What makes attics so different from other parts of the home? For one thing, the attic is usually the largest space in any house that has no clearly assigned purpose. Plus, it is the number one “out of sight, out of mind” area in any home. Think back to when you last put something up there: you probably thought something along the lines of “good riddance, I finally have this out of my way” or “let’s just put it here where it does not remind me of [fill in name or situation of your choice]” or “here we are for another year” or “let’s leave it here for the time being”.
Attics seem like the perfect spot to move things out of the way, but unfortunately once items are out of the way, we forget they are there. Or, even worse, we know they are there but never quite find a use for them.
Remember the notion of a ‘home’ for each item you have? Assigning home spots for certain things, keeping those free for these items (and only these items!) and not putting down anything that needs a place to put down is a good way to avoid cluttering up your space. And that explains to some degree why attract the ‘homeless’: anything that does not have a proper home or clear usefulness will gravitate to out of the way places that are not assigned an item, and attics usually are huge unassigned spaces. Of course, things will be left there forever!
How to deal with cluttered attics, then? Well, on the plus side, a lot of stuff up there tends to be bulky but usually not too heavy, and a lot of the small stuff is usually just ‘stuff’, things we don’t really need or they wouldn’t have ended up in the attic. On the downside, there are larger items and often heirlooms or boxes stored for others (kids who have left home or friends in need of storage space), and it is usually a large space.
The trick here is to make sure you get the easy stuff done before even considering the more involved items. Seasonal items like Christmas decorations that are used regularly can be moved to the “keepers” area right away. Leftover building materials or tins of paint can usually be thrown out as they tend to degrade (paint actually goes off after a while, silicone hardens out, rusty plaster trowels are useless, and so on). Boxes full only one type of items could be easy to tackle as a single decision has to be made, keep it or let go of it. You get the idea: tackle the easy-ish ones first, and then deal with the difficult ones.
The difficult part is – as usual – dealing with things that try to make us keep them through emotional attachment, financial value, or because they are pretty. Let’s look at those.
Inherited furniture is a classic in terms of emotional attachment in the attic. Be realistic for a moment: are you likely to ever make use of that large wooden wardrobe you took over from your granny’s house? It may be stored in bits and pieces, but it won’t last forever if it’s not looked after. Attics tend to be pretty dusty, musty and sometimes damp places, and either of these characteristics will slowly degrade whatever you keep up there. In the meantime it burdens your mind and takes up space. Why not sell it? Or give it to someone who will actually use it?
Other things of an emotional nature could be trinkets, pictures, paintings, the kids’ art projects, etc. I invite you to think hard about these: you have no space to display them downstairs now; is this likely to change anytime soon? Are your kids going to miss craft projects from 20 years ago? When have you looked at these pictures last? The answers may give you clues as to what to do with these items.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.