Making a Plan

March 8, 2012

The unfinished part of the basement has returned to the forefront of my attention.  We pulled out the ping-pong table for Jonathan’s birthday party, months ago, which entailed scooting large amounts of stuff out of the way to move it.  We then turned around and put it back a few weeks after, which collided with Christmas and those boxes of decorations, which got pulled out and put back, and now—once again—you can barely walk in the unfinished part of the basement.  Once again, it’s time to look and think and be ruthless.

My current hang-up with getting rid of things is the thought that I could get money for some of them.  Usually I will donate without hesitation, loading up my car for Goodwill and dropping things off while running errands, but these items are such that I keep thinking I might actually be able to sell them.  That results in a total hold-up, though, as I think and sort and put off taking pictures and put off placing an ad on Craigslist and on and on….Weeks later, I have to confess that I would probably be much better off just getting the stuff to Goodwill and being done with it, if only for my peace of mind.

In a moment of clarity the other night, I realized that I needed to approach the basement differently.  Each time I walk in there, I’m overwhelmed by all the stuff, and I try to think of what I should be getting rid of and what needs to be moved….but I have no plan, no map to lead me in the way I should go.  It became suddenly obvious that what I needed to do first was to define what a basement should be used for.  In our family, the basement is for storing seasonal decorations, tools, and a few tubs of toys that only came out occasionally.  Once that mission was spelled out, the reality of how much junk was in there became apparent.  I had already noticed that the basement was where broken things went to die, and once my criteria for basement storage was outlined, all the things that didn’t fall into those categories leapt out at me in a new way.  I realized that if I truly had only those items in the basement that fit in my plan, it would look a completely different way—that was eye-opening.  It recharged me, and made me ready to attack the room with fresh eyes.

This same plan of attack can be used for each room in your home.  What is this room’s purpose?  What do we do here?  What is the room used for most frequently?  With those questions guiding you, begin to outline what should belong in the room and what makes no sense there.  By defining a room’s purpose, I can see more clearly that magazines don’t belong in the kitchen, boxes of markers and colored pencils don’t belong in the living room, and Legos don’t belong in the dining room.  (Actually, we’ve adapted to Legos in the dining room, but that’s another story.)

To use another example, take our garage, which is another area where things get dumped and never leave.  What should our garage be used for?  Storing two cars, gardening supplies and tools, and bikes and some sports equipment.  The swimming toys that got dropped in the corner this past summer should be living somewhere else (seasonal storage is in the basement, remember?), ancient (“antique?”) fishing rods need to be gotten rid of (we don’t fish!), and while storing basketballs here makes sense, do we really need three?  Especially since we no longer have a basketball hoop?

Remember that your plan for your room may be different; each family uses the rooms in their home differently.  Set your family’s mission for each room, and make sure each item in the room serves that mission.  When everything has a “home,” it’s much easier to put everything away.  Remember, also, that other family members need to have a say in what is going on.  When it became clear that the dining room was the room of choice to build with Legos, I got a couple of pretty baskets to set on the bottom shelf of a cabinet.  When we need the room, the toys go in the baskets; it takes about two minutes to clean up.  We use that room rarely enough that the kids can enjoy spreading out and having a place to set up and not have to tear down every thirty minutes.  So be ready and willing to adapt and work with the others in your home—it’s their home, too.  Even if it means the dining room is referred to as “the Lego room” by your youngest child.

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