Project Basement: Day 2

Going through the mess in my basement to unearth its contents ended up being a relatively painless task. As predicted, there are a number of boxes filled with my old teaching supplies, some chemical cleaners and bug sprays that are past their prime, and a multitude of cobwebs.

I didn’t find anything shocking in my first day of work, but I was confused as to how some things ended up in the basement. I discovered a set of dishes that I thought I’d given away before our last move. I learned the kickstand on my bike is longer than it should be, which is why my bike tips over whenever you pass by it to get to the tool bench. And, I realized that we have more screwdrivers and socket wrenches than we need (three complete sets).

Items like the dishes and tools can be donated to charity, sold, or Freecycled. However, I was unsure of what to do with a number of items I found on our shelving. Once I left the basement and made my way to the computer, I quickly discovered what to do with many of the items:

  • Paint. I will need to sort these into two groups — good and bad. Good paints are those that match colors currently on our walls and that could still be used. Bad paints are those that don’t match anything in the house and/or those that were improperly sealed and are dried out. I will continue to store the good paints and write notes on their lids with a permanent marker (Living Room, North Wall). The bad paint, however, will need to be taken to my county hazardous waste facility. The latex paint isn’t necessarily hazardous to the environment, but our local facility still recommends bringing it in to them. To learn the location of your local hazardous waste facility, go to your city or county’s website and do a search for “hazardous waste disposal.”
  • Caulk. We have three partially used tubes of caulk, and none of it looks like it could be used again. Since I don’t remember when or where this caulk was purchased, I also need to take it to the hazardous waste facility.
  • Bug spray. I discovered that we have ant, roach, wasp, hornet, slug, and snail sprays. All of it has passed its expiration date, and all of it is poisonous. So, like the paint and caulk, this stuff will need to be taken to the hazardous waste facility.
  • Weed spray. I’m pretty sure this bottle was here when we moved into the house. I’ll be taking it to the hazardous waste facility, too.
  • Grout and tile cleaner. These cleaners were still good, and we have to use them from time-to-time if one of our cats gets sick on the kitchen or bathroom floors. (Yuck!) I have a metal box that I purchased from The Container Store many years ago that I’m going to label “Powerful Cleaners,” place on a high shelf, and fill with these cleaners and similar cleaning products. I want to keep these poisons out of the reach of my son, and so I want to make them as inaccessible as possible.
  • Joint compound. This is still good and we use it to patch nail holes, so I’m keeping it. However, it is poisonous if consumed, which means that it will also be going on a high shelf for storage. If we don’t use all of it, our county also recommends taking it to the hazardous waste facility for proper disposal.
  • Thorocoat. We’re required by our home owner’s association to cover all exposed concrete on our house with this product. It’s still usable, but since we repainted last year, we don’t currently have a need for it. I’m going to send an e-mail out to our neighborhood discussion group to see if anyone wants to buy it from us for their home.
  • Wood glue. I discovered five bottles of dried-out wood glue on our tool bench. The wood glue is water based, so it can be disposed of in our regular trash. If it were solvent based, it would have needed to go to the hazardous waste facility.

The next step in the process (unfortunately) requires me to get my hands dirty and make a giant mess. I’ll be pulling everything out of the basement so that I can clean the cobwebs, dust, and mess that currently sits beneath the clutter. I’ll discuss this process in tomorrow’s Project Basement post.


Other posts in this series:

28 Comments for “Project Basement: Day 2”

  1. posted by Eleanor W. Craig on

    Erin, a suggestion for readers regarding leftover paint. If one has paint that is in good condition and no longer needed, try calling a community theatre group to see if they are interested. A friend did this and the theatre was thrilled to receive the donation. They operate on a tight budget and materials donations are appreciated.

  2. posted by TanyaZ on

    If you are opening cans to see if the content has not dried out, you may also want to take this chance of clean the rim of the lid and can This way, the can is more likely to have a tight air seal. I ways have to do it because somehow I don’t have patience or foresight to clean up right after using paint or grout.

  3. posted by luxcat5 on

    if you have your tile and grout sealed properly, you should not have to use grout cleaner for simple spills like cat yak…. just an idea to save time…

  4. posted by wooddave on

    Depending on the chemicals in your ‘powerful cleaners’, the metal storage box may develop some corrosion. A hard plastic is usually a better choice for storing these kinds of concoctions :-)

  5. posted by lola meyer on

    Another source for paint donations is your local school shop class/community education. Sudents building cabinets, bookshelves, etc. can use paints and stains for their projects.

  6. posted by rhett on

    we did this in our garage 2 weeks ago and it was so nice. good ideas about the paints… we have some that are still good – but not in use in our house – so i’ll be using some of the suggestions in comments to take them to the little theater in town. very good to know.

  7. posted by chacha1 on

    Wooddave has a point … even sealed containers of some of these things can give off tiny amounts of vapors that can eat right through metal. That’s why ideally these things are not stored inside living space at all.

    However, as we all know, the perfect is the enemy of the good, and if you have an accessible basement it’s a better choice for storing things than a relatively inaccessible outbuilding or attic.

    Isn’t it amazing how much deadly stuff we use and accumulate? Aren’t you glad we aren’t dealing with lead paints, etc., anymore?

  8. posted by lbtell on

    What to do with old rubbing alcohol? I have half a bottle or so that is too many years old. Can I pour it down the drain?

  9. posted by Ben on

    If you have a habitat for humanity restore nearby (not neighbor) you can donate many of these items.

  10. posted by Rue on

    You can throw out DRY latex paint with your regular trash. If you don’t want to leave the lid off until it dries, you can toss some kitty litter into it and mix it up. When it’s dry, toss it out with everything else. :) Oil-based paint needs to be taken to the hazardous materials facility.

  11. posted by WilliamB on

    Sounds like you’re off to a great start! It’s nicely convenient that most of what you don’t want all goes to the same place.

    You probably have thought of this but in case you haven’t: when the time comes, consider using a bike wall mount to store your bike. Even if it’s just 1/2″ off the ground, the mount will keep your bike off the tires (which helps the tires last longer) and from falling over if you bump it. The Container Store sells two types: one is a little shelf for wall mounting, the other is a pulley system for ceiling mounting.

  12. posted by blue on

    check the air in the bike tires… the kickstand may be too long just because they arent inflated to the right level

  13. posted by L. on

    I think the point of a metal storage box, in part, is to contain/isolate flammable materials, no? At least, once upon a time, when I worked in a place where we had to store flammables, it was an OSHA requirement to store them all in a clearly marked metal storage shelf with doors.

  14. Avatar of

    posted by lookinout on

    Some paint companies will reprocess old paint and one can buy paint that has been processed this way, tho’ I don’t remember what it’s called. Ask a good paint store or experienced dept employee about it.

  15. posted by kelli on

    My local hazardous waste collection site will take cans of good paint for other people to take for use. That way, you don’t have to find someone to donate it to. Perhaps your facility does the same? You can also put your good touch up paint in smaller containers for storage. This will limit how much air the paint is exposed to and prevent drying out. You can also place a bit of plastic wrap or wax paper over the top of the paint to keep a skin from developing. I’ve also heard of storing the cans upside down to prevent the lid from drying shut and to limit the amount of air that gets into the can around the lid. I’ve never done it, though.

  16. posted by OogieM on

    Am I the only one in the country with no hazardous waste disposal place anywhere in my county? I just looked and the nearest place we can take that sort of stuff is over 75 miles away!

  17. posted by Academic on

    I have taken to writing down the paint numbers for each paint in my house (the RGB or whatever they are) on a separate sheet of paper and filing it with the rest of the important home papers. I also list how many coats I put on the walls.

    This has come in very handy when I had to re-paint something and the Home Depot sticker on the paint can had faded to the color invisible!

  18. posted by MaryJo @ reSPACEd on

    You are going to end up with so much free space after you get rid of all those chemicals and those teaching supplies! Fantastic! What are you going to do with your newly cleared space? Will it continue to be storage?

  19. posted by dean on

    Erin, we learned the hard way that old paint can smell once applied to walls and masking the smell can be very difficult! This appears to be case regardless of the quality of the paint. Accordingly, we dispose of old paint whether or not it’s dried out. How old is “old”? Well, our old paint that we applied was about 3 or 4 years old. Anything under a year or two might be OK, but one might want to test it before covering a large area.

  20. posted by Erin on

    This basement series makes you SO much more relatable! I’ve been reading your book – you seem so scheduled, so rigid, so perfect – and now you are telling us you have five bottles of dried-out wood glue!! Thank you – you’ve given us all hope!! :)

  21. posted by Elizabeth on

    Our haz waste dropoff takes the old latex paint, mixes similar shades together and then uses the result to paint over graffiti and such.

    My parents used to use an ammunition box from the army to store medicines, maybe you could get something similar.

    Really, your joint compound is toxic? Usually that stuff is just plaster, but who knows what else they put in it. The good news about most of the stuff you listed is that while it is toxic it is not as tempting to children and pets as good tasting/smelling medicine, vitamins, or antifreeze.

    Good luck with your cleanout. Wish I had a basement! BTW, when we had to change our cats’ diet because one of them has an allergy we noticed a LOT less random cat barfage.

  22. posted by phillippa on

    I’ve easily Freecycled house paint, as well. I learned that independent artists (usually on a strict budget…?) are often in search for their projects.

  23. posted by trillie on

    LOL @ Erin (the one three comments before mine)

    A quick tipp if anyone has used lots of paint colors in their current home – what I do is to fill small jam jars with leftover paint and write the room/wall, name or serial number if it had one, and date on the lid. I only ever use it again to paint over little scratches or nail holes, so that amount is perfect. It also helps that you can see the paint color through the glass (if you use plastic jars or non-see-through containers, just put a drop of the paint on the lid. Also, if you use lots of paint colors, you don’t have to keep 10 big paint buckets that take up room.

  24. posted by Nine on

    If the paint is still good but doesn’t match the paint currently in your house, you might consider giving it away to an amateur theatre company. They are often in great need of paint for their sets and paint is expensive. A lot of the great sets for my shows wouldn’t have existed if not for all the donated ‘second hand’ paints, wood and fabrics!

    Congratulations on getting on with your project so well! I have just moved from my student room into a larger house and my parents keep bringing me things that they had stored away for me (books, theatre costumes, miscellaneous). It takes some time to sort through these things and decide if I still need to keep them and then find a place for them. If it were up to my boyfriend who is quite the minimalist I should have tossed everyting but the essentials… Ah, it’s just not that easy if you have the memories that go with the items ;)

  25. posted by Barbara Tako|ClutterClearingChoices on

    Here’s a great trick with paint that you want to save for touch-ups that really reduces the clutter and physical space to store current wall colors: Put a small amount of paint in a baby food jar or other small airtight container and label it with the correct room. You will have it on hand for touch-ups without the bulk of storing all of the cans!

  26. posted by ami | 40daystochange on

    Erin: thanks for being so specific in how you will dispose of old items – and which ones need to go to a hazmat disposal facility. I have a hard time remembering this type of info, and we have a similar pile of poisonous/hazardous material in our garage or under the house.

    I think old paint will keep longer if you put it into a smaller container than the original (so less of it is exposed to air) I like the suggestion made by some commenters to use glass containers so you can see what you’ve got. There are also products available that let you keep a small amount of paint for touch ups – complete with a dedicated sponge applicator. A bit of a unitasker, but maybe justified in this situation.

  27. posted by simplyfree on

    In our rural area, there is not a drop-off location for hazardous waste, but there is a specific drop-off date in each county once a year. These dates are not available online. I advise those who haven’t found any online information to ask a likely local government office.

    Also, I was disappointed not to see a “Project Basement: Day 3″. I hope your progress continues!

  28. posted by Suz on

    @L – The metal cabinet you used is a special flame-proof cabinet. They have a device inside that melts if there is a fire which causes the doors to slam shut and cut of the oxygen supply. Putting your flammables in a regular metal container won’t prevent a fire.

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