“If I want to get the whole house organized, where do I start?” I have the answer though most people don’t like what I tell them. Ideally, you want to begin in the area where you store most of your boxed up things – the basement or attic, sometimes the garage. Here in the Midwest, the basement is usually the place where boxes and holiday stuff goes. In one client’s space, it was a section of the finished basement, the laundry area. If you have an attic and this is where you put things for storage, then this is where you begin. It is the least exciting area to begin this transformation of your home, but will make your life easier in the end.
“But why the basement?”
First, it is likely that what lives in the basement are things that can be removed from your home entirely. We put things in the basement, forget what we’ve put there, and it becomes a bizarre discovery of items. This varies, and you probably have plenty of things you will want to keep. Those holiday decorations are worth keeping. The point is that the basement is where you store the things you want to keep, but do not want to have out and your opinion of what to keep changes dramatically over time. It has probably been so long since you dove into a number of boxes, you will be happy to get rid of many things.
Second, you need to make room for all the things you want to save from all the other rooms in the house. Where are they going to go if you have no room to put them in your main storage area? If you clear out everything from the basement at the beginning, you know what’s left are things you want. You also know how much space you have left for the things from the rest of the house.
Third, by starting with the storage area, you will reduce the amount of repetitive organizing you’ll need to do. If you just start putting containers in the basement before getting it organized, when it is time to work there, you will probably end up going through some of those bins again. It is easy to forget what is in each bin. It feels more tedious and likely to add to feeling overwhelmed and therefore becomes that much easier to procrastinate. If you added stuff to the area before clearing it out, it is also harder to work in there.
Organizing is often a repetitive process. As you go through things, you put like items together. It is virtually impossible to organize the like items until you have all those items in front of you. It is hard to predict how much room or what size container you need before you see everything together.
As you are going through things in the basement, you can start containers for those – “I know I have more of this type of …” If you have the space to leave those bins open and accessible, all the better. Just like the items that you use regularly, it is easiest if you keep like items together, even in storage. If you have this option, as you move along organizing each room, you can bring the keep items for storage down and put them away immediately.
Just imagine filling a container of treasures from another room. You carry the container into the basement and there is a space for it right now. You get to put it away, safely and not think about again until you are ready for it. It is a completed task now.
Although starting the process of organizing with the basement often sounds like the least exciting (and sometimes the most daunting), it will give you fabulous rewards. I have known many people who cannot believe the relief and ease of having that area ready, even lightening the process for them of dealing with the rest of the rooms. All of this is not to say that you can’t work on other spaces first, and I have done this plenty of times, just that this is the ideal place to begin.
On some level, I think of the idea of starting with the most tedious, hardest part first and then everything else feels easy. Having this done helps motivate you. As usual, I recommend setting aside small chunks of time to dig into the basement, not trying to make yourself tackle it in one weekend. Slow and steady wins the race, just direct your focus and energy in one area – make it the basement. You won’t regret it!