by Julia Woodbury
(last updated March 18, 2009)
The first step to conquering your attic is to set aside a day, maybe even a few days, to clean and organize. The second step is to keep in mind that things will appear to get worse before they get better. Don't get discouraged by the mess you will create by trying to clean up. You will need to spread out your belongings in order to sort through them and then store them again.
Depending on the amount of stuff you have up there in the attic, you will want to pull out as many boxes and piles as you can (all at once, if possible). Get some large storage bins from the store and clearly label them with broad categories like "throw away," "donate," and "give away." While you are sorting through and organizing your items, if you feel like you should toss anything into the bins, do it! A good standard to go by is if you haven't used it in two or three years, you shouldn't have to keep it.
Also, as far as sentimental items go, you may be hanging on to things that are taking up more space than you can afford. If it won't make a good heirloom, you should probably let it go. A good way to ease the parting is to take a picture of the item, that way you retain the memory while reducing the bulk.
If you can, clear out your whole attic space so you can dust and mop it out. Start by dusting the ceiling or rafters off with a broom or mop wrapped in a rag. Clear out any cobwebs that you find. It may help to also go over the wood with a damp rag. Clean off the walls with the same method and then sweep out and mop the floor. If the floor is unfinished wood, try sweeping and then vacuuming up the dust.
If you are unable to clear out the whole attic at once, or you are unable to move all the items out of the attic, clean it in portions. As you move and remove piles and boxes, clean the spaces as you clear them. Always start by dusting off the rafters before cleaning the floor, otherwise you will end up getting dirt on it after cleaning it.
Once you have cleaned your attic space, you are ready to start moving your things back into it. If your attic is not equipped with shelves, you may want to consider installing some; they will help with organization and protect your belongings by keeping them from falling on and crushing each other.
If you have a large amount of clothes to store, you can also install a rod to hand them on. For especially sentimental clothing items you can even get a cedar chest and moth balls to protect them from bugs and dust.
The last key to maintaining a clean attic is to clean it at least once a year and avoid treating it as a repository for anything and everything. Make sure an item is worth storing before tossing it in the attic.
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