Tackling The Basement: Organizing Our Paint Cans

We’re back with our weekly basement update and since we’re edging closer towards the best word ever (finished!) this week’s project is quick and easy. It actually has to do with that built-in cabinet (to the right of the Ikea workstation) that we painted white last week. Remember it was bare but we promised we had a storage idea in the queue for you guys? Well, here it is…

Yup, those are matching paint cans. And yes, we’re ok with you calling us nerds. We’ve actually been meaning to move our paint from the garage to the basement for a while. It’s a lot more temperate thanks to its underground location (it stays cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter) and because paint can freeze, dry out, and otherwise “spoil” when it gets too hot or cold, the basement is definitely a smarter place for it. Before moving it to the garage, we used to store our paint in the house until we read an article about how paint cans can off-gas and pollute your indoor air (so a lesser used basement or garage is a better choice).

And although we could easily have brought all of our old mismatched and gunked-up cans straight into the basement and called it a day, we just love the organized look of our “new” basement so much that we suddenly even hold paint storage to a higher standard and yearned for a more cohesive and effective solution. Not only do new cans look good, they create a tighter seal on our paint to help it last longer (which is always better than “casualty cans” sadly lost each year due to dried out paint- what a waste!). And for a few bucks a pop, new cans would be great “insurance” to keep all of our $25+ paint in ready-to-use condition.

Lucky for us, True Value sells these awesome empty paint cans (in both gallon and quart sizes) that we decided would be prefect for unifying everything for that newly spruced open shelf in the basement and keeping our paint nice and fresh for years to come. Remember how awesome True Value has been to us by giving us a spot on their DIY Blog Squad and offering us a generous gift card? Yeah, we kind of love them.

But seriously, how cool are those empty paint cans? Industrial-chic at it’s finest, no? Plus the act of transferring our paint allowed us to go through all of our old gallons and quarts to eliminate colors that we no longer need (like the old green color that we first used in the living room or the yellow paint that was on our front door) and you know we love to pare down, organize, and donate things that we’re no longer using (giving paint a second life is like two makeovers for the price of one!). Note: never toss old paint out with your regular garbage, either bring it to your local recycling center and drop it in the paint section or donate it to places like The Habitat For Humanity ReStore.

Of course before we grabbed our empty gallons and quarts we counted how many of each we’d need (and snagged a few extras for future additions). Then John’s inner “account guy” came out and he suggested that we head over to Office Max and buy some printable labels so we could transfer the name, brand, finish, and paint formula to each of the new cans (so we’d never have to worry about getting more whipped up if our supply ever dwindles). Sure it seemed a little obsessive (ok, a lot obsessive) but printing the labels only took about 15 minutes and they seriously make my little organization-loving heart skip a beat whenever I see them. Even John’s man heart swells with pride over his paint label making skillz.

Plus John even took a cue from the paint pros and left a little thumb print of each color on each label (you can never be too careful when it comes to guarding those paint formulas). The result: mouth-wateringly delicious open storage that keeps up with the rest of our basement while keeping our paint fresher thanks to a tighter seal that isn’t all gunked up with years of paint between the lip of the can and the lid. Gotta love a little “paint maintenance” to keep from having to trek out and rebuy paint all the time (nothing’s more annoying than needing a tiny bit of paint for a touch up and finding the entire can dried out which calls for the purchase of an entirely new one).

So what’s next on the basement agenda? Well, we still have to obscure our no-privacy windows and build a DIY screen to cover that eyesore of a water heater. Stay tuned for those details next week (in what will be the final chapter of our basement makeover!). Then it’s on to a big bathroom reno that has us laying awake in bed talking about tile options (and subsequently dreaming about said tile options). Do any of you have a big project that you’ll be taking on before the holidays? Maybe because people will be coming over and you want to spruce up the place or even because you know you’ll be traveling so leaving refinished floors to dry or going kitchenless for a bit while your new cabinets are ordered won’t be so bad? Do tell.

Update: One of our lovely readers chimed in with a solution to keep our new cans looking new and sealing securely for years to come. We plan to pick up a “latch on pour spout” which attaches to the lip of a gallon or quart and helps you pour paint without getting any around the lip of the can for a pristine look and a tight seal every time. Amazing!

Psst- Want to look back on our big basement makeover from start to almost-finished? Here’s the first post, the second post, the third post, the forth post, the fifth post and the sixth post. Ah memories.


  1. Amelia says

    wow – you two certainly out-did yourselves this time! super organized – i love it! Those paint cans are awesome and have multiple uses – so those extras that you have could be used to store anything like elastic bands, pencils/pens, paint brushes! Gotta say i love the font you used too on the labels. Can’t wait to see the finished project next week….and the beginning of the bathroom project in the up-coming weeks!!

  2. Joshua says

    I totally love the paint can idea, I think we will bring that organization into our garage once things are settled with the kitchen remod and finishing painting the entire house. Over the holidays or prior to we will be pulling up our laminate kitchen and bathroom flooring and installing 12×12 marble tile….so that will be abit of a task and more of a mess.

  3. Jason says

    Wow – looks great, I better move my paint out of the cold garage! Project before the holidays? Finish the place:) Going to hope to have the hardword floors curing while I’m home for Christmas yes!

    A question about your upcoming bathroom – it made me happy to see you had the basket weeve floor and wall tiles I’m trying to save (except mine are a less attractive yellow and black but hey it’s the 50s and i’ll make it work with bringing in neutrals probably off white and black throughout the rest of the room) you’re going to get rid of it:(?? Everytime you mention it I think oh no not the tiles! I guess I probably know the answer, but I know it will be fab if you do!

    Delaware – J

  4. says

    I love the matching paint cans, I am all for consistency! Can’t wait to see how the bathroom reno pans out. Are you tearing out the shower and/or working on it? And if so, where will you shower while doing so? These are things I worry about.

    • says

      Hey Chelsea and Jason,

      After years of trying to restore/save the once-gorgeous 50 year old tile in our bathroom (on the floor, the walls, and in the shower) unfortunately after half of a decade it’s cracked and damaged in far too many places to salvage anymore. Trust us when we say that we’re too cheap to replace anything that doesn’t need replacing and we’re extremely fond of working what we have. Unfortunately it’s just time to redo the busted up bathroom. We’ll be sharing some detail shots of the tile in both the shower and the floor which clearly show that it’s beyond salvageable so stay tuned for those. And don’t worry, we still plan to pick classic tile choices to keep the bathroom from looking oddly futuristic in our 50’s house. As for where we’ll shower, John has a gym membership so he plans to shower there before work and on evenings (I’m an evening shower-er) I plan to borrow John’s sister’s shower (she lives extremely close so it’ll be semi annoying but still totally doable and worthwhile for a whole new bathroom in the end). Hope it helps!


  5. says

    Ah, sooooooo nice. I know it’s hard to tell with my current life circumstances (ha), but I really do love a good hyper-organized shelf or two as well :) As Sherry would say, those paint cans and labels are “the bees knees”. Back in the day (about ten years ago) Martha Stewart had me labeling everything that wasn’t moving. I think I had computer printout labels for our first child’s socks, shoes, and baby clothes, too. There was about a 6 year lapse in the organization department (we had 4 children in 6 years), but I think we’re starting to make gains again. It is sooooooo rewarding to have things “just so”, even if for just a little bit ;)


  6. Lauren says

    Sorry if you’ve already answered this, but did you get your lamp shade for your basement light at Target? I have an Ikea shade on my light in our den, but it’s too long and I’d like to replace it at some point.

  7. Jennifer S. says

    I saw these paint cans at Home Depot over the weekend and thought they would be good storage for various items. Question…what did you do with your old paint cans? Are they recyclable?

    • says

      Lauren- Yup, the basement lamp shade hails from Target and is just a regular lamp shade inverted to hang from the ceiling bulb.

      Jennifer S- As we mentioned in the post you should never toss old paint or cans out with your regular garbage. Either bringing them to your local recycling center and dropping ’em in the paint section or donating a usable amount to places like The Habitat For Humanity ReStore are two great options. Hope it helps!


  8. sally says

    I love organization. Love it. And that you went the over the top step with new cans and custom labels? It makes me feel less alone in this oft organization lacking world. I will be sad to see this series end (but happy for you two that is it done.) Best. Series. Ever.

  9. Beth says

    You two have inspired us soo much! Even though my hubby and I are in a rental. We’ve renewed our lease for another year and are refusing to live with only ceiling white walls! Instead of spending money on moving, a new security deposit, new pet fee, etc. We are using our moving money to “refresh” our place! We are painting a few accent walls, converting the second bedroom from an office (yay being done with grad school!) to a more friendly guest room (with a computer station) and cleaning the carpets!! I know it’s all little stuff but is making our place so much more homey!!


  10. Kerry says

    Love it! I’m always a fan of anything that looks uniform and organized. We’re in the middle of redoing our kitchen – the cabinets have been painted and we’re just waiting for the countertop to come in so it can be completed. I can’t wait to send you the before and after pictures for your Reader Redesign segment!

  11. Rebekah says

    Wow! This is indeed the most nerdy (slightly unnecessary) organization project from you guys to date… ;p
    But it sure does look nice and consistent! :)

  12. says

    I had a feeling you would use it for paint since that’s what I’d do! I store all of my paint in the basement for the reasons you listed above. I may use your idea to replace the old cans since a couple of mine have definitely seen better days!

  13. Sarah says

    Great job! Little projects go a long way, and tiddying up helps so much! I do have a December project I am working on. We have a hideous sconce above our dining room table. It was left from the previous owners of our home. It’s hideous and it is not even centered with our new beautiful dinner table. So I am taking my sister’s old brass chandelier and I plan to paint it and add cute lamp shades so I have a “new to us” chandelier above our dinner table when we entertain our family for Christmas Day dinner! Wish me luck! I plan to use the tips from of your blog post to help me paint brass. I’ll send you before and after shots soon! If I survive!

  14. Madelaine says

    Just a little trick I have used for keeping track of those paint formulas:
    When buying, ask the paint counter person to print you an extra label or two. They have never refused me and it allows me to keep the labels in my “design” book for future reference. So even if there isn’t any paint left, I have all the information needed. I also record the date whatever was painted and how many coats. I’m a bit nerdy too!

    • says

      Hey Madelaine,

      Loooove it! What a great tip. We’ll definitely be keeping it in mind next time we saddle up to the counter to get paint. I actually have a binder with a page full of paint chips from each room/project in our house (I figure as a worst-case scenario I can use them to color match new paint if the formula somehow was lost). Gotta love those backup plans!


  15. says

    It looks amazing! I can’t believe the transformation!!

    (FYI: Typo alert in your fifth paragraph. “Too careful” should have two “o”s and not one.) :)

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