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Organizing the Attic & Preserving Memories

I’m going to start off this post by apologizing to the Professional Organizers who suggested I organize my pantry before tackling my attic. The rational for this suggestion was because I use my pantry much more than my attic. In most cases I would agree with this suggestion. In this situation they did not take into account my irrational obsession with getting my attic organized πŸ™‚

It wasn’t so much being bothered by the attic being messy as it was storing old photos, graphic design portfolios, and other special memories in old cardboard boxes.  The way I looked at it, if the item was worth keeping it was also worth storing it more carefully.

Attic_after1The first order of business was to pull everything out of the attic (it is actually a cubby off our bonus room) and move it into the center of the room.  I then started to unpack everything and sort it into piles.  I had piles for kids memories, wedding stuff, old business & tax documents, photos, old cassettes, and most importantly… the Goodwill pile. I even came across our Halloween and Fall decorations. That was an added bonus.

With everything unpacked I used the old cardboard boxes to pack and carry the Goodwill pile to the car (this part always makes me feel good). The next step was to carefully pack and store the items I decided to keep into a variety of Rubbermaid totes. I think I had five different types and sizes of totes (why do we make so many types). NOTE: I made sure I labeled the contents of the non-clear totes to ensure we could identify what was inside without opening them.

After all was said and done I had only spent one hour to give my attic a storage makeover. I can now rest easily knowing the photos I took at the YMCA camp when I was 12 are safe and secure.

Now that Fall is upon us, attics are not very hot (even a little cool). There’s no better time to get your attic organized. Don’t wait until winter when it gets too cold. Doing so will only provide a good excuse to not go up into the attic.

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5 Responses to Organizing the Attic & Preserving Memories

  1. Jim Deitzel September 22, 2008 at 12:51 pm #

    Even more great comments. The videos. Blanks ones I tossed. All others (mostly kids movies) I gave to good will. Buzz Lightyear will probably find a new friend.
    And yes, LABEL, LABEL, LABEL. Especially with Dymo labelers.

  2. Deb Lee September 22, 2008 at 10:45 am #

    Congrats, Jim, on completing your attic project. I do agree with Scott on storing papers somewhere other than your attic, but am glad you adhered to a basic rule of thumb – LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! I usually put labels on two sides of the container so that it can be seen from just about any direction. You can also label your clear totes just in case someone other than you needs to find something. Can you tell that I like to label? =)
    P.S. I’m glad that Rubbermaid makes a variety of sizes and types of totes. Some may have a greater aesthetic appeal while others may be easier to open for those with physical ailments like arthritis or MS. It just depends on one’s individual circumstance.

  3. Julie Bestry September 22, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    Hurray, Jim. And of course, if the attic was giving you agita, that was the right place to start. I think most of envisioned a full-on attic rather than your little cubby/crawlspace, something equal in size to the top floor of your house. Most of us wanted you to tackle something you could complete in reasonable time. I’m sure if we’d known the stress this area caused you or the actual size (or lack thereof), we’d have picked the attic, too. πŸ™‚
    Scott’s right about heat and humidity for real attics re: papers and especially photos, but if this is off of your bonus room, as long as it’s properly insulated and critter-free you should be fine.
    I don’t have a recommendation for a service for scanning your photos, but make sure you are willing to ship them out of country–ScanCafe’s people do the scanning in Bangalore; even if you’re cool with that, be sure to keep the negatives safe. I also encourage you to pre-sort photos before them. People tend to store even bad photos, but there’s no need to spend money to scan a photo of your thumb.
    Also, until you get them in albums or digitized, make sure they’re stored vertically (like files). The least bit of moisture or grit combined with squished horizontal sandwich-layers can really damage a photo. Speaking of horizontal and squished, what’s in that bottom (clear) tub in the “after” foreground?
    What about those videos–did you toss them? If not, do you know what’s on the ones that appear blank? Do you think you’ll really watch them in this DVD/DVR/Netflix era?
    Congrats on conquering this high-stress area & getting the donations to Goodwill!

  4. Jim Deitzel September 22, 2008 at 9:36 am #

    Thanks for the comments Scott. I agree. I should make a move to have scrapbooks. I’ve also looked into getting the photos scanned. Does anyone have a recommendation? I’ve looked at
    This particular area does get warm but not too hot. It’s not officially the attic. It would certainly be better to be in a climate controlled area, but I don’t really have any open spaces.
    Thanks again. Tips like this are extremely valuable.

  5. Scott Roewer September 22, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    Congrats Jim on jumping through the attic hurdle and organizing your space. I think it’s just fine you worked in the attic before your pantry. My philosophy is to start in the space that’s bothering you most. If that’s the attic, and not the pantry – great. Just do something!
    I do have to mention I have concerns about storing any type of papers, photos, keepsakes, etc in the attic. Granted, I don’t know where you are – but in Washington, DC and much of the Midwest and South, it’s way-to-humid to store anything ‘important’ in a non-climate controlled environment. Things are better off in the Rubbermaid over cardboard, but hopefully you have considered your environment. If it’s cool enough in the attic already, you’re likely OK!
    Food for thought, scan those photos, transfer those cassettes to MP3, and work with your family to make scrapbooks of the keepsakes. Otherwise, it’s just stuff in an attic. Being able to enjoy those YMCA photos with your family now – priceless.
    Cheers – Scott

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