, who is now retired, once owned a sheet metal business. His work tools -- as well as many sheets of metal -- were scattered throughout the garage. Steel chains, old sump pumps, tires, random crates of tools and an old pizza oven peppered the space.
A canoe the couple purchased in 1978, and later filled with hubcaps, hung over piles of boxes. In a nutshell, the garage was the land of the lost.
"For 39 years, I've been trying to clean this garage," says Dianne, as she watched the floor of her garage become visible for the first time in decades. "He (Bob) has a hard time letting go."
But Bob did eventually let go. Junk Remedy hauled away about three trucks of the DeBellis' belongings, with each truck holding up to one ton. Some of it was recycled. Some of it went to charity. The rest of it ended up in a garbage dump.
"This is what we do every day," says Nick DeGiulio, who owns Junk Remedy with his partner, Corey Heidkamp.
Though the DeBellis' garage was something that could have been featured on the popular TV show "Hoarders," DeGiulio has seen much worse. His company once hauled away a half-ton of dirty baby diapers from someone's backyard and wine crates that took up half a garage. Another time, they hauled away several truckloads out of someone's two-bedroom apartment -- along with some valuable surprises.
"We found $40,000 in cash scattered throughout the trash," he says. "We gave it back. The guy didn't even know it was there."
There was no such hidden treasure in the DeBellis' garage. However, Dianne discovered one item she didn't realize she owned anymore.
"I thought I threw out that exercise bicycle 15 years ago," she said, suspecting her husband may have packed it back into the garage after she threw it out.
"I would be guilty of being a hoarder (in the garage)," admits Bob -- though the rest of the couple's home is rather tidy.
DeGiulio says many people have a difficult time with letting go of their belongings. His advice?
"You can always keep the memory," says DeGiulio. "But you don't have to keep the item."
Pimping Out The Garage
The garage makeover the DeBellis' won was valued at roughly $4,000. After the men from Junk Remedy hauled away unwanted belongings and trash, the garage received a new paint job.
Mel Alger, owner of Alger Decorating in Palatine, donated his time and materials. Over the course of two days, he spent about 14 hours painting the garage, which had never been painted before. His company specializes in remodeling services like painting, staining and power washing.
When Alger completed his work, the Garage Store took over, working with Bob and Dianne to help them organize what they had chosen to keep.
"He (Bob) was a little apprehensive about the project," says Jim Melchert, owner of Garage Store. "I worked with him patiently to understand what his needs were and then provided a solution that would make him feel comfortable and happy."
That included installing three mobile cabinets with wheels and a Gladiator gear track system that will allow Bob to hang his tools. Melchert says he's known for helping people "pimp out" their garages. He's done small garage makeovers for as little as $300 to extreme makeovers that cost $35,000. Melchert's company can do custom work for pretty much any type of floor, wall and cabinet systems. He can install bike pulleys and even car lifts.
"We're a full-service contractor that specializes in garages," he says. "We're not a franchise so we're not controlled or limited as to what we can do for our customers."
As for Bob and Dianne, they can now park a car in their garage for the first time in decades. Deciding what to keep was difficult, but Bob is looking forward to being able to use his newly organized garage as workspace to show his son, who is also in the sheet metal business, a few tricks of the trade.
"I'll be able to build stuff again," he says.
As for Dianne, perhaps she'll finally be able to sell that motorcycle no buyer wanted to dig out from under the old clutter.