Get Your Basement Organized
For most of us, the basement is a dark dungeon where we throw all of our old stuff. It proceeds to pile up, be forgotten, and in some cases, get ruined. Would we pile old stuff in the middle of our living rooms? Not a chance! In our bedrooms? No way!
The reasons we treat our basements so differently are many. First of all, they are usually dark, damp, unfinished spaces. After all, their area isn’t even counted in the square footage of your home. However, basements are usually the same size and square footage as one floor of your home! Why waste this valuable resource?
Start by walking around the basement. Do you have a clear path to move about the basement? If you do, great! If you don’t, you need to determine what is in your way. Boxes? Furniture? Stuff strewn about?
Your second step is to take a look at every item you are storing in the basement.
Assign one of the following categories to each item.
-Holiday or Seasonal Items (6′ Jack-O-Lantern)
-I Might Need it Someday (Bread Maker)
-Just Because (Trophies)
-Needs to be Stored (Hockey Equipment)
Once you have assigned a category to an item it is time to make a decision about what to keep. The makeup of your basement should be close to the following:
40% Needs to be Stored
40% Seasonal Items
20% Just Because/I Might Need it Someday
Ask yourself these two questions when determining what to keep:
-If I moved today would I pay someone to move this?
-If I had to, would I pay someone to store this item for me?
If the answer to either one of these questions is no, get rid of the item.
Cleaning out a basement is a large project, so you may want to rent a dumpster or contact a junk removal service. Most local trash haulers have rules about what you can dispose of in your weekly pick-up. You may also want to contact a charity that will pick up donations at your home. Charities will often give you a pick-up date at least a few weeks away, so this will give you time to accumulate the items you wish to get rid of.
Once you have decided what you are keeping, and more importantly what is going to be disposed of, take the time to throw away or donate the unwanted items. Many times people will make a pile of items to leave the space, but will not follow through with actually getting rid of them. This will give you more workspace in the basement, and you will be motivated by the new found space.
Now that you have purged all of the unwanted items from the basement sweep and clean the floor. This will give the space a tidy and more spacious feel right away. Then start investigating and purchasing organizing tools such as shelves, totes, and ceiling systems for the remaining items. Make sure to make note of the basement’s measurements, the amount of stuff you are keeping, and your budget before you head out to the store. It is easy to over buy supplies, and to buy items that you will not need. Resist these urges, as they will just put you back in the same place you are trying to dig out of. My advice is to be liberal when you purchase totes. Chances are you will be able to find another use for any left over ones in your home. It is never a bad idea to have a few on hand for when you undertake an organization project.
With all the extra space you have cleaned out in the basement, consider making a space for yourself. It could be a wrapping space, a craft space, or a place to exercise. Adding a gaming table such as a ping-pong table, or air hockey could transform the space to a recreation room for the kids. These are great basement items because the noise does not interfere with activity in the house.
Take any of these ideas up a notch by purchasing a remnant rug at your local super store or home improvement store. Install some small wall shelves, or a free-standing system, to place a small TV or radio in the area you have created.
Before you begin putting everything back in order, look for any water or moisture stains. These are signs that you do not want to store valuable items in this space. If you see them invest in a dehumidifier, or work with a basement company to seal your basement. If you buy a humidifier, purchase a timer and set it to run at a convenient time for you. That will help you save on the costs of running it 24 hours a day. Make sure to put it on your calendar, or your child’s chore list, to empty the water tray at least once a week. Water in the basement can often lead to mold, which has serious health risks.
No matter what you have decided to do with your newly cleaned basement there are a few other things to keep in mind. Make sure the air is safe to breathe in the basement. Mold can occur in wet, or moist basements. Wood, cardboard, or any other organic matter can be breeding grounds for mold. Another item to check into is the Radon level of your basement. Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive element that is prevalent in the Northern United States. It is an odorless gas, so unless you test for it, you would never know you have it. Home test kits are available at your local home improvement store, and most home inspection companies can perform these tests for a fee.
Most importantly, make sure you keep up with the progress you have made. Mark appointments on your calendar every six months to “touch up” the basement and maintain the progress you have made.