Friday, August 2, 2013


Hello, August, I'm not quite ready for you. Could you come back later?

Just kidding of course. Summer is the time where you make plans to do all the things you've been putting off all year. You think, "I've got June, July, and August to see friends I haven't seen, go to that museum exhibition everyone is talking about, see movies, host a BBQ, and maybe organize my house." Well, that sounds like my personal list but you get the idea. Did you notice that organizing was at the bottom of the list?

Organizing/cleaning/purging are words that tend to frighten most because it usually takes a lot of time and energy. Such was the case for my boyfriend's mother, Jillian. About 8 years ago, having both her boys living out of her home, she decided to downsize. Lucky for her, she had a basement to store the things that she treasured but could't fit inside her new home. However, her children are part of the boomerang generation, and boom! Both boys came back and brought along their own belongings which inevitably landed in the once spacious basement. Jillian was left with more than she had bargained for, so the basement stayed in disarray until I decided to help my girl out. We took two days to tackle it and let me tell you, those two whole days were worth it! I'd done some closet organizing in the past for friends and clients of my mother's so I had a general idea of what my game plan would be. So, in case you are thinking of cleaning out your own basement (attic, garage, office, etc) here are some of my starter tips:
  1. Do not bring anything in until you've taken things out: This may seem like a no brainer but seriously, don't buy containers or shelving until you know what you need them for. You might think, "look at me, I'm ahead of the game by buying 10 huge containers" but what if thats not what you need? You need to assess the situation first and then buy appropriately.
  2. Garbage bags: Make sure you have at least 5 on hand when you start. Over the course of two days, we filled up about 25 bags. Some were clothes to donate but mostly it was a lot of stuff that  no one had ever gotten around to throwing out (old curtains, half used notebooks, containers with no lids, etc). 
  3. Speaking of throwing things out, if you have not used something in the last 1-2 years, get rid of it!: This is a rule I've used for clothing and it applies here too. That computer paper from college that you said you may use later but alas has become deformed from the humidity? Toss it. That twin comforter you bought for that one guest? Donate it. Don't get attached to things that can be easily replaced. On the other hand, if you happen to come across your wedding dress, get it dry cleaned and buy it it's own special storage box where it can live happily ever after.
  4. If you must keep it, then it must have it's own home: I believe I learned this little rule from Nate Berkus. If it is special enough to keep then make sure it has a home. For example, Jillian had kept  many of her sons' childhood treasures. But they were all mixed up. We separated Colin's school related things from his brother's. That way, when the time comes, they can each take their own box and not have to wonder who's yearbook is who's. All children's books were put into their own box, as well as all large framed art and photographs. Everything must have a home!
  5. Focus on one area or one category at a time: Taking on a task like this can be overwhelming, don't make it harder on yourself. Start with what's already been done. For me it was starting with emptying out already opened boxes. But it could be a half filled holiday decoration shelf or a work bench with missing tools. By focusing on one task at a time you will be able to work faster and will be less likely to give up. 
I shared a few pictures the other day but here are some more:

When I walked in, this was to the left...

and this was to the right.

Treasures found along the way.

At the end of day 2, the left...

and the right. 

This section was left for another time. For the most part, 
most of the boxes had not been opened and were nicely stacked so we left them alone.

We used this existing shelving unit for things that had been strewn about. 
We were able to gather vases into one section, wedding silver and pewter into another, 
and Jillian's very first set of french china given to her by her mother. 

I can't wait until it's all done. 
Do you have any tips for organizing? I'd love to hear them!


ericahr said...

These tips are so so succinct and helpful! Thank you!

Marlies Suarez said...

Love your tips! I should have my sister read it too :)