Knowing what you have in your basement is the first step in getting its contents organized. There are sure to be things in your basement that you forgot were down there in the first place! Deciding what you need to hold onto and what you can toss or donate is a simple process. Grab some trash bags and a few storage bins and dive in.
You'll need to go through everything to get a good grasp on what kind of supplies you'll ultimately need to get organized. While you're completing your inventory, take the time to create a more formal list so that you can record any valuables for insurance purposes. The purpose of taking inventory is to see exactly what you've been amassing over the years and assess the value of your possessions. You don't have to decide what you'll be keeping just yet, but it may be wise to write things down and go over the list with other members in your household to determine what to keep.
You may also want to take this opportunity to step back and look at the space you have to work with. Once you've pulled everything out to take inventory, you can take measurements and start thinking about how you'll set up a functional space [source: LifeOrganizers.com]. Your list can cover more than the actual items in your basement -- it may help to include things like available lighting and electrical outlets.
Once you've completed your inventory and gone over it with your family, you can begin to sort out your belongings and place them in specific piles. Check out the next section for some tips on how you can effectively sort the items in your basement.