How to Organize an Attic


A good organization scheme can give you lots more storage space in your attic.
A good organization scheme can give you lots more storage space in your attic.
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Whether you're the most organized person or you just pick up from time to time, many people have a difficult time keeping the attic clean and organized. It can be one of the greatest storage spaces, but it can also very easily become a disaster area.

Luckily, it's not too difficult to get your attic into shape so that everything you need is accessible and you won't trip over loose items each time you go up there. Whether you're just looking for new tips to keep up with your storage space or you need to do a complete overhaul of your attic, there are techniques that can change the way you look at storage.

When you decide to rearrange your attic, the job can seem daunting -- you may have boxes that you haven't touched since you moved in. And if you didn't start out with a discernable organization system, chances are your attic now is full of unmarked boxes and bins. The first thing you need to do is set a realistic goal for when you want to have your attic organized. It's unlikely to be a one-day project, so you may need to break it up into several sessions over a month [source: Novak].

Once you've set a timeframe for your attic organization project, it's time to dive in. But before you can start cleaning and developing a new shelving system, you need to know exactly what you have on hand. The best starting point when organizing your attic is taking inventory [source: Ewer]. Once you know what's in your attic, you can start making decisions on what you need and how to keep it properly stored.

Read on to the next page for hints on how to start taking stock of your attic's contents.

Taking Inventory of Attic Contents

You've decided to take the step to organize your attic, but as soon as you walk into that room, you suddenly want to run in the other direction. It's amazing how much stuff you can accumulate over the years! While it may seem intimidating, if you take a simple approach to taking inventory and sorting of the items in your attic, you'll have a much more manageable task on your hands.

With a notebook and pen in hand, begin by going through the items in your attic and recording what you find. Do box labels match their contents of their boxes? If they don't, look at what's there and re-label the box. As you compile your list, you'll begin to see some natural categories developing: out-of-season clothes, holiday decorations, family keepsakes and so on. These categories will be helpful when you begin to sort and organize the items you decide to keep.

Once you have a list of the items in your attic, it's time to really investigate what's there so you can pare down what you're storing. A helpful start is to organize the list into three groups: always used, used on special occasions and rarely used [source: Heloise]. Not only will this help you in deciding what to part with, but it will also help you decide where and how to store what you're keeping. If you want to break things down even further, you can separate items into these categories: things you definitely want to store, things you can throw out or donate, and things you want to think about [source: Ewer].

At this point, reorganize your list. You'll find you have a much better grasp on what you have and you'll be able to identify the next step, which typically is getting rid of the items you've decided to throw out or donate. By doing this, you'll have much less clutter to work with when you start organizing what you're going to keep.

Now that you've made this first big step, read on for tips on how to sort through what you have left.

Sorting Attic Contents

Now that you have an idea of what's in your attic, you can begin to sort through and organize what you have left and want to keep. A few simple guidelines will ensure that you look at your space objectively and set it up in the most organized fashion.

Don't be afraid to toss items that you don't need and can't see yourself using in the foreseeable future. However, even if you're doing an organization overhaul, you don't have to toss everything in the garbage. If you don't want to part with it and you have the space to store it, keep it [source: Leeds].

Once you have your attic contents narrowed down to what you want to keep, start sorting these items into categories. By grouping your belongings this way, you'll be able to box and store them by category, which will make it easier to keep tabs on everything. For example, put all holiday decorations in one pile, all paperwork in another and all out-of-season clothes in yet another pile.

One important thing to consider is that your storage method should have a purpose, and with something like an attic, a good purpose is being able to access everything whenever you need it. Don't just stick all of your boxes back into your attic without some thought -- think about how often you need access to certain items, and place the items you use most often toward the front of your space [source: Steill]. What do you do with those family keepsakes you don't want to part with but never get out? They can probably go toward the back.

Keep reading for tips on how to properly store the contents of your attic.

Storing Attic Contents

You've inventoried, thrown things out and sorted your attic contents into manageable groups. At this point, you're almost finished, and most of the difficult work is done. The final step is storing your items in a practical and accessible way that maximizes your available space.

The first step to consider is whether you need to bring in more shelving. If your boxes are currently on the floor, a shelving system will help you maximize storage and keep your items at eye level, making them easier to find. A trip to the store for more shelving will likely you a lot of time and energy in the future.

The next step is to box and label everything -- trying to store loose items will lead to unnecessary clutter and broken belongings. For some things, such as holiday decorations, you can find bins that are specifically suited for your needs. Choose the container that works best with your space and that protects its contents -- plastic containers are great for protecting important things from roof leaks or other unforeseen accidents [source: Good Housekeeping]. After you've boxed up a pile of stuff, be sure to label the container if it isn't transparent.

Organize your important papers by using boxes with file folders in them. You can decide how detailed you want to be, but try to keep boxes dedicated to certain types of paperwork. For example, you may have one box marked "bills" and another marked "college application papers." Anything important, such as legal documents, should be stored in a fireproof or fire-resistant box [source: Good Housekeeping].

In addition to placing all items in labeled bins and boxes, consider labeling areas of your attic by the type of item stored in that section. You can color code your bins or even paint areas of the floor if your attic is unfinished, so you'll have an easy reminder of where everything is. When you've finished organizing and inventorying everything, it's a good idea to type up the inventory list up and keep it on file.

Now that your attic is organized, be sure to maintain it. If you need to add a few more items, don't break away from your organization system -- you'll be making more work for yourself in the future. For more tips on how to keep your attic free of clutter, see the links on the following page.

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Sources

  • Ewer, Cynthia. "Store It! Create a Household Storage Plan." Organized Home. 2009 (Accessed 1/18/10)
  • Good Housekeeping. "Basements and Attics: General Storage." 2010 (Accessed 1/18/10) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/getting-organized/clutter-solution-attic-storage-may07?click=main_sr
  • Good Housekeeping. "Basements and Attics: Holiday Decorations." 2010 (Accessed 1/18/10) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/getting-organized/clutter-solution-attic-holiday-decorations-may07
  • Heloise. "Take Control of Clutter!" Good Housekeeping. 2010 (Accessed 1/18/10) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/heloise/clutter/clutter-control-sep04
  • Leeds, Regina. "4 Clutter Dilemmas -- and How to Solve Them." iVillage. 2009 (1/18/10) http://home.ivillage.com/cleanandorganize/organize/0,,rf5p-1,00.html
  • Novak, Jamie. "Organizing Tips for the Overwhelmed." iVillage. 2009 (Accessed 1/18/10) http://home.ivillage.com/cleanandorganize/organize/0,,9v37htqm,00.html
  • Novak, Sara. "How to Make a Quilt from your Old Clothes." Planet Green. October 8, 2008 (Accessed 1/22/10) http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/homemade-quilt-reuse-clothes.html
  • Steil Charlotte. "Extra Organizing Tips." HGTV. 2010 (Accessed 1/18/10) http://www.hgtv.com/organizing/extra-organizing-tips-charlotte-steill/index.html