My New Year’s present to myself was an organized and de-cluttered basement.

A few months ago, the drop ceiling in our basement collapsed. No humans or cats were hurt, but my husband and I could no longer turn a blind eye to the mess our basement had become. The insurance inspector could barely get past the jumble of camping equipment, jumbo-sized packages of paper towels, boxes of childhood memorabilia from two family homes, a desk mounded over with paperwork and, somewhere underneath it all, an exercise bike.

We had to move the entire mess out into the garage to allow the construction crew to fix the ceiling. When it was time to reorganize the basement, we had one overarching rule – no more “mystery” boxes! We got rid of an old sofa, metal round table and scruffy carpet that had been in the basement, and used that space for storage shelves. We sorted through the mystery boxes one at a time and reorganized the contents into labeled plastic bins.

Now, the basement is lovely. There’s an exercise area where we can ride the stationary bike while watching TV. A sad wooden bureau was perked up with a coat of paint and new pulls. A collection of throw rugs warms up the painted concrete floor. Instead of dreading going down there, I actually look forward to it.

What is your best tip for decluttering and organizing your home? Share and discuss in the comments section.

Why not make de-cluttering a basement, room, closet or shelves your top New Year’s Resolution? Household clutter clogs the smooth workings of any home. Raise your hand if bills go unpaid because you can’t find the paperwork, you are regularly late for work because you can’t find your cell phone or keys, or you have bought items you know you own because that was easier than finding them. That’s why the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has declared January as GO (Get Organized) Month.

Click through the photo gallery accompanying this story to read tips and ideas about how to jumpstart your home’s own Get Organized Month. The tips come from the following websites: Unclutterer,  Becoming Minimalist , The Organized Home , HGTV  and Home Organizing Angels , a home organizing company based in Streetsboro.

I’m no organizing expert, but I’d like to share some wisdom I picked up during the Great Basement De-Cluttering.

Remember to group similar items together. While reorganizing my basement, I placed all the plastic utensils and paper plates together, and all the ice chests together. It’s easier to see what you have (why do we have six ice chests?) and to put items back in the right place after use.

Set a goal of getting rid of all flimsy cardboard boxes with no lids. You can’t easily stack them, the jumble of stuff showing out of the top looks messy, and cardboard will get moldy in damp basements or garages.

Most professional organizers tell you to look at your stuff and then buy storage containers, but I don’t want to lose momentum by running to the store in the middle of a cleaning session, so I buy the storage containers first. I’m a big believer in clear shoeboxes; they are great for grouping together small items, and they are stackable. Find them at the dollar store, along with larger plastic bins, at a good price.

You’ll be tempted to buy huge plastic bins, but don’t. Huge containers are too heavy to deal with once they are filled, and they won’t fit on a shelf. Stick with small- or medium-sized bins; you always use two to store a large collection of, say, DVDs or shoes.

Some people swear by clear plastic bins. I don’t want to see the jumble of stuff that’s inside the bin, so I go with the opaque kind. I label every bin with a description of its contents. I cut 4 by 6 index cards into fourths, and used the quarters as cheap labels that I attached to the bins with Scotch tape. Put labels on the lid and two sides of the bin so you can see a label no matter how you view it.

Pick up sandwich bags in various sizes. I prefer the kind with the sliding closure. Use them to corral small items, then write the contents right on the bag, or attach an index-card label. Tuck the bags into a larger plastic bin; a bunch of sandwich bags on a shelf will flop around and look messy.

I love folding storage boxes, also called banker’s boxes, for storage and organizing. You can find them at office supply stores. They are designed for files and papers, but can hold anything. The boxes are heavy-duty so they resist mold or moisture. They come with handles and lids, they are stackable, and you can write the contents on the outside.
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