Tag Archives: Home Organizing

Creating Useable Zones in the Basement

Our house is 95 years old. We live in a very modest 900 square feet upstairs, and need to use every square inch of our mostly unfinished basement. Previous owners had chopped up the space into small chunks, and until recently, we were using almost every area as just storage space. With our family of four seemingly outgrowing our house, and my husband and I each spending hours working from home, our basement must now function as additional living space.

I have made it my mission this year, to carve out little zones for our various activities. I also need to purge and organize each area and get it looking as good as an unfinished basement can, on a tiny budget. You can do this in your small home too. Just really consider the way you live and what you want to actually do in your space. These are the zones we need for our small house to really work well for us:

  1. Laundry area
  2. Storage for toys, off-season items, and momentos
  3. Music area for drums and piano
  4. Office for me
  5. Art studio for Thomas and Lucy
  6. Project space and tool storage
  7. Lawn care items and extra furniture storage
  8. Office for Chris

While I know where all of the areas will be, and some zones are already serving their purpose, there’s a lot of work to be done before I share more before and after photos with you. So for the time being, I’ll show you how the music area is shaping up.

The drum corner BEFORE. YIKES! We did a major purge of this area and then set up the drums. The next step was to paint the area white and add some decor. 

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The piano area BEFORE. I had already purged this area of clutter, and was using it as an art studio for Thomas. Then, on New Year’s Eve, my mother-in-law bought us a piano at Goodwill for $25!


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The piano bench desperately needed to be recovered. I used upholstery tacks and some fabric I already had on hand.

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Removing the odd shelving and painting the mismatched walls white totally transformed the drum nook.I still need to paint the wall by the piano, change the light fixture above the drums and hang some pegboard near the drums, for storage of other instruments and drum hardware.I’ll surely be posting more photos as I complete each area.

Tips for Getting Organized This Year

In Sunday’s Life section, I wrote a column about my own home organizing challenges. Even as an organizing professional, I still wage a battle against clutter on a regular basis. I hope that you’ll find some of my ideas about how to tackle that looming mountain of stuff in your living space, inspiring.

i clearly labeled bins in my basement, after purging two truck loads of stuff.
I clearly labeled bins in my basement, after purging two truck loads of stuff.

Junk Drawer Management

Like so many of you, I have a junk drawer in the kitchen. And, while this next admission may be damaging to my burgeoning career as a self-proclaimed home organizer, my junk drawer gets completely out of control at times. I like to consider myself an organized person in general, but I’m also human. I hold onto little things that I think I’ll need someday and they all seem to get stuffed in the junk drawer.

All organizing systems require regular maintenance. That is the one step that lots of articles with home organizing tips seem to leave out. You’ve got to frequently purge so as to not overwhelm your organizers with the stuff of everyday life. Chargers, receipts, match books, coupons, pens, tape, Chapstick, keys. Tiny items come home with us every single day.

So here is what I did with my junk drawer problem.

Shameful BEFORE photo of my junk drawer.
Shameful BEFORE photo of my junk drawer.

Take it all out. Sort it into piles of like items. Some of mine were as follows, tools, writing instruments, adhesives, keys, batteries, personal care, curtain hardware and chargers.

Holy moly! How did all that stuff fit into one drawer? Short answer: it didn't.
Holy moly! How did all that stuff fit into one drawer? Short answer: it didn’t.

Consider the items. What items did I actually go to the drawer to use?  (Pens, scissors, nail file, tape measure.) What things were just in the way? (Curtain hardware, knobs, carpet tape.) Are there things that really just need a new home? (Receipts and coupons.) Is some of this trash? (Yes, lots of it!)

Assess your drawer organizing unit. Is it the right kind for all of the things that will be returning to the drawer? Maybe its time for a different one.

I've had these drawer organizers for years, and surely could make them work better for me.
I’ve had these drawer organizers for years, and surely could make them work better.

Now purge. Only return items to the drawer that you actually need access to. In my kitchen, storage space is precious, so I really tried to hone in on what I actually used on a daily basis. Find other homes for the stuff that was just getting in the way.

How long will this drawer look like this? I'll give you an honest update in two months!
How long will this drawer look like this? I’ll give you an honest update in two months!

Okay, now don’t forget: you’re going to need to go through this drawer every couple of months to keep it from getting clogged up again! I just set a reminder on my phone for the first week of January, to check in and assess how my good old junk drawer is holding up. Maybe you should too!