My Basement and the Beauty of Zones

With each passing day, as my belly gets bigger and it gets harder to bend over or climb stairs, I am reminded of the urgency of whipping my house into shape in preparation for my two new additions. One of the most important aspects of getting started was to think strategically about a road map. The reality of organizing is that you cannot do your whole house at once. Small, manageable goals that help you feel a sense of accomplishment along the way, and ensure that at least one part of your house is in excellent working order is the way to go. Sometimes you have to circle back to areas that are “complete” because no space in your home exists in a vacuum, but small tweaks later are easy when the bulk of the work is done.

As I’ve been chipping away at transitioning my guest room and its closet to a twin nursery, I’ve become acutely aware that my house is quite lacking in closet space. Until I tried to make space for two more babies, it was never an issue. But now storage needs are at an all-time high. In strategizing my space, I decided that my basement space has to go into overdrive.   It’s always been a catch-all, as most basements are, but now I need it to be extra functional. And the key to creating a space that is both multi-purpose and super efficient? Zones!

My first step was to think about categories. I scanned the existing stacks and bins and considered what I’d planned to move down there from other areas of the house. I also needed to dig my hands in to sort and create categories from the existing contents. At first, I thought I had a solid grasp on what was there and what would be added, but once I started sorting and writing down categories, I was amazed (and I do this for a living… I’ve seen it all!). There was ski gear and camping gear, excess paper goods, a printer and office supplies, kitchen overflow, luggage, memorabilia and keepsakes, home improvement stuff like tools and paint, holiday décor, bins of clothes that are in-between the kids current sizes. When all was said and done I counted 16 categories! I knew there would be a few things I could toss, but since we had already done some purging when we moved into the house less than two years ago, most of it was needed and used stuff.

Creating the list of categories comes first, and then it’s time to think about zones and what items make sense where. Not only should like be paired with like, but accessibility is a key factor in function.   I did not, for example, need the old iron that my husband uses once a year to wax his snowboard to be at eye level on a shelf near the stairs. That should instead be where frequently needed paper towels should live. So before I started moving things around (considering that moving things is a little challenging for me these days), I sketched my basement layout, what shelving and categories should go where, and then mapped out placement based on priorities, accessibility, fit, and size.

It took a day and a half and one trip to Target for supplies, but my basement is now in fully functioning order. My excess paper goods and kitchen overflow are in the prime real estate zone at the base of the stairs (and paper towels are within reach of my 4-year-old who is quickly learning to be my helper). Rarely used camping gear is stashed in the awkward and hard-to-reach space under the stairs. Luggage is spanning two areas, with the more frequently used carry-ons in the more easily accessible spot and big suitcases tucked away. It’s not all pretty; I don’t have all matching bins or brand-new shelving, but the space makes sense, which, to an organizer like me, is a thing of beauty.

So now I move upstairs to the kitchen. Where oh where in my small kitchen to put the baby bottles that I’m about to unpack? More on that soon!

My prime real estate by the stairs: printer and office supplies, paper goods and kitchen overflow. And scrap carpet in front so I can grab what I need without my feet freezing on the cement!

Staggered heights optimize the angle of the stairs, and also create a barrier for a makeshift closet behind.


Not so pretty, but super functional – easy to find/access home improvement supplies, luggage and air mattress. And tucked in between the left shelf and oil tank is a tall box perfect for containing awkward scrap wood.