Battling Basement Clutter: Organization Goes Underground

166152339If you’ve got a basement, consider yourself blessed—or cursed, depending on how you are currently using this valuable real estate under your house. Basements can be a bonus if you’ve got yours under control; a bane and a downright health and safety hazard if you don’t. Go underground and reclaim your basement space with these strategies:

Assess the basement realistically. Is it dry? If it isn’t, you’re better off not using it for storage at all, because everything will end up mildewed, smelling bad or just plain ruined, depending on its sensitivity to moisture. Back up and investigate the source of the moisture, then invest in waterproofing to make the space actually usable for more than a tornado shelter. Not only will you increase your usable storage and living space, your home will be healthier and more comfortable, especially if you have asthma or allergies.

Once you’ve got a drier basement, assess your greatest needs for the space and the goals you have for them. Is your laundry area in the basement? If so, is it a place you dread spending time in, or is it neatly organized and attractive in at least a utilitarian way? Do you have a craft or hobby that is spilling into the upstairs living area and needs room to spread out? Are you storing seasonal decor there, or creating a play place for children? Consider allocation of floor space, and how much each function will receive, then map out accordingly, keeping those functions separate from each other whenever possible.

Now it’s time to sort, sort, sort. Have ready three bins: one for items to keep, one for items to throw away, one for items that can be recycled for another use, either by giving away, selling, or literal recycling. Work one small corner at a time so at the end of an hour or two (or six or seven) you have something to show for it. Rule of thumb: If you don’t love it or haven’t used it for at least a year, it’s time to consider giving it a new home. If it’s broken, be honest: Are you really ever going to fix it?

Ready to reorganize? Wait. Would a fresh coat of paint freshen up the space? Probably. You might paint the floor, as well.

Finally, you are ready to put your space back together again. Buy wire or plastic shelving appropriate for each use of space. Even if you have a dry basement, wood is often the least appropriate choice for basement storage because it tends to warp. If you have small children, use low shelving or bolt shelf units to the wall to prevent tipping should kids be tempted to climb them to reach a toy. Place heavy items on the bottom. Use clear bins for smaller objects and label everything that is not clearly identifiable.

Last but not least: Be vigilant with your new-found organization! Don’t allow the basement to be the repository of everything you don’t know what to do with. Purge on a regular basis so you can continue to enjoy the bonus of a basement.

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