Basement Organization: A Step by Step Guide

I believe if we asked most people where their biggest organization problems are, it would be either attics or basements. I have no hard science on that. But reasonably, I have to be right! These are the kind of areas we look at, roll our eyes or moan, and close the door on. And since we don’t normally live in our attics and basements, it is easy to “ignore.”

Whether you came here as a redirect from my website or found this through an internet search, I am assuming you are here because you want to know how to tackle a space like this….


I will do my best to break down what I did here to help you get started. I think I am going to write this as a step by step… Organization for Dummies? I am not calling you a dummy. I promise! But what may seem obvious to you, isn’t to the next person. Humor me!

Let’s get started:

1. The first step is to devise a game plan. You want to create either a physical or mental map of where you want things to go. I don’t mean specific items, I mean groupings. In this basement, we had a section for Christmas items, bar-ware and liquor (for a future bar,) camping items, keepsake items, work space overflow, and items to be sold later. While designating areas, be aware of what will get used more frequently and how much you expect to be stored in that area. You don’t want overflow if the space you have chosen isn’t big enough. You also need easier access to the items you use the most often.

2. Gather trash bags, labels (if you are using them), bins, anything else you may need for storage, and designate an area for donations. Nothing will sidetrack you as easily as having to search for items you want to complete your project. And let’s be real… you don’t need another excuse, right? I mean, if this was something that hadn’t gotten away from you already, you wouldn’t be reading this, would you?

3. Remove some items from the first area you will be working on. I recommend removing items from the area that will be your “largest” storage area. This client clearly had the most Christmas decorations to store, so that is the area I started moving items from. You can just stick them in the center of the room or a clear area to get them out of the way. Please start small. This should just a pile from a section of one area. It may not even be everything from that area. Why? Because a) I don’t want you to look at a pile and feel overwhelmed all over again! and b) if you can’t finish today or come back in a timely manner, you won’t be stuck with an even bigger mess than before. That’s worse!

4. If shelving or hardware is needed for this area, now is when you want to install it. The next time items are here, it is going to be “for real.”

5. Start going through the pile you removed. These items now need to be broken down into Keep, Donate, or Trash. If you would like some additional guidelines for each of these grouping, you can review my previous post. If it is trash, put it there immediately. If it is donate, move it there immediately. If it belongs in your newly cleaned area, place it back there. It should preferably be returned in some kind of bins or placed back in an organized manner. Ideally, you should only be touching each item one time! If they are a keep for another area, you can move them near the area they will go into or into a separate pile to be placed later. (Yes, I know, this means you may touch that item two times.) The main thing you want to do is avoid mingling items you have been through and ones you have not been through yet. My suggestion is to open and remove all items in your previous bins/boxes. You may find something was previously put away in the wrong place. The homeowner from the above picture found her grandmother’s long lost pearls. She had been looking for them for almost a decade! (Not consistently… that would be weird!) My second suggestion is to be strict with yourself when creating new bins and boxes. The general rule of thumb is to keep only similar items together. Chances are, if you throw something in a box just to get it out of the way, you will NEVER find it again unless you do this whole process again. Trust me!!!

6. Repeat this in all applicable areas. (I know… duh. But I had to go somewhere with this!)

7. Vacuum, dust, label. take pictures, tell your friends and family. Seriously… I know this sounds weird. I mean, skip it if you really want. But psychology says when you share what you are doing with other people, your follow through is better. “But it’s done,” you say. I know. But you will be more likely to keep it that way if you tell someone. And you don’t want to show someone your dust, right? You want them to “ooh” and “ahh” and be jealous!

8. Maintain it. This means when you take something out and put it away, do NOT destroy your hard work by just dumping. New items should also follow your plan. As easy as it is to put it anywhere and then ignore this space, you will take the same number of steps to put it in a designated spot (one) as you would leaving it where it doesn’t belong, right?  Why not start in the right place instead of touching it twice. (See that theme? Touch things one time! We may talk about this again in the future; hint, hint!)

Well, that is it. This covers the basics. Obviously, every person and space is different, so this isn’t the organization “rules.” This is a good start! You need to make this your own or it is never staying that way! I don’t live there! You do! May as well get started! Good luck!


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