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How to Declutter a Basement and…

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…keep it that way!

That is the full title of this post, not just how to declutter a basement.  Since the hardest part after the decluttering and organizing process is keeping the space clutter-free so you don’t have to go through major time consuming purging again.

Two years ago I wrote a post about how I cleaned out my attic. It was a big job, but my family got on board and we made it into a fun chore.  Having that completed and keeping it that way truly puts a skip in my stride. Last year I concentrated on cleaning out my garage to continue the decluttering process in my home.

Clutter holds you back.  It is freeing to have it gone FOREVER!  I wanted to start 2015 clutter-free and took on the last hidden zone of my home…the basement so that my house would be clutter free top to bottom.  I started a few weeks ago.  You can get caught up on my progress in these posts:

Everyone has different levels of clutter, but getting rid of it and keeping a space uncluttered is the same no matter how big or small the job is for you.

For most of us, time and indecision is what keeps us from living free of clutter. Keeping our homes uncluttered is about changing our habits and finding out why we buy things in the first place that we don’t really need and keep things that we don’t need any more to live a happy and contented life.

When you what to start the decluttering process, do you hear yourself saying?:

  • It’s too overwhelming
  • It’s not mine
  • I don’t have time
  • I can’t get rid of it, it cost too much
  • I might need it someday

These are the questions that hold us back and keep clutter piling up instead of learning to let things go so that you can move on and live life without clutter holding you back.

My basement used to be set up as a place for my daughters to hang out with their friends. There were two sofas set up in an “L” in front of the TV and IKEA wall unit to hold movies and games. Since they are grown and no longer living at home, it has become a place to dump stuff.  I have moved sections of the wall unit to my bedroom. The sofas went with my daughters to each of their apartments, leaving the basement as nothing more than a storage facility. I wanted it to be a clutter-free and organized storage space.

Today I am happy to report that I have finished purging and organizing the space. Cleaning out the clutter is a huge undertaking no matter what room you are working on, but basements, attics, and garages seem to be the places that clutter seems to multiply when you’re not paying attention. And that is the key.  The key to staying organized and keep it cleaned out and decluttered for good.  Paying attention to everything you buy, and then place in the space and more importantly paying attention to why you want to store items in the first place when you could just get rid of them.

I started early on a Saturday morning and left my calendar empty so that nothing could stop me from getting a full day of purging done. Schedule it into your calendar and work at it on a continuing basis until you are done.  It took me about 3 weeks, I didn’t post as much the last few weeks since I was busy getting decluttered.  Work on it every day – 20 minutes to a few hours.

Below is the finished part of my basement:

BEFORE

How to declutter a basement without losing your mind

My basement a.k.a… the dumping ground.  I emptied every box into the middle of the room forcing me to have to go through everything and make a decision about it. I created piles:  KEEP – DONATE – RECYCLE – TRASH. I used boxes and 30 gallon trash bags to place the items in.

I made some hard choices and edited until I was left with this…

AFTER

Tips on how to clean out a basement

A space to feel good in once again…bliss. Ed can now use the open space as his winter putting green.  The TV is still hooked up, but other than this, the room has no function other than storage.

I didn’t get rid of everything, I still have some items neatly arranged in two corners that are items Ed, myself or our daughters want.

Decluttering ideas for a basement

We keep some of our outdoor furniture here in the winter.  These pieces will go outside once spring arrives.

How to get rid of clutter in a home

The metal sideboard under the clock goes outside, one of my daughters wants the IKEA desk.  For now, I placed a lightbox on the desk making it easy to use.

I don’t collect many things, but can’t seem to pass by a roll of pretty gift wrap. I have the rolls I use the most in my studioffice. The overage, I placed in a wicker hamper I bought at a thrift store.  Now it is under control and easy to get to and find what I need.

Storage ideas for basements

In the far corner is “stuff” my daughters still need to go through the next time they are home.

Organizing a basement

This corner holds larger items that we don’t use every day but want to keep. Golf clubs and furniture. Some of the items I want to paint and will post about soon. When my nephews come to visit they like to sleep in the basement so they can play video games all night. I have two mattress and sleeping bags for them. I keep the extra chairs from my kitchen here, too.  I change them seasonally. The yellow one goes up in the fall.  A few readers asked me about the dress forms. I love them and plan to use them again in some way, I just don’t know exactly how yet.

basement decluttering ideas

My basement also has an unfinished section. This is where I store smaller decorative items, paint, and other household maintenance supplies. I placed a 4-shelf metal shelving unit from True Value right inside the door.  I did this so I could not just open the door and place items on the floor and leave. To keep the area organized I have to take the time and pay attention to place items in their new designated place.

Clear storage bins in 3 different sizes

I also gathered all the containers I had and bought various sizes of clear storage bins at my local True Value Hardware to place like items in. I placed them on the floor to pick and choose which ones would be best for every item I had.

How to label storage containers with free printable labels

Everything went into containers. I wrote about how I labeled every bin, box, and bag in this post about labels and a free printable label to download.

Free printable labels for storage containers

Clear rectangular storage bins in different sizes are the best for two reasons. They stack and you can see at a glance what is inside. Labeling each will help me when I need to find or add something.  Some have removable lids, others are snap style cases.

Organizing tips using free printable labels

I have a box of extra labels and a marking pen at the ready to mark any new bin or when I change the contents of one.  This will help me get it done right away.

Storage ideas for small and large items

I moved two closet organizers from an unused bedroom and placed them at the ends of the two metal shelving units to store glass and one of a kind items.  It also serves as a place to keep my mailing supplies of boxes and bubble wrap.

Fast-and-easy-Decluttering-and-Organizing-tips

On the top are empty containers and a basket at the ready if I need to add new items or reorganize an existing bin.

Home-storage-ideas

I stacked the large bins on the floor, with two extra at the ready.  As much as I am going to try to not buy as much, I want to keep this space organized. Having extra bins ready will make it easy and not have me placing items on the floor until I get a new box. No excuses. I have to pay attention to keep everything in its place.

Purging-clutter-ideas

To get to my decorative accessories stash, I simply have to move the stack of big bins. I placed all my fabric on its own shelving unit.

Storage-ideas-for-basements,-attics,-and-garages

Wreaths, flowers, pillows all went into 30 gallon trash bags and were hung from a pot rack I hung from the ceiling. I labeled every bag so I know at a glance what is in each one. I keep tin cans I use to mix up chalk paint in the round laundry basket.  The trash can is behind it and two rolls of white fabric that I plan to use for slipcovers and window shades. I wrapped them in plastic to keep them clean.

Metal-storage-shelves

On the far wall I have a 5-shelf metal shelving unit to keep craft supplies.  I went through every basket and then added a label. The big piece of foam board along the wall, I use to protect the floor when I paint furniture. My outdoor chalkboard and table top are behind it.

Now you are probably asking yourself, “How did you get rid of all your stuff – where did the unwanted stuff go?”  This is how I did it: Decluttering is not only a physical job, but a mental one. You have to ask yourself questions and make some tough decisions.

1. Ask yourself as you look at each item – Why am I keeping this? What does it bring to my life?   If you can’t find a good reason, it should go into your donate or trash pile.

  • Reasons not to hold onto things:  Lessen your guilt about items your mother-in-law gave you, your child made or is a keepsake.  Take a photo of these items and place in a photo album labeled “Keepsakes” so you can remember them.  Then donate or sell the items.

2. Designate a space for everything –  Various size rectangular clear bins are the best since you can see through them and they stack on top of each other.

3. Label everything – Labels only take a second to make and allow you to know exactly what is in each container, box or bag at a glance so you can put items away right away and not have to think about what to do with them. I made my own labels and have a free download for you to use, here.

4. Nothing loose on the floor – Having loose items is how clutter starts. Place everything in a labeled container or if it is a large item, designate one area or corner in the room for these items only.

5. Pay Attention:  Keep at it – once and done is not how to deal with decluttering and organizing.  You have to keep it up.  When you bring something new into your home, remove something. I keep a big basket in my garage that I place things I no longer want in. When it is full, I put it all in a bag and drop it off at the thrift store.

6. Donate – Check on Google or ask your friends if they know of any places to donate items that are in good shape. I have two thrift stores in my area, Impact and ReStore, that will come to my house to pick up my items.  They even take mattresses. I also get reminders in the mail telling me when Purple Heart, Veterans Groups and The Salvation Army will be in my area for donation pick-ups. All I have to do is call them to schedule a pick-up.  

  • Computer disposal: Best Buy, Goodwill, and some thrift stores will take them. Remember to remove the hard drive or make sure you wiped your data from it before donating.
  • Thrift stores, group homes, churches, schools, and scout groups often are in need of items from household goods, clothes, to art supplies.  Call them to find out.

7. Throw It Out – If you can’t donate or find a way to repurpose items, then they should be bagged and put out for trash pick-up.

  • Check with your city or town to find out where and how to dispose of hazardous or large items in your area.  This includes paint, batteries, and chemicals.
  • Some large items are obsolete.  We had a big entertainment center, a desk, and two broken pieces of furniture that even the thrift stores didn’t want. Ed took the time to break these apart so that we could dispose of them in our weekly trash pick-up.
  • Books can be recycled.
  • Shred papers with account numbers and names before throwing out.
  • Dumpster in your driveway.  Call your trash disposal company to find out the cost and sizes of dumpsters they provide.
  • 1- 800 – Junk. We used them when we cleaned out my parents home.  They took everything for a fee. If you want it gone, this is quick and easy.

8. Make Some $$$  

  • Craigslist, ebay, and yard sales are ways to make money for your collectibles and items that are in good shape.  Having a yard sale takes time and effort and can be very successful. I never have had great success in the past and find it easier to just donate what I didn’t want.

The decluttering process took me about 3 weeks. I worked on it a little each day after my initial 10-hour day of dumping everything out onto the basement floor and then designating what pile every item should go in.

From now on, when I hear myself say, “I don’t know where to put this, I’ll just place it here”. I will be replacing that thinking with “I have set up a place for everything, put this in the right place now!”

It feels good that I can happily say, my home is clutter free from top to bottom. It feels fresh and vibrant.

My motto….Life is too short to be the caretaker of the wrong details. Those details are gone, my main goal now is to keep my home this way years from now.

How to declutter and clean out your basement and then keep it that way. Doable and affordable tips that work. | In My Own Style

If I can tackle the clutter in my home, so can you by following the steps I took to get it done. | In My Own Style

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40 Comments

  1. I like the idea of using the clear containers. We do have some of those colored plastic tubs in storage, but unless we look in there, we’re not quite sure what’s in there, even if it’s labeled something like “fall decor.” Thanks for writing!

  2. I have a basement too, and except for being organized, it looks a lot like yours! I have just bought a bunch of clear containers so I’m ready to begin the work! Right after a nap.

  3. This is a great post and pictures so motivating. Moving to smaller house with open floor plan. Can’t have clutter or a lot of storage furniture in such a set up. Thankfully there is a full unfinished dry basement. However, as you so ably demonstrate, useful items in the basement need to be easily located and accessed.

  4. Oh my gosh i had Yaffa Blocks growing up…the white square plastic shelving!!! Loved those thingd! Not surr what ever happened to them!

  5. I have no problem decluttering my house and often help friends who have too much “stuff” and don’t know how to start the process of clearing out and organizing what is left. One of my secrets to maintaining the new look is simple. Once you have gotten rid of the clutter and organized everything, wait a month or so and then take another look at what is left. Think about why you kept it and if you can now let it go. I also go through every room again to maintain what I worked so hard to achieve. I don’t do every room in the same day as that would be overwhelming. I do this several times a year and it gets easier to let go every time I do it. Today, I am going to look through my kitchen cupboards and see what I haven’t used in ages…or never.Out it goes!

  6. I am about to start decluttering our basement in preparation for a move. The new house has a basement and 2 storage sheds, but a lot of the stuff is old broken appliances that my dad thought he could “fix”, but he hasn’t been in his side of the basement in over a year to do any of that. My side of the basement is organized storage tubs, and Girl Scout supplies, all labeled and placed in cabinets or on shelves. My one problem is doing this without him rescuing anything i take out of his side. When we moved states 6 years ago, i cleaned out his shed and over half the stuff we got rid of found there way back, he took it out of the dumpster and boxed it up. We didn’t know he had it until we had moved 1,000 miles away.

  7. That is awesome! Our basement currently looks this way and I didn’t even throw all my stuff in a pile. :(

  8. Love it!!! i’m in the process of doing this myself. Seems like it never ends or not enough time once i get on a roll. Thanks for the ideas and the pictures really help!! Question any suggestions on VHS movies? For some reason i can’t let them go and we do still have a player but don’t ever watch them. I’m boxing them up to use the shelf space but wonder why i’m keeping them.

    Thanks!
    Beth

    1. Hi Beth – I also still have some VHS tapes of when my daughter’s were little. I have had a few of them transferred to DVD’s. Now that I am moved I will have to find a new place to transfer the rest. :-)

  9. I would love to be compensated to get organized! :-) Thanks for sharing your ideas. Have you still been able to keep up your systems? I always wonder about that.

    1. Hi Susanne – I have enjoyed the organized space so much that it haas been easy for me to keep up. It makes life so much easier. I recently moved to a new house and have bought new clear bins to keep up my efforts since the spaces I need to organize are all different. In my new house, I am keeping things light and airy with no clutter allowed. :-) My motto is to keep things from getting out of control again. If we don’t use it out it goes.

  10. using your imagination to help declutter objects that may seem difficult to remove. Try asking yourself unique questions like, “If I was just buying this now, how much would I pay?” These creative techniques may prove to be very helpful for some with difficulties removing unneeded clutter.

  11. You’ve done a great job! Declutter our basement was the hardest part of our move last time. The basement in the new place is much smaller and keeping it clean and organized is easier now. Thanks for the organizing ideas!

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    This was by far the best organizing article I have read and has given me hope and inspiration. Your pictures were worth a thousand words ! I can’t tell you how much I appreciated this article and just seeing how you organized and labled things was a Godsend.

    btw – if your daughter decides she doesn’t want that dollhouse – let me know…that’s my creative hobby and I’ll be happy to take it off your hands if she decides she doesn’t want it…let me know and we’ll worry about logistics and details once she has decided. Thanks.

    Michele

  13. Don’t forget about Freecycle.org if you want to simply give away things. You can also get things that you need from Freecycle.org. It is all free. The first two weeks you can only give away things but after that you can ask for things. It is very local and you can join Freecycle in several towns around your area if you need to.

    1. Hi Karen – Thanks for sharing about Freecycle. I have never used them, but will give them a call to see if they are in my area. Sounds like a great business model.

  14. Diane, thanks for the great post! I am pinning this because you have some great ideas for storing and sorting. I have been purging and now I need to organize what I want to keep and that can be as stressful as the purging!
    Thank you! MJ

  15. Like Rene, I’m jealous because not only don’t I have a basement, I don’t have a garage, a storage shed, or an attic! I desperately need to purge. A LOT.
    Thanks for the inspiration and you attention to details, Diane.

    1. Hi Sharon – On my! I could not imagine not having at least one of these storage areas. Think of it this way – they seem to always get filled with stuff, so you are ahead of the game :-)

    2. Hello Sharon and Diane…I don’t have any storage area either! It’s the first place since I was widowed and retired, that I have no basement, garage or storage room. It’s a real pain! I have to use part of my 2nd bedroom for storage, as the closets aren’t even that roomy. Not even one walk-in closet…they are just on the small side average size! Ridiculous!
      I live in an attached villa for 55yrs and over. They are just three years old and look very nice, but are not practical! Although, they did install all energy efficient appliances, incl. washer and dryer and dishwasher! I moved in because of reasonable rent, the architecture looks nice, it’s in a very nice, safe neighborhood and the closets looked bigger when empty, of course, lol!
      So, I had a Storage pod delivered and I store Christmas dec., some very valuable, to me, family furniture that I rotate and other seasonal items in it and have it delivered when I need to, a couple of times a year.
      Thanks for the great info and ideas for organizing! I’m in the middle of replacing boxes with bins and plan on colorcoding by lids or marking with different colors of perm. markers.
      I enjoy oganizing, but especially love the end result! Thanks for all of the suggestions and motivation! God bless you all and may you all be happy organizers! It makes life so much easier!

      1. Hi Linda –
        When my husband and I were first married we lived in an older home with teeny tiny odd shaped closets and no attic. We did have a basement, but it was so damp we could not use it to store anything. We had to be very creative about how we stored items. In my living room I stacked storage bins and then hid them by placing a decorative folding screen in front of them. Smart idea to use a Pod for your seasonal items. Right now I am reorganizing what is in my kitchen cabinets. I am hoping to make them ultra organized and get rid of the things we never use. Enjoy your organizing tasks. It can be fun, especially after it is done and you can look at clutter-free. :-)

  16. You did a yeoman’s job organizing your basement! You should be very proud of what you accomplished. And whatever you do, don’t get rid of those dressmaker forms, with your talent and imagination, you’ll think of something that when you show your creation will knock off everyone’s socks . . .

  17. You have one big advantage in this project: Lots of light in your main basement area! Seems no matter how much light I try to add with lamps and florescent “shoplights” my old basement with it’s cheap dark paneling the previous owner put up in the ’70s, and the dark floor joists above, and only two tiny windows near the ceiling, is just so hard to work in. Bravo to you for tackling and finishing this project. I’m quite envious as you can tell!

    1. Hi JP – In my pervious house we had a dark basement. I understand exactly what you describe. I painted the walls and ceiling joists white just to make it cheerier, but it was still hard to spend time in with only one small window. I am so happy that I took the time and effort to tackle the decluttering. I truly feel uplifted – no clutter to weigh me down anymore. :-)

  18. Thanks so much for sharing this! We tackled a LOT of stuff clutter in our basement/garage this summer, but need to keep going before it’s finished. These tips are perfect for the next steps! Your space looks great!

  19. My hubby and I were just discussing this topic this morning! You’ve provided us with great inspiration and wonderful tips! Thanks! ;)

    1. Hi Donnamae – The decluttering took time and effort, but I found the process was energizing and kept me going. Now I am loving the clean and organized space. It is a project worth doing…uplifting for your home as well as your mind. :-)

  20. Thanks Diane. I definitely need some help in this area. My basement is atrocious. I seem to collect things I think I may use “someday” and now there is so much that when I look at it I no longer feel inspired but stressed and guilty but still have difficulty throwing it out or giving it away. I’m going to try #1 of your list.

    1. Hi Christine – I think many of us have a hard time getting rid of un-needed items. It is just human nature. If you have a lot of stuff to go through, try breaking the job down. Maybe do a box a day or week until you are done. There is no rush to get it done, but work on your own time. Once you start you may find it easier than you thought since the process takes away the burden and stress of having accumulated so much.

  21. Diane, it looks great. And, I just finished reading “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo, and your blog sound just like what she has written. I am 70 and a collector of stuff so after reading tidying up, I have been purging. The urge to purge is also that my daughter and two grandchildren will be moving in with us temporarily in July until their house is sold and they can buy another. Their home is in New Jersey and they are relocating to Florida. Hubby will be moving when his job ends, March, 2016. I needed to declutter our office in order to fit in a
    bunk bed for the grands. I am actually starting to enjoy the process. Your blog has given me lots more great ideas as my bonus room above our garage looks like your basement did. I need to take a before picture like you did so I can love the “after” results.

    I just love your blog and all that you do. You are so inspiring and creative!!!!!!!

    Mary Ann Howat

  22. You have done an excellent job!! I enjoy your post very much. You are one talented lady.

  23. This is very inspiring Diane. Well done! I like all the examples. Now off to get my plastic container….all sizes! I hope to get the shelves built this week and then the process begins. One step at a time. :)