I Declared War On Our Basement Clutter

Over a year ago, I wrote about a plan to take on clutter.  While we tackled many of the items mentioned, we didn’t get to all of them.  In some areas, the reduction was just window dressing.  The major area where this applied was our basement.  The basement clutter is, in a word, out of control.

Our basement has slowly been cluttering out of control for quite some time.  Despite some de-cluttering of targeted areas, the overall growth in clutter was winning.

Fighting A Losing Battle

I started to realize that we were losing the battle here.  Unfortunately, that only made the problem worse over the last few months, because of the natural tendency to quit trying altogether when things go wrong.   Simply put, I knew that de-cluttering the basement would take some major time and effort.  Simply rearringing a shelf here and there just wasn’t going to do.  But I kept putting off and putting it off  until a later day.

Well, I’m proud to say that day has finally arrived!

Starting Over To Fight Basement Clutter

Last week, I had some time in the evening and decided to see if I could start making a dent in the basement.  I picked a corner of the basement that had a bunch of shelves containing a hodge podge of things like:

  • Party supplies
  • Assorted bowls and baskets that don’t fit in the kitchen
  • Assorted small appliances that we use rarely or not at all that don’t fit in the kitchen
  • A stash of boxes for wrapping presents used mainly at Christmas
  • Coolers
  • Outside swimming pools, slides, and other similar items
  • Unused camping equipment
  • Board games

I spent about an hour and a half going through this.  I learned long ago, when my dad would make me clean out my closet as a kid, that the best way to tackle a cleaning effort and do it right was to take every single item down, which forces you to touch, deal with, and re-organize every single item.

Seeing Results

It was painstaking but it worked.  In the end, just on the first days result, I was able to accomplish the following:

  • Consolidate party supplies that were spread across four or five different shelves all into one.  The success here was demonstrated a couple of days later when my wife sent me downstairs for a couple of plastic cups, an expedition that would have previously taken 5-10 minutes and had me tearing into at least 3 boxes.  This time I was down and back up with cups in hand in less than 60 seconds.
  • Elimination of quite a few things that were broken or that we won’t use.  The trash bucket got a good deal bigger and we have started a nice donation pile.
  • Consolidation and relocation of gift boxes.  Keeping gift boxes is a nice idea, especially since you rarely get them anymore.  Still, some boxes were not in any shape to be given away, and others were sizes that we probably didn’t use.  We dramatically cut our stsh.
  • I found two old kid pools that were leaky or missing plugs.  Away they went!
  • I consolidated our camping stuff.and found some items that we’d borrowed from my in-laws years ago.  I gave some of it back, and tossed whatever nobody would use again.

At the end of the first day, I’d freed up 20% of the shelf space previously occupied.

Another Day’s Work

Day 2 has also been complete.  We have a pallet in the corner of the basement, as well as some other shelves, where all kinds of kids stuff had been located as we grew out of it. Things like the baby swing, crib sheets, high chairs, baby carriers, bases for the carriers to be used in the car, play yards,  and all sorts of other stuff were here.  We had boxes for things that will never go back in boxes (wagons, scooters, bikes, etc.).  In the end, it was apparent that this corner of the basement was where we put anything to do with the kids got shoved over here.

Out everything came.  And some of the results here were:

  • Lots and lots of cardboard removed and collapsed and ready for recycling
  • Consolidation of ‘keepable’ items that can either be given to family members, friends, or later sold
  • Threw away carriers and car bases that were past their ‘expiration’ date
  • Consolidation of baby toys and such that can be sold or given away, freeing up half of a shelving unit
  • Free space for additional toys that will likely be added to the area during the eventual clean-out of our play room, which is one of two finished rooms we have in the basement.

Scratching The Surface

So far, these two areas addressed one wall of the basement and the surrounding area.  That area looks great.  The floor is cleaned of scatter.  Things on the shelves look organized.  If someone asks where something is, I can find it, and getting to anything doesn’t require tearing through something or having a pile of boxes teeter over in the process.

It’s pretty awesome, and now that I’ve started, I know that I’ll finish.

For me, having success in a project like this is all about getting started.  Once I get started and see some meaningful results, I have enough momentum to get me through.

Stay On Top Of Clutter Before It Takes Over
Things weren’t this bad but it wasn’t looking good!

I wish I’d taken some before and after pics but honestly, the before pictures would have been too embarrassing to post.

So Much More To Do

I’m estimating that I’m about 20% of the way through.  I think it will take about 10 nights, at about 1.5 hours per night, to go through.  I plan on moving through one area at a time and addressing each area.  I’ll do a night here or a night there, and there will probably be some working around the trash schedule, as once I fill the bin for the week, I pretty much stop until the next collection!

One thing that could complicate things is that as I get to an area, I may realize that I want to completely move things around.  For example, I have a desk that I use for storing work tools and such.  It’s present location works, but I’ve thought about moving it elsewhere, which might require me to move a couple of shelves around.  I suppose a long term plan would be more ideal, but I really don’t see too much of that, so I’m not all that worried.

I’m really excited to get through the rest of the project.  After the heavy lifting, though, will be the really hard part: Keeping it organized for the long term!

Readers, when have you last gone through a major de-cluttering effort?

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8 thoughts on “I Declared War On Our Basement Clutter

    • Right now it looks even worse because I’ve created various piles, but really once all the areas are addressed then the piles will be dealt with. For example, it doesn’t make sense to take stuff to donate over to the center every time I clean out an area, but when I get a full pile, it will vanish!

  1. A few years ago I took a week off during the kids’ spring break – my wife was also off because she works for the school district. We spent the whole week going through every closet, every storage area AND our mechanical room. Bags and bags of junk were thrown away, and what remained was organized into plastic bins. Those bins were then neatly placed in our attic which we recently paid someone to add re-enforced plywood boards and a drop ladder to allow us to store stuff up there. Our house had never felt more decluttered…it was great. It’s time to go through those closets again….
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