5 Steps to Better Basement, Attic and Garage Storage

When I think of attics and basements, I remember growing up in rural Wisconsin. We had an attic and a basement in our circa 1800s farmhouse, and I recall the antique furniture — and, yikes, bats! — in the attic, along with the mildew, dampness, and water seeping from the ground in the unfinished basement.

My parents stored sports equipment, the lawnmower, gardening tools, empty soda bottles and more in that basement. It never would have dawned on them to create an official storage space with shelving.

Things are different today, and we look to grab every inch of storage space. Here are five steps to get you on the right track to improving your garage, basement or attic storage experience.

Clear stairs and doors

Removing the frustration of getting down the basement stairs or through the garage and attic doors will make your organization project easier to accomplish — and, more importantly, ensure your safety.

Before you begin working in your storage area, set aside time to clear the stairs and doorways as the first step in this organizing project.

Increase your lighting

One of the reasons many people avoid organizing their garage, attic or basement is that the spaces don’t have sufficient light. We’re already generally uninspired to visit those spaces, and if we can’t see much when we’re in there, we give it up as “too difficult” — and the organizing project is over before it started.

To create a well-lit work environment, find or borrow a very long extension cord and place a bright lamp in the space. Take off the lampshade and roll up your sleeves. And as a bonus: Bugs (especially roaches) don’t like the light. They’ll run from the spotlight, and leave you alone to get down to business.

Assess your space

No matter what you need to store, look for the pitfalls before you begin your work and see which issues you can solve. You can evaluate your storage area by rating your space.

On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being no problem at all and 10 meaning it’s a major issue, assign your basement, attic or garage a rating for each of the following factors.

  • Flooding. Floods mean lost possessions.
  • Ventilation. Trapped air can cause stale odors.
  • Extreme temperatures. Too hot or too cold can deteriorate the integrity of items.
  • Rodents. Droppings can impact respiratory systems throughout the home.
  • Spiders. Spider bites can be dangerous.
  • Mildew. Foul smells and stains render belongings unusable.
  • Dampness. Wet conditions create extra work to clean, and can damage items.

The more high ratings your space has, the more work you can expect to get the area into shape. More low numbers means the job will be considerably easier.

This assessment helps you gauge whether you really have the time, money or interest needed to take on organizing your storage area. By rating your space, you can avoid wasting time and energy on a project you’ll abandon part way through.

Determine what you can store

If your space has high ratings in several categories, be cautious about what you store. Ask yourself, “If I lost this item due to mildew or a flood, could I easily live without it?”

Here are the types of items you might decide you can safely store in less-than-ideal conditions:

  • An additional fridge or freezer
  • Bulk food, canned goods and paper supplies
  • Seasonal decorations and supplies such as party platters, card tables, oversized coffee makers, and holiday lights
  • Picnic supplies like a grill, charcoal, picnic baskets and coolers
  • Craft and hobby items
  • Office and school supplies
  • Luggage, duffle bags and backpacks
  • Outdoor gear for camping, fishing and snow sports, as well as sporting goods like tennis racquets and horseshoes

If you gave your space low ratings in most categories, you can store more personal or delicate items there, including:

  • Clothing
  • Photos
  • Memorabilia
  • Paperwork
  • Home decor and accessories
  • Pillows and blankets

Make a place for everything

No matter the rating of your space, you can always increase your usable storage space by using these three organization tricks:

  1. Take the vertical challenge. The higher the shelving, the more space you have for storage.
  2. Roll with it. Storage racks and tables with wheels keep items off the floor and make it super easy to access your belongings. You can tuck a rolling rack under the stairs or into a back corner, then roll it out into a more well-lit area when you need access to it.
  3. Get hooked. From simple nails to stylish decorative hardware, hooks bring items up to eye level in an organized way. Use them for skates, brooms, dustpans, cords, bikes, helmets, and more.

Get inspired and make the most of your attic, basement or garage storage areas.

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