‘Tis the season to organize your attic! While it doesn’t sound like a festive activity, many people use their attics as a storage facility rarely to be visited. This is the time of year that most people enter their attics because a lot of people store holiday decorations up there. While you are busy hauling decorations up and down the attic stairs, you might as well use this as an opportunity to organize the attic. Plus, you don’t want to tackle organizing your attic in the height of summer!

When you think about your attic, which Christmas movie does it match with? Is it like the attic in the original “Prancer” that needs lights untangled; is it like the attic in “Home Alone” where time-outs are served, or is it like the attic in “Christmas Vacation,” where memories and old clothes are stored?

I recently finished working with a client organizing her walk-up attic. Let’s look at this project through the lens of the EMEND method, but also by way of the before and after pictures.

Explore: Define the End-Goal

The homeowner wanted to use the attic to store holiday decorations, unused furniture, and additional glassware and serving items for parties. There were also items for her house — such as spare wood flooring, tiles, etc. — that would be stored in the attic. She wanted to be able to easily find and access all of these items.

Many people store decorations, furniture, old clothes, pictures, and school projects in their attic. Of course, attics come in different sizes and are accessible in various ways, which probably has an effect on how you utilize it.

Merge: What’s going to stay?

Your end-goal may help you in this step. If you want to keep holiday decorations in the attic, then those will stay. This is the step where you’ll put like items together. Group strings of lights together, maybe garland, ornaments, etc.

If you’re keeping other items, such as furniture or glassware, sort those items as well. This step will help you visualize what’s going back in the attic. You can start to think about exactly how and where you’ll store it.

Edit: What is okay to get rid of?

If you pulled out your holiday decorations already, this is a great time to go through the editing process and choose items to get rid of. Are there items you haven’t used? Strings of lights that no longer work? If there are decorations from former homes or pieces that you no longer use, now is the time to toss or donate them. Be realistic about what you choose to keep.

Now’s also a good time to set aside items that don’t belong in the attic, such as paper (including books, artwork, school projects), fabric (clothes, mattresses, linens) or photos of any kind. Roaches, mice, and silverfish are attracted to these items and they’ll get ruined in an attic. And the heat is a killer for these things.

Nest: Create Zones

Even though the attic is an open area, you can create zones to help you keep like items together.

With this particular client, we used shelving to enforce the zones. If shelves wouldn’t work for your attic, you could use labeled bins or boxes (depending on what you’re storing).  For her holiday decorations, we also tried to use colored bins that match the holiday colors (orange and black for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, etc).

One wall of the attic was established for furniture, one for holiday décor, and one for entertaining pieces.  This helps prevent different categories from being mixed together.  After all, you want to make it as easy as possible to pull down what you need from the attic when the time comes.

Develop: How will this Space be Maintained?

This step in the process is all about how you’re going to maintain the attic. How will you prevent it from going back to how it looked before? It’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind, and it’s easy to just drop stuff there and shut the door.

With this client, we were meticulous about what was kept and how it was stored. This way, she knows exactly what’s in each bin and can easily see and access partyware, if needed.

If you have specific questions about this, I’d love to address them. Please leave a comment or send me an email at: alyssa@myemend.com.