My Shame: Revealing Our Messy Basement Workshop

This week has been all about cleaning and organizing, so it’s only fair that I take this opportunity to own up to the most unclean, unorganized space in our house (perhaps ever in our whole lives). The horror lies behind this door, in my basement workshop:

Just like our first house, we have a separate entry basement that you access from a door in the back yard. Except in this house, I’ve avoided showing this space the entire 16 months that we’ve lived here. Yes, it has been kept completely off camera and video – which is almost unheard of for over-sharers like us. Why? Because I’m embarrassed to my core about its state. I’ve been meaning to tackle it for a while. But a while has turned into a while longer. So I’m finally forcing myself into action by showing it in all of its glory, er, gory. Feel free to play this video while I hide my face in my hands.

For those who can’t watch the video (or couldn’t take more than the first 15 seconds or so), here’s the mess you missed. Although for some reason it doesn’t look as bad in the pics. The video is the real deal. Haha. It still looks pretty bad though…

As I said on camera, I blame the whole thing on these pallets that the previous owners left in the yard and I dragged inside when making our living room console table last April. I guess the pallet scrap invited me to add other leftover wood to the pile, all awaiting some future time in which it’ll all be “taken care of.”

Well, it hasn’t been taken care of. And instead the mess in one corner gradually made me care less about keeping the rest of it clean. So the whole space has kind of deteriorated into one big cluttered, dirty, slobfest.

So here’s my vow to clean and organize the workshop. It won’t take a day, or even a week, but I’m vowing to make a plan, put it into action, and keep you guys posted. After all, it’s a pretty useful space for us – mainly as storage (tools, yard stuff, etc) and it also makes a great work space. But it hasn’t been serving either function very well with all of this junk in my way.

Here’s my rough plan of attack (feel free to tackle a garage, basement, or attic right along with me if you’d like):

  • Pare down and organize my scrap pile: I like having spare wood around, but not this much. I’ve been trying to figure out a better solution than just throwing it away, but haven’t settled on one yet (a lot is too small to sell or donate according to the calls I’ve made – so maybe I’ll freecycle what I don’t think I’ll need for future projects).
  • Take everything out and clean things from top to bottom: Part of the reason the floor and workbench are covered in a confetti of sawdust is that it’s hard to sweep around all of this stuff. I figure if I get everything out, I’ll have no excuse. Plus it makes the next step easier.
  • Bring back in only what I need: And hopefully organize it as it all comes back in, grouping like items and placing things in zones that actually make sense to keep things functional.
  • Sell / donate / dispose of what’s not needed: We’re guessing there will be a fair amount of items leaving for good. And of course if we craigslist or freecycle anything we’ll post the link for any interested locals.

By the end of it all I’m not looking to have some giant, decorated makeover – just a clean workable room that functions for all the building and staining and spraying and sawing and storing that we’d love to use it for. Though I wouldn’t hate it if it turned into a little bit of a man cave. Just sayin’…

Okay, now make me feel better. Who else has (or at least had) a shamefully messy space in their house? This is a no judgement zone. At least I hope it is. If not, I’m sure I’m getting crazy judged right now. Yikes.


  1. says

    My spare bedroom is unsightly. It is beyond messy. You name it, it’s in there. Except food, I draw the line there. I keep saying I’m gonna get to it but I just keep sticking things in there. The thing is I’ve never been like before this house because I’ve never had a space where I could just stick stuff. I’ve had to maximize every square inch of my previous homes and now I find with a bigger home I am having a harder time with organizing. Can it be that it was easier with a smaller space?

    • says

      We totally know what you mean! In our tiny NYC apartments, everything had its place and there wasn’t one thing we didn’t need (clutter = the enemy) but as homes get bigger those rooms you’ll use later (ex: a bedroom for our future second child) can become a total disaster! And we’ve never been good at the garage/basement organization thing! I think since they feel a little detached they slowly just fall of the clean wagon. Haha.


    • says

      Our 2nd bedroom is the same way. No matter how often we clear everything out of it, it’s inevitably where we drop things we’re not sure where to put so we can “get to them later” (and later never actually happens). We’re now storing some of my sister in law’s fine china and a few pieces of her furniture so that definitely doesn’t help out mess out at all! One day it’ll be clean… one day…

    • Sabrina says

      Our sunroom, which we dream of making our diningroom, is the same way. Everything and it’s mother is in there. It has become a dumping ground *hangs head in shame* I never had this much stuff until I had kids.

  2. Danielle says

    Oh Man,
    That IS bad… but I think basements have a way of doing that to you… My basement is like a dungeon I run in and out of with my eyes closed while hauling loads of laundry (read: very dangerous).
    It may be a conspiracy to keep us from feeling too accomplished. I wouldnt worry too much about it. A messy basement reminds me I’m still human :)
    Good luck!

  3. Courtney says

    I feel so much better. Our basement and garage (tiny old garage that we don’t park a car in so it serves more the purpose of a shed) look exactly the same! We’ve cleaned and organized it at various times, but then a new project starts and the scraps/mess take over again. Excited to see how you tackle this one. Thanks for the organizing inspiration.

  4. Linda says

    Umm, nice to know you guys are human? Want to come over and take a look at the closet I’m cleaning out today? And the garage I’m hoping to get to this weekend? And I have only two cats to care for, and don’t work a zillion hours a week like you do? And didn’t write a book this year?

    And, actually, that basement isn’t all that bad – and it will look great as a workshop/man cave!

  5. says

    If you saw the loft above our garage, you would breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not yours. I promise. That is what we’re tackling today though because we’re having a garage sale tomorrow…why wouldn’t I procrastinate the messiest place in our house until the very last minute?

  6. Alyanna says

    Our garage makes your basement looke spartan. it is jam packed. there are two narrow little corridors through the junk. It is obscene.

    • says

      Alyanna, that is exactly what I was thinking about our garage. At least John’s basement looks like he can move around in it. We have a little trail that allows me to get from the door into the house to the washer and dryer. . . Hubby has actually been working on cleaning it out this week. All that is left is for me to go through some storage bins to get rid of what we don’t need and organize what is left. So my plans for Saturday: finish the garage and FINALLY finish refinishing our table for the kitchen.

    • says

      Don’t feel that bad! We can’t walk into our playroom. Literally can’t step foot in it. It’s packed to the gills with secret book furniture and other stuff that we just can’t pare down. Someday we WILL conquer it!


  7. says

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing your messy basement. We’re in the early planning stages of a basement renovation and I took a bunch of pics about 2 weeks ago and it looks like yours! Glad to know that we aren’t alone.

  8. Emily says

    Right there with ya, John. Get this, our garage WAS organized…I seriously don’t know what happened. I mean, somehow the Christmas stuff didn’t get put away properly and then the whole thing just…exploded.

    As for scrap wood, we just tossed ours on the curb the day before trash pick up and what little didn’t get snatched up was grabbed by the garbage men.

  9. Lindsay says

    Our basement was a mess too. We moved in 4 years ago and still had boxes of crap! Last winter I finally made my husband clean it with me. We realized most of it went to Goodwill or trash. I love walking down there to do laundry now because it is organized. Everything is in a tote, on a shelf, or stacked up neatly.

  10. Jessica says

    Sigh… I have a closet, or two, that look like this, I think our entry one is full of boxes and kid art supplies instead of, ya know… hangers, shoe racks and guest(y) things – I suppose I should get on it and make a list so I don’t feel ashamed when you’re done and I still have a huge mess!

  11. says

    Wow, were you in my garage taking these pictures?! Yeah, we have the same problem. Except add 10 huge boxes of childhood memorabilia our parents “lovingly” dropped off for us when we got a house of our own…

  12. Elaine says

    Our basement is a disaster too – so easy to just keep the door closed and forget it is there! :)

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