How to Maximize Attic Storage—Even in an Unfinished Space

Make the most of the space you have with these attic organization and storage ideas.

By Deirdre Mundorf | Published Dec 9, 2021 9:51 AM

attic storage

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If your attic is unfinished or only semi-finished, it might seem like it is just a waste of space. However, with a little planning and creativity, even an unfinished attic can hold great potential. Whether you’re looking for long-term storage of holiday decorations or short-term storage of seasonal clothing items, or need a space to save family heirlooms, the attic storage and organization ideas that follow can help you find inspiration to take advantage of the available space in your attic.

RELATED: 10 Things You Should Never Store in Your Attic

1. Make Attic Access Easier

attic storage

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Before thinking about attic storage ideas, you’ll want to make sure you can easily access your attic to bring up or remove items. This Fakro Insulated Steel Scissor Attic Ladder, a top pick in our buyer’s guide for the best attic ladders, can help you to do just that. It connects to an attic access door and unfolds and folds back up easily when the door is pulled down. Plus, the S-shaped design of the steps also serves as a built-in handrail to make climbing up or down into an attic easier and safer. You can remove or add steps to customize the length to fit your space.

2. Keep Pests Out

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Attics are dark and quiet and can serve as a safe home for rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, birds, bugs, and various other critters. If you want to use your attic for storing your belongings, you’ll want to keep these pests out to prevent them causing harm to your items. To do this, patch any holes on your home’s exterior, install a chimney cap like this highly rated option available at The Home Depot, trim back any branches hanging over the roof, and make sure there is no food being stored in the attic. If you already have animals or bugs in the attic, consider placing humane mouse traps like this option available at Amazon or using natural bug spray such as this one available at Amazon.

3. Use Clear Storage Bins

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When thinking about attic storage solutions and keeping your belongings organized, opt for clear storage bins. Clear bins, like the Iris Pearl Plastic Storage Bins that are featured in our guide to the best storage bins, will allow you to see what is inside and easily find the item(s) you are looking for. Bins with secure lids will also prevent your items from getting dusty or dirty up in the attic.

4. Add Insulation

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Before using your attic to store your belongings, you may want to add insulation to the space. Uninsulated attics can become very hot in the summer or frigidly cold in the winter. These temperature extremes could damage more delicate items. Choosing one of our top suggestions from our guide on the best attic insulation options, such as the Frost King Natural Cotton Multi-Purpose Insulation, can help you protect and preserve your treasured belongings.

5. Vacuum Seal Seasonal Clothing

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Many people use their attics to store seasonal clothing items until they are needed for the following year. However, clothing is very bulky and can take up a lot of precious storage space. If you’re looking for low attic storage ideas or just want to reduce the amount of space taken up by your clothes, try vacuum storage bags. Vacuum bags, such as the Box Legend Premium Storage Bags from our researched guide on the best vacuum storage bags, allow you to remove air from the bags containing clothing items. This compresses the clothes and makes them much more compact for storage.

6. Keep Holiday Items Together

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Attics are a logical storage space for holiday items, such as decorations, that you only need to pull out once a year. When organizing your attic, place all your items for each holiday together. This will make it easier to find everything and bring it down when the holiday comes around each year. You won’t need to feel like you’re scrambling to find that one missing special decoration if everything is stored together.

7. Install an Attic Fan

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Attic fans work to push hot air out and pull cooler air into an attic. This can help maintain a cooler temperature in the space, which can help protect the items you are storing in your attic. Some attic fans, such as the Broan-NuTone Surface Mount Solar-Powered Attic Ventilator (featured in our guide for the best attic fans), are even solar-powered and won’t even consume any electricity from the grid.

RELATED: All You Need to Know About Attic Ventilation

8. Put Up Some Pegboard

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When you’re looking for inexpensive and easy-to-install attic ideas, consider putting up some pegboard. Pegboard features evenly-spaced holes that can be used to help keep your attic organized. Simply add a few hooks to the pegboard, and hang smaller items on them to keep them out of the way, yet easy to access when needed.

9. Label Everything

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If you don’t want your space to turn into a disorganized mess, incorporating some attic organization ideas is a must. One way to keep your space organized is to use a label maker, like the Brother P-Touch PC Connectable Label Maker, featured in our guide to the best label makers. Labeling any bins, boxes, or bags that are in the attic can direct you to exactly what you need to find, saving you time and trouble.

10. Create a Stable Attic Floor

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If you require extra attic storage space, beyond what you can squeeze in between the rafters, you’ll need to create a stable attic floor. Before trying to add additional flooring to your space, hire a structural engineer to evaluate whether your attic is designed to hold additional weight between the joists. In some cases, even if your attic won’t support the weight needed for a living space, you still may be able to use it for lighter storage. In this case, you should be able to install plywood on the joists to make floor decking (using 1/2-inch plywood for joists spaced 16 inches apart and 3/4-inch plywood for joists spaced 24 inches apart).

11. Hang Items on Closet Rods

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Installing a few closet rods—or even using tension rods—can allow you to maximize the storage space in your attic. In addition to holding bulkier clothing items, closet rods can also be used to hold other items such as wreaths or baskets.

12. Mount Sturdy Shelves

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Looking for attic shelving ideas? Mounting some sturdy shelves in your attic will offer an abundance of storage space and help you keep your items safely elevated off the floor. Mountable shelves, such as the Fleximounts 3-Tier Storage Wall Shelves, a top pick in our best garage shelving guide, can attach to the sides of the attic and will also leave floor space open for storing other items.