Wednesday, September 21, 2011

And this mess is so big and so deep and so tall...

When we moved into the house, everything that was didn't find a home just got dumped into the basement. Before we moved, I had 15 m2 organized basement. That somehow morphed into 100 m2 pure mess. Remember that mess the Cat in the Hat makes? This one's worse. Much worse. And I don't have that wonderful machine that picks everything up. Sigh.

Not sure I want to post any pictures. You might never talk to me again. So only some detail shots. And "after" pictures. I think I'll save sharing the whole mess for some other time...

I guess it didn't help things that my mom also moved into the house with us (which BTW was planned from the start and which we're very happy about) and she downsized from a bigger apartment (and basement) and didn't really do any sorting through or decluttering before. Ugh. So for the past two years, I've mostly just run down there to do laundry or quickly pick something up and then close the door again. Fast.

I like to believe I am an organized person. Ok, fine, stop laughing, will you? Those of you who know me KNOW that I am an organized person, so much that I drive everyone crazy with it. So having a basement like that and no time (really small kids, job, other things to finish around the house -  can't think of any other excuse right now) or energy to fix it is bothering me. A lot. Unfortunately I realized at some point last year that I was not going to be able to do much about it. So I decided it was going to be a priority on the 2011 list. 2011 came. We made a plan how to tackle the basement. I waited for my husband to take some time off from work, my mother in law to come watch the kids and to really start getting things done. And waited (ok, nagged). And waited some more (ok, nagged some more). May. June. July. Nothing.

With the little one starting Kindergarten in August, I started my basement project. My husband started laying tiles in the one basement room where the washer and dryer are. Well. He's a busy guy. He started a month ago. The room is about half-way done. And has been in that state for three weeks now. Complete with a huge dresser sitting right in front of the washing machine. Anyway.

After decluttering that room (which was basically just a huge wardrobe with a ton of old winter coats I quickly tossed), I went for the worst offender, the largest storage room. One shelf at a time.

You see, I like getting things done. DONE. But waiting for large blocks of time and lots of help just didn't get me anywhere and I decided to simply start. So I have a recurring task on my to do app that tells me to go clean out the basement for 1 hour every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I might not get an entire area done in that hour. I might not even get that one shelf done. But since I can just go back upstairs and close the door and since things down there are a mess anyway, it's OK to just leave it the way it is when time is over. Usually I don't do this for exactly an hour, the one-hour thing is more to motivate (trick) myself to get it started and focus on making progress rather than finishing a particular shelf. I usually end up cleaning down there until I need to go (run) to kindergarten and pick the boys up.

This is what I did last week - starting with all the holiday stuff, organizing Easter and other decorations. I'm going to add real labels and yes, I will make sure stuff doesn't get crowded - but for now I just tackle on shelf at a time and put the plastic bins with what gets to stay back in the same space. When it's all sorted through, I will re-asses what goes where and needs how much space.

Below is what I'm dealing with next: Christmas decorations. All in cardboard boxes - the boxes all have to go. Need to buy some more plastic bins though. Might be a good idea to stop blogging and get back to work... Nah.

I wish I could tell you the basement looks any better now. But I'm afraid it's still a mess. With all the birthdays and visits lately, it hasn't been every Friday that I managed to get to it since I spent a lot of Friday mornings cooking and cleaning. But that's ok. I AM making progress: Friday afternoon we took a huge load to the German equivalent of Goodwill. Most things I sort I find that I actually end up tossing/donating close to 80% of the stuff. Such as:

  • a ton of winter coats that didn't really fit or were from the days when I could get away with wearing nice, light colored coats that are neither water- nor windproof. Nothing for life with small kids.
  • old clothes saved for painting and other messy projects. How many outdoor jackets for that do you really need? It's not like I'm going to spend the winter painting the house or so. I kept one warmer and one lighter jacket for myself and my husband for these purposes and tossed/donated the rest.
  • 9 out of the 10 footed glass bowls I got for our wedding reception 10 years ago. They were bought on sale back then and I got them to hold floating candles at the party. Am I really going to throw another party involving 10 footed glass bowls? With floating candles? I doubt it.
  • any memorabilia from my year as an au pair in the US back in 1994 that did not bring back a special memory. NYC subway map and bus schedule from NJ to the city? Keep. Museum flyers for exhibitions in 1995? Toss. The application letter my host family wrote? Keep. My passport with the visa in it? Keep. Lots and lots of hardly readable receipt for whatever stuff I bought back then? Toss. OK, that's not 80%, but I did toss that much, I just don't remember every thing I tossed. Which is a case in point that it shouldn't have been there in the first place.
  • anything that is broken or just plain ugly and does not have any sentimental value attached to it
  • most recently: dusty Easter grass. LOTS of it. Maybe next year I'll walk into my newly organized basement and check supplies before buying more... Also: Ugly wrapping paper nobody's ever going to use. Weird self-help books from the eighties (don't ask).

Progress is slow sometimes. I plan to have the larger storage room done by the end of the month. Then on to the smaller one. Or maybe finish the one first where my husband is planning to keep all his tools and which currently looks like a tornado gone through a home improvement store? He says it's not that bad. I say I can't even get to the window anymore to open it. But we have different standards when it comes to organization... If he can find what he's looking for within like 15 minutes of looking then that's organized. I adore those basement/storage rooms in Ikea catalogs or Benita's posts at Chez Larsson (go look at her laundry room)

You know, the ones with the nice, matching storage containers with clear or white lids (no mix and match of purple and blue lids - why do so many household product come in blue or purple? Why can't they just do neutral or clear lids?!), white walls and neat rows or stacksof everything from water bottles to potting equipment and Christmas ornaments. The ones that make you think that everything you need should fit neatly into such a room and wonder why your own stuff is such a mess and why you own so much STUFF in the first place. I used to tell myself that it's fake. Advertising. But there are bloggers such as Benita who prove me wrong.

Now my basement will never look like that. Although I would like it to. I console myself with this post from Rachel about when to stop organizing. I just want to make sure the things I keep down there are the ones I truly love (like keepsakes that actually mean something to me) or use. I don't want to keep anything "just in case" or because "it's still good". And I want those things organized in a way so they're easy to access and easy to put away.

That still means we (uhmm, my husband) have to take everything out, take down the shelves, tile, finish painting the ceiling and put everything back in. For. Every. Single. Room. I try not to think about that. And I know it's not going to get all done this year. But at least some serious decluttering so I can show you some after pictures!

Anyone out there who survived one of these projects from hell?

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