messy basementWhat do closets, attics, and basements have in common?  They can all easily turn from a convenient place to store items to a “dumping zone”.  Basements can be one of the hardest places in your house to manage – out of sight, out of mind and lots of trouble.   Use the steps below to create more workable and enjoyable space.

STEP 1:  Commit to spending time.   It took time to get your basement this way and it’s okay to get it organized in multiple sessions.  Spend 30 minutes a day or a couple of hours on the weekend – whatever works best for you and keeps you motivated.

STEP 2: Zone your space.   Zones are essential to keep order in your basement.  Assign zones in your basement by function:  utility, storage and living area.

Utility Zone:  This is where your furnace, water heater, circuit breaker box, shut off valves, etc. are located.  It’s especially important to keep this zone clear of clutter in case of an emergency.

Storage Zone:   This space can be divided into separate sections for automobile supplies, sporting equipment, gardening and lawn care tools, holiday decorations, paperwork and spare household supplies.  Keep the items you use most – light bulbs, paper towels – in the easiest to reach locations.  For once or twice a year needs – think holiday decorations or camping gear – store these items in harder to reach places.

Living Area Zone:  This is the area that you use for play or entertaining.  Keep this area clutter-free of the items you can store in the utility or clutter zone.  Closed cabinets for toys and games fit well into this space.

STEP 3:  Sort Your Stuff.  Sort everything into categories.   Separate gardening tools from the car maintenance supplies and sporting equipment.   Keeping “like” items together makes everything easier to find.

STEP 4:  Toss the Trash.  Get rid of all the broken equipment, rusted tools and toys that are missing pieces.  If you have a hard time letting go of things that have sentimental value, take a photo to keep the memories but get rid of anything beyond repair or no longer needed.

STEP 5: Share Your Stuff.  Once you’ve sorted your items into categories, you may be surprised by how many duplicates you have.  Does anyone really need 3 hammers and 6 medium paintbrushes?  Keep 1 or 2 and donate the rest.

STEP 6:  Pick the Right Storage.  Investing in hard plastic bins with lids and wooden or metal shelving to keep boxes a few inches off the floor can be worthwhile.  Clear plastic bins make it easier to see what’s inside and better protect against water, dust, dirt and critters.  Wooden or metal shelving to keep bins off of the floor is ideal – even if you’ve never had a flooded basement, it’s always a possibility.