Basement Makeover: A Step-by-step Guide to Decluttering Downstairs

A basement, quite frankly, can be a boon or a bust. If you’re the lucky owner of a house with a finished basement, with a lovely media room for the kids, or a place for the pool table and a player piano on the side, count yourself lucky indeed. For many others, the basement can elicit more problems than pleasure—a damp and dingy space, a place where all the surplus household things go to hide.

Organizing such a basement can be a rewarding project. Imagine walking into a cool, calm subterranean oasis, where everything has its place and where everyone can cool down on a hot summer’s day. Bliss!

Here are some effective strategies to help you get started:

1. Declutter First: As with everything in the organizing world, begin by sorting through all the items in your basement. Create three piles: keep, donate, and throw away. This will help you get rid of unnecessary items and make the organization process easier.

2. Categorize and Zone: Group similar items together and designate specific zones for different categories, such as holiday decorations, tools, and sports equipment. This makes it easier to find what you need.

3. Use Shelving and Storage Bins: Invest in sturdy shelving units and clear plastic storage bins. Shelving helps maximize vertical space, while clear bins allow you to see what’s inside at a glance, without opening them.

4. Label Everything: Clearly label all your storage bins and shelves. This will help you quickly identify where items are stored and maintain organization over time.

5. Prioritize Accessibility: Store frequently used items in easily accessible locations. Items that are rarely used can be placed on higher shelves or in less accessible areas.

6. Consider the Environment: Basements can be damp and prone to temperature fluctuations. Use plastic bins to protect items from moisture and consider using a dehumidifier to keep the space dry.

7. Create a Maintenance Plan: Regularly review and reorganize your basement to keep it clutter-free. This will prevent the space from becoming disorganized again.

Basements are usually cool spaces, so if you’re looking for a summer project, now would be a good time to roll up your sleeves and organize!

The National Association of Senior Move Managers has a blog that features interesting articles about issues pertaining to seniors. In May, it featured a piece originally published in the New York Times in May 2023 by journalist Paula Span: Moving Is a Monumental Task for Many Older Americans. These Organizers Can Help. – the National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers® blog ( It’s well worth a read!

Michael Portrait

Michael Gettel-Gilmartin is an organizer for The Move Makers and a writer and blogger. He was educated in an English boarding school (no, not Hogwarts!) and has lived in eight countries. He’s been paid money for the following: teaching ESL, carrying suitcases as a hotel porter, cleaning carpets, being the refined English telephone voice behind a friend’s attempt to be a literary agent, editing a Japanese dictionary, being an in-home caregiver, and singing at weddings.