Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Basement Organizing Challenge Results

I was really inspired by 'I'm an Organizing Junkie's' call to enter her 28 Day Organizing Challenge! I hate my basement and I've been procrastinating for over 5 years on organizing everything so that I can use the room as a functional space. I spend as little time as possible down there running laundry through the machines, and that's it! (Except for occasionally adding to the scary piles that were already there.) Here are my before pictures:

I jumped at the chance to enter my basement laundry room in this contest. I was hopeful that if I had a deadline and the incentive of blogging about my progress, that would light my fire. I even had extra opportunity to work on the project when the great snowstorms of 2010 passed through our area, trapping the entire family at home. Easy, right?

Unfortunately, I struggled to stay motivated about this project. I didn't do ANYTHING to move the project along until late in the month. I got off to a good start posting some sorting strategies that I planned to put into action, but then I would go to the basement and find that there was so much stuff everywhere and nowhere to move anything around. I would stand in the middle of the room and stare blankly at the space, unsure where to begin, what to move where, how to organize things... I was discouraged and lost!

I finally figured out that I needed to take a step back even further than just sorting all of our random junk, and come up with a vision for the basement laundry room space. Instead of focusing on what to store where and how to categorize things, I needed to focus on the room's functionality. One of the room's functions is as a place to sort out all of our random junk! I couldn't do that (or anything else!) because I didn't have space to work. First I needed to make the space functional, THEN I could do some sorting.

These are the activities that I need my basement laundry room to accommodate, in order of frequency/priority:
  • Laundry storage (dirty items waiting to be cleaned), sorting, and folding
  • Space to store, sort, and organize items to be sold, donated, or recycled as part of my personal Declutter Challenge. (including shipping supplies)
  • Space to prepare items for several yard/consigment sales coming up in the next few months (including hanging racks for consignment clothing)
  • Gift Wrap/Shipping storage and wrapping space
  • Storage/access to scrapbooking supplies/projects
  • Access to old computer to FINALLY finish moving old files/data to new computers before donating.
 To be fair, the room must also serve several functions for my husband:
  • Accessible tool and household equipment storage (any cabinets I don't mention contain his things, and everything hanging on the wall is his--he's likes to hang stuff.)
  • Accessible seating storage (we have large families that sometimes require folding chair seating)
  • Accessible Beer storage :)
Our goal was to remove everything from the room that didn't serve one of the functions listed above. We moved some furniture around and ended up with the space you see here:

I feel the need to explain that the cabinets you see here are our old kitchen cabinets and counters that were moved down to the basement during a kitchen remodel years ago. We just lined the cabinets up and stacked the counters on top--they are in no way 'installed' but they provide a great deal of flexible storage and work space. My husband hung some of the upper cabinets in this room as well as in the storage room beyond.

We kept the old computer at the end of the counter so that I can finish preparing it to be donated. We now have wireless access so if I am listing an item online, I can do so right here at the counter--now that there is a safe place to set the laptop computer down! The counter is where I can store current projects: items I am planning to sell or donate, or items that need to be sorted and organized before being stored away in storage.

As you see above, one of my favorite storage solutions is the card table that slides under the counter top when not in use; it can be pulled out to serve as a laundry folding space, gift wrap/shipping space, or extra tabletop space if I am working on a large project. Underneath the card table we have two old laundry hampers that contain unwashed but sorted clothing that is waiting to be laundered--darks in the brown hamper, lights in the beige hamper, of course. I started folding laundry here even before we finished organizing the space!

This corner above previously contained my two hanging racks shoved behind a large box so that I couldn't access and move the racks. We've placed several old dressers here instead; the smaller one contains my husband's stuff. We set a cabinet on top of the larger grey one; together they contain gift wrap/shipping supplies and ribbons, bubble wrap, small shipping boxes, greeting card files, etc.There is a gift wrap storage container next to it for rolled gift wrap. The cabinet above our brown dresser holds our laundry supplies.

The photo above shows that my hanging racks are now stored where the grey dresser used to be, and the space around the furnace/water heater is now clear of clutter, except for the folding tables and chairs. We can use this space as a holding area for future donation piles. There is plenty of space so that I can now pull the racks out when prepping clothing for consignment, as shown below:

Here are my responses to Orgjunkie's Challenge Questions:

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?

I was having so much trouble getting started on this challenge that I truly thought I was going to submit a 'humor' post about strategies for Procrastination! Once I took a step back and focused on my vision for the room and what I needed to do to make it functional, it sparked all sorts of ideas, and the plans flew into place incredibly fast--most of the work was done over a few days.

 2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?

  •  Dirty clothes will no longer be dumped in the middle of the room to wait to be cleaned. (My husband is estatic.)
  • When we are not actively working on a project, we will put the project away (folding table stored, wrapping/shipping supplies put away, hanging racks stored against the wall under a dust sheet, saleable items stored in a container, etc.)
  • I will add the room to the 'cleaning routine' of the household, because now there are surfaces to dust/clean and visible floors to sweep/vacuum rather than piles of dusty junk everywhere! 
 3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?

Items removed from the room included a large pile of worn clothing, bedding, and baby equipment, all headed for Goodwill (You can read about what they'll do with it here.), a baby crib that our children barely slept in and a large plastic basketball hoop (both headed for Craigslist via The Garage), and a slew of gift bags hoarded over 5 years--we will never need this many gift bags!--also donating to Goodwill. I also recycled a bunch of worn cardboard boxes. We haven't sorted the Goodwill pile yet, but here is a preview of next weekend's project :) I hope to add to the pile even more before then!

I sorted a number of books, toys, and miscellanous items into storage containers and boxes and stacked them in the storage room. I will pull each one out as time permits to continue those decluttering projects as outlined in my personal Declutter Challenge. Here is a picture of the storage room to prove that I didn't just shove the mess into a different room! ;)

 4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?

As I mentioned in my original post, my goal was to organize this room using only items that we already owned. We were successful!

I love that we were able to move various furniture pieces around the room to maximize storage space where we need it--including pulling a cabinet out from under the countertop to place on top of the dresser. We then slid a large box into the empty space and now I have a place to collect worn/outgrown clothing until I have a chance to decide whether to consign or donate each item.

I also like the shallow drawers of the gray dresser, which are perfect for storing ribbons and other wrapping/shipping items. Before I had little stashes of gift/shipping supplies in several different places, but now everything is consolidated in one place so I can easily see that I have plenty of supplies--no need to run out and purchase more!

Another neat thing that we did was repurpose the baking sheet cabinet (under the old computer) as a great place to store flattened shipping boxes.

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?
Well, I won't win if it's a beauty contest--my poor basement is not the most aethestically pleasing! I didn't have time or budget to paint and stencil the furniture or add any deliciously cute storage containers to the space. ;)

 I hope that the judges will consider my space for how far it has come; from being a complete wreck of a room to being (for me) an inviting and efficient place to process my family's Stuff as it moves in and out of our lives. This 'Processing Area' is a space that I think every home could benefit from having; a space that I envision using this way for many years to come.

I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in this organizing challenge, and I look forward to checking out the results of everyone else's efforts!



Erin K. said...

Wow! Your before and after photos are amazing! And the whole thing about standing in the middle of the room and just staring at everything? Yeah, that sounds familiar. I had the same trouble with my space - it seemed so overwhelming that I didn't know where to start. Kudos to both of us for plugging away and finishing our spaces! :)

Michelle said...

Thanks! I thought all the standing and staring was a waste of time, but finally my subconscious worked out what I was supposed to do--in the nick of time!

Threebusybs said...

good work! we donated a lot of Goodwill too. I have never thought of donating gift bags. i do have my gift bags organized but like you will not go through all of them. i should go through and get rid of the themed ones (baby etc.) and just keep the more general type.

what a great tip...thanks!

"The Smelly Lady" said...

very impressive! Good Job!

cookwithbarb said...

GREAT JOB!! What a transformation-be proud of yourself-like you I found this to be a terrific opportunity to jump in~

Katie said...

Very nice job! It looks so great!

ter@waaoms said...

great job! :)

Keli said...

Wow! What a transformation! Great job!