Basement Organization

We have two spaces in our house that overwhelm us with “stuff” — our office (which I hardly use and Dave uses regularly) and our basement. Since we’re up in the air as to whether or not we’ll find a new house before the little one comes along, we’re trying to be proactive, both by getting wicked organized in case we do sell and move OR in the case that we don’t move, we’ll have simplified and found more room in the process. Win-win, really.

This weekend, before I had a chance to even take “before” pictures (crappy blogger), we headed downstairs to see what we could get done. One toddler naptime turned into another and, of course, we still have lots more to work on, so I’m sure I’ll be chatting about our basement a bit more as we continue our purging/organization fun. I’m hoping to get down every day this week (during naps or after bedtime)…yup, it’s that bad.

On Day #1, while Dave sifted through all of our home improvement items (lots of sanding blocks!!), I turned my attention under the stairs. This is where all of our holiday stuff lives, along with gift wrap, gift bags, ribbon, etc. I didn’t move everything out, but organized and sifted through and evaluated…and ended up with this:


Here are some of the strategies I used to organize the space:

Put Similar Items Together – Believe me; it wasn’t easy in the beginning. Walking into a basement that has become more and more of a dumping ground over time is downright panic attack-inducing. But, my #1 organization tip is to dive in by making piles of (or simply separating into) similar items. Don’t obsess about the sheer vastness of the stuff; put on your blinders and start making piles.

So, now my Christmas stuff is with, duh, the Christmas stuff. (I’m saying “duh” to myself, BTW.) Gift bags are organized specifically by birthday, characters (like, superheroes or Peter Rabbit), and new baby, then there was even a separate bag just for the generic, anytime bags.

This was the first moment (among many) that I realized, JOYOUSLY, that I don’t need to buy a new gift bag for a long, long time. Same goes with tissue paper. And Christmas wrap…and tape…and ribbons…and boxes of all sizes. Holy crap. Literally all I need for Christmas is some new sticker tags to go on gifts (and maybe one wrap of “Santa paper”). Knowing that we’ll have a newborn at Christmastime and realizing that I’m all set with that side of things calms me. “And knowing is half the battle!” Speak to me, Transformers.

Location, Location, Location – Doesn’t it just make sense to keep the things that you use most often closest to you? In this case, it’s gift bags, which we use (and reuse and reuse) with unapologetic abandon. So, keeping those behind the Christmas stuff would’ve been silly. Front and center they are. 

This will also apply to the totes of baby/toddler clothes (of which we have, I believe, 8…I only wish that wasn’t true, and we bought very, very little of it ourselves). Why keep the 18-month stuff at the top of the stacks when we’ll need newborn and 0-3 months first? It also helps direct you as to where certain items should go, as well as help you analyze whether you need the item at all. If something’s automatically being shoved to the back wall, why? If it’s an “once-a-year-but-need-it” thing (ahem, Christmas crap, I’m talking to you), then fine. But if it’s an “I really don’t know when we’ll use that” thing, say ba-bye.   

Get creative with storage – Not everything needs to be perfectly packed in totes with labels typed in a label-maker. I mean, sure, that’d be great, but sometimes a tote takes up too much spaces or doesn’t fit your needs. (Although, I highly suggest using them for storing kiddo and maternity clothes; they don’t breathe as much as I might like, but they’re the easiest solution I can think of for now. Plus, the transparent or semi-transparent ones, you can just shove a piece of paper labeled with a marker for what’s inside along the side and see it – no tearing or getting messed up.)

So, aside from boxes we have been saving FUH-RE-VER, I grabbed things that either were heading for the donation pile or are hardly used. So, a random blue basket that I haven’t used in years just happened to fit all the tissue paper perfectly. One large seen-better-days gift bag holds all the rest of the “can be used” ones. A cheap, heavy duty glass hurricane candleholder worked as a makeshift gift wrap holder (and if it breaks, I truly won’t shed a tear). A random nail or pipe protruding from a wall or ceiling overhang is a great place to hang a string of Christmas lights.

And always, ALWAYS stack as much as possible. All those baskets you see would take up mad space if they weren’t piled up. It is what it is.

Expect All the Emotions – The rush and joy I felt has made me actually excited to head back down to the dungeon, I kid you not. I’m like a purging monster. “Must. Purge. Mooooorrrre.” And finding cards and gifts that kids gave me years ago while I was teaching at a different school? Heartstrings!

But, it hasn’t all been a high. First of all, while I’m pretty active during pregnancy with yoga and, like, not slowing down, the baby has definitely stopped me in my path a few times. “Seriously, Mama. Too much. Go get some water, sit down, and thank me later.” I can always tell that I’ve overdone it; not a matter of “if” but “when.” It’s how I roll, I guess.

At the same time, there have been frustrations and tears. Tears = finding a platter that was my grandmother’s shattered. Frustrations = the sheer mass of stuff that we actually had little control over in the first place (stuff that was passed along that we didn’t want or need).

It’s all part of the game, though, and the best emotion that I’ve cultivated is RELAXATION. No, seriously! While it’s definitely hard, sweaty, dirty work, I’ve discovered exactly the stuff we have. I’ve realized that THIS is when you overbuy.

How many times have you had to get a gift for someone so you bought more tissue paper, not realizing that you already have enough in storage? Or because you don’t know what you have in storage from awhile back, you buy yet another pair of black work pants? In our case, I’ve been starting to mentally gear up about getting some cold season maternity clothes and post-maternity COOOOLD weather stuff. (The last baby was born in July.) However, after going through all the hand-me-downs and stuff I had, even in summer, I’ve discovered a lot of items that will work! It brought a calm to me that I haven’t felt in awhile.


How many of you have a space in your house that’s overrun by clutter or needs organizing? When I head down tonight, I’ll probably be heading back to purging clothing (this does NOT excite me) or to organize and figure out storage for the home improvement stuff Dave sorted. That has spread out, big-time, so to get that up off the floor and truly organized will be a good feeling. 

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