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To Simplicity - Decluttering Part 3: The Basement

Decluttering Part 3: The Basement

This summer has been busy, especially in August! We’ve had two trips out to Michigan; to visit and for a pirate-themed wedding. Plus, getting the little one back to school and adjusting our routine around that and after school activities.

I really wanted to have more of the house decluttered by now but fell a little short of those goals. With school now in session, I’m planning on spending more time tackling the rest of the house.

The Basement: Storage Place of Forgotten Things

One of the biggest projects we’ve needed to tackle for years has been the basement. When we moved in 5 years ago, the basement started as the place to put the random boxes and large items we didn’t really have a place for. Later, we received two bedroom sets but the bed frames, mirrors, and a desk became part of the basement collection. As Jocelyn outgrew her infant car seat, large toys, and other miscellaneous stuff, this too was added to the basement. At one point, I set up a couple of boxes downstairs for us to put items in for the garage sale we would never end up having. Plus the canning goods and hunting gear. Needless to say, it was packed!

For years, stuff accumulated in our basement and very little was ever removed. The resident spiders used all of this stuff to make beautiful webs all over. Extreme winter temperatures had driven a number of critters in that were caught and removed. A family of chipmunks used a section of the basement as a home this spring. And to top it all off, the drain in the basement backed up. That was the final straw in getting all of this done and finished, once and for all.

While no one ever wishes for a crisis to spark action, it is a pretty effective incentive to get things done.

Removing The Junk

Once the husband and I dug in and really started discarding, things went surprisingly smoothly. A lot of stuff right away came out and went straight to the trash thanks to the drain flooding. Others (like the extra furniture and garage sale boxes) came out right after, which opened up a lot of space. Since many of the stored boxes hadn’t seen the light of day in 5 years, there was obviously nothing in there that we truly needed. The husband set a few sentimental items aside and took everything else to the garage. This continued until almost the entire basement was empty. The only things that stayed were canning supplies, some large kitchen items, and hunting gear.

A Different Decluttering Strategy

I know most minimizing and decluttering books strongly suggest taking items and immediately discarding/donating/or shelving, but since there was so much stuff that had to be removed ASAP for cleaning, I didn’t follow this advice. Instead, I made use of our garage and used that as a staging area for everything. Yes, now I have to finish cleaning the garage but in a way, it’s been really helpful.

  • Everything is out of the house. This gave me the chance to go through and really thoroughly clean the basement without having to wait until everything was sorted and dealt with.
  • The garage is a much more convenient place to sort through everything than the basement. Everything is nearby. Garbage went straight into a bag which, when full, went into the garbage can a foot away. Donations were sorted and moved straight to the car. The farthest walk was back to the house so those items were carefully considered before making the trip. Very, very little came back in the house.
  • Easy staging and storage for selling items. The furniture pieces were cleaned up and listed online to be sold locally. This worked out great since I cleaned them in the garage, took photos, and can store them there until they sell. This means parking the car in the driveway for a little bit but I don‘t have to dance around unwanted furniture in the house.

The main goal was to get everything out. With the stuff gone, cleaning could begin.

Thorough Cleaning

In her book, Marie Kondo recommends cleaning a space before putting everything back. Cleaning took a lot more than wiping down a shelf in this case, but it’s done. I couldn’t tell you how many times I wished for a shop vac while working on this, if for no other reason than to deal with the spiders and spiderwebs. The broom, while effective, took a lot of extra work to get most of them down from the ceiling, walls, and floor. This basement proved that with enough time and effort, anything can be decluttered and cleaned.

In the end, I’ll likely end up doing a thorough clean of the basement again next spring. For now, I’ve cleaned up everything and it is definitely a lot more sanitary. I smelled bleach for days but slept much better that night.

Don’t Fear the Big Projects

I had originally intended to get to the basement last but circumstances said otherwise. It feels so good to have this done. I’ve held on to this stuff for more than five years, almost all of which fell into the “just in case” or “just because” categories. We all have stuff like this and most of the time, it just weighs us down. Sorting and cleaning the basement was a giant step towards feeling lighter and free of the clutter.

So if there’s a big project, like a basement, attic or garage, that you’re putting off, face it. It may take a lot of work but in the end, there will be a lot of progress. We leave so many of these areas to be dealt with later but they’re usually full of a surprising amount of things that aren’t even needed. I wouldn’t tackle these areas first but after getting an idea of what “sparks joy” or is essential, these areas go quickly. Don’t decide what to get rid of; decide only what to keep.

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