Let’s be honest: unfinished basements tend to be, well, scary. And, if they’re a mess, they’re even more scary! But basements – even when unfinished – make good storage areas. Our 1929 house has an unfinished basement and, when we moved in, we ended up putting a lot of stuff down there to store. Today, I’m going to show you how to organize an unfinished basement – even if it does seem scary, at least at first.
Just to show you the mess that was, here’s video evidence of the “before”:
The thing is: our attic is great, but it has pull-down ladder-type stairs. That makes it hard to put heavy things in the attic. Also, it means pulling down the door, pulling down the ladder, and having a spotter to put anything in storage up there. In contrast, the basement has actual stairs, and all you have to do to go down there is open a door.
And that’s probably why the basement ended up a mess. We just kept putting stuff down there until we ran out of space. It needed a good organizing!
So, one rainy day, I decided to tackle organizing the basement. I used my favorite tip for organizing: breaking the space into zones. I did this HERE with the kitchen and HERE with the pantry in our old house. It made sense to do it down in the basement, too. I knew I needed room for the following stuff:
- Paint – I was storing some of it in the shed outside and some of it in the house, but the paint in the shed didn’t do well with the cold winter we had. So, I decided to move all the paint to the house, where the temperatures fluctuated less and thus wouldn’t kill the paint. Bonus: moving the paint to the basement made sense because it’s closer to where I actually use the paint (either inside or, for spray paint, in our garage)!
- Doors – our house came with a bunch of random old doors that I refuse to get rid of, plus the pantry doors I removed in our kitchen (see THIS POST for why I removed them).
- Shelves – extra shelves from closets and other projects.
- Cabinets – I kept the cabinets from the kitchen remodel, and they are stored down here.
- Magazines – Dear Husband saves every copy of Rolling Stone magazine he gets and has done so as long as I’ve known him. There are many. They are in the basement.
- Holiday decor – Plastic tubs, organized by holiday, plus our artificial Christmas tree.
I bought some shelving units to organize the stuff, put the shelves together, and got to work. I can’t believe how much more space we have, now that all the stuff in there is organized! Check it out:
Using “zones,” I worked my way around the room, deciding what would go where based on where I might use the materials and, honestly, how much things weighed (more on that in a sec…).
I knew that I’d want the paint and other DIY materials near the work table, where I might use it. So, that’s where I started.
There’s the work table. Always good to start with what you know you need. I put the paint and related stuff (wood filler, spackling) next to the work table.
I put the heaviest stuff on the bottom shelf; here, that’s tile and grout. Then the next two shelves up have paint, and the top shelf has a container of extra parts, plus more paint and other stuff.
I also wanted to keep the holiday stuff together, and knew that the biggest area that was open – in which to put the artificial Christmas tree – was near the paint shelves. So, I put the next shelf unit next to the paint and put the holiday buckets o’ stuff there.
The red thing to the left of the pole there is the tree. I didn’t photograph it because, well, it isn’t much to look at in the red storage bag.
I put the heavy stuff near the stairs.
The magazines are in those plastic bins, and the kitchen cabinets are next to them. Why did I put this stuff by the stairs? First, these things are HEAVY. If I needed to lug any of these things upstairs, it’d be the shortest trip with this heavy stuff! Second, since Dear Husband gets a new Rolling Stone each month, it made sense to put the storage of those magazines near the stairs, so that he’s more likely to just run down the stairs and put the latest issue in the bin.
Doors and shelves are also heavy, so they went between the workbench, where I might use them, and the stairs.
My trusted helper, waiting for me at the top of the stairs. (I don’t allow him in the basement.)
Not only is the basement more organized now, but it’s much less scary.
So, how do you organize an unfinished basement?
- Think about zones. What do you have down there? Can you group and store like things together? Can you put the stuff near where you might need it, or near where it would be most useful?
- Once you know what you need to organize, buy any supplies you need: shelves, bins, boxes, etc. Also, a label-maker is a wonderful thing. Make sure you label anything that’s in a box or bin so you know what’s in there, even (or especially) if you can’t see inside.
- Start where you want or need to put something. In my basement, it was the work table – I wanted the paint and related supplies near that work table.
- Move around the room until you’ve got zones for each grouping of stuff.
- Recycle, toss, or donate anything you don’t need or want.
- Stand back and admire your newly organized space!
What area of your home needs organizing? Share in the comments below.