Organizing Your Attic

Jon Fesmire |

If you live in a home with an attic, you may be wondering if it’s a good place to store various belongings, like holiday decorations, off-season clothes, old toys, heirlooms, and more. Or, you may already have things stored up there, but want to get them organized and even to expand the available storage space in your attic.

The advantage of storing things in your attic is that they’re out of sight, don’t take up room in your living space, but are still there in your home when you need them. However, preparing your attic as a storage space can be expensive and may not be the ideal solution. Let’s cover how to do it, and why you may not want to.

Sort It

If you already have belongings stored in your attic, the first thing you’ll need to do is sort through it. Your job here is to decide what to keep, what to sell, what to donate, what to recycle, and what to throw away. You’ll find things you no longer need, that you may wonder why you didn’t get rid of long ago, and by sorting through these items, you’ll end up making space in your attic.

Check the Quality

Attics are usually cut off from AC, heating, and other systems that make your home comfortable. As such, some of your things may have taken temperature or humidity damage. Check everything carefully. We’ll cover the temperature issue again momentarily.

Preparing the Attic

Once you have your items you’re going to keep, put them in clear plastic bins. If your attic is already finished, with a solid floor, shelving, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, you can then store those bins up there.

If not, you’ll want to get the attic prepared.

Finish the Floors

Attics often have several issues that make them unsuitable for storage. Those are loose insulation, loose screws or nails, and weak flooring. The floor may be nothing more than plywood with a row of two-by-fours along it, holding it in place, and a bunch of insulation in between. A professional can add strong plywood on top of the insulation and boards, or you can find instructions for doing this yourself online.

Add Shelves

With the floor finished, there are two types of shelves you can consider. You can get shelving units, such as bookcases, and put these against a flat wall. Then, you can put your bins on these shelves so they’re easy to get to. Put heavier bins on the bottom shelf for stability.

Many attics have a couple of flat walls and one or two slanting walls. For the latter, you can install built-in shelving, or have a professional handle this for you. Again, you can find detailed directions online as well. In any case, such shelving will add a lot of storage space to your attic.

Self Storage May Be a Better Option

In most homes, attics are not made to be a living space or even a storage space. As such, they tend to be less protected from outside weather conditions. In the summer, they can trap heat and humidity, and during the winter, they can be especially cold and dry. Such conditions can damage a range of belongings. Many can warp, crack, grow mildew, or worse.

We’ve covered how to finish work on your attic so you can use it for storage, but consider that you may need an HVAC system as well. If you live in a moderate climate that rarely gets very hot or very cold, then your attic may be fine without further modification. If not, that HVAC system can help protect everything you store inside.

Or, you could rent a self storage unit with climate control. These typically for about 30% more than standard units, but still cost less per square foot than comparable residential space, and they are designed to keep your belongings in the best shape possible. You could also rent a storage unit for your extra things while you renovate the attic, and move them back in after.

If you’d like additional advice on home organization and making the most of your space, we have plenty of helpful articles here in the blog.