Organizing Your Basement

By Sharon Naylor

June 24, 2011 5 min read

How messy is your basement? Fall and winter can be the perfect time to get your space in order. According to a 2010 survey by the Soap and Detergent Association, 60 percent of Americans regularly engage in a thorough seasonal cleaning to remove clutter, clean their houses and eliminate asthma and allergy symptoms, which can be brought on by dust and mildew. The survey also reports that getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in an average home.

Diane Albright, an organizing and productivity expert and the creator of Work Piles Made Easy and Ten Minutes a Day to Organizing Success, provides the following important perks to cleaning your basement:

--Saving you time and money. Albright says, "The average person wastes 55 minutes a day looking for things they know they have but can't find." Albright says that if you have to buy something new that is actually hidden in your basement clutter, you're wasting money, time and space. An organized basement lets you remember what you have.

--Making your family more self-reliant. An organized system in your basement allows you and your family members to find things without your help.

--Preventing injury. "If your basement isn't organized, you risk injury to yourself and to your items. Piles can topple, breaking items, or someone can trip over items on the floor."

--Preventing invaders. "If your basement is a heap of items, you won't know who has made a new home in the heap, such as mice, bugs and possibly a squirrel."

--Preventing water damage. Albright says, "If your belongings are sitting on a floor that retains moisture (especially in the rainy season), the items in the box may be holding that moisture, as well."

In addition to those conditions, many people say it just feels better to have an organized basement in which everything is in its place. Albright provides the following tips to help you guide your family in a fall/winter basement cleanup:

--Gather your supplies. Albright says that the right tools make the job easier. Gather a variety of bins, and mark them for purging ("garbage," "donate," etc.) or sorting ("electronics," "holiday" and other categories). Use a label maker with waterproof labels to help your team easily ID your bins.

--Begin by assigning children easy tasks. "Small children can go through toy boxes, selecting items that can be donated to charity," Albright says. "They can also go through their offseason clothing, trying on items to see what fits and what doesn't and placing items they don't like in the 'donate' bin."

--Formulate your plan of attack. Albright suggests starting at one side of the basement and working toward the other side, sorting everything into the bins. These are not their permanent homes. They're simply your first step of organization. Once you have your items in boxes, you can better see what you're keeping and think about the best organizing system for those items.

--Consider buying new shelving units that match, if it's within your budget, or clean the shelving units you have before placing anything back on them.

--Consider new storage bins in colors so that you can assign a color code for your children's items, one for holiday items and so on. Shop for the bins you need, using coupon codes at home supply stores. If your budget doesn't allow for new storage items yet, reuse any plastic bins you already have. Cardboard boxes may have absorbed basement moisture and probably should be recycled.

--When you are finished filling the bins with items you want to keep, place them on shelving units in a manner that suits your family's needs, for example, placing kids' bins on the bottom shelves.

--When your task is done, admire your work and load your donation items into the car for easy delivery to your local charity of choice.

Albright says the key to organizing your basement is to break the task up into manageable portions, even if it's just 10 minutes a day spent on each task. "You may even find that after 10 minutes, you'll keep plugging away because it's not so bad after all," she says.

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