Attic Organization Tips

After living in our home for over 25 years, my husband and I have decided to simplify our lives, and move. As is sometimes the case – this decision happened very quickly… at least for my husband Bill!

Unbeknownst to him, about two years ago as our empty nest status was imminent, I started thinking about how nice it would be to downsize. I (foolishly perhaps) started familiarizing myself with our local housing market using Zillow and Redfin. I set up “weekly alerts” filtered by types of homes and the price range I envisioned would be of interest now that our daughters are not around very much.

My primary goal was to educate myself about the available options and see what our money could buy. Recently (very recently – as in April) a home came on the market that fit all of my criteria and I talked my husband into going for a tour. He reluctantly agreed, and the rest is history. We didn’t end up buying that home, but it certainly got the ball rolling. And we did buy a home very soon after.

Although this is an exciting change for us, the idea of sorting, purging, and packing the contents of our current house is daunting – even for me. Now I have to put all of my advice to work – for us. But like with all my projects (as I described just last month), I put a big post-it note on my office wall and stuck small post-it notes to it that listed all the spaces we need to purge and pack.

TaskList

We are slowly making progress.

The space that’s giving me the most angst so far is our attic. Now that it’s time to clear it out, I’m seriously wondering why we put nice flooring up there when we first moved in 25+ years ago. It was a good idea at the time, but made it too easy for us to store things out of sight that we never should have saved in the first place.

For the past few weeks, I have been spending a little bit of time each morning (while it’s still cool) sorting and purging the contents of the attic. I’m amazed at what I have found.

Most are useless “treasures” that I haven’t looked at in over 20 years. I have found stuff from high school and college that meant something to me way back when – but have little or no meaning to me now.

I should have kept track of how many boxes of trash and recycling we have brought down so far, but it has to be more than a dozen.

recycling-cropped

Here is a photo of what went to the curb just last week.

Can you guess by the designs on some of the boxes how old they are? How many of you have boxes just like these in your attic?

So what has this attic exercise taught me? Nothing really that I didn’t already know. But here are some thoughts I’d like to emphasize:

  • Think hard about what you put away in your attic or other storage space in the first place. Before anything enters storage, ask yourself three questions – Do I love it? Will my heirs love it if something happens to me? Do the items have value or mean anything to anyone but me? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” think again about storing something out of sight.
  • Don’t wait until you are ready to move. If this idea to move had been more planned out on our part, we certainly wouldn’t have waited until our house was actually sold to start purging the attic. The fact that we have such a compressed amount of time to accomplish this is adding unnecessary stress to the process.
  • Ask yourself if there is a better way to preserve the item or memory for the long term. For example, I saved all the plaques and trophies I won during high school and college. I guarantee no one in my family cares that I won the “Home Economics Department” award when I was a senior in high school. (My daughters don’t even know what “Home Economics” means!)

NHHS

When all is said and done, the opportunity to sort and purge items in every corner of this house is proving to be extremely cathartic. Yes, it’s exhausting, but simplifying our lives is the primary driver for the decision to move. Lightening the load and clearing out all of our unnecessary “baggage” is big step toward the simplicity we are hoping for.

TA-DA Tip of the Month

There’s no doubt that designated storage space in your home is necessary (and sometimes a necessary evil). Reserving storage space for off-season items, decorations, and some family heirlooms makes a lot of sense.

But we all get into trouble when there is no rhyme or reason to where items are placed in the attic/storage or when we store items “just in case.”

Before storing anything, here are some tips to consider:

  • Clearly divide your attic/storage space in to sections or zones. If you store off-season clothes, consider installing dowels between the rafters to hang garment bags. Or if you keep your holiday decorations in storage, designate a spot to use year after year.
  • Make the hard decisions about what you store, before they take up valuable space. If something has an emotional bond, consider taking a picture of it and preserving the picture and story in a digital album. This approach may keep the item out of storage completely. There are many online resources available to help you create digital albums in a snap. This way the story can be captured and passed down to other family members.
  • Consider sorting and purging annually. When the time comes each year, maybe as part of your spring cleaning routine, take a chair/stool, garbage bag, recycle bin with you so cleanout is easier.
  • Find someone else in need. When you identify items you no longer need, find a charity that will pick up or local donation drop-off center. Either will find a good home for your treasures. I’m having great luck with our local Freecycle.org group.

Our attic isn’t all that unorganized, because we do have clearly designated zones, but If I had just followed the “sorting and purging annually” advice I would be in much better shape today. We will get there, but I encourage you to think ahead. Ta Da!

6 comments to Attic Organization Tips

  • We are on a 2 year plan and I am taking your advice! This Fall we will start a major purge! Thanks for the encouragement Diana.

  • Janice Merk

    Great advice as always, Diana! We definitely need to do some purging in the attic, but I have made a little headway with holiday decoration. Each holiday this year I put aside the decorations I don’t use anymore (but have been saving for some reason) and told my children to take what they wanted to their own homes. They were happy to take the items that held special memories for them, and I gave away the rest. But there is still SO much more up there!

    And, BTW, I think you should hang that Home Economics Award in your new kitchen!

    • HA! Janice, that would have been a good idea, but I purged my old awards after taking a picture of them. I love your idea about offering seldom used decorations to your children. I have to admit I didn’t touch my decorations before our move. I purge a little bit each year, but this year I may take your advice!

  • LJ Anderson

    Wonderful post, Diana! I was about to make my attic more usable for storage but maybe I’ll hold off on that–and live with the storage I already have. I pulled pages out of old yearbooks and tossed the rest–knowing no one else would ever be interested in looking at them:) Hope your move goes well!

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