I Declared War On Our Basement

Over a year ago, I wrote about a plan to take on clutter, and while we tackled many of the items mentioned, we didn’t get to all of them, and in some areas, the reduction was just window dressing.

The major area where this applied was our basement.

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.

I started to realize that we were losing the battle here, and unfortunately, that only made the problem worse over the last few months, because of the natural tendency to quit trying altogether if you know you’re fighting a losing battle.   Simply put, I knew that de-cluttering the basement would take some major time and effort, where 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!

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.

It was painstaking 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.  I was able to really reduce the size of the area that they take up, and since we only use these boxes around Christmas, I moved them to areas in the shelves that were harder to get to, instead keeping the prime shelf space for more frequently used items.
  • I went through the swimming stuff and found two old kid pools that were leaky or missing plugs.  Away they went!
  • I consolidated our camping stuff and also found some items that we’d borrowed from my in-laws years ago.  I gave some of it back, and other stuff that they didn’t want is now gone!
  • At the end of the first day, I’d freed up 20% of the shelf space previously occupied.

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.

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.

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?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The End Of 2014 Clutter Sweep

The holidays always bring about an interesting time, when we have to pull out all of the Christmas decorations from their storage space.  We have some shelves where items go, and some plastic storage bins.  After the holiday stuff gets put away, things go back in front of it, so when it’s time to pull the holiday stuff out, we quickly see that it’s time to declutter.

I’ve set a personal goal to try to clear as many of the following items from our house by the end of the year.  Clutter is not something you deal with and then it goes away, at least in our house, for the simple reason that it always comes back!

  • Old TV(s)
    • Where they’re located: Basement – Unfinished area
    • Where they need to go: Donate (Salvation Army)
    • Why it’s clutter: We’ve replaced several tube TVs with flat screen TVs, and the tube TVs are not re purposed.
  • Exercise Bike
    • Where it’s located: Basement – Home Office
    • Where they need to go: For Sale (Craigslist)
    • Why it’s clutter: I prefer to exercise at a gym, and the machine isn’t horribly reliable anyways.  It works but the display cuts out intermittently.  I don’t expect to get a lot for it as it was on the lower end of the price scale anyways.
  • Collectible Toys
    • Where they’re located: Basement – Home Office (piled up on a chair)
    • Where they need to go: For Sale (eBay or Amazon)
    • Why it’s clutter: In the 1990’s, I shared an apartment with a college buddy who was a big toy collector.  He convinced me to buy and stash a few items.  I put them in a bin and forgot all about them until I was trying to find some extra bins.  While many of the items are pretty much worthless, a quick eBay search revealed that there are some that have appreciated a bit.
  • Summer / Winter Clothes
    • Where they’re located: Closets and drawers
    • Where they need to go: Donate or trash or the rag shelf
    • Why it’s clutter: I switch out some winter clothes and summer clothes, and I generally avoid getting rid of stuff, figuring I’ll just deal with it but never do.  I have some items on both sides that either no longer fit, are too worn out, or out of style.  I just need to clean out the closet, so to speak.
  • Broken Power Washer
    • Where they’re located: Currently in the garage
    • Where they need to go: Garbage
    • Why it’s clutter: A relative gave me a power washer before they moved, and it’s never worked right.  I believe that it was stored in a garage or shed during the winter which caused some freezing on the inside pipes.  I’ve looked online and with these models, this cannot be repaired.

In addition we need to do some cleanup where we might not necessarily get rid of things, but the re-organization will help reduce the footprint of items:

  • Basement Kids Items – We keep things like high chairs, swings, and the like in the event that family might some day want them.  There’s a corner of the basement that needs to be taken apart and the stuff re-organized.
  • Basement Bins – We keep some kids clothes and such in plastic bins, some is in case relatives eventually need them, or so that they can be sold at resale shops when they’re in season.  The area where we keep things stacked up needs to be reorganized.
  • Garage – I don’t mind the cold, and will go out for a night or two or a weekend afternoon and re-organize the garage.  It’s definitely time.

What de-cluttering projects do you have on the horizon?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Ugh, Clutter Is Invading Our Home

I hate clutter.  I also know that clutter is always around the corner.  Forget about it for one second and it invades your home.  Once it creeps in, the cycle of clutter doom starts.

Unfortunately, it’s my opinion that we let clutter in the door somehow.  The good news is that clutter can be uncluttered with a few steps.  Before all else, you have to recognize clutter.

Well, clutter, consider yourself recognized!

Here are a few areas where clutter has invaded our home, and what we plan to do about it:

  • Paint cans – I’m in the middle of repainting a few rooms upstairs, all necessary with finally getting our youngest from her crib to a bed.  As I’ve gone through all of our paint supplies, I realize that I have no less than 20 paint cans.  We’ll be adding a few more with the various colors we’re painting, and honestly I don’t have room anymore without making some changes.  The plan: Four times per year, the county will collect hazardous materials, including paint.  They charge $10 for the processing and such, but this will be well worth it.  I will go through our paint cans, and get rid of those which have gone bad or which I know we will never use again.  I expect we’ll be down at least half, which will free up a shelf or two.
  • Closets – As we’ve started shifting things around, some room clearing has been accomplished by stashing things in closets.  What I’ve realized as I cram lamps and such in the closets is that we have stuff there that probably isn’t needed to begin
    Stay On Top Of Clutter Before It Takes Over

    Our clutter isn’t this bad yet!

    with.  One closet has a bunch of old luggage that I need to get rid of, as well as a lot of gift bags that we’ve kept for potential re-use but that have grown way beyond what we’ll ever need.  The plan: As we complete rooms and complete the moving around,  we’ll have to make sure that all items in the closet are things we want to keep, otherwise it will need to be donated or disposed of.

  • Boxes – Similar to our gift bag stash, in the basement I keep various boxes that we can use when wrapping presents.  These have been great over the years, but even during Christmas, we’ve probably never used 10% of what we have.  There’s a certain advantage to having a box of any shape or size, but that can be outweighed by realizing that you’re losing lots of valuable space in the process.  The plan: Cut the number of boxes we keep by at least 33-50%, freeing up a couple of shelves.
  • So-called moneymakers – I have a couple of faucets that I bought at Home Depot for around $1 each.  Their original price was probably $75 for each of these, but they threw them on some discount shelf, and I pounced.  They’re not ugly, or broken, they were just changing styles.  While I have no need for them in my house, I figured I could probably get $10 or $20 for them somewhere.  But I haven’t.  The plan: I’ll need to either try to sell them and collect my massive windfalls or donate them, and realize what Home Depot did, that sometimes it’s just not worth it.
  • Bike – My wife got a new bike last year.  The problem is that her old bike is still hanging from our garage ceiling.  Her old bike still works, but it was old, bulky, and for the riding we like to do when we take our bikes on camping trips, it no longer met her needs.  The plan: Either sell it or give it away.
  • Exercise bike – I have a working exercise bike in the basement.  There are a couple of sensors that go haywire once in a while (resulting in the bike telling you that you stopped pedaling when you haven’t, only to ‘resume’ a couple of minutes later).  I don’t use it as I like to go to the gym, but the bike takes up space in my basement.  The plan: Same plan as the bike, either sell it or give it away.  This will involve hauling it upstairs, which is why it hasn’t been done yet.

None of these things are huge, and we’re nowhere near being considered for a casting call on Hoarders (is that show even still around), but it does show that a little bit of clutter here and a little bit there can lead to feeling like you are being surrounded by too much stuff.

I’m sure these aren’t the only areas, but they’re currently on my target list, and if I can address these, it might make the next round more identifiable.

What de-cluttering activities do you have in process or planned?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

A Simple But Effective Way To Clean Pet Stains From Carpet

I’ve been a cat owner for 17 years, and over that time you get used to cats getting sick, and when they do, it always seems to be right in the middle of the floor.  For years, I’ve tried various ways to clean up the mess, but more often than not, I’d still be left with a stain.  The worst was in my condo when I got new carpet that looked darker on the sample sheet than it was when they installed it.  Nearly white carpet simply doesn’t last too long with cats.

But our house has beige carpet.  It’s not in the best of shape, as it’s the original carpet that was put in 1999 when the house was built, but the previous owners actually took good care of it and we have tried to keep it up as well.

We’ve had it cleaned several times since we moved in, and I’ve used different carpet cleaning outfits that did an OK job, but none that really wowed me…that is until this past winter when I found a one-man operation who did an absolutely fantastic job!  His price was about half of what I was getting for full service (cleaning, ScotchGuard), and he spent twice as long in my house getting things taken care of.  As I watched him work, I noted that he worked on our carpets as if they were his very own.  My wife even observed that there were areas which had spots since we moved in which were now clean.

Since stains that go down into the padding tend to re-appear over time, I don’t expect miracles, but it was still nice to see our carpet look better than when we moved in, which is a pretty big feat since we had put five and a half years of wear, and quite a few kitty messes along the way.

As we talked about the cats and their effects on the carpet, he gave me some tips.

First, he told me that the way we had been cleaning up was wrong.  Our method had been to use a vinegar and water mix that I sprayed on, blotted off, and repeated as necessary until the mess was away.

What was wrong with this?  Well, he brought me up to a room that he was cleaning and as he was cleaning, he showed me every spot that I had cleaned with the vinegar-water mix as he could tell when the steam cleaner was pulling vinegar out of the carpet.

The problem, he said, when you use vinegar or other cleaners, is that they don’t come out of the carpet.  After they get done cleaning and stick around, the problem is that they then attract dirt, so in the end those clean areas will end up becoming dirty faster.  Many times when I saw stains where cats had gotten sick, it wasn’t stained from the cat mess, but stained from dirt attracted after the stain was cleaned.

Technically, he said, I could keep doing that and just add in some steps to make sure that the vinegar was rinsed out, but he then pointed out that his tried and true method did that anyways, and essentially skipped the entire use of vinegar.

What You Need

Paper towel or rags
A spoon
A large pitcher
A shop vac

How To Clean Up The Pet Mess

  1. Take your rag or paper towel, and get rid of as much ‘solid’ mess as you can.  Don’t rub it in, but try to soak it in.
  2. If you can’t get the solid mess up this way, you can use your spoon to basically pick it up.  (Wash the spoon, and you probably want to simply dedicate a spoon for this cause as I’m sure it would gross people out to know that a regular spoon was used for this, even if it was washed afterward).
  3. Once the solid mess is gone, fill up your water pitcher.  Use water from the cold water tap as warm or hot water will set the stain.
  4. Pour the water all over the stain.  Yes, you will feel odd dumping two or three cups over such a small area, but that’s OK.
  5. Let it soak in for a couple of minutes.
  6. Use your shop vac to suck up the water.   Work your way from the outside in, going in circles.  You want to be working the worst part of the mess at the very end. Otherwise, you could end up spreading the stain outward if you do it in reverse.
  7. After the first pass, you might have to repeat a time or two.  I usually do three passes, using slightly less water each time.
  8. Empty your shop vac

The strong suction of the shop vac will pull up most of the water so even though you’re dumping a lot water in, you’re not leaving it in long enough for it to soak through the padding.  By soaking it, you’re loosening the mess from the fibers, which coupled with the strong suction that a shop vac offers, allows it to pull up.

So far, since we’ve had the carpets cleaned a few months ago, I’ve had to use this method 4-6 times, and honestly, I can’t find the stains.

The quicker you address the stains, the better likelihood you’ll have of them not setting, but honestly, I had one small stain that sat there for at least a week (I pulled up the ‘physical evidence’ but the stain itself was still there), and I was worried that I’d waited too long, but it came up just fine.

This is great information and I’ll use it for every pet stain I have moving forward.  I only wish I had known about this for the first 16+ years of being a cat owner!

Readers, what method(s) have you used to clean up stains from pets? 

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.