What's in Your Basement and Does It Need to Be There?


We have roughly 1,300 square feet of unfinished basement in our house. This is a positive and a negative. The positive is that we have room to grow (although currently we are trying to sell). The negative is that 1,300 square feet is a lot of room for junk to pile up.

Before cleaning out the basement

Yikes! As you can see from the photo, we have used the smaller section of our basement for "storage." However, the line between storage and hoarding was becoming blurry. When we were sick of looking at something in our upstairs living space, we would simply move it to the basement. After four years of doing that, we had a lot of stuff down there that hadn't been touched, needed or wanted for quite some time. It's pretty sad when we stop and think about it.

We have been wanting to clean it out for about a year and finally got it done! It took about eight hours total, but the peace of mind is totally worth it. I know some people would probably organize all of the stuff and have a garage sale, but a garage sale in January doesn't seem like a good idea, and, frankly, I can't stand looking at this stuff anymore. We took two Jeep loads of goodies to our local Goodwill and have two items we are hoping to sell on Craigslist. We thought it would be helpful to share the workflow we used tackle this beast, so here it goes.

How We Approached the Mess

1. Gather Materials and Set the Space

  • Tables for sorting smaller items
  • Box of garbage bags
  • Marker and paper for labeling piles and totes
  • Water for hydration
  • Music for motivation

2. Sift Through Everything

We literally went through everything! Inspired by David Allen and his book Getting Things Done, we created a decision-making workflow for all the items in our basement. Yours may be different but hopefully this will help you if you need to purge your home. (I made this mind map on bubbl.us.)

Organizing Basement

After we went through all our tote boxes (including items from our childhood, high school/college years, decorations, etc.) and stacks of stuff and organized it into piles, the hard work was done.

All that was left was to place everything into proper tote boxes, label them and stack them neatly in our basement! Taking the time up front to think through how to attack this big project was the key to our success no doubt. We had a plan and we executed it. Give it a try with a similar project!

It Feels Good and Looks Good!

After organizing the basement

Have you ever had to do this? How to you keep tabs on all the clutter?