Basement Declutter and A Mohawk

This Oakland, CA client initially planned for us to tackle her basement exactly one year ago this month, right after we finished organizing her garage. I didn’t hear back from her, and thought that perhaps she was unhappy with my services! It turned out (as it usually does) that personal life stuff happened and so she didn’t get a chance to move forward until now. I think I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that people sometimes have more important things to do than organize their homes.

When we first looked at the basement a year ago, it looked more like an extended storage closet. Things were too piled high to walk through and around the back to where more stuff was…things my client had long forgotten. What she did know was that all her precious Christmas ornaments were scattered, she wanted to find and organize them, and that there might be something dead back there…

basement declutter - before 1

This client lives on a hillside, with the garage at street level, the main floor of the house down a long set of stairs a level below, and the lower part of the house and basement a level below that. There was a lot of things to remove from the basement, all of which needed to be thoroughly sorted and assessed as to whether it stays or goes. Some needed to be stored in the street level garage, other things carried up to my truck and hauled away to be donated, the rest placed into the recycle bin on the street. Lots of stuff and lots of stairs meant lots of exercise today!

While digging through boxes and pulling things out, I had in the back of my mind to keep an eye out for critters, live or dead. I came across boxes of poison that had been there a while, the pellets eaten away and cardboard containers obviously attacked by rodents. Then I came across droppings…I was sure I’d find a furry skeleton soon! But there was no foul smell so I thought whatever was here must be long gone…until I saw this on the floor and squealed…

basement declutter cat toy

A mouse with a purple mohawk and studded collar. Obviously a toy belonging to the cat of the house. An incredible adrenaline rush, a burst of laughter, and I was pumped to keep moving with this basement closet project. Luckily I didn’t have any more surprises.

What I did find was lots of holiday ornaments, clothing, boxes of salvaged childhood memorabilia, and house rebuilding papers documenting the Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991, a fire that killed 25 people and injured 150 others. The fire destroyed 1,520 acres in the Oakland hills and southeastern Berkeley, including 3,354 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units. [1] My clients house was one of them.


We sorted through and dusted off everything in the basement, removed cobwebs, swept the floor, properly packed and labeled treasured ornaments, placing those she uses more often close to the front of the stack.

basement declutter- after 2

During the consolidation and repacking process we got rid of several empty containers that took up space. After a few boxes to be stored in the garage and items for haul-away sorted out, we ended up with a clean and clear basement. And the cat had her toy back.

basement declutter- after 3




Isabella Guajardo, also known as Girl With A Truck™, is a professional home organizer and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). Living in Oakland and Monterey, she travels in her truck to work with clients throughout the SF Bay Area, East Bay, South Bay, Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz and Monterey Peninsula. She shares simple and creative ways to stay organized and stylish while reducing, recycling and re-purposing. Join Bella Organizing on Facebook. Gift certificates are available.

Call (510) 229-7321 to schedule a complimentary telephone consultation.