So…you want to organize your basement and you don’t know where to start? Here are some guidelines to get you started.

First, make two lists:

  • Things you want to do in the basement (how you want to use the space)
  • Things you want to live in the basement (what you store in the space)

Based on those lists, divide the basement into zones such as office area, recreation area, bar area, workout area, storage area, etc.  The storage area might be divided into smaller areas such as Christmas decorations, luggage, memories, tools, etc.

Once you have established zones, now you need trash bags, boxes/bins, sticky notes, and a pen.   Establish a “staging” area and use sticky notes to label the boxes or bags according to these categories:

  1. Trash
  2. Recycle
  3. Shred-bank statements, credit card bills, anything with personal information
  4. Donate
  5. Lives somewhere else-could be another part of the house or something you borrowed
  6. Keep and lives in the basement

Pick one of your zones, decide how long you will work (maybe start with an hour) and begin sorting using the six categories above.  Be honest with yourself: are you really going to use that item that has not been out of its box in 10 years?  Do you really need all those old magazines, bills or snail mail?  Leave 20 minutes at the end of your sorting session to do the following:  take trash out, place recycling in your receptacle, put donations and shredding (if you have a large quantity) in your car and schedule drop offs this week, take the items in your “live in another area of the house” and return them to their “homes.”

Repeat this process with each zone in your basement.  Wait to purchase organizing bins and shelving units until you have identified the items you will keep.  This will save money since there will less “stuff” than when you started.  Clear bins are preferred because we can see what is inside them quickly!

Often we identify additional projects as a result of “organizing the basement” (photo sorting, file clean out, framing pictures).  We suggest that you map out a plan to tackle these projects separately.   Watch the “trap” of getting side-tracked and pulled toward a different project while going through the process of organizing the basement.   The box for things that “live somewhere else” is suggested for just this reason.  Stay focused on your zone.  Do not run upstairs to return something to the kitchen.  Do all your returning at the end of your session.

Repeat this process for all of the zones.  Before you know it, you will enjoy the feeling of relief, accomplishment and joy from having an organized space to use just the way YOU want to use it!