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How I Organise My Home- the Unfinished Basement

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

The Disaster Area Known as the Basement

We lived with the largest room in our unfinished basement like this for two years. Basically, it was a raw, open space and it became a dumping ground. And once we let it start, the clutter crept and crept into other parts of the room and into other spaces.

Hubby’s solution was to ‘hide’ the stuff with a large roll of black plastic. But I was sick of it particularly because some of the stuff in the room was from our building of the house and last time I checked, we aren’t building another one anytime soon. Our stuff in that room was therefore either no longer useful or not at all useful in that particular space (my future home office)

It was easy to just drop everything in that room, but that room and that stuff was serving no-one.

We collect things but seldom make the time (or claim we don’t have the time) to process them. The quote that ‘clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions’ comes to mind.

We also wrongfully assume that because something has a value to us now, it will retain or even increase the value to us in the future.

There were paint buckets- both partially used and empty in the space, large tools, tile cement, electrical materials (some from the house, some from hubby’s work), bags of hardened cement, gas bottles, dog food and more recently gardening equipment. And yes, when the bananas come off the tree from our yard, that room becomes home to the bananas too.

Voila, what's underneath the plastic...

But wait, there's more

Yep, bananas

I had nagged about this for a while (to no avail). Getting this room into shape was a sort of New Year’s resolution- ‘not another year of this, no way!’

For me there were two major categories of items in this room.

Category 1: electrical material hubby would need at least on a weekly basis (some of this migrated from the pantry, see here)

Category 2: 'why the heck is this inside the house' stuff

We decided to keep the category 1 items downstairs in our laundry room. The other option was the upstairs pantry but that was nixed because it’s more accessible to guests and closer to our living areas. I measured up the walls and opted for a mix of open shelving (for boxes) and cabinets (for hidden storage). I sought out the mix of products that maximized my available space. Truthfully once I figured out my measurements, I didn’t think too much more about the storage solutions in terms of what would go into the cabinets or what would go on each shelf. I knew I wanted open shelving and closed cabinets and that I wanted to use up all available wall space and that was it. We opted for the Closetmaid Max Load Shelving and ProGarage Cabinet lines.

Category 2 items were to be relocated outside (paint buckets, gas bottles, etc). I hadn’t figured out the where till the first day of the sorting but we actually have three outdoor storage areas (surprise!). The ‘problem’ is that they were graveled and somewhat open to rodents. The first one is a total mess (I close my eyes to the old wood and other junk there for now), the second is a bit low and small, but the third was workable for most of the items. For now the gardening equipment and tiles (which are in cardboard boxes) will stay inside till the spaces are properly prepped.

A start- shifting boxes of supplies that were on the floor onto open shelving

How exactly did we tackle the space? One cardboard box, plastic bag or bucket at a time. We (yes you absolutely should get help) would scatter out the items in each container and begin the process of sorting- electrical material (broken down into switches, plates, breakers, and plugs), screws and nails, tools, car care, garbage, etc. We would then relocate each item into its new home:

-The plastic boxes I had already started filling a year ago for each type of electrical material

-The tool box I had previously tidied up for hand tools

-Screws and nails went back into one giant plastic bucket (there were too many for these cute containers)

-Garbage into garbage bags

Each of the boxes was in turn placed on the newly mounted wall shelving (I cannot stress how useful walls are in maximizing storage). There is a bit of a system, but it’s not set in stone- our limited quantity of Christmas decorations are right to the top, low profile boxes are on the second shelf because the height between there was the shortest, home maintenance products like light bulbs, silicone and locks are on the third shelf and electrical materials are on the easily accessible bottom shelf.

After an evening of sorting, relocating and purging, the room still had a handful of boxes and other stuff. The plan was to deal with those once the cabinets were set up. Remember when I said, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day?’ in this post.

The morning following the purge (which truthfully was more of a sorting and relocating exercise), hubby asked or stated :

1. What’s in the garbage?

2. I am missing things

3. I won’t be able to find anything

Let’s break down each concern:

What’s in the garbage?

I HATE plastic bags for storing things- you tie them and forget what exactly is in them. My go-to from the get-go for organising was clear plastic boxes. As mentioned, each time I encountered a plastic bag with stuff, I categorized the contents and placed it into a plastic box. What that meant is that a lot of plastic bags were thrown away, as well as packaging as well as paper. I also HATE cardboard, so there was a lot of that to discard as well.

In going through the stuff, there were also a few broken or replaced things like license plates, car mats, old radios, flashlights. Those items had served their useful life and were trashed.

I am missing things

I think that the act of sorting and tidying, whether or not you throw things away, simply makes a space look less cluttered which in turn makes it look like there is less stuff. When prodded about exactly what was missing, I was told ‘cables.’ Let’s just say I would be crazy to throw away cables. Loose cables of one colour were boxed up and rolls of cable placed on top. Those that didn’t fit were stacked on top of each other on one spot in the room and not strewn across the room. Those will soon find their new home in another plastic box.

I won’t be able to find anything

Everything is categorized into clear boxes- like with like- even a three-year old could figure it out.

The Almost After Organised Space

The most critical task at hand now is maintaining the space so the ‘creep of clutter’ does not happen again. Organising is definitely a process.

Just a bit more sorting to go

Goodbye clutter!

The rooms are not finished -still a few boxes and buckets to sort - but progress and a plan are major accomplishments!

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