Today’s messy situation was submitted by Denise, and she wants to know how to turn her messy basement into a cool hang-out.
“My current stress mess is the main area of my basement!! I have attached 3 pictures. 1 of the stairwell and 2 of the room. This room is such a mess I don’t even know where to start.
“I have 3 kids, 2 being teenage sons. This is supposed to be their space, the family room. I want them to be able to bring friends over. It makes me sad that they are always going away to their friends since we have no place for them. We have an air hockey table and foosball table but they are buried under the mess.
“How do I start? There is mail, old toys, clothes, tables, just about anything you could think of in this space. I would love any and all suggestions.” – Denise
Denise, thank you so much for reaching out to me. I wish I could just hug you and spend an afternoon helping you get your piles to a more manageable level!
I’ve looked at your photos and I understand so much of how you feel. I used to have rooms in my home that were absolutely buried under clutter as well. But you absolutely can have a wonderful space for your teenagers to enjoy!
While you’re working on your basement, is there another area your sons could have friends in? I think that sometimes we get ideas in mind that things have to be perfect before we can live and serve the way we want to, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! If we wait for perfection, we’ll never do so many of the good things we’re capable of.
All that most teenage boys really need is a video game system and some snacks, so maybe they could hang out in your living room until the basement is ready.
As far as the actual cleaning, I absolutely do not recommend trying to organize everything in a day, or even a weekend. You’ll overwhelm yourself if you attempt that! Here’s what I suggest:
Step One: Stairs (20 Minutes)
Clean off the stairs. Throw out anything that is obviously trash. Put the rest into one box in the basement. That’ll give you a quick success and will help you to breathe easier on your way down the steps. Then stop and enjoy your cleaned off steps!
Step Two: Purge (60 Minutes)
Take several trash bags to your basement with you. Start throwing things into the bags for donation and trash. Don’t keep things that you’ve thought you may want to sell. If you were going to get around to selling any of the items, you would have by now. This isn’t the time to make money on your stuff – this is the time to free yourself of your old things so you can have a nice space for your children and their friends.
It also isn’t the time to spend a long time trying to make decisions. If you’re unsure of whether or not you should keep something, move it to the side until step four. Don’t organize anything just yet. Simply toss stuff into the bags and keep moving!
If you follow this step and don’t allow yourself to get bogged down, then you should see huge progress within a very short amount of time.
Step Three: Repeat (60 Minutes +)
Once you’ve completed steps one and two, continue repeating step two by quickly tossing as many times as you can until you’re finished donating and tossing out items that you obviously no longer need.
If you’re having trouble letting go of some things, read this article for inspiration.
Step Four: Sort (60 Minutes)
By now you should have enough space in your basement to be able to move some things around.
So, start very quickly tossing stuff into piles. Make a pile of toys, a pile of papers, a pile of clothes, etc. Categorize everything that you can. If you don’t know what pile to put some things in, then create a pile of miscellaneous for those items.
Have your piles pushed into corners as much as possible so you can admire the fact that you have floor space!
Step Five: Minimize
Now you’re entering into the more difficult decision-making part of organization. But, the great thing is that since you’ve already made so much progress, you’ll be able to propel yourself forward as you use the momentum you’ve built to get rid of even more things.
By now, your basement should feel so much lighter, and while the finish line may still feel sort-of far off, just look at the progress you’ve made!
What you’ll need to do to complete step five is to sort through your remaining piles, one at a time, and make decisions about what you want to keep and what you can get rid of. Keep your current goals for the room (a great space for your teenagers!) in mind as you’re making decisions.
I’ve written several articles about minimizing various types of items, so as you’re sorting through each pile, refer back to those articles:
- Kids toys – how to know what to keep and what to toss
- How to organize school papers and other childhood mementos
- Clothing organization how-to
- How to quickly get your paper clutter under control
You may also like this article about why we hang on and how to let go.
Once you’re finished decluttering your basement, your boys will probably have some great ideas about what they’d like to have in there! But if you’d like suggestions from me about how to set up a fun space, I’d absolutely love to help you figure out how to turn your basement into a cool hangout, so send updated photos and questions if you’d like!
Good luck with your basement – I know you can make it into a fun room for your boys and I can’t wait to hear all about your success story!
PS If you’d like FREE virtual organization tips for your own space, go here to see how you can submit photos and questions about your mess!