9 Tips For Organizing A Basement Storage Area

Basements give a house some great extra storage space. For many homeowners, the basement is an extension of their home, finished beautifully, and used daily. For others, the basement becomes an unorganized dumping ground, used as a place to hide all the stuff that doesn't have a place to go. If you're part of the latter group, it's time to make the most out of your basement

We all need storage. Very few people live with exactly what they use from day to day with no excess that needs to be stored. Decorations, clothing, food items, tools, or any number of things require storage space until they're used. Unfortunately, some people have way too much "stuff" and it negatively affects their lives. According to Annacis Lock-Up Storage, there are a few signs you may have an unhealthy amount of clutter. They include: often losing your belongings, too many duplicate items, stacks and stacks of storage bins, a home that's difficult to move around in, and even poor health thanks to an overabundance of mites and dust particles. In this article, we'll discuss nine tips for organizing a basement storage area in your home, so you can take control of the things you need to keep while doing some decluttering along the way. It's time to get organized, stay that way, and start enjoying your basement. 

Clean it out

Before you can organize storage space, you've got to clean out the clutter in the basement. Grab some large garbage bags, boxes, and any other containers you can fill for donations, trash, things to sell, and items to keep. Pick one area at a time and go through every item, whether it's from a messy pile or a shelf that's gotten out of control. Look at an item and decide if you value it, use it, or if it's just been collecting dust for years. It's tough to know if you should get rid of some things. What if you end up regretting it or need it later? Budget Dumpster has some great advice. They suggest looking at the item and deciding if it's needed for the room it's designed to be in. For electronics, try them out to see if they work, and most of all, if the item brings you no joy and is no longer useful, get rid of it. Remember, one person's junk is another person's treasure. Don't feel bad ditching things that no longer serve you. 

Back to your piles — how do you know when to donate or sell? According to Money Under 30, it comes down to how much you value your time. They suggest if you're saving up for an event like a vacation, then yes, sell. If you are simply decluttering and have little time to deal with the side-business of online marketplaces, then donate. There are even organizations that will pick up your donations. Donating is a wonderful way to help out others in your community. Whatever you choose, enjoy the wonderful feeling of letting things go so you can get your storage area set up. 

Eliminate moisture

Now that the basement is cleaned out, you don't want to organize a storage space down there if your things will be ruined by moisture. Check along the walls and windows to make sure there's no water coming in from the outside. Basements are below the ground, so they're prone to cool temperatures and wetness. Cracks in the foundation, leaky windows, and poor drainage can all be the culprit of unwanted moisture. 

Besides actual leaks, basements tend to feel damp. If it's just dampness due to humidity from being underground, a dehumidifier will do the trick. A dehumidifier simply pulls moisture from the air and deposits it into an attached bucket. According to JES Foundation Repair, you should empty the dehumidifier at least once a day, otherwise it will stop doing its job. 

If there's water pooling in certain areas, you'll need to waterproof your basement. According to Ring's End, to waterproof an area, first clean it up, then plug holes and fill any cracks. Seal all openings (windows and doors) with caulk, then apply a waterproof coating. You can find these coatings at your home improvement store. Even items in bins can be affected by too much moisture. Mildew and mold can leave their marks on clothing or any other stored item. Eliminating wetness and humidity will also help prevent the musty mildew smell that's common in basements.

Lighten it up

Brightly lit areas, especially in the basement, are just more pleasurable to be in. You don't want to dread going down to the basement storage area. Basements are notorious for being dark. They seldom have full-size windows. If you can, leave the egress basement windows uncovered and clean, so you can have as much natural light as possible. In a basement, any lighting can be installed; however, according to Popled, recessed lights (also known as can lights) are best, as long as the ceilings are at least 7 feet, 6 inches up to 8 feet high. They recommend using plenty of recessed lights all over so the entire area is well lit. Talk to your electrician about what might work best for your basement. 

It isn't just light fixtures that bring brightness to a space. Walls and flooring play a role as well. For a storage area, you may want to opt for white walls in a shiny, semi-gloss that's easy to wipe clean. For flooring, a dark carpet isn't going to lighten up a room the way a light-colored vinyl plank floor does. According to Basements Plus, vinyl planks are the way to go for high-moisture areas because they are waterproof and durable. They are made from PVC and mimic the look of hardwood flooring. Lights, bright walls, and a light-colored floor will take your basement storage area from dreadful to delightful.

Create the storage space

Do you have specific storage space? It's a great feeling to get the basement all cleaned up and cleaned out. Now, you must decide exactly where the storage area will be if you haven't already. You don't want to just randomly put bins here and there, because, before you know it, the basement will be a mess. So, how large of an area do you need? According to Build Your House Yourself University, you should plan about 10% of your home's total square footage for storage.

If your basement isn't finished, you may have more options. Look for places that can't be used for anything else in case you decide to designate some more areas in the basement. There may be room under the stairs for storage or a small area near the furnace. If you have a large family and years of collecting household goods under your belt, then you may need a spot that's more like a room. If your basement is finished, you'll be all set with drywall-finished walls and lighting for your storage room. Decide what works best and make it your storage area.

Designate storage areas

Now that the storage area is ready to go, it's time to decide what goes where. You've come this far and have established a clean, moisture-free, designated storage area, so it would be a shame to not have a place for everything to help keep it organized. Within your storage area or room, it's helpful to get a general idea of what goes where before you start filing it all in. Think about what you'll store — clothing, seasonal decorations, items used only once a year, baby things, or whatever your family needs to set aside for extended periods of time. Keep in mind that not everything stores well in a basement, especially if it's unfinished. According to State Farm, you should avoid storing artwork, books, documents, and electronics in your unfinished basement. Moisture, a lack of insulation, and little to no climate control can damage these things. 

For what you are storing, how will you create places for the containers and things you'll use within the space? Will some items be best stored on shelves, while others just need a corner in the room? Do any items need to hang? These are things to think about as you envision the storage area. Make a list of what's being stored, and then stand in the storage room or space and map out where it will all go. It's a great way to avoid being unorganized from the beginning or having to rearrange until you get it right.

Choose containers and labels

Most storage items need a container unless they're big and bulky and can be stored on their own. It's helpful to get a variety of sizes for your storage containers. You can also collect cardboard boxes, especially if you receive a lot of deliveries at home. Start saving those boxes so you can reuse them (now you have an excuse for those late-night online shopping sprees). 

Plastic boxes and bins are popular and an excellent choice. According to Stor-It, plastic has more pros than cardboard does. It's durable, waterproof, lasts longer, and looks nicer than cardboard when all stacked up. That doesn't mean you have to completely rule out cardboard boxes. Stor-It goes on to explain that cardboard boxes are handy because they store flat when not in use, which means they take up little space. They also come in a never-ending selection of sizes and are easy to find. Check out home improvement stores and moving or truck rental stores for cardboard boxes. For plastic containers, look to home improvement stores, department stores, and discount stores. Grab some open baskets for storage as well for items that won't work with a lid.

Labels are super helpful when you want to easily find something in storage. They also help family members put things away where they belong. You can use a label maker or a roll of masking tape and a marker to create labels. Printing out labels from your computer works well too. For a crafty look, you can find chalkboard sticker labels at arts and craft stores and use a chalk paint marker to write on them. Whatever your method, according to Decluttering School, it's helpful to use labels that contrast in color to where you are putting them. For example, if the bin is white, choose a dark or bright colored label to help it stand out. Label shelves so when a new bin comes in, it's easy to see where it belongs. Label all containers so you don't have to open everything when you need to locate an item. You can make simple, general labels, or more detailed ones stating exactly what's in each box or container. 

Utilize wall space

Think you've found all the storage space you can? Think again. Look to the basement walls for even more storage space. Shelving units are an excellent choice in a basement storage area. Once those are filled up, don't assume you can't fit anything else. Even in unfinished areas, you can use the 2x4s that frame the walls to add some storage. Install hooks for hanging things or add some hanging shelves that can be used to hold smaller containers full of stuff. According to The Storage Space, we should remember to make use of the top of furniture, like a bookshelf or shelving unit. They also suggest repurposing containers such as wooden boxes and crates by hanging them on the wall. Also, keep a ladder in your storage area so you can access those out-of-reach places. 

A pegboard is like magic for keeping things organized in the storage area and you can easily hang it on a wall. According to The Storage Space, a pegboard can be used for all kinds of things, such as organizing jewelry, tools, ties, and belts. If you are keeping some crafting items in storage or designating an area for all your holiday wrapping supplies, a pegboard works well for those things too. Hang ribbon, tape, and scissors — the goal is to utilize every inch of space for storage. The takeaway is to not forget to look at the walls.

Create a room divider

You may want to separate the designated storage area from other areas of the basement if there isn't already a wall. A storage area is great, but if you also have a nice sitting area, you don't really want to be looking at your storage. You can spend time and money building a wall if you have that option. A wall, of course, creates a nice finished touch. Still, there are a few other options you can employ to give your storage some privacy.

Use bookshelves to divide the room. The shelves double as more storage or a place for some decorations. Another option is curtain room dividers which come in all kinds of colors and are easily hung on a large tension rod. Many people turn to screens for use as a divider to separate areas. According to RoomDividers.com, screens do more than divide a space. They hide messes, add a splash of color, redirect traffic, and create coziness. They're also inexpensive, easy to move, and simpler than building a wall. Separating your storage room from other basement rooms isn't urgent or absolutely necessary; however, you'll be glad you did. It makes the basement look complete and put together.

Take inventory

About once a year, take inventory of your basement treasures. You may find some of it is no longer treasured and actually hasn't been touched all year. It's helpful to keep a list of what you have, so you can check things off as you do the inventory. 

If storing backup food, read expiration dates and get rid of things accordingly. Be sure to rotate food items that are stored, putting newer items toward the back and older ones in the front so they are used first. Take out those bins of clothing once a year and go through them. The easiest way is to do it when the seasons change. When you pull the container full of cozy sweaters out once that crisp fall air hits, look at each piece of clothing and decide if it's going to get worn again or if it's time to let it go. According to Rinse, there are several reasons to get rid of clothing, including your style has evolved, you've physically outgrown some clothing, or you're moving and it's time to downsize or change your look. Don't feel guilty about letting some clothing go. Clothing is a great item to donate, so you don't need to throw it away. It's not getting any use stuck in a storage bin year after year. Another helpful hint when it comes to deciding whether or not to ditch some clothing comes to us from Bin It. They suggest that if you haven't worn an item during a six-month period in a particular season, you don't love it, and you may want to part ways with that article of clothing. 

How about those holiday decorations that seem to be the star of many storage areas? Maybe if the holiday season has come and gone two years in a row, and that knotted ball of lights never made its way upstairs from the basement, it's time to say goodbye. Continue this process with your inventory. Is it an item that's expected to go unused for a few years? Or is it something that was used in the past but no longer serves you well? Doing this once a year should keep your storage organized and the clutter in your home to a minimum.