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. says

    Our bathroom is painted Lyndhurst Timber! Our bedroom is one shade darker with Milk Chocolate. I lvoe them both!!! Our next redo is painting our kitchen cabinets and working on the master bathroom. We want to replace the plastic around the tub with tile and wood. Also, we want to remove the one large mirror and have two separate mirrors. New faucets as well!

  2. says

    Love the paint cans! You’re so more likely to use the leftover paint and want to keep it around. So clean!

    So I have to ask: When do we get to know plans for the nursery?! I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with.

    • says

      Hey Jessica,

      First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes pregnancy, then comes a bathroom remodel, then comes the nursery (probably around January), and then comes the baby! We’re so excited to tackle that project after the bathroom gut-job. We have a huuuge folder of inspiration and paint chips up on the wall so stay tuned…


  3. vicki says

    ahh to be young again and actually think you are really going to use that paint ever again. After living in my home for 20 plus years I have learned that unless you plan to cut a hole in the drywall you will never use that paint you saved.
    1)No one touches up because it just won’t match
    2) You feel its time to repaint??? seriously after 5 years you will choose a new shade or color. No one repaints with the same color time after time.

    Nice organizaton job… but really unnecessary!

    • says

      Hey Vicki,

      To each his own! We actually touch up our walls all the time (newer flat paint formulas make touch ups seamless and it matches perfectly) for example, when we repaint a ceiling or the trim and get a bit of white paint on the walls we just whip out the wall color and touch things up on the spot). We also love having the extra paint on hand for other projects (for example, we paint furniture with the same white semi-gloss paint that we keep around for the trim (which we also touch up all the time). We also like to keep our home’s color scheme cohesive so we never hesitate to use the same color in a few rooms (our kitchen is the same color as our bedroom and our living room is the same color as our guest bedroom) so our paint definitely gets a lot of mileage and comes out quite frequently to crisp things up like corners that get rubbed down. I guess it’s really something that varies person to person, but paint is definitely something that we’re constantly reopening and using! And when we visited my mom a few weeks ago she was touching up her kitchen walls when we got there so I think it runs in the family. Haha. Hope it helps!


  4. Kate says

    While I absolutely agree with you on taking unwanted oil-based paints to the recycling center, you want to check your individual location in regards to disposing of latex paints. Neither my current town in NH or my previous county in NY would accept latex paint at their hazardous household recycling (which is where I’ve gotten rid of the oil-based stuff previous homeowners left). Both said to let the paint dry out completely (kitty litter helps if there’s more than 1/2″ left in the can) and then to throw out with your regular garbage. No recycling allowed, unfortunately.

    • says

      Hey Kate,

      Good point! It can definitely vary by location! Our recycling center has a latex section for paint and an oil-based/stain-based area for more hazardous materials so we just assumed it was that way for everyone. Our very favorite way to repurpose extra paint is definitely to drop it off at The Habitat For Humanity Restore (or freecycle it) so it gets a second life on someone’s walls! Hope it helps.


  5. Jaimie says

    The benefits of having a local paint store: they have a computer record of all our past purchases! Really came in handy when we stopped in for some more trim paint and couldn’t remember the finish we used last time. They also custom-mixed a wall shade for our baby’s nursery (to match an accent wall of wallpaper) and they have the formula on file for us as “Jaimie’s Baby Room.”

    Your basement reno series has been great and has inspired me to really consider attractive storage for our ongoing basement reno.

  6. Yvette says

    NERD ALERT!!! WOW, let me tell you how jealous I am of the time you have to do this!!! With FT jobs and two kids I’d never have this as a priority, but might just have to add this to our to-do list…someday. I’ll just live vicariously through the two of you ;-)

    • says

      Hey Yvette,

      If it makes you feel any better we did it on Monday night at about 10pm in the rain (well in the garage so we were technically out of the rain, but boy was it gloomy and dark). We usually tackle all of our projects on nights and weekends since John works all day and I’m manning the blog from 8-7 or so, so that forces us to squeeze in a lot of projects at some of the weirdest times ever (and under the weirdest conditions- rain, snow, birthdays, vacations- any day is a good day for DIY!). Good luck with your paint project… someday!


  7. srabee says

    i really do like the transformation but what a waste of money. i would be really upset if i were true value and gave you money for FREE so you can organize paint?!? i think you are really reaching here and do not believe that if you were using your own money you would use it this way.

    • says

      Hey Srabee,

      Well we’re happy to report that we send all of our posts to True Value and they’re nothing but sweet and supportive about our project choices and DIY undertakings. In fact that’s why they chose us for their DIY Squad, because they like the quirky and obsessive ways that we lovingly spruce up every inch of our house. As for if we’d use our own money to do it, we definitely would since spending our gift card on this project meant that it wasn’t being spent on something else that we could have received on the house (like new tiling supplies, nursery accessories, and other items that we’ll definitely be buying out of pocket any day now). Plus we purchased the labels with our own money at Office Max so I guess it’s safe to say that we’re just THAT NERDY and we love spending money to keep things organized, easy to use, and most of all functional (our paint will last longer now that it’s sealed up in non-nasty cans that aren’t all junked up with paint so they’re more tightly sealed). Hope it helps!


  8. says

    Paint Perfection! I love what you chose to store you paint in very clever…and much easyier to read the labels and see the color…my paint cans always look so messy after we paint.

  9. Jason says

    Thanks for the response!! I know what you mean – I guess I overlook those hairline under the surface??(how does that happen) cracks in my tile that are here and there. I’ll be interested to see what yours look like in the upcoming pictures compared to mine!! I could go on about that tile, had to get a smaller window in the bathroom so I could make sure I had room for the trim because the tile is there, it’s so thick you need a sledge hammer if you have take it out, etc. BUT THE BIG ISSUE: you know what I really need is a black tooth and tumbler(toothbrush and cup holder tile above the sink – mine is missing about half of it) do you have any ideas? OMG can I buy yours!!!

    Also – if you have a drain in your basement or anywhere in athe floor – you and John could make out pretty good using a camping shower during your remodel – it’s a big plastic bladder with a shower head you hang from wherever you can hang it! I use to camp before I bought this house lol:)

    Delaware – J

    • says

      Hey Jason,

      Oh you just wait for the pics! They’re more than hairline cracks, that’s for sure. Haha. As for our tooth and tumbler, it’s white, but places like The Habitat For Humanity ReStore might have a black one for you. They have every color under the sun (pink, yellow, etc) so here’s hoping you can find one!


  10. says

    Wow — I didn’t even know you could buy empty paint cans! I can think of 1,000,000 uses for them, though. Most obvious: We have a ton of paint sitting around in the deep recesses of our basement . . . which, in no way looks as posh and pretty as yours! But I’m thinking screws, nails, and other stuff like that in the smaller ones.

    Oh, geez. I wish I had time to make our basement such an organized haven. Right now, it’s simply a dumping ground for everything we need to hide when company comes over. How embarrassing! <3

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