The disorganization was compounded by the fact that we had some pretty significant structural issues in the basement--walls bowing and cracking (all covered up by the previous homeowner with paneling).
So last summer, we emptied the whole basement out, which meant that all of my husband's stuff came upstairs with all of my stuff that was already filling the house, so now we had STUFF UPON STUFF all over the house. For a long time, we didn't even have a pathway through the living room because it was full of boxes from floor to ceiling. It kind of looked like a hoarder house.
The rebuilding project started with digging a really deep hole around the house. Here is my handsome, but very dirty husband in the trench with my dad above. My husband is 6'8", so you can tell that the hole was really deep.
Although my husband and dad did a lot of the digging, we hired a friend who does brickwork for a living to do the wall rebuilding. The project took just a couple of weeks, and they did a great job. (I'm still not over the fact, though, that we had to pay a big bill for something the previous homeowners knew about and covered up. I guess that's the way it goes sometimes.)
Once the walls were rebuilt, we had to address the issue of smell in the basement. It was quite musty smelling, and there was no way I was going to put my stuff down there to absorb that smell. So with the basement emptied out, we vacuumed every inch of it and then bleached all the walls and floor. Once the swimming pool smell wore off, it was much better down there! We keep a dehumidifier going all the time, and we seem to have solved the problem.
With structurally sound walls and a much better smelling basement, it was time to start organizing. First, we lined the shelves in the storage room. I was perhaps a little overly excited about having freshly lined shelves, but considering where we had started, this was a big improvement. I picked a bright green shelf liner because I figured that in an unfinished gray basement, we needed something bright and cheery.
Just in time for Christmas decorating on the main floor, we finally moved all the boxes and extra furniture from the main floor to the basement and the extra bedrooms upstairs. So our main floor looked reasonably livable (still out-dated in terms of decor, but a livable space).
Christmas, followed by a 10-week out-of-state trip for my husband's work during the winter, put a halt to all of our progress for a while, but now we are back to it. We recently bought an upright manual-defrost freezer for the basement, and I am so excited about it!
I love being able to stock up on meat, veggies, bread, etc., when it is on sale and freeze it for later use. I am now planning out my meals for a whole month so that I can watch for the sales in advance on all of the ingredients I will need. It is working out wonderfully!
Besides saving money with sales, there's something else that makes me smile about the freezer: It's organized! And not just organized, but organized in a personal way. I bought a number of freezer storage baskets from Amazon so that I could group foods by type and keep them neatly collected. My categories are: Baked Goods; Sauces, Broths, & Gravies; Cooked Meats; Veggies; Potatoes; Leftovers; Fruits; Minced Onions (I like to mince a whole bunch of onions in my food processor all at once and then freeze them in small packets equivalent to one medium onion each); Herbs (leftover chopped fresh herbs, frozen by the tablespoon in ice cube trays); Uncooked Beef; Uncooked Seafood; Uncooked Poultry & Pork; Bread; and Ice Cream. That pretty much covers all of the types of foods that I tend to keep in the freezer, and I still have room for other items next to the baskets. So far, this system is really working for me!
I bought I.D. badge covers and clips from Staples for the labels, so I could hang them on the baskets and door shelves. I also wanted to make this organizing project fun, so I personalized the labels with a theme. I used to work at an outdoor history museum, which I absolutely loved! Some of my best memories and some of my closest friends that I still have come from working there. So for each basket label, I included a picture from the history museum that related to the category. In some cases, I had to stretch it a little. For instance, I didn't have a picture of onions, so I included a picture of a garden where I know onions grew.
(That's me in the bread picture, holding the first loaf of bread I baked on an open hearth in 2003.)
Now, every time I open the freezer door, I see pictures from a place I love, including pictures of some of my friends and former coworkers, which brings back many fond memories. We still have a very, very long way to go on organizing the house, but this one little organized, personalized space makes me smile.