By Eric on January 25, 2012 16

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

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?


Husband to Kelsey. Father to Rooney. Follower of Jesus. Born and raised in Iowa. I like blogging. Bulleted lists excite me. Thanks for stopping by.

  1. ahhh, your basement is nothing :) ours literally looked like we were hoarders. Good job though! I think I’ll be using your bubble chart :)

  2. Looks good you guys! What a thing to tackle huh? It seems basements and closets and storage areas just burst overnight sometimes!

  3. Great Job! I am an organization freak so every couple of months I go through all of our stuff and get rid of the items that we havent used or want anymore and put the items away where they belong if we are keeping them. I usethe tubs too and we have an entire room in the basement designated just for them. Doesnt it feel great to have everything clean and organized.

  4. Whoa, y’all did a number on your basement! Great job guys:)

  5. great job! we live in a small apartment, so it’s imperative that we keep extra stuff managed because there is literally no where for it to go without it being in our way. but, i also love to clean things out and i can’t stand clutter or collections, so i typically go through the entire apartment and clean every closet out once a year!

  6. We just finished our basement. Our basement was packed up until a week before they were set to start. I think I have 15-20 Goodwill receipts for this year and I still can’t park in the garage.

  7. UGH…we NEED to do this in our basement. We have a small house, so it happens quite often that I think, “We’re not using this right this moment, so I’ll put it in the basement.” And the stuff keeps piling up…this post is motivating for me though–thanks for sharing it!

    Part of our problem is we’re currently in a small house and planning to move into a bigger one in 12-18 months as our family grows (we’re expecting our first little one in June!) so I’m afraid to get rid of any furniture that we just don’t have room for upstairs right now…but to be sure, there’s still a ton of other junk that needs sorting through.

    Thanks for the motivation! I will have to take before and after photos if I ever get around to this project. :)

  8. BTW, what kind of crafting do you guys like to do? Is it all Kelsey or does Eric also get his craft on? Just curious :)

    • I like to get my craft on. Probably more than Kels actually… I really enjoy painting.

      • Hmm…I guess that’s probably true. But Eric didn’t know how much he liked to paint until I shared my love for it :) BTW, I’m referring to painting on canvas. Eric also likes woodworking and transforming old furniture and building stuff. I am not a DIY girl, but I do have a creative mind. :)

  9. I’m stealing your flow chart (if that’s ok with you) and I’ve marked that book on my Goodreads “to read” shelf. Thanks for the inspiration!! Can’t wait to see how you keep the clutter/storage organized once baby girl joins you :)

  10. WOW! That’s a big space…bigger than our house!

  11. ugh, we NEED to do this as well. we have 1600+ sq. ft. in our basement, so we feel your pain. Plus, several family members store things in our basement – which was fine because it was a waste to not utilize the space when it was unfinished, but now that we are finishing about 1,000 sq. ft. of it, the “storage” part is just a ZOO. absolute ZOO. plus, we had to keep some floor space open back there for brady’s full-size drum set….sigh….but thanks for this timely post – we will be sure to attack with a plan! Once carpet is laid on Feb. 1, we can use the big family room to sort and repack. i’m READY. ps – cant wait to see your baby room at the shower :)

  12. I dig the bubble chart! Awesome! And great job on the basement!

  13. great job tackling the clutter! I’ve never lived in a home with a basement, and I can see how having a place to just dump stuff out of sight would spell trouble for me!

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