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Basement Storage and Organization

Organize Your Basement

One of the spaces most often neglected in a decluttering project is the basement. Use these tips to help you maximize the storage space in your basement.

Keeping the Basement Dry

Keeping things dry is the challenge in basement storage. A hard rain can leave the floor awash. Even when there’s no flooding, a storm can push the humidity level high enough to damage articles. Don’t set anything that could be harmed by water on the floor or on wood, which wicks water upward. Be discriminating in what you store.

  • Stow tools and other iron or steel items in the basement only if a light coat of machine oil protects them.
  • Don’t keep books, magazines or photographs in basements.
  • Never place clothing, rugs, draperies or plush toys here.

To make your basement a drier place for storage, follow these tips: 

  • Keep your gutters clean, and install downspout extensions to direct the rainwater well away from the foundation.
  • Be sure that water coming down the driveway is diverted. The grade should slope away from the house.
  • If you have a partial basement that has an adjoining crawlspace with exposed dirt, cover the ground using 6-mil-thick polyethylene sheeting. Overlap the plastic about 6 inches, allowing the excess to spread up the walls, and use bricks to hold it in place. An earthen crawlspace can cause high humidity in the basement and produce a strong, musty smell.
  • Spray the basement occasionally with a household disinfectant to control mildew and odors.
  • Vent the clothes dryer to the outside. Install an exhaust fan. Open basement windows whenever possible. Seal concrete floors and walls, and install a dehumidifier.
  • Check any floor drain regularly to make sure it remains unclogged. Use hot water and detergent periodically to keep the drain open and control algae growth.
  • Install a sump pump with a battery-operated backup in case the electricity goes out.

Even if you follow all of these tips, it's still better to reserve your basement storage for objects made of materials like glass that won’t be damaged by high humidity or an unexpected bath. Even those items should be placed in tight-lidded plastic containers.

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Other Basement Storage Tips

  • Clear the clutter before you organize. Sort your basement’s contents into three piles: throw away, donate and sell.
  • Install shelving units and some plastic totes to keep items you only use occasionally. You might also tuck hooks or pegs into the walls to maximize storage on the basement walls.
  • Protect any furniture you decide to store in the basement. To prevent fabric color from fading, drape it with acid-free tissue paper, and wrap it in an unbleached drop cloth. Store all furniture on a platform, elevated bricks or blocks, and stretch plastic sheeting over the piece to guard against moisture damage.
  • Air items in your basement every few months to avoid any musty smell. Also use a dehumidifier whenever possible to help control smells.
  • Clean appliances, like refrigerators, freezers, washers and dryers, and make sure they're dry. If you have children, remove all appliance handles to make sure little ones can’t shut themselves inside by accident. Leave doors slightly ajar to allow air circulation and prevent mildew. 

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