Basements are that secret space where we store everything we don’t have room or don’t need on a daily basis. It’s easy for that space to become an abyss because we just shove things down there thinking we will be able to find what we are looking for at a moment’s notice, and this is usually not the case. It’s hard to get to those Christmas bins because they are hidden behind our summer furniture, suitcases, rolling racks filled with clothes and all the bins our kids and friends asked to “temporarily” store. Big problem.
The first step to organizing a basement is to ask your kids who have probably moved into their own place by now to come and take what they want to keep. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve organized a basement or attic for a couple that is downsizing. All of their kids are out of the house, but low and behold, the bins and boxes full of their stuff is left behind. What are they supposed to do with all this stuff? Move it into storage? Who’s paying for that?
Many of my clients have a hard time mustering up the strength to ask their kids to come and participate. Most of the time the kids never do it. That’s when I step in and make the calls. I ask them to all come on a weekend that they can agree upon. I ask them to show up, weed through their belongings and to take what they want. Whatever they leave behind will be donated or thrown away. If they don’t care about their boxes filled with beanie babies or third grade artwork, baby books, yearbooks and college photo albums then we will throw them out. Another option is that they get a little storage unit together and pay for it. It’s their decision. Once I explain the options, they usually show up and keep 10% of their stuff.
Next call is to friends and family members who’ve asked my clients to store their dining room sets and rugs and lamps because they have no storage in their own places. You should not take their stuff to your new home. They should come and get it, or it’ll be given away.
I once was cleaning a family member’s basement and I came across two white wooden sleigh beds in the back corner, and I was horrified when I realized they were mine! I had forgotten that I’d asked them to store them when we downsized a few years ago. Point being, don’t be afraid to remind your friend or family member about their belongings. They may have forgotten that they have things in your basement or attic. Don’t wait until the last minute when planning a move. Make the call.
Here are a few to take into consideration when organizing a basement:
- Weed through what’s in front of you piece by piece and put all things related in one spot.
- Try to create sections or areas along the walls and leave the middle empty so you can move around.
- Create seasonal sections so when it’s time to grab your Christmas decorations or outdoor summer essentials you can see where it is and just grab it.
- Most basements need a dehumidifier, some need one at either end.
- Protect what you have with plastic and heavy tape. All things fabric should be covered to prevent mildew and musty scent. If you have rugs or drapes hanging around, roll them, wrap them and tape them up tight.
- Clear bins are best. Get rid of the boxes.
- If you have clothing stored, it’s best to hang on rolling racks and zip them up tight in plastic hanging garment bags. Plastic garment bags and bins are great because you can see what’s in them without having to label everything.
- Sweep, vacuum and mop as you move everything around. Odds are you have lots of dust balls rolling around.
- The vacuum is your friend. Use it.
Take a look at this before and after pictures of a basement I recently organized.