If all clutter is “postponed decisions” (and it is, buy the book), then it is probably safe to say the decisions in the attic are the MOSTponed.
I have found that decisions are easier to make when seasoned with time. The more time that passes, the more you find your priorities changing. Things that might have seemed very important to hang on to 10 years ago, tend to become much less valuable. Of course there are a few special keepsakes, that actually become more valuable. Either way, there tend to be a lot of quick wins in an attic and space can be cleared quickly, using the right strategies.
The Matt Baier Organizing team recently decluttered and organized an attic using these strategies. Here are three key steps:
1. Establish Exit Zones
As with any room in the house, it makes sense to first consider where all the contents are going to go. If you think it’s all going into a dumpster, you’re kidding yourself. Before we address the attic, we rearranged and edited things in the garage, to open up space for exit zones. There may be items coming from the attic that no longer serve you, but are still perfectly good. For those items, create a donate zone. If there are items like that, that have value, create a sell zone. Attics also tend to have a lot of items that need to go to other people (often adult children), so also establish a give-to zone. Oh and yes, of course, you will need a toss zone.
2. Establish a Processing Room
You can’t clear a mess IN a mess. Making decisions requires having room to spread out, identify, prioritize and move around. You just can’t do this inside a crowded attic. For this reason, it makes sense to open up space in a room, as close to the foot of the attic steps, as possible. Clear out light furniture, like chairs, to open up floor space and clear off as many surfaces as possible. We bring drop cloths in to protect beds, because attic boxes ca be pretty dusty. That opens up more surface area. In these videos, you can see us loading up our review zone, then systematically reviewing all the items with the client.
3. Establish Dedicated Zones
Once you have clarified the major categories that are going back in the attic, establish dedicated zones, based on the frequency of use. Frequency merits facility. So maybe the luggage that you access several times a year gets a prime spot, just next to the top of the steps. Children’s artwork and keepsakes might be the next category in, followed by holiday items, that you access once a year. Archive files that sleep for years, often go in the most remote spots.
Our client made the decision to review and reduce his archives in a second stage of purging, therefore he chose to have his boxes of paper located close to the door. This made perfect sense.
Remember, organizing is ultimately not about sorting out your stuff, but about sorting out your priorities. Everybody has different priorities and priorities are always changing. So it doesn’t make sense to have rigid organizing systems, that don’t allow for shifting priorities.
That said, no matter what priorities your attic holds, the excess will need a place to go, you will need the room to process, and you will save time by keeping the most used items, most accessible.
Finally, if you want to maximize your attic storage, here are a couple products that can help.
The most basic structure you need for maximizing attic storage space is a floor! Of course attic storage is impossible in many homes because the attic floor is open insulation. Lock & Rollin makes installing a floor a snap.
It makes sense to look at storing vertically, wherever possible, but many shelves that work in a garage or basement, won’t work in attic, because of the angled ceiling. The AtticMaxx Shelving System offers a great way to maximize truss storage.
To see our client’s attic organizing story (and the surprises he discovered!), tune in Monday, March 7, 3:00pm, on Better Connecticut, WFSB, Channel 3.