Today's mission (and actually your mission for several days since for many people this is such a big task) is to declutter your basement.
We're working on this Declutter 365 mission as part of the Basement Organization Challenge here on the site, which is one of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenges.
As always, the first step in any organization project is to declutter, so if you want to get your basement organized first you've got to remove all the clutter from it.
Make It Seem Less Overwhelming By Working 15 Minutes At A Time
Removing all the clutter from your basement can seem like an overwhelming task if you've got a lot of stuff in there, and make you feel like it's not worth doing. So whenever that feeling happens, to try to get past it, I suggest that you break up the task into 15 minutes at a time.
That being said though, there is a certain order in which you should tackle your basement clutter during those 15 minute sessions to make the process as easy as possible, take the least amount of total time, and so you don't make an even huger mess during the process (to the extent possible).
Decide Your Basement Priorities
As discussed in more detail in the basement organization challenge, your basement can have several different areas and functions, the most common ones being a utility area, storage area, and/or living area.
Before you begin you should assess how you want your basement to function for you, once it is decluttered, plus, what parts of the basement are the most cluttered and in need of help.
This article focuses mainly on how to declutter a basement that is used as a storage area. However, if you need to declutter a basement that is used as a utility area or laundry room, check out the article about how to declutter your laundry room here, since it will give you good guidance.
Similarly, if your basement is finished, and you use it as a living area, such as a playroom or rec room, or something similar, check out the article on how to declutter your living room for more ideas.
If you decide your priority is to declutter the storage areas in your basement, then read on below to find out how to take on this task without making a bigger mess during the process.
How To Clear The Storage Clutter Without Making A Bigger Mess
Choose A Starting Point And Work Systematically, One Box At A Time
The key to not making a mess while decluttering is not to start moving all around the room, but instead to systematically deal with the clutter as you find it.
For storage areas this often means one box at a time, or one shelf, or one drawer, or one pile on the floor, whatever. Deal with everything as it comes, instead of saying to yourself, "ummm, I don't know what to do with that, so I'll come back to it."
As you deal with each object systematically make your choice of what to do with the item, working through the basement from your starting point, and going from left to right. Check out the how to declutter article for full details of the process, including a discussion of the 6 choices you have for each item as you encounter it, which is shown to the left.
The reason this is important, and helps you not make a mess, is that you don't leave decisions unmade when you're systematic. Instead, you have to make a decision before you can move on to the next thing, so then you can put things in the right place in your staging area (which is what we're discussing below).
Create A Staging Area For Sorting Clutter
Especially when dealing with cluttered storage areas, such as the basement, often there isn't a lot of clear space to deal with clutter. And during the process of decluttering you do need a bit of space to spread out since you're sorting items.
Therefore, to the extent necessary, work first in your systematic way to clear out a staging area for yourself, if you don't have one, so you can pick up a box or bag or whatever, take it to the staging area, and deal with it completely before you go to the next one.
Once you do have a staging area for your clutter, it becomes much easier to deal with everything. Plus the staging area is what keeps you from making a bigger mess, since you're going to be constantly cleaning it up during the whole process.
This staging area can have larger piles of trash, donation bags, items for sale in a garage sale, or items to put in another area of the house, for example. I suggest keeping the items you've decided aren't clutter, but are going to continue to store, in the place they were in before in the basement, and then we'll deal with them in a later step.)
Once this staging area itself begins to feel cramped and cluttered, before you continue your systematic approach in the space you're decluttering, go ahead and deal with each of your piles within the staging area, clearing it back out. Physically drop things off at the donation center, throw the trash into a dumpster, put the items away throughout the house that you decided should go elsewhere, etc.
Until you actually deal with these sorted piles within the staging area you will feel like you're just moving your clutter around from place to place in your basement, and you will be. It is the process of dealing with the piles in the staging center that actually gets the clutter out of your home!
Deal With Large Items, Removing Any That Are Clutter
In basements, especially, there are often lots of little things in boxes and bags and piles, and that is what you'll deal with in your staging area. But there will also be some large items, like old appliances, furniture, or whatever else, that is large. It will most likely take extra effort and thought to figure out how to move these items, if you choose not to keep them, out of your house and properly dispose of them, or donate them.
The sooner you can get rid of these larger items the more free space it will clear up in your basement. Often times though these things are buried behind and under other stuff, or it is too difficult with other clutter in the way to get these things out, which is why I left it later in the process, but make sure you do, at some point, deal with these large items.
Once you do you'll really see immediate progress, which is itself motivating to continue.
Repeat The Process
Finally, once you've gone through your entire basement systematically, and repeatedly cleared out your staging area of clutter as you dealt with each pile or box, you'll be left with all of the items in your basement that in your initial sort you decided to keep.
Now that you see what is left I always suggest another quick decluttering run through, because you often find more you'd really like to get rid of on the second pass.
However, once you've done that second (and it will be much quicker) decluttering pass, you are now ready to begin sorting and organizing the items you've got left in your basement to properly store them. For ideas on that process check out the Basement Organization Challenge article I mentioned above.
However, to get you inspired first to get your decluttering done, make sure to look below to see photos from readers who've already done this mission, showing their results. They did it, and now you can too!
Are You Ready To Get Rid Of The Clutter In Your Basement?
Here are a couple more photos from readers who've already done this mission to hopefully get you motivated to tackle your own basement.
The photo above is another collage from Monica, who said, "Today's task was basement desk area." She did a great job, didn't she?
In addition, here's another set of photos, from a reader, Nina, who showed the before and after area of her desk area in her basement. As you can see from the photo Nina's basement, at least this section of it, is finished and used for living space, instead of just storage. She said of the before picture, "Desk area in basement that I never used." Then, of the after photo she said, "Desk is gone, file cabinet is moved upstairs where I will actually use it. One box of important tax files going to attic, and two bags of garbage out the door!"
Want To Do More Decluttering Missions? Get Started With Declutter 365 Today!
Once you declutter one type of item in your home I bet you'll want to declutter some more. After all, decluttering gives you a great reward for even a small investment of time and energy.
The Declutter 365 system is designed to help you declutter, over the course of a year, your entire house, with just 15 minutes of decluttering each day!
Hundreds of thousands of people use this proven system to get rid of their clutter, and bring peace and calm back to their homes.
Declutter 365 works to guide you to clear the clutter without overwhelm, focusing on just one small area at a time, and without making a huge mess in the process, so you see consistent forward progress without all that "messy middle" that makes it even harder to function in your home than before you started.
In addition to building a daily decluttering habit, the Declutter 365 program, along with the accompanying 52 Week Organized Home Challenge, teaches you the skills, habits, routines, and mindsets necessary to maintain the clutter free and organized state of your home from now on, so it'll never be as messy and cluttered as it is right now, ever again.
If you haven't already, make sure to get your copy of this year's Declutter 365 annual calendar here (it's FREE!), find today's date, and do 15 minutes of decluttering on the day's mission. Then, repeat again tomorrow, and again and again. Over the course of the next year, if you do this 15 minutes per day, you'll declutter your whole house!