How to declutter your attic – and keep it that way.

I have had several cluttered attic projects this year, and although my clients needed help for different reasons (bereavement, planning to move home, general declutter), the attic declutter process has remained the same. There are some ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of an attic at the end of this article.

To declutter your attic and keep it that way in the future, work through these six steps:

1) Plan in advance.

It is helpful to have a selection of storage boxes and packaging, rubbish bags, marker pens and tape. I usually buy a large selection of clear plastic boxes with lids, in several sizes – but check you can return any you don’t need.

Try to have at least one helper. Ideally, one person with you in the attic, and another downstairs, sorting charity runs and trips to the tip, (or organise a skip), so you’ve not got it all downstairs to remove when the attic is sorted.

Depending on your attic, you may need extra items for safety, like a sturdy pair of ladders, a few extra boards, knee pads and thick gloves.

Be prepared mentally to make some difficult decisions. This is your chance to really sort the attic – if you’re just going to move everything around ineffectively, then you’re wasting your time.

2. Remove the obvious.

Remove all the obvious items that you find easy to let go of. Old, broken, outdated items that were put there “just in case” the new one didn’t work properly. Things you know you no longer need. Items that haven’t been stored properly and have now spoilt. Chrismas decorations that are consistently left in the attic when the newer ones come out.

Hopefully, this leaves space to move around in the attic. There will still be smaller items that you may be able to remove when you sort through boxes etc. The first ‘scan’ of the attic is just to remove the obvious items that are going.

3. Take a look at what’s left.

Choose a starting point and work your way around the room methodically. The plan is to group similar items together. Create a zone for photos, another for artist materials, another for Christmas decorations, another for books, clothing, etc etc. If you see anything obvious that you know you can remove, then do so, but the aim of this part of the excersise is just to group like items together.

4. Sort the items in each zone.

Once you have your zones, choose one zone at a time, and sort through the items carefully. Preferably pack them in suitable containers and lable them.

5. Re-organise the zones if necessary.

Once you have worked through all the zones, what you are left with is what will be staying in the attic. So just organise the overall layout to suit you – have items you will need to access more frequently near the front etc.  You may want to add attic shelving at this point, or add extra flooring or clothing rails (with clothes inside garment bags) or hooks. Don’t try to do this to start with, as you won’t know exactly what you need until this point.

6. Keep it like this.

If other family members have access to the attic, show them the zones and explain your system – lable them if it helps – so that they can help to keep it like this.

Of course, this process doesn’t just apply to attics – it is exactly the same for basements, outbuildings, and any storage rooms.

Here is my most recent attic project. It isn’t yet complete – we are at stage 4, where everything is in zones, ready to sort through in detail. The homeowner is now finding it easy to sort one small zone at a time, and feels “like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I used to dread coming into the attic but now I feel like it’s a really useful space.” :

attic declutter


declutter your attic

After. The zones from left to right are – vases, sewing, slide projector and films, music and train set!

declutter my attic


declutter your attic

After – the zones, left to right, are photographs and albums, hobbies (back shelves) and travel. There’s even a chair up here, for comfort when sorting smaller items.