Every time you pass the attic entrance point, you’re reminded of its presence. You were so excited about the extra space when you bought your home but after all these months, it still sits empty, abandoned, waiting to be used. Or maybe it is being used, but just as a catchall dump for the things you don’t know what to do with.
Either way, it’s time to get your attic under control and make the most of the valuable space.
Understandably, the idea of setting aside time for attic storage organization is not very appealing. However, with some motivation and a solid plan, you can turn that underutilized, dusty space into a clean and organized storage area. This will keep the rest of your house tidier and instantly relieve you of your guilt.
10 Tips to Finally Get Your Attic Organized
The first step was committing to the task of organizing your attic—nailed it! Now, you need a comprehensive plan to leave no stone unturned and no storage space wasted. We’re here to help make the process as painless as possible. Follow these ten tips for attic storage solutions and then sit back and enjoy your clean, uncluttered home.
#1 Clean Everything Out of Your Attic
As with most things in life, you have to make a bit of a mess before you can get things in order. Start by cleaning everything—yes, everything—out of your attic. Think of yourself as an artist, and a clean attic is your blank canvas. You can’t start a new painting if you have dabs of paint and fading pencil marks from some old unfinished project.
A clean attic will make it easier for you to organize the way you want to.
As you clean out your attic, you should also use this as an opportunity to declutter your space and rid yourself of anything that’s been collecting dust up there for the past five years. If items are unusable, you can throw them away. Other usable items can be donated, such as:
- Clothing in good condition
- Toys your children have outgrown
- Old furniture in decent shape
- Baby items like cribs, strollers, and onesies
- Household items like dishes, pots, pans, and linens
- Books, games, and sporting equipment that you never use
You can check your area for local shelters, secondhand stores, and charities that will take in all of your unwanted treasures.
After you’ve cleared out all of your possessions, it’s time to remove all of the harder-to-see substances—that means dirt, grime, dust, and the like. Wash the windows, vacuum the floors with a Shop-Vac, and wipe the dust from any other surfaces.
#2 Do a Thorough Check for Pests and Other Problems
While you have your attic all cleared out, you should check for any pest infestations or other potential problems that might warrant professional attention.
Here are some common signs to look for:
- Rodent droppings are a sure sign you have an access issue that will need to be addressed before you store your valuable possessions in the attic.
- Dead insects such as flies, ants, or wasps can indicate that the attic is not secure from outside pests.
- Mold or mildew could mean your attic isn’t properly insulated or ventilated, or that your roof is leaking.
- Loose boards, nails, or screws could be dangerous and should be secured.
Addressing these issues before you organize will save you from a major headache—not to mention heartache when a family of rats uses your grandma’s old scrapbooks as nesting.
#3 Properly Insulate the Space
If your attic isn’t already insulated, you’ll want to add insulation before using it for storage. Depending on where you live, the level of insulation needed will vary:1
- In warmer climates, a lower R-value of 30 will suffice.
- In colder climates, you’ll need something a little more heavy-duty, closer to 60.
Without proper insulation, you’ll lose heat and energy from your home. You’ll also risk damaging the items stored in your attic if temperatures aren’t probably regulated, which would render the rest of your efforts useless.
#4 Make a Floor Plan
Now that you’ve cleaned and insulated your attic, the fun part can begin. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and make a floor plan. Sketch out the space and come up with logical locations for everything you plan to store up there. Consider the size and shape as well as fragility of your items—for example, your glassware and tea sets should be stored away from windows or openings, while artwork prone to fading shouldn’t be in the direct sunlight.
#5 Create Zones
When you’re making your floor plan, it might be helpful to think of your attic as a collection of different zones, like clearly labeled aisles in a grocery store. You can have a zone for each major category. This makes it much easier to find things later and to keep your attic organized.
Some zones you can include are:
- Seasonal items
Another zone-creation tactic is to sort by frequency of use. You can have zones for frequently, occasionally, and rarely used items, with your most-used belongings, like Christmas decorations and Halloween costumes, closer to the access point and seldom-used items, like your great grandmother’s vintage doll collection, a little further back.
#6 Organize by Season
“Hey mom, I found the garland but I have no idea where our ornaments are! And Jack has looked through half the attic and still can’t find our snowsuits and sleds!” is exactly what you’ll hear if you don’t put seasonal items together in one zone. When the first snowfall hits, you’ll want your hats, gloves, and boots, not to mention your holiday decor shortly after.
Clean-up will be much quicker when you know exactly where the boxes should go after you take down your wreaths or witches.
#7 Start at the Back
Once you’ve mapped out the zones you want to use, it’s time to start putting things away. You should always start at the back of your attic and work your way out from there:
- Start by storing anything you don’t anticipate using anytime soon but that you can’t bear to get rid of either—family heirlooms, memory totes, antique jewelry, and the like.
- Next, place anything you use rarely or occasionally. A safe rule for gauging what this includes is if you can’t think of the next time you’ll need it.
- After that, create a dedicated area for seasonal items that you know you’ll need on rotation once per year. This includes cold-weather clothes, festive decor, camping gear for summer, snow tires, and so on.
- Finally, pile in anything that you use relatively frequently, but that’s too big or bulky to store elsewhere. You’ll have easy access to it whenever you need it because you won’t have to dig through a bunch of other stuff to get to it.
Keeping the less frequently used items in the back will also help you keep your attic organized. Otherwise, you’ll make a huge mess every time you have to dig through layers of boxes to find something pressed against the wall.
#8 Use Clear Plastic Bins
Cardboard boxes are a bad idea for attic storage for several reasons. Even an insulated attic can have temperature shifts and moisture droplets. Cardboard won’t protect your belongings from the elements and it certainly won’t protect them from pests if you have a rodent infestation.
The benefit of clear plastic bins is two-fold:
- Your belongings will be safe from water, animals, and most other damage.
- You’ll be able to see what’s inside each box and find what you’re looking for much quicker and easier.
To make them completely airtight and better protect your possessions, experts suggest adding an internal lid.2 You can do this by stretching cling film over the top of the plastic container. Secure the film with a large rubber band and then put the regular lid on top.
Even still, there are some items you shouldn’t store in your attic, no matter how airtight your containers may be. These include:
- Important paperwork (tax forms, birth certificates)
- Flammable items
- Old paint or cleaning products
#9 Label Everything
Being able to see what’s inside your bin is a great start but it’s not exactly the most efficient system for finding what you need. Labeling each bin with a short list of what’s inside will make finding things infinitely quicker. You can invest in a label maker or you can use stickers, a permanent marker, and a layer of clear tape to make the list waterproof.
Make sure that your labels are securely stuck to your bins and replace them if you notice any peeling.
#10 Make Good Use of Shelving and Hanging Racks
Shelving and hanging racks will help you store all of your neatly organized and labeled boxes while maximizing your attic space.3
You can use hanging racks to hold your winter coats, formal wear, and other clothing you don’t usually wear. It’s best to hang items inside protective garment bags to prevent damage from shifts in temperature or moisture levels. You should also protect any valuable vintage clothing this way.
The best shelving choice for you depends on the set-up of your attic. You can use hanging shelving systems, floor-standing shelves, or a combination of the two to suit your needs. Whichever shelving method you choose, you’ll need enough space to move your shelves around the room so that you can continue to monitor for potential pest issues.
Be careful not to overload your shelves for fear of collapse. Place heavier boxes, like those with pots and pans or hardcover books, on the bottom shelves and lighter items, like clothes, toys, and mementos, up top.
Get Started with Attic Construction
Now that you’ve read our tips for attic storage and organization, you should be confident enough to tackle the project at hand. If you need help protecting your attic from pests or ensuring that your insulation is up to standard, Attic Construction can help. With offices in San Diego, Orange County, and Phoenix, Attic Construction will make sure you have an ideal attic environment for all your storage needs.
Let’s get started today so you can start organizing tomorrow!
- Energy.gov. Insulation. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/insulation
- Do It Yourself. How to Make Attic Storage Containers Airtight. https://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-make-attic-storage-containers-air-tight
- Bob Vila. Optimize Your Attic Storage. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/262-optimize-your-attic-storage/
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