How To Clean Your Basement Without Filling Your Trash Bin

We all have our own dirty little secrets. Go ahead - admit it. Your basement is dirrrrrty! If spring has sprung your urge to clean, we have some great tips on how you can clean out the basement without filling your trash bin. So throw on some comfy clothes, grab a few large boxes and get ready to clean, the green way.

  1. Obtain boxes and storage containers. There are plenty of ways to obtain boxes for free; there's no need to spend your precious dollars or the environment's precious resources to buy new. Try posting a "wanted" ad on your local Craigslist or Freecycle group. Freecycle is especially good given that, as the name implies, everything posted is FREE! Also post "wanted" ads for plastic storage containers to sort the items you plan to store in your basement.
  2. Label boxes for the following categories: Garage Sale, Donations, Recycle, Trash. Whenever you plan a big cleaning day, you want to think about the following
    • What do I want to keep?
    • What do I think is valuable enough that I can make money from it?
    • What is still useable, even if I don't think people will pay money for it?
    • What's got to go?

    For the purposes of sorting, when you come across things you want to keep, leave them where they are. And be very sparse in terms of what you want to keep; if you forgot it was there, chances are you won't miss it.

  3. Sort items to be re-sold. Bust out your box labeled, "Garage Sale". Look for items you feel are valuable enough to sell on either Craigslist or at a garage sale. There's nothing better than making cash from trash!
  4. Sort items to be donated. You'll also want to create a "Donation" box for those items you don't think will sell. Hold onto these boxes until after your garage sale; you'll save time and energy by not making two trips to drop off donations. Donations can simply be dropped off (or picked up) by well-established nonprofits such as Hope, an international charity that changes lives by delivering sustainable, high-impact, community-based services to the poor and needy. Alternately, donations can be offered to other people in your local community via Freecycle.
  5. Sort items to be recycled. A third box, "Recycling", will be used for items that are no longer useful, but qualify for recycling. Be sure to take precautions when recycling items such as oil, paint and chemicals.
  6. Sort items that qualify as trash. Finally, your smallest box should be labeled, "Trash". Throw away only what is truly unusable and un-recyclable. It is your mission to keep what has been clogging up your basement from clogging up our Earth!
  7. Separate out the e-Waste. Electronic waste currently comprises 70% of toxic waste in our landfills. Dispose of cell phones, monitors, wireless routers, computers, televisions and other electronics in a responsible manner. Electronics can be a valuable source of secondary raw materials such as lead, mercury and cadmium (resources that can become carcinogens in our landfills if not disposed of properly). Visit the EPA's website for specific instructions or look for a local e-Waste event going on near you. Hint: there are always e-Waste events going on around Earth Day!
  8. Review what is remaining as storage in your basement. This is where those plastic containers you acquired off of Freecycle will come in handy. Label containers based on what you are storing in your basement. For example, you might want to label by room: "Living Room", "Kitchen", etc. Or you might want to label by type of item: "Holidays", "Maternity
    Clothes", etc.
  9. Stack containers in a logical manner. Once you've finished sorting what will continue to be stored in your basement, stack the containers in a logical manner. For items you frequently need to access (holiday decorations as an example), ensure those boxes are within reach. Also stack similar boxes together. If you have two storage containers of baby clothes you are holding onto until the next bambino comes along, be sure those containers are
    stacked together.
  10. Kick back and relax. Observe the beauty that is the clean basement. Congratulations! You've made some money, you de-cluttered your space and you kept your mess from messing up the environment. Way to go, you!

Paige Bayer is a Northern California writer who focuses on being environmentally friendly on a budget. She blogs daily at

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I find labeling very useful...makes me feel more organized....suggestions for recycling are also great.

By Mary Norton