We store lots of stuff in our attics – old furniture we're not willing to part with, boxes of clothes and children's artwork, holiday decorations and so much more. We're lucky to have this space to store things until the day we realize it's also a burden.
We forget what we've put away and one day, we go looking for something in the attic and give up after an hour because there's too much stuff. We've packed away so many boxes without labeling them and we don't have the time or patience to find what we're looking for.
This article provides ideas for deciding what's worth storing in your attic (basement or garage), how to keep track of what's stored so you can find it when you need it, and most important, fun ways to clear out the clutter when you've got the time to enjoy the memories they hold.
Attic Decorating in Your 20s
It's exciting when you get your first apartment, your very own space! You might have a roommate to negotiate with but there aren't any parents to worry about when you finally get to discover your unique style of decorating. In our consumer driven economy, you might think it's time to head to the stores to find the perfect pieces for your new home. Don't!
Your first stop when shopping for furniture and other home furnishings should be your parents attic, or maybe a close relative, good friend, etc. Don't be afraid to ask people if they've got items looking for a new home as older folks (myself included) get to a point where we recognize it's time to simplify our lives and that includes getting rid of stuff.
My best friend's daughter Sarah, loved my old oak dining room table and chairs. We recently gave furniture (living and dining room) furniture from a Florida condo to my niece as a wedding gift (we paid to move it to New York City). Don't be afraid as we all remember furnishing our first home in “early attic” and you're actually helping us let go of stuff we don't need.
New Homeowners in Your 30s
Like furnishing your first apartment, you do need more stuff when you buy that first house. You'll buy new/more shower curtains and new towels for your master bathroom. You'll want to run out and buy furniture for the living/family room, dining room and more before you host your first party but … it's not the best strategy for creating your dream home – you need time to feel the house, learn where you're spending the most time and what you're doing in each room.
Borrowing furniture from family and friends for a year or more, gives you time to discover what you need, and of course what you want if the budget permits. Alternatives to borrowing include neighborhood garage sales, used furniture stores or inexpensive items that are easy to break down and store for future use. When we moved to Tokyo, we bought a simple table top from IKEA that sits on top of black, saw horse legs. This “temporary table” is still working hard for us (or folds for storage) and today it's being used to organize the garage.
Kids Need Lots of Stuff
You feel overwhelmed with all the baby clothes and that's nothing compared to what you'll accumulate over the next 20 years. Now is when you need to learn to sort before you store things. It's easier to save all the baby clothes but you probably only used half of them, so give the others away now to save time and space. Tips for sorting:
- Only save the clothes you used, the colors you like (hated the dull colors for little boys) and no more than 2 weeks or what fits your laundry cycle as we tend to wear our favorites and ignore the rest or …
- Give yourself a storage budget like those great boxes that hold 10 reams of paper and the tops are easy to take off and put back on.
- Label every box before putting in the attic, i.e. girls clothing, 12 to 24 months (you don't know the sex of your next child). Store all the children's clothes together, keeping labels visible to make your search quick.
- Only save a few toys, i.e. ones you'll want to take out when the grand children come to visit. Before Christmas, I had each of my boys pack up a box of toys for their cousins … so there would be room for new toys!
- My budget for school papers and artwork was one box and my closet gave me easy access. At the end of each school year, I'd sort papers and only keep my favorites for that year (and now I wish I'd involved the boys).
- If my boys were young today, I'd create digital memory books with photos for each school year … as digital albums are so much easier to store and share with others.
Empty Nesters, Memories & Clearing the Attic
Are you smiling? Have you started day dreaming about things you've lost in your attic for years? Do you now have free time and wondering how to spend that time? Your project is to clear out your attic so your kids don't have to do it for you.
Take your time and enjoy the memories, and consider creating new memories for your loved ones. Remember they are each unique with different interest so they'll love one box of momentos but very few will want more than that. Here are some ways to share that I've used or had friends share over the years and please, leave your ideas below:
- When my best friend's parents died, each piece of furniture got a number and all the children got to list their choices (1, 2 and 3) which made splitting things up fair. Nancy just told me she loves visiting her siblings and seeing the furniture, which always brings back fond memories of growing up.
- My friend and decorator Jennifer just staged (de-cluttered) my library/living room to use for videos (here's the first one) and I was amazed at how many knick knacks have amassed over the year. All the “not needed” items are getting boxed and next Christmas, my boys and their cousins can pick the ones they like.