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How to Organize Your Home Room by Room, Part 5: The Basement

Basement Organization Ideas to Transform Your Space 

Basements often get forgotten when decluttering and organizing since they're "out of sight, out of mind."

But all you need is a simple plan of attack and an organization system to conquer clutter for good. We put together this guide to help you completely organize your basement and keep it neat year-round.

“People often use their basements as a dumping ground. It collects clutter because people either don’t take the time to go through items and get rid of what they no longer need, or decide to hold onto it to sort through later.”
Jessica Litman | The Organized Mama

It’s time to make your basement a usable and organized space so you won’t have to spend hours searching for your extra Crock-Pot. Ready? Let's do this.

Basement Organization Tools to Have on Hand

Labels
  • Painter's tape for labeling sorting zones, containers and shelves.
  • Sticky notes to label items.
  • Permanent markers for writing on painter's tape and sticky notes.
  • Label marker and label tape for a consistent look on storage bins.
Organizing Supplies
  • Resealable bags in various sizes for small items.
  • Clear, stackable bins with lids.
  • Pre-labeled donation boxes.
Safety Materials
  • Step-ladder for hard-to-reach areas.
  • Cleaning supplies to wipe down surfaces.
  • Gloves for dealing with loose hardware or dirty areas.
Extras
  • Box cutter or scissors to open taped up boxes.
  • Smartphone, in case you find an item that belongs to someone else - send them a picture to see if they still want it!
  • Heavy-duty trash bags.
  • Dumpster rental to get rid of large, bulky items.

Organize Your Basement One Section at a Time

Rather than organize your entire basement, make a plan to divide and conquer.

“Most basements are too large and overwhelming to do all at once. Section off the basement into smaller areas to take on first. Tackle one area at a time and treat it the same as you would any other room in your home.”
Amber Kostelny | Amber's Organizing

If you are committed to decluttering in one weekend, set a timer for 2 to 3 hours. Tackle one section during that time, weeding through items you don't plan on keeping and organizing whatever is left over.

But be wary of overworking yourself. According to Nancy from Meck Organizing you'll get better results if you, "recognize when you get to the point of diminishing returns, and stop. You will be more productive in the next session than if you continued on fumes."

What to Look Out For:

Here are a few common sources of clutter that you should consider purging while you organize:

  1. Broken and outdated furniture
  2. Unused exercise equipment
  3. Extra gift wrapping supplies
  4. Old holiday decorations
  5. Duplicate items
  6. Children's toys that have been outgrown
  7. Gifts that have never been used

How to Organize Your Basement

Use painter's tape to section off areas of your basement to organize, and label them using a permanent marker.

When deciding how to tackle your sections, set yourself up for success by directing your time and energy to whatever area needs it most. For example, Nancy suggests that "instead of saying 'storage' say 'storage of the gift wrap station.'"

Laser-focus on what you aim to organize during each session. You'll be less tempted to leave a task half-finished.

Clear Out the Clutter

Starting with your messiest area, sort through everything. Don't hold onto items that you're on the fence about. An item either deserves a space in your new and improved basement, or it doesn't. Here's how to decide what stays and what should go:

  1. Do you use the item?
  2. How often?
  3. Is it in good condition?
  4. Does it really belong in this area?

Avoid keeping items just because you may use them at some point in the future. If you haven't found a use yet it's best to donate or toss the item.

Use sticky notes to label items that belong somewhere else and place them in the basement zone where they belong. 

Reorganize Items You're Keeping

Now it's time to group items and assign them to a specific storage area, bin or basket.

Keep like objects together, and label the storage item that you place them in. Use clear plastic bags to keep small odds and ends together in their new homes. Label the outside of the bags with marker so you can easily find out its contents. 

Put Your Organization System in Place

Once all the remaining items are organized, label each bin before stacking or shelving them. Keep your labels simple, straightforward and descriptive. For example: Christmas Decorations - Outdoor Lights.

If you really want to go above and beyond, create an inventory list and place it at the top of each clear bin, or write it on the outside of the box. This way you know exactly which items are stored where, without having to open multiple boxes.

You could also go the extra mile and design custom storage to organize your basement. David Buchsbaum from Atlanta Closet & Storage Solutions says it makes sense to consider a custom storage option when you have "a wide range of sizes of items that need to be accommodated; have an unusual or awkward space that can be utilized; or desire a built-in look that can't be achieved with standard shelving."

Clean Up and Move To the Next Section

Once you've completed a section, clean up the entire area before moving to the next one. Throw away trash bags and place donation boxes in your car to take to the nearest center.

Find a Basement Organization System That Works for You

No organization system fits everyone's needs. Maybe you find Marie Kondo's joy-bringing method helpful. Or maybe you would rather embrace minimalism. 

Find the system that suits your personal habits, style and preferences. When in doubt, an easy go-to is deciding which items you currently love and use often enough to keep. 

"Don't let anyone else tell you how many items you should have and how long you should keep them. There's no science behind these rules. You are the one who knows you best. Determine what your goals are for the space, what you love and use so that you will be comfortable with your decisions."
Nancy Meck | Meck Organizing

With these simple basement organization ideas, you'll be enjoying a clutter-free space in no time. Ready to move on from the basement? Read our tips on how to organize your kitchen, bathroom, garage and closet to tackle the next room in your house.