Making Room...in the Attic

My goal is to have an empty attic. It might sound a little far-fetched because I haven’t yet mapped out where else in my house the stuff would go. There aren’t a lot of spaces awaiting with bated breath the arrival of more stuff to store.

Let me revise my initial statement. My goal is to completely declutter my attic. I don’t want to find new homes in my home for whatever has been living in the attic unused and unwanted all these many years (well, OK, maybe except the Christmas decorations, and they could use a good decluttering session, too). Decluttering, vs. emptying the attic means that the accumulated, unnecessary stuff up there, anything that doesn’t make the cut, will find its way to a donation center or get kicked to the curb.

Attics function in much the same way as basements or garages when it comes to storage. They can be the land of the forgotten. There’s typically enough room to ‘shove’ a few things in the attic for now. But, ‘for now’ can become forever. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. And if you’ve accumulated your stuff, your kids’ stuff and your parents’ stuff, it’s likely the attic is holding much more than you might remember.

In addition to getting rid of the easy stuff, decluttering the attic might be a wistful road down memory lane. So, part of your decluttering plan should include a realistic timeline to get the job done. Give yourself the time to reminisce when you need to, but it’s also good to have an accountability buddy to continue nudging you toward the finish line.

Prepare for Entry

Attics can be notoriously dusty, potentially moldy and visited by furry and flying little creatures. In an unfinished attic, it’s not unusual to see exposed beams, floor joists and insulation. Unlike any other area in the house, the attic poses its own set of unique challenges. It’s often accessed via a ladder. There may be no temperature regulation and not enough room to stand up straight. If this sounds like your attic, you need a plan. What time of year is best to tackle this project? How long can you reasonably stay in that space given the temperature and decreased mobility conditions? How much time does your schedule permit on any given day to work on this? Will someone be available to help you? How will you get boxes and belongings in and out of the attic? These are all important considerations to incorporate into your plan.

When it’s time to begin in an unfinished attic, be sure to take the necessary safety precautions. Gloves, a mask and good lighting should be among the first supplies you assemble.

Getting Down to Decluttering

Whether or not your attic is finished and easy to navigate or not, your decluttering strategy should include how you’ll go about reviewing all that’s there. Designate an area in the space where boxes can be emptied, and categories created. Another option is to bring boxes out of the attic one at a time and into an area of the house where you have more room to maneuver. Still another option is to empty out the contents of the attic completely into an area of the house that can accommodate the quantity, perhaps a cleared-out space in the garage. Your approach will depend on the considerations mentioned above, time, temperature and how much help you have. This is one project that may take an extended period of time. No matter which approach you choose, you might have to live with the creation of temporary clutter somewhere in your home while the project progresses. Be sure you can live with that.

To Store or Not to Store

Once you’ve reviewed everything that’s been living in your attic, you no doubt will have full bags of trash to dispose and boxes of belongings to donate. Be sure that anything in the donation box is worthy of being a donation. That means clothing should be clean and in good condition; household items should be in working order.

The fluctuating temperature swings in an attic are not good for storing photographs and paperwork.  Review all photos and consider digitizing the keepers and otherwise preserving the memories. Be very selective about the paperwork you keep, also. Is it realistic to keep book reports your adult son wrote when he was in third grade, essays from your college days and handouts from conferences that you haven’t looked at since you put them in the attic?

For anything that will remain in the attic, be sure you have an appropriate container to house it. No items should be exposed. Be very selective about what you keep and use air-tight containers that can withstand fluctuating temperatures and keep pests at bay. Once you’ve gone through the review and purge process, take the necessary steps to protect everything’s that you’ve decided to keep.

Now I must excuse myself. It’s time to declutter my attic.