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Ellie Reclaimed Her HOUSE! (Part 1)

(Part 1: The Basement Storage Closet)

Every house has them, on the surface it is orderly, but look in that closet off the den and watch out for falling boxes, broken picture frames, and last year’s halloween costume. My parents are no exception and have very generously allowed me to give you an inside peek behind closed doors. They live in Erie, PA and both my parents, Ellie and Mark, work full time jobs. My mother is a school nurse and Airbnb enthusiast and my father is a writer and the artistic director at PACA (an arts center which he has worked tirelessly to create and cultivate), needless to say, they don’t have a lot of extra time.

My grandmother passed away a few weeks ago and I went home to be with my family. While there, my mother and I went on an organizing extravaganza tackling all their hidden disaster areas. Not only was it convenient because I was in town, but also necessary; we needed to integrate many items my mother had inherited from my grandmother.

We decided to hit the disorder at it’s heart. The basement storage closet. Now this is a scary place; you could barely open the door. This area was used as a dumping ground. Last minute Air BnB guests? Put all the clutter in a basket and shut the door. Don’t know what to do with that third crockpot? Hide it in the basement closet.

This is what it had become:


This monster took 5 hours! (Way to hang in there Mom!)

Check it out now:


Now THIS is a functional storage space. My mom had put in some really useful tools that had simply become buried. The shelving is GREAT and really helps to make use of the vertical space.

I also love the metal rod she placed between two shelves in the back. It’s an optimal spot to store seasonal jackets and snow gear.

The biggest problem was simple: too much stuff. We spent most of the time pulling things out, box by box, and deciding what was no longer useful. We ended up taking about 2 car loads of excess to the Salvation Army. (So nice to be in Erie and have access to a car. Makes drop offs SO much easier!)

We ended up classifying different bins and labeling them for easy identification. In a storage space situation I cannot stress how important plastic bins are. It’s so easy for things to get moldy or ruined if they are not properly contained.

We put my bubbe’s china on the back shelf because it is rarely (if ever) used, along with some of my father’s collectables (in labeled blue bin), and my mother’s red exercise ball.

Pro Tip: When labeling bins on tall shelves place the label on the bottom of the bin, as apposed to the top, so it’s easier to read.

We also designated boxes for Hanukah, Passover, Gifts, and Sentimental.

Particularly after a death, a “sentimental” box is great. Be wary of getting carried away, but it is nice to have a place to put all those keepsakes that you don’t need everyday (like my grandparent’s wedding cake topper) but are too special to get rid of.

My mother also loves to have a “gift box”. Throughout the year she keeps it stocked with little odds and ends incase she needs a last minute present…but it doesn’t do you much good if you can’t find it when you need it.

We designated a shelf for camping supplies and suitcases. The white drawers contain items like lightbulbs and winter storage (gloves, scarves, hats). The tools and related supplies are stored in the brown cubbies. We also repurposed a Vertical Gift Wrap Organizer to hold taller belongings such as brooms or curtain rods.

It was a long day, but certainly worth it. With this room organized it allowed us to have designated space for other items from around the house. We knew right where to put that sweater knitted by my bubbe that no longer fit or those extra drill bits we found behind the couch. By starting here we made our job easier and could move forward with a solid foundation.

Next post: We reclaim my parents’ closet. Watch out!

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