Sunday, August 31, 2014

Basement Purge: the Reveal

(Thank you to Cindy at Dwellings and Miriam at Hometalk for featuring this post!)
Before I get started, let me just say this - it may not look like I've done a lot in your eyes, but I have spent over 70 hours working in my basement since the end of July, purging and reorganizing 'stuff'. Here's the link to the post where it started:  Basement Purge - Pt V in a Series of Getting Organized.
BEFORE:  The main basement wall of 'stuff'
My stuff is defined as:
  • Inventory for resale - may be temporarily categorized as "fostering" or holding onto for whatever reason - for years. Panoply has been at the antique mall for 7 years, which was the result of collecting for years prior to that.
  • Household things moved into my marriage 11 years ago, including kitchen wares (duplicates), books, photographs
  • Children's nostalgia, including hospital and 1yr portrait clothing, lost teeth, schooldays papers (report cards, artwork, journals etc), books, videos, games & toys
  • Things from my first marriage, confiscated after divorce - more children's nostalgia, old photos, ballet memorabilia (mine)
  • Work and grad school history - resumes, projects, books, notes, evaluations
BEFORE: the main basement floor, as the 'stuff' grew outward
BEFORE:  the main basement floor 'stuff' from the opposite angle
Here is what I have learned after a month of working through my basement:
  • I have a touch of ADCD - attention deficit CLEANING disorder. I started off with one intended project of reorganizing my resale inventory, and the project immediately snowballed into purging old containers and reorganizing most of the basement (and a couple closets I was using for overflow) contents - whether it was 1, 11 or 21 year old stuff. I was easily sidetracked with little to show for my effort the first few weeks. 
  • Macaroni (in the form of pre-school necklaces) has a shelf life of over 22 years.  So do beans, rice and pretzels.
  • My house must be pretty airtight, as I had all of the above items in the form of pre-school artwork, as well as rice on trees (for snow), and a salt map - and no bugs or signs of mice!
    Foodstuff Oldies but Goodies - over 22 yrs old!
  • When you retire, what matters most is the person you've become through the years of change, not the work files and other output from all that work. I pitched almost my entire body of project work and seminar booklets attended (remember Y2K?), and donated books that may still be useful to someone else. I no longer concern myself with who moved my cheese.
  • Pictures do matter, and pictures take up a lot of space.  Somewhere around 2005 I got my first digital camera and the boxes full of pictures are now replaced with gigabytes of memory taken up on the computer and OneDrive (Microsoft's version of the Cloud).
  • My daughters appreciated the time I spent organizing their schooldays papers, photos and other memorabilia for them to cart away. It's a good thing because that alone was a major time-consumer.
  • I found out I must not really want to sell anything in the antique mall because the 'stuff' I reorganized and shelved outnumbers the stuff I'm ready to sell now, BY FAR.
  • The people at the charity where I donated got to know me by my third visit, and immediately started opening my donations for sorting. It was probably because I had it all organized, but it still felt good.
    Four weeks of donations from my basement, NOT counting two more equivalent loads taken by my daughters
  • There is a HUGE amount of stuff in this world. I like the fact that I buy mostly used stuff. 
  • I think I am getting better at letting go of stuff - other people's stuff.
  • I saved the stem glasses that were mementos at my oldest daughter's senior prom - she just celebrated her 9th wedding anniversary with that same guy. I saved all things Spice Girls related for my youngest daughter for some future point.
  • I even organized trash, stacking boxes within boxes so that it was all compact prior to and for pickup.
    Four weeks of trash from my basement
  • I am already receiving 'replacements', as my husband calls the items that are coming in the mail, from orders I have placed and things picked up from recent trips during this project.
  • I still want a dish closet.
  • In the end, it's all just stuff, and none of it matters. What matters are the relationships in your life.
Okay, enough of my philosophizing and analyzing - ready to see the end results?
AFTER:  The main basement wall of 'stuff'. Notice the far right stack is far reduced.  The paper boxes (there are five) within the middle rack are what I am ready to sell now. The rest will be fostered a while longer.
AFTER: the main basement floor, as the 'stuff' was reduced through purge & reorg. A few things on the far right of that stash above remain to be purged by either donation or trash.
AFTER:  the main basement floor 'stuff' from the opposite angle.  This is all going to the barn sale (except the table on which the 5 gal crock sits - that's the new old table that may end up in my bathroom).
AFTER:  Another area of floor. I eliminated more than half of what was previously there, and ALL of what was to the left of the shelving units, just beyond the door framing).  All wreaths & other faux florals are now hung.  Boxes on left (red & white) are Mr. P.'s dissertation and other work-related garbage stuff).
AFTER:  Long view
Let's look again:  BEFORE
BEFORE - lots and lots of boxes, sometimes 6 high. If you wanted something from the bottom, you had to unstack it all.
AFTER:  lots of organized tubs, on shelves, easy to pull out, whether on top, middle or bottom. The top right shelving unit holds baskets and boards in the open, easily accessible
I did need to purchase six more tubs to finish the job, even after eliminating all the boxes and reshuffling what was in the existing tubs.  Once the paper boxes of items for sale are gone, I will add more tubs to finish off the uniformity in a way that will satisfy me.

Now that my Panoply sisters and I have just celebrated our 7th year in our antique mall, I have completely revised the way I organize my 'stuff' (7 year itch?).  Before, I basically numbered my boxes by the order in which they were filled and put into the basement, with key items written in a Word document so I could search by words, either the buying event (xyz estate sale, or Springfield 2014, etc.), or by items from those events (collection of shaving mugs, etc.).  Now, I have things grouped by like kinds: porcelains, ironstone, transferware, jadeite, metals, and each set of china has its own tub (or two). It will at least be easier to access and rotate things in my home, as compared to prior searching and stacking / unstacking of containers. Or, I won't remember how I categorized something and I'll still be going through tubs like a crazy woman searching for it.
To say I am ready for the barn sale at the end of September is an understatement. I want to get this stuff out of my basement once and for all.  I still have an entire side of my basement that mirrors the floor space of what I just finished. Though not as bad as what I just finished, that part of the basement holds some extra furniture (including a chest full of vintage linens I need to organize), and all my Christmas decor, of which I separated six boxes of 'stuff' to either sell or donate before the year is over.

How ironic that I write this post, finishing 90% of my basement purge project, as we celebrate Labor Day. There is also irony in the fact that this weekend is the unofficial end of summer and, aptly so, I write my "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay.


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