Basement Organization

This week’s challenge is basement organization. We’ll tackle how to declutter, properly store, and organize everything down there that you access frequently or infrequently.

Basement Organization

Our basements can all too easily become a dumping ground for every piece of junk and clutter we think we might need someday, or just don’t want to make a decision about right now.

Plus, this space is often one of the largest storage areas in your home.

Put these two facts together, and you can easily accumulate a mound of stuff in this space, to the point where you can’t find anything.

In this week’s challenge we’re going to change the way we use our basements, to get both as much living space and storage space out of them as possible.

Are you new here? The Basement Organization Challenge is part of the 52 Week Home Organization Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren’t already a regular reader).

Step 1: Get Rid Of Basement Clutter

The first step in the Basement Organization Challenge is to declutter your basement.

Depending on the size and state of your basement this may sound relatively easy, or a monumental undertaking.

If it is a big deal you may be suffering from “out of sight, out of mind” disease, where you think if you don’t see it often it doesn’t bother you. I’ve found that just isn’t the case though, and once you get rid of the clutter you’ll feel much freer, and like a weight you may not even have known was there has lifted off of you.

Whether you’ve got just a little to do, or quite a lot, the process is much the same. You’ll just need to dedicate more hours to the process if it is very out of control down there.

One thing often found in basement clutter are sentimental items. These can be especially difficult to get rid of, but trust me you’ll feel better when you clear space in your home and are able to find what you really and truly need, or actually cherish the few sentimental items you do keep.

If possible, to make the decluttering process easier, create a temporary staging area where you can move large boxes, bins, to create room for you to sort and purge easily in the basement itself. This will help you, so you don’t have to carry items upstairs just to take them back down later.

Step 2: Make A Plan For Your Basement Using Zones

The second step in the Basement Organization Challenge is to make a plan for how you want to use your basement, for storage, utility, and living spaces, so when you begin organizing everything you are working toward your goal.

There are three types of basement zones: utility, storage, and living area zones.

Not all houses are exactly the same so you may not have all of these in your basement (assuming you even have a basement), but you’ve got to keep the ones you’ve got in mind when planning how to both use and organize your basement.

The zones are pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll briefly explain them below.

basement storage shelves with wheels
Metal storage shelves with wheels on

Utility Area Zone

First, is the utility area zone. This is the area(s) of your basement that household equipment, such as your furnace, water heater, circuit breaker box, sump pump, water shut off valves, etc. are located

The key to the utility areas is to make sure you clear and then keep a path free to all of them. You don’t want piles of boxes in front of these areas, and then need access to them quickly or in an emergency.

If you want to put things close to these areas, such as if you’re short on storage space, I suggest metal shelves on wheels (such as those shown to the right) that you can move out of the way if maintenance workers need to come down there to work.

Always be mindful of safety first though, and still don’t get things too close to things like your furnace or hot water heater, especially things that are flammable.

Storage Area Zone

This is the zone we’ll really be focusing on during the Basement Organization Challenge. It is the area of your basement you’ve determined will be used for storage of household items.

Once you’ve determined what areas of your basement will constitute this zone, you may want to break it down into sub-zones, such as for certain types of items.

Always keep like items with like, when possible, so example sub-storage zones could include:

  • Holiday decorations
  • Stored furniture
  • Sports equipment
  • Camping equipment
  • Tools

Living Area Zone

Finally, last but not least, is the living area zone. This is an area of your basement, perhaps that is finished or nicer, that you or family members can come down into and use for various activities.

To the extent that you already have a finished basement, or an area in your basement designated as a playroom, rec area, craft or workshop area, make sure you look at the instructions for other of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenges with suggestions on how to organize these areas.

Step 3: Organize Items You’re Keeping In The Basement

Once you’ve got your plan in your mind of how you’ll utilize various zones in your basement, the third step in the Basement Organization Challenge is to place the items where they belong in an organized fashion.

The two things to keep in mind when dealing with basement organization are accessibility and keeping like items together.

storage bin organizer system
Storage bin organizer system available for purchase on

When consdiering accessibility, there are two important things to keep in mind.

First, make sure you do not pile containers too high or too deep because it can both be difficult to access them physically, but also if it takes too long and seems like too much trouble to get to something, practically you never will.

If you have lots of bins or tubs of stuff to store, I suggest getting a storage bin organizer system such as the one shown on the left. It allows you to stack your bins higher without the hassle of moving all the bins on top if you want to get to the one at the bottom. It solves one issue of accessibility, thereby giving you more storage space immediately.

Second, when considering accessibility, think about how frequently and at what times of year you’ll access various items you’re placing into storage in the basement. Obviously, the less often you use an item the less accessible it needs to be, and vice-versa.

Also, keep in mind that you should store like items together, so you can find them more easily. That is why you’ve got to carefully choose your zones and sub-zones mentioned in step 2 of the Basement Organization Challenge, above.

Step 4: Consider These Basement Storage Solutions

When storing things in your basement you’ve got to keep in mind that the area can be damp and is potentially prone to flooding.

For that reason you’ve got to make sure you choose storage solutions which will protect your stuff, and also that you don’t store things in this area of your home that could potentially be damaged by the storage conditions.

Items That Don’t Store Well In Basements

Because of the dampness and humidity problems in many basements, think twice before storing any of these types of items in this area.

  • Papers, including newspapers, books, bills and other records
  • Photographs and other memorabilia
  • Cardboard items, including cardboard boxes, boxed foods, etc.
  • Metals that are prone to rusting
  • Fabrics, since they can develop mildew and musty smells

If you have to store such things in your basement, take extra precautions to rid the area of dampness, such as using a dehumidifier, and also making sure your sump pump and other flood control mechanisms are properly working.

Use Plastic, Not Cardboard Storage Boxes

Make sure to use sturdy storage containers, such as plastic storage bins, that rodents and bugs cannot easily get into, as well as being impervious to dampness and slight flooding.

hanging storage shelves
Hanging storage shelves available on

The main thing I caution against is using cardboard boxes for storage in your basement. If there is a flood of even half an inch everything in the boxes on the floor will get ruined.

Further, even without a flood the cardboard can absorb water from the damp air allowing mold, mildew and musty odors to grow and flourish.

Keep Things Off The Floor By A Couple Of Inches

Further, because of flooding and moisture concerns it is best to keep any items that cannot get wet off the floor.

The best way to do this include with storage shelves (such as the ones shown above), or with hanging storage shelves such as the ones shown to the right.

Step 5: Label And Inventory Your Basement Storage

Finally, the last step in the Basement Organization Challenge is to take stock of what you’ve organized and stored in your basement, labeling it and making an inventory of the contents for your reference later.

You should label each box or storage container on the top and on all four sides, so no matter where you’re looking at the container you can know its contents.

Then, whenever you need something from your basement storage it will be a breeze to find it quickly and easily.

Tell Me How The Basement Organization Challenge Is Going For You

I would love to know how this week’s Basement Organization Challenge is going. You can tell me your progress or give me more ideas for how you’ve organized this area of your home in the comments below.

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