Not all Austin homeowners have an attic, but those who do are really lucky! However, if your attic resembles a disaster zone, you might not be able to see just how luck you are. Attics can easily become dumping grounds for things that are old, broken, weirdly shaped, or rarely used, and when that happens it can become hard to dig through the mess and find what you’re looking for. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, these tips from It’s Cleaning Time can help you get your attic into great shape. It may just become your favorite room in the house!

Plan your time well – If your attic is really a nightmare, organizing it may take more than just an afternoon. That’s okay though – sometimes it’s helpful to have a few days between organizing sessions to ruminate on possible storage solutions or whether or not you want to keep that old telescope.

Sort everything out – You’ll need to go through everything, whether it’s stored in a box, on a shelf, or in a pile. You may want to simply sort things into three categories: keep, donate, and toss. Or it may be helpful to use a different organizational scheme at first – you may want to sort things by how often they’re used, which season of the year you use them, or whom they belong to. Then go through each of those specific categories and figure out what you’ll keep, what you’ll donate, and what you’ll toss. Be honest with yourself about how often you’ll actually use things or how important they really are. Instead of keeping all your papers from college, maybe you can just hang onto two or three assignments you’re really proud of. Instead of keeping all your daughter’s dance recital T-shirts in a box, find a company that will turn them into a quilt that can be used elsewhere in the house.

Clean up – Make sure you take at least a few minutes and take care of any mess before you start putting things away! Dust off your shelves, sweep up any dead bugs, plug up that mouse hole, and fix that cracked pane of window glass.

Think about a self-storage unit – If you have any large items that you want to keep but don’t expect to use any time soon (say, a bed frame that someone in the family might want someday), you might be better off renting a storage locker for these big things and freeing up valuable floor space in the attic.

Consider your storage containers – Plastic bins are always a great choice. They’re sturdier and more water- and critter-resistant than cardboard. They stack easily, and they’re easy to re-label and re-use. (Be sure to label all boxes in your attic so you know what’s in them right away – use masking tape and a marker, or tape an index card to the box if you want more space to write.) Clear plastic bins make it easy to see most of what’s inside, but keep in mind that some items will last better if stored in a light-blocking container, such as old family letters that may fade or yellow over time. Consider installing a curtain rod in the attic to store off-season clothing (in plastic garment bags, of course, to protect from water, moths, and sunlight), or screw hooks into the walls or ceiling to hang items such as skis or holiday wreaths.

Use all your space – Your goal is to get as much stuff off the floor as possible! (Isn’t that always the case in an ATX clean home?) Consider installing a curtain rod in the attic to store off-season clothing (in plastic garment bags, of course, to protect from water, moths, and sunlight), or screw hooks into the walls or ceiling to hang items such as skis or holiday wreaths. Metal shelving units will withstand temperature changes and possible water damage better than wooden ones. If you’re really handy, you can install little platforms between the trusses of your roof and place boxes, bins, and other items around the edges of your slanted roof.

Once your attic is organized and easy to use, you’ll never have to wade through piles to bring down your winter coats or battle unlabeled boxes to find the Christmas ornaments again!

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