Whatever is relegated to the attic is usually the stuff you don’t need very often, or things you're saving for when your children get their first home … or a grandchild visits. Anything you don’t want to see every day, but still want to keep, goes in the attic until the right season or occasion rolls around. Attic organization can make it much easier to find what you need, and creates order where they might not be any.
Attic Organization Starts with The Big Clean Out
It might be a New Year’s resolution, or just a commitment to better organization. If your attic is one big pile of stuff, there’s no better time than now to clean it all up. The sliding puzzle method just moves things around as you're searching for something, often destroying whatever organization you started with.
Cleaning out the attic first makes organizing easier. Part of cleaning out the attic involves making big decisions about what to keep and what to throw away. Unless something is prized like family heirlooms, if you haven’t used it in a couple of years, chances are you don’t need it and won’t use it again. Ridding yourself of these things makes room for everything else.
Setting up the Space in Your Attic
If your attic only has a few areas with flooring of some sort, grate-style attic flooring panels will make it safer for you to walk to your storage areas. These square panels are designed to fit between the joists and interlock at the edges. You can add this flooring to all of the attic, or only the walkways you need to reach your stored items, and you don’t need a contractor to install them. If the attic door is large enough, sheets of 3/4-inch plywood screwed down to the joists are a more traditional solution for attic flooring.
Storage units are important. These let you stack up boxes on shelves instead of on each other, and keep more of the floor space clear.
Many attics have a sloped ceiling, so sloped storage helps you use more of the space. With built-in drawers you pull out, you can pack away things and close them up. This helps keep out dust and reduces the need for plastic containers.
If you store clothing in the attic, you might think about a semi-finished attic with drywall on the walls and ceiling. To lower dust and pollen in the attic, you can install air filters inside your attic vents (learn more about air filters).
Lighting is another consideration. If your attic has none, or only an old pull-chain light, think about installing more lighting. You’ll never need a flashlight to find a box of Christmas decorations again.
Creating Storage Zones for Attic Organization
Even if everything is neat and tidy, finding what you need can take longer than it should if there’s no method to your storage. Creating storage zones helps keep your things in a logical order.
In a somewhat finished attic, a hanging bar lets you hang up out-of-season clothes instead of packing everything in boxes. And with most of the clothing off the floor, you’ve got more room for boxed shoes, coats, and seasonal accessories such as purses, gloves and hats.
Holidays should have their own zone. House decorations can take up a lot of space, and some containers can be quite small. A Christmas tree uses a good deal of floor space but smaller things, such as ornaments and lights, can fit into small, transparent containers on shelves. Next time Christmas rolls around, everything will be together. You can bring out only what you need instead of carrying every holiday box into the house to sort through.
Think about what you’re storing and design your attic organization around how and when you’ll use the things you're storing. This is the foundation of zones.
Keeping Your Attic Tidy
Once your attic is nice and organized, the last thing you want is to clutter it back up. Here are a few tips for keeping the space under control.
- Discard what you don’t use instead of putting it back in the attic. If your box of winter clothes contains a really ugly sweater from the 80s, a better place for it might be a thrift store instead of your attic.
- Put things back in the assigned place. Storage zones don’t help if you put things away in a different place every time.
- Dusting isn’t just for living spaces. Attics collect a lot of dust, so make vacuuming and dusting the attic part of your seasonal cleaning routine.
- Place a large trash can in the attic. If you don’t have time to sort and clean as one big job, a large trash can gives you a place to toss what you don’t want to keep, and you can deal with it later.
- Consider a table and chair. A table gives you a work space for sorting through boxes and packing away new things.
Attic space is often one of the most misused areas of the house. Once the attic door is closed, you don’t have to think about the mess inside. But you will have to think about it at some point. If you’ve taken the time to organize, going to the attic won’t be such a chore. You can build basic shelf units from ordinary lumber, bring in prefabricated shelves, or go all out and install cabinetry with built-in shelves and drawers.
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