How often have you looked upward and had that cringing feeling of guilt and overwhelm, thinking of that attic mess you’ve never quite managed to get around to? Does it inspire dread in you? Do you wish it would all just go away?
Well, fear no longer, because we’ve got good news. Your attic can provide storage serenity when first moving in, downsizing your home or as part of a house-wide overhaul — as long as you know how to organize it right.
To that end, here are several small attic ideas to whip your unsightly upstairs into a bright, accessible repository for holiday decorations, heirlooms, costumes, clothes and more.
Small Attic Ideas: Ways to Use Your Space Well
Before you can put our actionable organization solutions to use, it helps to conceptualize what you’re trying to get out of your attic. People use those tucked-away garrets (finished attics) and lofts to many different creative purposes, including:
- Storage areas
- Kid play zones
- Craft studios
- Small business fulfillment spaces
- Writing retreats
…and even an extra guest bedroom for events that cause occupancy overflows, or the occasional unexpected visitor.
Naturally, you will likely also use it to keep little-used possessions, so consider the following tips equally applicable to pure storage spaces and those that combine uses – whichever you decide is best for you.
Start with a Plan to Maximize Your Time and Space
Rather than just a range of small attic ideas, we wanted to help you truly visualize what the process looks like from start to finish. Accordingly, we offer a step-by-step plan below to guide you from the first messy stages through to the finishing touches of your new space.
Plan Out Where You Will Store Items
If you’re using your attic as a combined space, then obviously you need to account for furniture and elbow room. First decide where you will put beds, play areas or desks, taking into account the same factors you would in a normal room: windows, light, headroom (a significant consideration in gabled attics) and other aspects.
On the other hand, if your garret is purely storage-oriented, you have the freedom to zone each wall or corner for different items. Set aside space for holiday decorations, seasonal clothing, sports equipment, clothing that’s currently between children, furniture, pet carriers, camping gear and so forth.
Stay Safe by Understanding the Hazards
One of the best small attic ideas is also one of the most boring, which is to protect yourself and everyone else from the dangers that might lurk at the tippy-top of your home. That includes:
- Loose insulation
- Poking nails and screws
- Jittery floorboards
…okay, just kidding on that last one. More seriously, though, do a thorough inspection of the place with shoes on before you start moving items around, and especially before you bring any children into the room.
Also, make sure you create enough room in which to work. While it’s a pain to haul boxes out of the attic only to put them back in, a little space to move will help you avoid tweaking your back, banging your head or otherwise injuring yourself.
Unload Disused Items Immediately
It’s helpful to set up a four-pile sorting system, which includes:
- Giveaways: Anything you think a family member or friend will want.
- Donations: For items you don’t want but still have a lot of useful life left in them.
- Trash pickup or dump: Some items just don’t have any more life in them.
- Sale items: If you’re up for the challenge.
Create an Organizational Structure
Once you have a basic layout for what goes where, create an organizational structure. If you have a lot of costumes or clothes, for instance, that might mean setting up a closet bar. If you’re a decorating nut with seasonal items for every month of the year, buy organizational bins to manage the mess.
It’s also helpful to plan for future cleanouts. How and when will you revisit your attic? What signs will you look for when deciding to do another overhaul? Keep a list of any small attic ideas you’d like to try later, and make a commitment to yourself to help you avoid the distress that comes with leaving a space too long unaddressed.
Get Storage If You Need It
If you’re moving or need temporary housing during a remodel, consider renting some storage space for the time being. A storage unit is a perfect place to put your possessions while you install new floors and drywall, or to keep your things organized while you execute a move. If you need the extra space, don’t hesitate to avail yourself of your options.
At the end of the day, refreshing your home always feels amazing – whether or not it’s part of a more expansive spring cleaning or moving effort. These small attic ideas will help you freshen up your upstairs without tearing out your hair or breaking a sweat.
And if you do break a sweat, let us offer one last tip… go ahead and carry a fan up there. Your future self will thank you!
Updated 10/17/18 from a post originally published 1/29/13.