If you’re lucky enough to have a basement for storage, you have a distinct advantage over those who don’t. Here are some tips for organizing and decluttering your basement.

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Let’s face it. You probably avoid your basement at all costs. It’s dark, it’s damp, it’s the home of all things homeless in your house – and it may even be a little creepy. But if you are lucky enough to have a basement to use for storage, you are at a distinct advantage over those of us who don’t. Basements can be fantastic storage spaces when they are decluttered and organized.

Step 1: Sort and Purge

As with any good organizing project, the first step needs to be sorting through all the items, putting like things together, and tossing the stuff you no longer want or need. An easy way to do this is to create three piles – keep, donate and toss. The keep pile are items that are staying and will find homes in your basement, while the donate pile consists of good, useable items that you can give to your favorite local charity. If any of your items are damp, moldy or have mildew, please do not donate them. Charities cannot use them. It is better to trash or recycle those items, just as you will with the items in your toss pile. Separate your keep items into groups of like items, such as holiday decorations, children’s toys, tools, or whatever categories you may have. This will help you with the next step in the organizing process.

Step 2: Create a Zone Plan

The zone system is a great way to keep like items together and give them a home. For example, have one area of the basement dedicated to camping equipment and another that is for holiday decorations. Having all the tools in one place makes it so much easier to find the hammer you want and put away after you have used it. Each particular zone does not have to be large. Your Christmas decorations may take up an entire shelving unit, while your suitcases only take up one shelf.

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Step 3: Containerize

Containerizing is just a fancy name for the process of organizing your items in bins, boxes and on shelves. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when considering containers for your basement storage. As much as possible, avoid cardboard boxes. They can easily succumb to the damp conditions of the basement, ruining not only the box but also the items within it. They also tend to attract bugs and other critters. Using plastic storage bins is a great option. Going vertical with shelves is also very helpful. Not only does it get your valuable possessions off the floor, in case of a water leak or rodent invasion, it also keeps you from having to stack all of your bins on top of each other. You can also further maximize your space using hooks on the walls and support poles to hang things like beach chairs and wreaths.  Protecting your items and making them easy to get to are paramount to a good storage system. One last thing, be sure to clearly label your bins, boxes and shelves. There is nothing worse that looking through 10 boxes to find the one item you need.

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Step 4: Find Other Homes

Some items just don’t do well in this humid environment. Things like papers, photographs and fabrics tend to disintegrate and start to smell in the dampness of the basement. They are better off in a closet or under a bed in the main, climate controlled part of your house.

Don’t be scared of your basement any longer. Set aside an hour, a day or a weekend and work your way through the clutter and chaos that lurks downstairs. You and your house will be happier for it.

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About the Author

Andi Willis

Andi Willis is a Professional Organizer, Certified Personal Photo Organizer, author and video host. Passionate about helping people organize their homes and preserve their precious photos, Andi can be found at goodlifeorganizing.net.

  • Although they’re often used in garages, I never thought about using hooks to hang things in the basement – great suggestion!

    • Hooks are a lifesaver when organizing. Thanks for reading, Janet! Good luck!

  • I had a cardboard box get damp and grew a very impressive colony of mold. It was for a giant holiday decoration, so I couldn’t find a plastic bin (in my price range). But now I’ve got to spend the $$ because cardboard just doesn’t work!

    • Andi Willis

      Wow! An entire mold colony. That’s impressive! Good luck finding something that works for you. Here in GA we can’t even use cardboard in the garage because of the high humidity.

  • So glad you mentioned shelving units! We don’t have basements in NM, but I can’t tell you how many time I’ve seen boxes stacked on top of boxes in client’s garages. So the bottom boxes get crushed, and it’s too much work to unstack the boxes to see what’s in them (because they are usually un-labeled or falsely labeled). So valued items languish, and junk takes up space.

    • Andi Willis

      Shelves are such a great solution in so many places. I recommend them all the time.

  • Jill Robson

    We used hooks and the space between the open studs.

  • Ellen Delap

    Love these tips! Vertical storage and plastic bins are the way to go. However, keep your bins at a size you can comfortable move around. When your bin is too large and too heavy, it can be a bigger problem.

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