I saved the worst for last. That’s how the saying goes, right? No? Well, no matter how you slice it, organizing your attic might feel like the biggest challenge you’ve faced in this quest for household organization. Let’s think of it like marathon training. We’ve been working up to the big day (or days, depending on your clutter) by training with bedroom, kitchen and garage organizing. Now the starting gun is about to fire and we need to depend on our training, keep our eye on the prize and finish strong!
Warm Up: Take stock of how much time you have and how much stuff has traveled to your attic over the years. It’s unlikely that you’ll finish this job quickly, so make a plan to work in manageable chunks. If you sprint through this space, you’ll burnout before the job is completed and be less organized than when you started. If you’re planning a move, remember that an attic overhaul will save you time and money on moving day. Take inventory of what you have stored and whether there is any discernible organizational system in place already. If not, take a deep breath and visualize a clean, neat space… then get ready, get set and GO!
First leg: After you’ve taken a mental (or better yet, an actual handwritten) inventory, it’s time to ensure that labeled boxes actually contain the items indicated. In my attic, paraphernalia migrates from box to box! Also, make sure that boxes are in good condition and appropriate for your attic’s climate. If you don’t have climate control up there, realize that your possessions are exposed to extremely hot and cold temperatureshifts throughout the year. Here in Williamson County, Tennessee, some attics can be exposed to humidity, too. Like the garage, clear plastic bins with air tight lids are the best bet for storage. Once you’ve determined the contents of your attic, shift into high gear and make a “purge” pile. Finish this first leg by donating, recycling or dumping items that you don’t need or want anymore.
The long haul: Is conquering your attic chaos a ½ marathon or the entire 26 mile gauntlet? Was your “keep” pile significantly larger than your “toss” pile? This is where pacing really comes into play. Make sure you work in manageable increments. Commit to spending an hour every other day on this next phase so you don’t burn out. This next step involves sorting your “keep” pile into zones of organization. If you sort items by category and label zones accordingly, you’re more likely to maintain the organizational system down the road. Holiday decorations need their own wall, paperwork and old files get stored together, too. Think about how often you need to access items as you return boxes to their new spots. Family keepsakes that are too precious to part with but rarely used…they go in the back of the attic. You’ll need to access out of season clothing at least twice a year (or more), so that clothing zone needs to be more accessible than your last seven years of tax returns. Likewise, holiday decorations should be stored by calendar rotation and in a place with plenty of room to maneuver in and out of the attic.
The home stretch: You’ve tossed, sorted, re-boxed, labeled and organized by theme. How about finishing strong by also creating large signs to hang in the appropriate zone that indicates exactly what does and does not belong there. Imagine sending your sister-in-law to the attic with a request for the Thanksgiving platter. Good signage will ensure that she’s back in short order and didn’t have to search through boxes of paperwork, clothing or keepsakes. I’ve even seen attics that are color coded by zone! While I won’t be there to hang a metal around your neck when you cross the metaphorical finish line, know that I’ll be cheering your accomplishment and ready to list your newly organized home for a speedy, top-dollar sale!