The prospect of organizing an attic can be a surprisingly daunting one. Unfinished attic spaces can be dark, cavernous areas where you’d rather not venture. They’re right up there with unfinished basements late at night, root cellars and dark crawlspaces under very old homes.  But by taking the time to organize an attic, you can breathe new life into the space. Your attic can go from being a dark, cobwebbed area best suited for ghost stories to a well-lit, organized and even multifunctional space.

As far as a timeline for this project goes, it can range from a single afternoon to several weeks. You might simply have items you need to organize and store more efficiently. Or you might want to look into getting less usable attics completely refinished, which could require a professional remodeler.

Costs to organize an attic can have a wide range as well. It can be free. It could even make you money if you clean out clutter from the attic and sell it. But if you have enough junk, you might consider renting a dumpster, which can run in the low to mid hundreds of dollars by the week. Refinishing an attic can cost in the mid to high tens of thousands if you wish to make the space livable.

Below we’ll cover several ideas for finally getting that attic in top shape, whether your goals are to have a well-lit, livable space or just a well-organized storage area.

Sorting things into piles can help take care of even the most formidable mess. Image: ChiccoDodiFC/Shutterstock

Sort and Get Rid of What You Don’t Need

If your attic is currently the place where you dump anything that doesn’t belong anywhere else, your first step is to sort and get rid of what you don’t need. It can be hard to look at the mess and know where to begin. However, there are several decluttering tips you can follow to get a handle on the chaos:

  • Start by sorting things into piles. For instance, you might have a pile for holiday decorations, another for children’s artwork or class projects and maybe even a miscellaneous pile.
  • After you have things in more manageable piles, sort between what you want to keep and what you can throw out. Have a garbage bag with you to immediately toss what you don’t need.
  • Some of us struggle with what to throw out and what to keep. A rule of thumb is that if you forgot you owned it, it can probably be thrown out. Also, if you haven’t used it or looked at it in two or three years and it has no emotional significance, it can probably get tossed.
  • As touched on above, consider renting a dumpster if you have a lot of junk to clear out.

If you can follow these rules to organize an attic, you may be surprised how much bigger the space feels when uncluttered.

Refinishing an attic could be your answer to getting an organized, usable space once and for all. Image: foamfoto/Shutterstock

Make Plans for the Space

A more involved way to organize an attic is to think about how to arrange the attic for multiple or new uses. When you think about it, the attic has the potential to be a whole other room or more. Several ideas of what to do with the attic include:

  • A child’s play area
  • An extra bedroom
  • A reading nook or library
  • A walk-in closet space
  • A more intricate storage area

The attic could even be separated into different spaces if it’s large enough. You might want to sketch out what role different areas could play.

If you plan to make the space livable, you’ll need to consult with a professional remodeler. You’ll need to know about building codes, heating the space, electrical setups and other complex details.

Built-in shelving and drawer units are a great way to organize an attic. Image:

Add Permanent Systems to Organize an Attic

If you’re just looking to organize an attic, another idea is to add organizational systems to your attic space. Ideas include:

  • Built-in shelving
  • Clothing racks
  • Built-in cabinets
  • Wall-mounted organizational units

Also, if there’s anything that requires protection from aging, you’ll want to get plastic, air-tight containers to store it. You can store anything else in bins, which fit especially well with added shelving.

And remember, label any bins while you organize an attic. It can also help to have those bins in organized sections, like a section for holiday decorations.