Conquer Clutter in the Basement: 7+ Useful Tips

Clean out your basement with these tips

Basements seem to be magnets for clutter. It’s the one place where you can stockpile junk and not think twice about it – out of sight, out of mind. This way of thinking will only land you on A&E’s “Hoarders: Buried Alive” within a matter of time, so it’s important to keep your basement clean and organized, just as you do the rest of the house. Decluttering the basement doesn’t have to be difficult or too time-consuming. Make a weekend project out of it. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Recruit some helping hands

Get the whole family involved, or recruit some of your friends to help purge the basement. A small crew of helping hands will benefit the decluttering process in multiple ways:

  1. More hands means the job gets done faster.
  2. Friends and family help provide emotional support as you inevitably have to part ways with some items that you may have an emotional attachment to.
  3. Outside eyes can sometimes see clutter better than you since they don’t see it day in and day out. An extra set of eyes comes in handy when decluttering any part of the home.

Separate clutter into piles

Stay organized while you’re organizing. Separate the clutter into several piles: donate, recycle, trash, sell and keep. The “keep” pile should remain as small as possible. After all, the point is to declutter, not simply rearrange the basement. Donate items to the local charitable organization of your choice. Drop off recyclable items—paper, cardboard, plastic, e-waste, and metals—at a local recycling center. Have a garage/yard sale to get rid of any other items of value, or simply post them for sale online at Craigslist, eBay, Pinterest, or Amazon. If your “trash” pile is quite large, consider a roll-off dumpster rental. For an average size basement, a 10-yard dumpster or smaller will typically be adequate. Your local dumpster rental provider will help you determine the optimal size for your particular cleanout.

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Section off the room(s)

Dividing the basement into smaller sections and focusing on each section at a time can improve your efficiency. It also makes the decluttering process a lot more manageable. Kathy Jenkins, a professional organizer who’s an expert in decluttering spaces, suggests starting with the easiest sections first so that you can see results quickly. Each time you declutter a section of the basement, you’ll get a renewed sense of gratification, which is great motivation to keep on going!

Get rid of excessive storage

Storage areas aren’t always good. Of course, some storage is a good thing and can help keep things neat and organized; however, too much storage can lead to excessive clutter. Additionally, storage areas themselves take up space in the basement, which leads to a more cramped and cluttered feeling. There’s a delicate balance between too much storage and not enough. This is another situation where your friends and family can help you determine how much storage you actually need.


Similarly to the previous tip, downsizing larger items that take up a lot of space in the basement can help create a sense of space and organization. This may include downsizing any furniture in the basement, bookcases, unused dressers/desks, or old gym equipment collecting dust.

Declutter the walls/shelving

It’s not just the floors you should be focusing on—the walls, closets, and shelves need some love, too. Take a minimalist approach to decluttering walls and shelves. Think: Less is more. Organize bookshelves and donate books to your local library if you don’t plan to read them anytime soon.

Employ a prevention plan

Once the basement looks like new again, it’s important to put a clutter-prevention strategy in place to prevent it from coming back. Here are a few useful tips to prevent clutter:

  1. Avoid adding new file cabinets, bookshelves and other storage areas to the basement unless you’re replacing an existing one.
  2. If you put a new box or bin of stored items in the basement, take an equally sized box or bin out and donate/recycle/trash its contents.
  3. Take a photo of your basement immediately after decluttering it and post it somewhere you see it regularly. This will help remind you to keep the basement clean and organized.
  4. Dedicate just 15-30 minutes per week decluttering the basement to prevent small messes from becoming another major decluttering job.

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