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Stop Making Your Basement A Dumping Zone For Clutter
by veteran Professional Organizer, Dorothy Breininger

Summer is a perfect time when the weather is warm to finally clean out your basement because you can bring items outside to sort/purge/trash if you don’t have enough room in the crowded basement to do so. Plus, the bright light of sunshine will keep you energized to get the job done!

What do closets, drawers, attics and basements all have in common? If you’re not careful anyone of them can easily turn from a convenient place to store items to a dumping zone. So let’s talk basements ... depending on the state of your basement it might be a quick job or it could take several weekends. Use the steps below to make a plan to create more workable space.

STEP 1: Commit to spending ten minutes at a time if you have daily commitments or 35 minutes if you do not. But do not try to get the basement organized in one session. It took you awhile to get it disorganized and it is OK to get it organized in multiple sessions.

STEP 2: Zone your space. Zones are essential to keep order in your basement. Assign zones in your basement for each function. For most homes the basement can be divided into three main zones: utility, storage, and living area.

Utility Zone: This is the area of your basement is where your furnace, water heater, circuit breaker box, water shut off valves, sump pump are located. You need to keep this zone clear of clutter with an easy path to access in case of an emergency. Be especially careful of placing any items that are flammable by your furnace or hot water heater. If you are extremely tight on space and need to store items close to this area I suggest looking into a metal shelf with wheels, so it can be easily moved when access is needed.

Storage Zone: This is the space you will have designated to use for storage. I suggest dividing this zone into 3-5 sections or sub-zones. A typical example might be separate section for automobile supplies, sporting equipment, gardening and lawn care tools, holiday decorations, archived paperwork and spare household supplies.

Storing Like Items Where You Use Them. Keep the items you use most in the easiest to reach locations. For example, store your bulk paper goods nearest to the basement door entrance to your home. In harder to reach places store items you don’t use as often — like holiday decorations.

Living Area Zone: This is the is the area that is finished or nicer which you may use or choose to use in the future for crafts or as a workshop area, playroom, rec area, or man cave. The goal would be to keep this area clutter free of the items you would store in the utility or clutter zone.

STEP 3: Sort Your Stuff. Sort all items into three piles: keep, donate (or sell), and toss. For items you have decided to keep, sort everything into categories you want to organize “like with like”. Separate your gardening tools from the car maintenance supplies and sporting equipment. If you still have boxes you didn’t unpack when you moved in, there is no time like the present to sort those as well.

STEP 4: Toss the Trash. Keep a few heavy-duty garbage bags handy as you sort, so you can easily toss things away. Be ruthless — get rid of all the broken equipment, rusted tools, and toys that are missing pieces. Haul the recyclables to the curb or to the recycling center. What should get the boot: outgrown toys, items that are broken beyond repair. If you have a hard time letting go of things that have sentimental value, snap pictures to keep the memories.

STEP 5: Share Your Stuff. Once you have separated items into groups, and tossed the trash, you may be surprised to see how much good stuff you own. Keep the best and give away the rest.

STEP 6: Hard Clear Plastic Bins & Shelving. For this project, you need to seriously consider investing in hard plastic bins with lids that properly close and shelving to keep boxes at least a few inches off the floor. I am a big fan of hard plastic containers; it is easier to see what is inside and better protection against water, dust, dirt and critters. Unfortunately the reality of basements is that if it hasn’t already flooded, a flood may just be around the corner. We need to hope for the best but plan for the worst.

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