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Most of the country has to contend with damp, humid basements sometimes.

We’ve all been there—stuff gets moldy, mildew covers anything left out, and it can be hard to know what should go where.

There’s something of an art to basement storage. Your overall strategy will vary wildly based upon the shape and size of your basement, the climate of wherever you live, and what you’re storing down there. Some stuff survives the condition of a basement better than others, and some stuff just plain shouldn’t be down there even if you feel like you don’t have a lot of room for it.

Starting to sound a little familiar? Here’s a quick list of tips, ideas, dos, and don’ts for basement storage in less-than-ideal climates:

 

Take advantage of vertical space

Particularly in smaller basements, verticality is key to storing things downstairs. Use a lot of wall shelves to store things up high away from the more dank corners where light can’t reach, and hopefully close to a window for sunlight. (This may not be a good place to store more temperature- or light-sensitive items, but hopefully you’re not keeping too many of those in the basement already!)

 

Don’t leave anything unprotected

Whatever you’re storing in the basement, no matter how durable it might seem, try to avoid just leaving it out in the open or on a table. Not only will this better protect anything down there from outside elements, it can also stop unwanted pests from getting down there and chewing on everything—no matter how clean your house is, there’s always a chance that bugs or rodents can make a home downstairs during the winter. Get some plastic storage bins to stash everything away and make them a little harder to chew on and ruin.

 

Prevent rust where possible

Even if the things you’re storing in the basement aren’t prone to rust, the shelves you use could be. Untreated or unclean shelves can start to rust and degrade over time, and not only will that lead to potentially needing to replace the shelves themselves, it may cause damage on whatever you’re storing up there. Use rust-proof shelves like chrome wire shelves or similarly treated metal shelves to help prevent damage. Your unbroken boxes of holiday decorations will thank you for it.

 

Avoid fabrics and natural materials

Out of everything that could be prone to damage or wear in damp basement conditions, fabrics are among the worst offenders. Whether it’s an ugly Christmas sweater you wear once a year, seasonal clothing you don’t need all the time, or old blankets that aren’t in use right now, don’t store fabrics down in an unfinished basement. (Unless you’re looking for an excuse to just throw them away—in which case, just donate them now and save yourself the heartache.)

 

Be careful about temperature changes

Finally, to wrap it all up, the trick with moldy or unfinished basements is to be mindful about anything you store down there that may be sensitive to temperature changes. Things like electronics (no matter how well-made), food, or even candles can be easily affected by a sudden cold snap or heat wave if your basement doesn’t have enough climate control circulating through the area. Save stuff like that for the upstairs closets and leave the basement to do your dirty work.

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