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Whipping Your Wet Basement Back Into Shape In Three Easy Steps

I AM YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE.

The past several years have been a difficult time in my life, one made more difficult by the fact that my house has been literally falling apart around my ears. It seemed that every time I turned around YET ANOTHER THING, large or small, was breaking. But above and beyond that, the household had frankly fallen into a sort of generalized disarray and disrepair. Going through a divorce as I was, I’d put everything – including basic home organization and storage area tidiness – on the farthest possible back burner out of necessity. Every week I’d clean the home’s active living space thoroughly of course, but the basement (where most of our household storage is (see also: giant cave crickets *shudder*)) and front/back yard ended up slowly creeping toward chaos and disorder, as I averted my eyes and focused on *just* what I needed to. At some point I found myself starting to actively avoid both those areas — the basement and yard — because I was honestly too afraid to confront what I’d find there. Yes indeedy, I’m just that skilled at denial, folks. Where is my champion’s trophy and/or pimp cup celebrating this monumental mental health achievement, huh?

Aaaaanyway. Eventually I had no choice but to bite the bullet and deal with the mess I’d allowed to fester for years. The basement, which leaked streams of water every time it rained heavily over the past seven years, was packed to the gills with moldy, ruined items and collapsed cardboard boxes full of water-wrecked goods that hadn’t been touched since we moved in circa the early 2000s. This brings me to our first step in whipping the basement back into shape:

STEP ONE: THROW IT OUT. THROW IT ALL OUT. Well, not ALL of it. Even in my very dire case, where easily 90% of the items I was dealing with in the basement were water damaged, there was still that solid 10% of stuff worth salvaging. But the point is, I was RUTHLESS in my stuff-pruning, and you should be too. If the item isn’t something you really and truly need and will use, and it’s not something you can give away to charity, THROW. IT. OUT. Rent a dumpster, get some giant black contractor bags, and take no prisoners!

STEP TWO: CLEAN IT UP. Once everything that needs to be gone is gone, you’re unfortunately still going to have quite a mess on your hands. A shop vac is HIGHLY recommended at this juncture, but a sturdy broom and dustpan will do in a pinch. Now that it’s finally emptied of junk, take the time to really give your basement a thorough cleaning, because chances are good that once you start putting things back and adding new storage items, you won’t be able to reach certain corners, and large areas of the floor will likely become inaccessible. This is your chance to do ALL OF THE CLEANING, and it’s a chance you likely won’t have again for some time.

STEP THREE: ORGANIZE & STORE. Once you’ve cleaned-out and cleaned-up, it’s time to take what’s left over and store it in an organized and orderly fashion. For us, this meant shelving above all else. Since our home is a 1914 Four Square with a very ‘basement-y basement’ that has some water issues (thank god for sump pumps!), getting everything that was going to stay in the basement up off the floor was a must. So off we went to Home Depot, where we snagged some sturdy steel shelves:

We used waterproof plastic tubs to hold items that would be close to the floor (and thus more likely to get water damaged if our sump pump failed and the water level in the basement rose above a couple of inches). Take that, chaos and disorder!

I can’t tell you what a difference all of this made. I’m no longer afraid to go into my own basement! (Well, sort of. I’m still afraid of the cave crickets (have you seen those things? Remember the alien in the movie “Alien”? Yeeeeeah. BUT! I’m no longer living in fear every day of the disarray that my basement was, and that’s what counts, y’all.)

What projects have you been putting off around the house that you really should get to, hmm?

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A big thanks to The Home Depot for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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