Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Organizational Challenge: the Basement

About 30 days ago I undertook the challenge of getting our basement organized, being motivated by the 30 Day Organizational Challenge. My goals were pretty simple, though I didn't have a real vision for what this space could become. My goals were:
- make it more aesthetically pleasing, orderly and easy to maintain
- define spaces for specific activities
- use organizational tools I already have whenever possible - my budget is under $40
- create storage systems that are easily maintained by all family members.

Here are my answers to the questions that are part of the challenge.
1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?
The most difficult part of the challenge for me was organizing the kids' play areas with SO many toys. I think I've made a good start in the right direction, though I'm sure we will need to tweak this as time goes on. Also, it was very difficult to purge many toys because they do all get played with on a regular basis and with three kids in such a close age range I know they will be good for another kid or two even if our firstborn has already outgrown them. I'm not sure how much to involve them in this process or if this should just be done without their input. I also could have used a bigger budget to get a better wall system for toy storage.

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order.
Every item now has a designated home. We no longer have a large random toy bin. I think this will be especially helpful when it is time for us to clean up from playtime. The play area has been clearly defined with storage towers and rugs, so hopefully toys will remain in this area or at least return to this area when playtime is over. We hope to implement a system of only getting out one bin or type of toy per child at a time and have our children put them away before getting out something new to play with. This will be a matter of discipline not only for them, but for us as we supervise this.

3. What did you do with the "stuff" you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?
About three bags of garbage were pitched and an equal volume of cardboard from boxes we had saved were put out to recycling. The toys and crafting supplies which were eliminated went to an annual MOPS fundraiser garage sale at our church. A few loads of stuff were also taken to the garage where they will be more easily used.

4. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from this experience?
The biggest realization I'm having right now is that it is much easier not to acquire an excessive amount of stuff in the first place than it is to get rid of things, especially after the children have grown attached to it. Also, when things are not organized it is hard to keep track of supplies and use them up before buying more. I consolidated all the gift wrapping supplies in one area and all the gifts for later giving in another area so I'll easily be able to see what I have. Knowing what you have on hand helps with avoiding the temptation to buy more.

5. Now that you have completed the PROCESS, do you think having and keeping your space organized will make a difference in your life?
Absolutely! I am already looking forward to getting down to my crafting table, knowing that I won't have to clean it off just to work on a project.

Before Pictures

First thing you saw when entering the basement.
Toys, toys, everywhere....and this was not on a particularly messy day.
More toys, overcrowded bookshelf with stuff stacked high on the top, books near my husband's desk in no particular order.
The guest quarters....not too inviting.
Mom's craft area and gift wrapping area. Our file cabinet had no business being in that space.
After Pictures

I'm feeling sooooo much better about this area and look forward to enjoying it together as a family.

Here is the new first impression of the basement. The toys are now mostly stored in bins on two tower shelves joined together with a board. While it may still not look especially neat, everything now has a home and there is no longer a catch-all bin. The chrome shelving was purchased on a clearance for a total of $16 and the wood board was about $8, taxes included. The space underneath the wooden shelf is designated for parking of all riding and push toys. The chrome shelving could have been configured differently, but I put the top shelf low so as not to encourage dangerous climbing by children.

Room around the table to move freely and a clear table ready for coloring, writing and real or pretend meals.
A small bookshelf was freed up from the toy area for my husband's books to be stored at hand near his desk.
The guest quarters are now more hospitable and include the blue table to hold suitcases and other guest items.And finally the crafting and gift wrapping area. I tacked fabric I had on hand to the wall studs to eliminate some of the visual clutter from items stored underneath the stairs. The cabinet at left holds all crafting supplies inside and gift items on top. One caddy of papercrafting supplies and one other bin for projects on the go or to be put away was left out for easy access. A nail on the end of the wall holds gift bags looped on a luggage strap. Rolls of wrapping paper are hung in the white fabric drawstring bag.

It is refreshing to have this project complete. Now maybe I'll be able to catch up on a two year backlog of scrapbooking and photo organization with room to work.

Thanks to Laura for hosting this motivational event!

Next up: the garage.


Debi said...

Wow! Congratulations! You did a fabulous looks wonderful!

Robin said...

Congratulations on completing the challenge. What a nice room you have. Well done.

Sylvia said...

Great job Rachel! You've inspired me to start on some organizing jobs that have sat for far too long!

Barb, sfo said...

That looks great, and you have really figured out a way to make all the "areas" work. My kids would be very jealous of the playroom and toy storage.

Andrea said...

looks great. what a great idea to hang fabric up.