Tuesday, February 28, 2012

29 Day Organizing Challenge: The Basement's Big Reveal

Wanna see?

I'm so excited to show you.

(Links to previous posts in the series at the bottom.)

At the beginning of the month, this greeted me at the bottom of the basement stairs:

to the left:

For full horrific effect, (and because I have no shame) here's a close up of the same area, standing directly in front of it.

Behind this area, in front of the all of curtains is a great old 8 foot lunch room bench. At the beginning of February, the bench looked like this:

Now we're back at the bottom of the stairs and looking to the right:

And, again, standing in front of this mess:

Today, this greets me:

to the left:

In front:

The bench makes such a great sorting area that it was piled until just moments before its beauty shot. Keeping this cleared is a challenge.

Back to the bottom of the stairs and looking right:

In front:

Boom da da boom!


I moved out a bunch of crap, moved in a dresser and switched the recumbant bike with the table. Oh-- and made dart throwing more interesting!

1. What space did you decide to organize and why?

I decided to organize an area in my basement directly at the bottom of the stairs.

The part labelled: "Area of Utter Chaos."

It is usually the place where things go to die--or at least wait until they can be rehabilitated. There's nothing wrong with that: but it was time to actually deal with it all. In the before pictures are two chairs, one waiting for a decision whether to be reupholstered or let go, the other to be fixed. There's a lamp waiting to be spray painted. There are also ceiling planks being painted for our bathroom. You catch my drift...

I wanted to make the area more functional for continuing to do home decor projects. I also thought I might attempt to do some scrapbooking and sewing too, once it is a bit warmer down here!

2. What steps did you take to ensure you completed the space within the 29 day timeline?

I doubt I would have completed the project without the structure of the weekly updates. After one session the day after I decided to tackle the basement, I didn't go back downstairs until the day before I was supposed to do an update. That pattern continued. Posting kept me accountable. It worked out really well for me.

3. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and how did you overcome it?
I had several boxes of the kids' artwork and memorabilia to sort through. I still do.

4. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?
I managed to sell some of it: most noticeably that large, nasty punching bag. What a relief that was! However, a lot of the other stuff I've decided to sell is still sitting in my dining room, unfortunately. Still, I managed to fill up my donation station. It's just around the corner in the laundry room.

It made quite the hefty bag! Sadly, a lot was trashed too--including two old rugs which had been on the floor.

5. Tell me one of your proudest moments during this challenge?

Strange but true...

Deciding to sell stuff.
In the past, I have always donated my things because I didn't want "the hassle" of trying to sell it. But, as I came across various items, I asked myself: could I part with this if I got some money for it? And in many, many cases, the answer was, "Yes!" The punching bag sold in a matter of days: other items have not been so quick. I am contemplating having a garage sale when that season gets underway (in May or June.) And I hate garage sales!

There were other benefits, too: I'll have a post tomorrow about all the projects which got done as a result of focussing on this area. In short, I've a "new" bathroom ceiling, two more chairs in the living room, and an expanded media cabinet: just to name a few.

6. Explain any organizing “tools” you used to help you create additional space and to establish some limits and boundaries?

Oddly enough, the drawers in the pine dresser already in the basement were not being used for anything except outdated toys. Once they were emptied out, they made ideal "containers" for my various scrapbooking and art supplies.

While I worked, I unearthed quite a few plastic containers, baskets, and tins, emptied them out and repurposed them.

As well, I took a storage unit I had been going to give away and put it to use. It now holds my spray paint collection. I hadn't realised it had got so big!

As far as establishing limits and boundaries go, I was dealing primarily with my scrapbooking supplies. For several years now, I have been packing up what I need and taking it upstairs to use. Thus, I know exactly what I use and what I don't. I know I won't need to go beyond these drawers and this pine unit for a long, long time.

I am so pleased to have access to them again.

I had exactly zero dollars in my budget for this organizing effort--and for the first time, I think this project came in right on budget.

7. What is ONE piece of advice you’d give to someone else to encourage them on their organizational journey?

Never give up! This is probably the third or fourth time I have tackled my basement in the fifteen years we have lived here. It gets easier and lasts longer every time. Space changes, the needs you have change--and you change. I have been decluttering my house regularily for a long time. I surprised myself. Happily, I was able to decide to let go of a lot more than I'd ever thought possible. Bonus, it only took a few hours each week.

Thanks so much for the challenge, Org Junkie!

Linking to the wrap up party.

Previous Posts:
Declaring My Intention
The All Important Planning Session
Week 1: Picking the Low Hanging Fruit
Week 1: Progress Report: Emptying Binders
Week 2: Sold! The Lightbulb Goes On
Week 2: Progress Report: Unearthing the Artwork and Memorabilia
Week 3: Progress Report: Cleaning Out the Chemical Cabinet

Friday, February 24, 2012

Week 3 Progress Report: Cleaning Out the Chemical Cabinet

I don't have a car.
I have to run my errands in the evenings or on my husband's days off --and, like this week, on his staycations.
Speaking of which, he's been indispensible to this basement clean up. He's been finishing up little projects which have been waiting down here.
Like the rocking chair. It broke just before Christmas.
Yesterday, it returned to the living room.
My husband also fixed a drawer which belonged to a dresser we found in an alley last summer. (It was holding up the rocking chair.) He and my son brought the dresser in from the garage yesterday.
So, instead of that mess up above, now, I have this:
Add Image
One of the biggest projects around here, though, is cleaning out this unassuming cabinet.

It is the chemical cabinet and we built it when the kids were small to keep them out of things which could hurt them. As you can see by their paint job--they understood!
My husband and I did this one together. He started while I was looking for the camera--so this is after a few minutes of his emptying the cabinet.

Oh my.
Bottles of Easy Off from a friend who moved away--oh six or so years ago maybe?
Lots of fertilizers for house plants. (We have two house plants. A pothos and a corn plant. They are lucky to get water and they know it.)
Lots of weed and feed and bottles of herbicides. Ant killer. Tent sealer. Turpentine. Mineral Spirits. Sanding sealer. Every sort of caulking known to man. Pre-mixed tile adhesive--from a job I did too many years ago to count. And so on.
Most abundant, by far, was the paint. Cans and cans of paint. Testers. Quarts. Gallons. Even automobile paint in colours for vehicles we don't own anymore!
I opened almost every tin, inspected it and then passed it to Daedalus to bang the lid back on. He didn't ant any spilling in his jeep--not even dried up crusty bits.

It really doesn't look like much after all that.
I'm hoping he'll let me paint it. He's rather sentimental about the kids' "artwork" on there.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The William Morris Desk Drawer

It wasn't that big of a project--and it nearly didn't get done.

It's been on my mind for weeks. Several times a day I would open this drawer, yes, this one, actually a basket which sits at the top of the bank of drawers, and get annoyed.

I couldn't ever find a pen. Or a sharp pencil. Or the pencil sharpener. I would have to get up, go around the corner and go to the kitchen or get up and go around the corner the other way and go to my son's room.

So, thinking it would be a great project for the William Morris link-up on Pancakes and French Fires today, I took a picture yesterday morning and then promptly walked away.

I made lunch: potato and onion soup from scratch with whole wheat Irish soda bread.

I watched a movie with my husband home this week on holiday. I went to the library and took my son shopping for pants.

It wasn't until just before bed that I remembered the drawer. I decided to check my e-mail while I sorted. And then this happened. It's our one remaining computer (with any decent speed).

intitializing disk for crash dump.... I have no idea what it means. But as the laptop sat there, whirring away and getting hot, I began getting more and more concerned.

I started cleaning out the drawer, wondering if I should.

I am usually ruthless when it comes to throwing things out. Everything, someday, could be useful. It's true. But to live from that place is to live in fear. I was afraid last night. A little bit afraid. Our new mantra around here is no more debt. That means no new computer until we have saved up for it (and no saving up for anything until the current debt is paid off).

Earlier this week, I had grabbed the old, dead, lifeless computer out of the garage to see if I could transfer the recently installed RAM into the dinosaur my Mom gave us. It turns out it's going to be more complicated than I'd ever imagined. I also thought I could sell off the still working parts.

My dining room is currently over-run with all sorts of things I've listed for sale. I'm impatient for it to sell. I'm impatient for this debt to leave us.

After I'd emptied everything and sorted into "keep," "re-locate," and "trash or donate" I had to go to bed. I couldn't deal with it.

This morning, before the fear and the coffee kicked in, I hooked up the laptop. It came on and acted just as it ought. So, breathing again, I began going through the mess.

You cannot save everything because someday it may be useful. I do know that. That's why I keep only three extra bread bags around--not zero and certainly not all of them. It's why I save the dried out pieces of bread, sometimes, and the heels of store bought loaves. Sometimes. You cannot live in fear. To do that is to invite pure chaos and all that comes with it. Frustration, anger at yourself for letting things get out of control, despair because it is all just too much.

So, I kept all three lighters instead of tossing two (but I put them in the drawer with the candles). I took the fancy pen and pencil set and instead of putting it in the donate pile, extracted the pen and pencil from their box and placed them in the drawer to mingle with the ordinary common pencils and pens. (Yes, I found two!)

But, yeah, I let go of chewed up erasers, pen lids and 2H pencils. There was a surprising amount of just plain unambigous garbage in that drawer.

So, here we have it. Too many staples. Too many dog chewed pencils and way too many return address labels. But it's neat. It's organized. I can find a pencil, a pen and an eraser without fear.

Life the way I like it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Bath Cabinet

I have been relunctant to show you our new bright and white tiled tub and shower surround because, well, the whole bathroom isn't "done."

Now that we've implemented new austerity measures around here, it will take some time before it's all done, too.

Since I saw this picture in January, I've wanted to replace those shelves with a bath cabinet.

I'll just let you experience the full impact of these shelves before I go on.

Bath cabinets, or "over johns" as they are called here are horribly expensive for what you get: melamine clad particle board, mostly. Awful stuff--$60 on sale was about the cheapest I could find--but it wasn't white and too big for the width of my space.

So, I resolved to live with the shelves and paint them white when we had money for paint.

But, in an effort to generate a few dollars to throw at our debt, I have been listing things to sell. And it occured to me one night that I could look for things to buy, too, like an over john.

So, yesterday I drove to the extreme north end of our city and purchased a small "cape cod" style overjohn.

For those following our journey on Dave Ramsey's financial plan, know that I purchased it with my "blow" money--for $25.00.

Last night, my husband and my son hung it and I scrounged different knobs.

I think it looks very odd hung up there, though. Should it be lower? Sort of where the old shelves were? It is physically possible.

Let me know what you think.
(Hubby will not want to move it though, so if it sort of looks OK, let me know that, too!)

Linking to the 131st Met Monday.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Week 2 Progress Report: Artwork and Memorabilia

If you've come from Org Junkie's link up--Welcome!

After updating my progress for Week One, I headed back down to the basement and got more done last weekend. Today, I headed downstairs just so I could have something new to post!

I am actually having a really hard time "getting" what I've done. All I can see are the pile and piles of things waiting for me to deal with:

The memorabilia which is supposed to find it's way into scrapbooks someday.

The kids' artwork which I plan to tackle this afternoon while listening to Dave Ramsey:

The itty bitty pile of things which needs to be put away:

The pile of things to be sorted into donate and sell:

So, here goes:


As of today:


As of today:
It's actually kind of nice down here when it's warm enough to leave the door open and let the sun shine in!

Here's how I'm tracking according to my plan:
Week 2:
1. Look through the shelves and get rid of anything obvious. --done
2. Start collecting items for homeschool conference sale. --done
3. Go through Emma's things with her--goal: to consolidate and clean out two storage boxes. Yet to be done. She has Monday and Tuesday off from school next week, so that's when we'll be doing that, I think!
4. Go through the scrapbooking supplies and discard little used tools and items. --in progress
5. Go through the drawers in the pine dresser. --done!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

First (Successful) Loaf!

We ran out of bread on the weekend.

The children were away at camp, so I decided to figure out how to bake my own.

I tried making a "no knead" bread from Mark Bittman--all I got as a bitter brick.

For my second attempt, I spent some time on the internet reading about yeast and so on. I found this lovely article in the Guardian and decided to try the recipe at the end.

(I didn't have a Vitamin C tablet, so I left that out.)

It makes the most delicious toast.

I made another loaf yesterday--and it was even bigger. I'm not sure how long I'll keep this up, but it is nice to know that I don't have to worry about running out of bread ever again.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I am so pleased.

We have sold the punching bag.

It was here:

Now it is gone!

It was really in my way when I was clearing out the old Ikea pine units.
Now that it is gone, I can see my way to re-organizing the space.

I also sold a few scrapbooking punches: that was actually fun. A woman and her daughter came to pick up a few Sunday afternoon. I gave the money to my Mom as they had been her punches!

I went through the drawers in the pine dresser: most of them were empty! (It just wasn't accessible behind the punching bag, I guess.) There were a few toys, but not many.

Then, I started filling the drawers up with scrapbook supplies I've decided to keep.

I emptied out these two plastic drawer units. I was all gung ho to sell the one with the big drawers --the one on the left-- (they sell in the stores for around $40) but then I noticed that the bottom is cracked and broken.

I sorted things into piles:
1) trash, (or recycle)
2) keep, and
3) sell or donate. This third category is the toughest. Will people pay for gently used vintage baby themed wrapping paper? I think it wrapped my baby gifts!

(There's something weird about those big disembodied heads, don't you think?)
If you know of anyone who could use it and/or love it, please let me know!

So, it feels like what's left is the tough stuff.

1) List and sell the "Home Gym."

2) Go through the boxes of kids' artwork. I'm not even sure I want to fill up even one binder for each of them. But I know that the minute I see it, I will want to keep all of it.

Yes, two carboard boxes, two plastic boxes and a suitcase. There's more upstairs, too.
3)Deal with piles of memorabilia and papers and stuff I've been collecting as I go.

4) Decide whether to sell my XXL Crop-in-Style.

**15 minutes a day for the rest of the week is the plan.**
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