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5 Decluttering Tips That Helped Us Purge Our Attic

January 23, 2023

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We have been hard at work for the last weekend, decluttering and purging our attic space! It was at the top of our 2023 project list because it was becoming an overwhelming goliath that we just had to tackle. And as overwhelming as it was, it felt soooo good to get in there and finally tackle it. At this point, we still have some organizing to do, but we went through everything and decided what’s staying and what’s going. Here are some decluttering tips we learned along the way.

5 Decluttering Tips

1. Timing is everything

A big undertaking like this cannot be forced. This attic has been begging for some attention for some time, but it wasn’t the right time. It’s physically, mentally, and emotionally draining to make decision after decision about what stays and what goes, and I couldn’t make it a priority until I was ready. I guess that’s probably how most things are, but for something big like this, you’re going to need to block out some very dedicated time, and it’s good to be in a ruthless, purging mood.

2. Be ruthless

Speaking of being ruthless, Chris and I both went into this project to take big action to see big results! We were absolutely brutal in deciding what to keep. Luckily, most of the stuff in the attic is there because we haven’t needed or wanted to use it in this house, which made the decision-making pretty straightforward. For example, we moved some furniture and art with us from Idaho, but we haven’t searched for them, so they’re going! It has to go if we haven’t missed it, haven’t used it, or don’t hold some sentimental value.

3. Sort into “keep” and “don’t keep” piles

At first, when we started going through everything, we were hauling things up and down the stairs, which totally hijacked any chance of gaining momentum! It was much too distracting and draining to go back and forth like that. From there, we decided to sort everything into two piles; right-side keep left-side purge. Once we did that, we gained some traction, and it was seriously satisfying to see the don’t keep pile get bigger and bigger.

4. Make sub-piles

Once we had our “don’t keep” pile, the girls helped us bring everything down from the attic and sort into even more piles; sell, donate, recycle, and trash. Going up and down so many flights of stairs was an all-day Saturday event, but we celebrated with a well-deserved frozen yogurt outing, and they really worked so so hard.

5. Momentum is your best friend

It’s easy to get sucked into the moment and start flipping through your high school yearbook for an hour, reminiscing about all the good times. Don’t do it! Going off on a tangent and losing the momentum will turn this weekend project into a month-long pain in the butt. This is all about making quick decisions and moving forward. Perfectionism can be your biggest enemy, so lower your expectations and think and act quickly!

Before

After (pre-organizing)

I hope the photos capture how truly cluttered and chaotic it was. You couldn’t even see the floor! Even before organizing, it feels so much better.

A note on sentimentals

My take on sentiments is that if you have the space to store a couple of keepsake bins, give yourself permission to do it! Keepsakes are the one thing that you don’t have to be ruthless about. Chris and I each have one keepsake bin full of stuff before we were married! Some of it is stuff that I’ve just kept for so long that isn’t even super sentimental, but after all this time, how could I just throw it away? As long as it’s stored and out of the way, just make the decision to keep it and move on! Again, beware of getting lost on a tangent!

On that note, I did decide to get rid of something big that does hold some sentimental value to me. Chris gifted me this migration art that hung in the dining room of our last house. It was super thoughtful and was truly my favorite art. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t match the vibe of this house, and Chris was super encouraging to let it go and let it live another life. It was definitely the hardest decision I had to make through this process!

A note on organizing

You may have seen on Instagram that Chris and I already made our way to Lowe’s and grabbed everything we needed to get organized, and I just know it’s going to look so good. I’m planning to store everything in bins stacked on shelves, and I can’t wait to see even more of the floor uncovered.

Here’s what we bought!

Clear storage bins and shelves.

Self-adhesive pockets for labeling the boxes. Just write what’s in them on these index cards and slide them in!

What’s next?

While we were decluttering, we received so many dms with all of your ideas of what we could do with this space! And while I love a big lofty dream, we just don’t need more rooms at this point. It’s such a glorious storage space, so we’re keeping it as such for now.

Big attics like this aren’t very common in Idaho, so this is kind of new to us. I’m curious, though if you have an attic or a basement, and be sure to chime in with where you live!

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What do you think?

  1. REK981 says:

    Central Indiana here and I had a huge detached garage with lots of space for storage, then an attic space – not as big as yours, but still useful, and now a cinder block basement and a shed. They all worked for what we needed. Labeled storage totes are super helpful! Currently, I have 2 boxes in my office that I need to sort as a space in the basement that has some random boxes that also need to be sorted and purged. Once it is warmer we plan to empty the shed and organize it in a better way. It is very random right now.

  2. Gail Rowan says:

    I’m in the process of cleaning out my attic. Since I just retired, I now have the time to get it done. I found it easier for me to take a picture of all things going into each storage bin. I taped an envelope to bin an put picture in it. I just printed the pics from my phone. Can’t wait to see the finished attic space!

  3. Amanda Hagins says:

    I’ve been wanting to tackle our attic for a while and this is exactly the inspiration I needed! Thank you!

  4. Dan says:

    Love it! Thank you for the tips! I like the ruthless and momentum tips, as well as giving yourself the time. Your perspective on it all is very helpful!

  5. Cortney Sloan says:

    I live in Maryland. We have a ranch and no real attic. Our basement however is amazing. We updated it in 2019 and I don’t think we would have survived the pandemic without it. A huge family space (think your blue room with some toys) with a workout corner. An office that was my husband’s but is now mine since I work from home 4 days a week. A full bath (the second in our house, and the one I use). A laundry room and workshop space – neither are big nor fancy but meet our needs. AND the space that sold our home – a huge storage room. We do huge sorts like you did every few years and periodic quick organizations because things start to accumulate the minute you clean the up.

  6. Krista Ray says:

    We live in Pennsylvania and have a basement. It has a good size storage room I spent a weekend decluttering like you all did. I grew up with a house that had a full attic. Attics are very common in older homes in PA, where basements are more popular with newer homes.

  7. Karen says:

    I live in Charlotte and our ranch home has a huge attic with pull down stairs. We don’t have a basement (they are rare in this area) and we refuse to fill up a garage with stuff and leave the cars out in the elements. So we have kept far too many things in our attic. Now that we are empty nesters with grown daughters, we take great delight in bringing bins & boxes from the attic to them as we purge. I am keeping the “good toys” like kitchen play set, wooden toys, dress ups for the grandkids, but it’s time to get rid of camping gear, furniture we were saving just in case the kids want it (they don’t), reduce the amount of seasonal decor, and give ourselves permission to let go of any “projects” we never got around to.

    My 98 yo MIL passed away last month, & the reality of going through a lifetime of STUFF is the fire we needed to get rid of so much.

    Plus it’s not hot as blazes up there, so we don’t kill ourselves trying to get the work done!

  8. Debbie V. says:

    Our Pittsburgh house has both an attic and a finished basement, we’ve accumulated a lot in 40 years. Our Vegas house where we spend our winters has neither! Not to mention our Vegas house is 1250 sq ft. So many of our neighbors can’t park in their garage because it’s full of stuff. Needless to say, I am very intentional with what I bring into our Vegas house and we park in the garage! When we go back to Pgh when the weather is warmer I can’t wait to purge, donate and gift a ton of “stuff”

  9. Michelle Crisp says:

    Attics are wonderful and exactly where keepsakes should be stored. Attic spaces are quiet places … but I like that you’re keeping it as storage!!

    • monica says:

      I would be very wary of storing keepsakes in an attic in NC, where the summers are super humid. Paper and clothing can get moldy in humid areas!

  10. Gabby racine says:

    Oh man I felt 🥹 re the Migration artwork. That’s one of my absolute fave pieces of art. The new owners are so very lucky!

  11. Joe says:

    I have an attic, but I live in Florida. Attics get way too hot! Most people use the garage for storage. They put shelving up and use that to hold their stuff.

  12. Katrina D. says:

    CDA, have a basement and attic space above garage for storags

  13. stephanie says:

    Hi from Louisville KY! I’ve always had a basement where ever I’ve lived that was used as storage and also family room, laundry, storage etc. Our current home has both a finished basement and very large attic space. When we bought this house the only way to the large attic was a small 20″ square opening in a guest room closet. We had a contractor installing some lights for us and had to get up there and let us know that the attic had 8′ ceilings and sprawled all the way to the other side of the house (large ranch home). So we had him cut an opening in the ceiling of the other guest room and install flooring in the attic and a drop down ladder to access it all. We store all our sentimental things along with all our seasonal décor except my
    multiple trees that get stored in the attached garage.

  14. Beth says:

    The absolute best de-cluttering tip is to not bring items into your house in the first place! Trying to become a more conscientious consumer is helpful to the environment and helps prevent clutter and chaos in your home, and prevents the stress and anxiety that clutter can bring. Granted, no one can time travel to prevent a past purchase, but once you have a clean(er) slate, try to be ruthless about deciding whether you (1) have a true desire for that item and (2) whether you have the space for it – if not, don’t bring it home!

    • Rachel says:

      I LOVE this comment! Easier said than done, but yes, YES!

    • monica says:

      Agree! I moved into my current home 12 years ago. We have an attic and thankfully I made the decision to never put anything up there! I try to live minimally, but CLJ has a business based on buying similar things over and over (for content) so they have to just keep buying. I would find this very stressful.

  15. Lynne T says:

    Good for you! We moved to Raleigh a little before you did, so it’s especially fun for me to see you settle in.

    Coming from Florida where there are NO basements and attics are 130 degrees/95% humidity (and therefore, useless), we were DELIGHTED by the huge amount of storage space we have here. But it is way too easy to just throw stuff up there (hello, every box that an electronic item came packaged in).

  16. Courtney says:

    I live in San Diego where attics are mostly crawl spaces and basements are very uncommon. Most of my neighbors use the garage for storage or have a storage shed on the side or back of the house. I see it as a luxury when a neighbor can park in their garage! Haha. What I would give to have a walk up attic like yours!

  17. Donna says:

    Ooh, I love a good purge day! Always have had a walk up/in attic and basement, so collecting (hoarding) has been an issue. I’ve decided after a large downsizing move, if it doesn’t fit the vibe, it has to go. Freeing myself from all of this additional baggage is truly life changing, almost like losing weight! We don’t need all that we’ve lovingly collected over the years, and I truly think about my kids not having to sort through my lifetime of stuff (even though I hope I’m years away from departing). My smaller home is just as comfy-cozy as my larger homes were, and I get to enjoy what I truly love. I have all that I need, my attic and basement are organized, and I sleep better! Now if I only could say the same for my garage!(😱😱😵‍💫🤦‍♀️)

    • Michelle says:

      Well done with the purge! We live in California and don’t have an attic or basement, just shelving one side of the garage and boxes squeezed into closets. We stick to a pretty ruthless “one in, one out” rule for seasonal decor and other things that require storage space. Also, joining our local “Buy Nothing” group has been life-changing. I have happily gifted many items to our neighbors that I would have otherwise kept out of guilt or not knowing what to do with it.

  18. Susanne says:

    If you were able to get rid of your ‘favorite art’, there is hope left for the rest of us.

  19. Amanda says:

    We live in a 1962 Mid-Century Modern home in North Central Florida. We do not have a basement OR an attic! Storage is a premium.

  20. Kris says:

    oh I was just thinking about that beautiful piece of Art the other day and wondered what you would do with it! I had feeling it would not find a space in this home. As hard as it was good for you for letting go. I’m from Manitoba Canada and I have basement with lots of storage and an attic that is not used for storage, just electrical and insulation.

  21. Gina says:

    I love a good cleaning out and organizing post!! I’m fortunate to have a good sized attic, but it sure does need some purging. After helping go through my grandparent’s home recently after they passed I am really chomping at the bit to purge!! As soon as the weather is warm enough here in Virginia!! 😁 No basement due to it being too wet. 😉

  22. Bonny says:

    I love to organize and have many bins in our garage. The problem I face is because the garage gets hot in the summer the labels do not stay adhered. Have you used the card pockets before? Do they stay attached with heat fluctuations?

    • Annemarie Harms says:

      I use an 8’x10′ well-built shed with 2 shelving units. My Christmas decorations are in large green totes. Size of totes depends on how heavy the contents are and/ or how much space is needed. All my totes are plastic. I tape a gallon sized baggie with packing tape, not scotch tape, to the totes’ sides facing out, just below where the baggie opens. In large letters I name the contents ( ex., spring decorations.) On a sheet of paper, I list the contents ( ex., flower stems, Spanish moss, etc.) &`slide the list inside the baggie. The large content name shows outward. This way you can relabel as needed. Cardboard boxes attract bugs – they are attracted to the glue. I found out the hard way and had to toss out some favorite decor. Also, snow globes must be stored in the house or they will break from the cold. Hope this helps. I live 100 miles north of New York City, in the country. 4 seasons.

  23. Esther says:

    We have a full (as in useable space the entire size of our house, with 8ft ceilings), unfinished basement which is mostly tool storage and my husband’s woodworking area, but also laundry – because we have the available access, we have a laundry chute from the kitchen as well as our master bath!
    We also have a finished attic/3rd floor, which is a giant media room (instruments, a pinball machine, and screen and projector all live there). Off of the main space of the attic, there are four giant winding closets, one of which has a window and is my husband’s home office, the rest of which are storage, some in scarier states than others…
    Our detached garage also has an attic, which we hope eventually to turn into a guest house, but which is currently mostly storage.
    Oh, and we’re in Ohio.

  24. Jenny Decker says:

    Charlottesville! Having moved here from a DC rowhouse (with finished basement) the garage + attic feel so spacious for storing things we used to have to keep in a closet! We also have a finished basement that has guest room, work from home space, full bath and home theater. We’re fairly selective about what goes in the attic, since I fear the heat will ruin some things that could be stored there. But the garage organization has become our nemesis. That space constantly has stuff that’s waiting to be dealt with.

  25. karin washler says:

    I would definitely love more storage! Living in California there are no basements nor attics and homes are small. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  26. Emma says:

    We have a huge attic above our garage and we live in Kansas City! We have toyed with the idea of making a large closet or add on to one of our kid’s bedrooms since that’s what it connects to but for now it is our best storage space and may stay that way! Most attics in this city above the house are full of insulation and inaccessible. But since ours is over the garage and not the house it’s perfect for storage.

    • Dorothy says:

      We just moved from NY to Florida. We did not have usable space in the attic, but we had a HUGE basement. I cannot begging to describe how many things I donated, (about 12 car trips worth), how many things I gave away, and how big the throw away pile was. We are pretty much settled here now, after a month, and the only thing we put into the attic over the garage are seasonal decorations and a lot of empty bins… Learned my lesson!!

  27. Lauren says:

    Thanks for the inspiration! We’re in Massachusetts & have a large attic that we, too, just toss everything in. There are general areas, like holiday decor, clothes, suitcases, but often it’s a mess. I don’t know if/when we’ll ever tackle it! But right now you’ve inspired me to do my closets and bathroom drawers.

  28. Julia says:

    Most houses in our area (West Chester, PA) have an attic. We do not have one and I really wish we did. Storage is in the unfinished side of our basement or the garage, but we are bursting at the seams in both

  29. Lynn says:

    I live north of Atlanta, Georgia. I don’t hear about attics here but many people have basements. We have an unfinished basement that is quite big and would be awesome finished, but we have the same thing as you… a lot of houses in the two other levels. We have come to love having the basement unfinished. It has four main organizes and neat spaces: a motorcycle work room, a weight room, a food storage room, and one huge area with a wood burning stove and ping pong table. That wood burning stove heats the entire house too. We do use it a lot

  30. Regina says:

    Great decluttering tips. We have a third floor attic that spans the entire house. Nashville, TN here! 🥰

  31. Susan says:

    Greenville SC! A walk in attic which is so handy, we’ve had attics with pull down stairs before and didn’t use them, never liked those stairs and liked them even less as I get older.
    Thanks for the purge inspiration – one question – when you say you sell some things, any suggestions on where to sell? Thanks

    • Sherrigurl says:

      Sell them on Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, Etsy, Craigslist or have a huge yard sale. If you have specialty items advertise them ahead of time. I always give away freebies on Freecycle.org. Great way to keep things out of the landfill!

  32. Judy says:

    After 40 years of marriage and raising a child, we moved from Texas to Mississippi a year ago. Before the move, we cleaned out every inch of the house. I thought that was it; until we moved into the new house with a massive walk-in two-story attic! I realized I didn’t depart with enough, so I continue to purge and organize. I kept a lot of sentimentals in bins and boxes (we are in the moving and storage business, so good boxed are plentiful!). My next project was purging the decor that didn’t work in the house. I had an entire section of the attic that I let family and friends “shop for free” in. The rest went to local charity. Now, that space is my holiday “store”. It has half of my Christmas (trees, wreaths, garland), Fall/Halloween, and Spring decor. My other Christmas half stays in our hallway lockers, along with more Fall and Spring. The area in the attic has a walkway with the boxes bordering 3 sides. I didn’t use bins or shelves for this area because so many items would not work in a bin i.e. wreaths, trees. The largest part of the attic is lined with various items in bins that I’ll continue to purge, but the best news is, that area is now big enough for a golf driving range with net, and a putting green for the husband to use! Ha! The third floor attic has nothing in it and will remain that way. My favorite area is the Christmas “store”. I bought corrugated wreath boxes and stored all of our wreaths separately. There are two columns stacked 5′ high and are all labeled. The cleanout from the old house yielded more than a 75% elimination in sentimental items from our son and our own older items. This is my favorite thing to do!!!

  33. Suzanne says:

    We have eaves in our Cape cod style 1970s house. They’re easily accessible but do get very cluttered. We also have a basement which contains some good storage areas and some total clutter. After purging our bedroom we’re tackling our daughter’s room (she has lyme disease so has no energy to ever put anything away!) Finally, after that, we’ll get to the basement storage. I see clear bins, bigger memorabilia bins, and a big purge in our future! Thanks for the inspiration.

  34. Nicole says:

    It looks like y’all did a ton of work up there! Organizing and purging feels so good at the beginning of the new year. Good job, Chris & Julia!

  35. Kala says:

    We have a basement and we live in Ontario, Canada. I wish we also had a big, beautiful attic because our lower two levels (we have a four level side split) are my mom’s granny suite. Our city has houses that have both, but they aren’t as common. Our home has a very small attic that is only for electrical and insulation, etc. we have a partial basement and partial crawl space (which we do not use for much because I refuse to crawl with the creepy crawlers under there)

  36. C says:

    So, for a storage organized space would you prefer clear bins so you can see what’s in them or not clear so it looks more organized And just labels?? Thanks!

  37. Sarah says:

    Lexington, KY! Moved from Texas and we have a full walkout basement here. I love having a basement!! It isn’t for storage so much as another floor that we use daily- office, exercise, tv/ playroom and guest room. Having lived 40 years w/o a basement I always want one moving forward!

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