Who else struggles with how to organize a basement effectively? So often it seems that messes pile up in dark corners of the basement only to become dusty, filled with spiders and not to be seen for years to come.
Basement organization doesn’t have to be limited to only those highly-organized people who have this natural-born skill of living a tidy life. In fact, there are tons of basement organization ideas at our disposal that can help all of us (even those of us with a clutter problem) utilize this dungeon more appropriately.
Whether your dream for your basement is creating more usable space or you are just tired of being faced with an overwhelming mess every time you go to do the laundry, this article is here to help. Keep on reading for our top ten most important basement organization ideas.
1. Purge any seldom-used item that you can borrow from someone else.
As with any decluttering project, the first step towards basement organization is to purge and clean. This means making more of a mess before things can be put back together in a more streamlined fashion.
Set aside a couple days to do an intensive inventory of everything in your basement. Every item is going to need to be evaluated, and you’ll have to make the hard decision of finding a spot for it or getting rid of it.
Here are a few things to consider to get you started:
- If you haven’t used it or don’t really value it, donate it to someone who will or toss it out.
- Is this a seldom-used item that you could borrow from somebody else should the need for it ever arise? Give it to that person.
- Do you need the entire set or just a couple of pieces of it? Sort through the stuff you want and get rid of the rest.
2. Avoid storing anything in the basement susceptible to mildew.
Once you’ve identified the keepers, you need to sort out what’s appropriate for basement storage and what isn’t. Because they’re mostly subterranean, basements tend to be damp, which encourages the growth of mold and mildew. That means there are some things you should never store down there unless you’re sure it’s dry.
Make sure your basement is dry and the right humidity before attempting to store any of the following:
- Baseball cards, postcards, photos and other paper
- Mattresses, pillows, comforters and fabric
- Musical instruments and other wood items
- Cardboard boxes
As a rule of thumb, try to avoid anything that can warp, mold or mildew until you have adequately remedied any ongoing moisture issues.
3. Create an ideal storage space by cleaning and painting.
Some basements will always be moist and there isn’t much that can be done, which makes storing anything a nightmare. However, some simple steps can help bring down the dampness tremendously. Follow these steps before any more drastic water-proofing is attempted:
- Scrub the walls and floor with detergent and water followed by a rinse with a diluted household bleach solution.
- When the walls and floors are dry, paint everything with a mold-retardant and waterproofing primer. Consider using an epoxy paint for the floor on top of the primer, which will act as an additional sealant against moisture.
- Make sure you have a dehumidifier on auto, especially during the summer. You’ll want to set your dehumidifier at 50% relative humidity.
4. Work on waterproofing the basement for more versatility.
If you want to create more livable space in your basement, you’ll need to take some extra steps to keep the water out. The first thing you need to do is assess where the water is coming in. Is it pooling in one corner? Is it seeping in through the floors? Once you know where it is coming in, you need to figure out why. This can best be done with the help of professionals. They might recommend some of the following ideas:
- Install a sump pump to pump excess water out.
- Add drain tile if the yard is wet.
- Make sure all gutters are clean and have downspouts facing well away from the house.
- Change landscaping and pitch if the grade causes water to drain down into the house.
5. Keep the basement smelling good with a DIY deodorizer.
There are straightforward and inexpensive things you can do to make sure whatever you keep in the cellar stays smelling good. Anything that can absorb odors easily should be kept in airtight plastic containers. Make some sachets for inside these containers.
Also, make some larger deodorizers to place at various points throughout the basement. These will help absorb some moisture and unwanted smells. Simply find a large glass Mason jar with a metal lid. Puncture holes in the lid using a drill. Fill with baking soda then add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. The larger the jar, the more drops you should use. We recommend using something fresh like eucalyptus or tea tree oil.
6. Designate different zones for each season.
Now that the basement is dry and hopefully smelling good, it’s time to create a storage plan. Think of all the things you found in your basement during the decluttering phase and create some categories or zones. These might include zones by season (summer, fall, winter, spring) or type (toys, Christmas, etc.).
Having zones will keep the clutter and chaos under control and make it easier to find stored things when you need them. Make large, highly legible labels for each zone and start piling items up by each label.
7. Install sturdy open shelving and use airtight containers.
Once you know how many zones you have and you see the items in each pile, decide how many containers you will need for each zone. All items stored should be in air-tight and transparent plastic containers to keep out silverfish, crickets and other critters. Toss in a few desiccant gel packets to control moisture. Fill the containers and then decide on a shelving plan.
Now that you know how many containers and zones you have, it’s time to install some durable shelving. Open shelving allows air to circulate while also enabling you to see exactly what you have stored.
Storage tip: If at all possible, never store anything directly in contact with the basement floor.
8. Eliminate toolboxes with a wall storage system.
Plastic containers and shelves are ideal for items you’re looking to store in the basement, but what about items you use more regularly? If you have a workshop in your basement, having easy access to your tools is going to be high on the priority list.
9. Upgrade your laundry room space with additional storage.
If you have a laundry room in the basement, there are a lot of things you’ll want to store to go along with it. Since you use this space more often, it doesn’t make sense to have items stashed away in bins.
Closed cabinets work well for organizing unsightly laundry items and will improve the look and function of your space.
For more details, check out: Laundry Room Makeover for Under $100
10. Take an updated inventory once a year.
You’ve gone through a lot of effort to take the disaster out of your basement. Keep it that way. Once a year, review the stored inventory and get rid of items that are no longer needed. Get out of the habit of continually adding new items without sorting through the items you already have.
We hope this helped inspire you to tackle your basement, one section idea at a time. Remember, once you have a good canvas for storing, keeping it that way will be the easy part. And once you’re done with the basement, check out our guide to the complete garage makeover.
Updated on 10/5/17 from an article originally published on 9/10/13.