If you walk up our attic steps, you will be surrounded by this:

The problem is that it takes forever to find and store things, so we don’t store them there or we buy duplicates of things we already have. I am often prevented from getting things done because I want them done perfectly. However, this problem is sufficiently annoying and I have sufficiently small time that I am ready to fix this without custom carpentry and custom angled storage bins on castors and wheels to provide easy access to everything — on top of a full database of our home inventory. Ah, someday.

So our attic and our stuff in general is not serving us. Yes, we need to get rid of the stuff we don’t need, made easy(ier) by the fact that our kid production line is closed. If we put something up there then it is not down here because we need it seasonally (think Christmas tree) or occasional (think my mitre saw). Given the nature of what will be up there, our effort is guided by the following principles (by priority):

  • Cheap and Easy (we want absolute minimal time and energy spent on this, roughly three diaper change intervals is all we can spare — yes, that has a huge standard dev)
  • Speed, Easy access to everything (so we don’t have to move more than one box to see what we are looking for)
  • Transparency, we can get to what we need easily (so we will have a map of where things go)
  • Center Isle Clear, no items in the “hallway” (that is our downfall now, items in the central area block us from finding things)
  • Flexibility (when we get in hurry, we have to put things up quickly, so we don’t want to over-optimize)
  • Minimalism (Let’s not put it up there if we don’t have 90% chance of using it in a year, can’t buy it, or have a long term vision for it)

Regarding the last principal, we’ve developed a proviso for sentimental stuff. We have one bin for each of us and call it our sentimental warehouse, everything else has to have a non-sentimental purpose. With these principles understood, we have every incentive to put stuff up there because we have a smaller house for 6 folks (200 ft^2 per person) so we have to use our space wisely. We have a small garage that serves as a mud, play and sports room, so I put as much of our tools, paint, etc up in the attic and this has to be easy to access. We also believe in a bare bones accesible toy inventory, so we rotate toys up there frequently, aside from the fact that one kid is always graduating to a new set of toys.

Despite the fact that I have to get my taxes done this weekend (slacker! or is it workaholic?), the colder weather reminded me the small window of attic access is coming. Plus, we need to move things around up there for some upcoming electrical work. So I took some measurements, and played around in Sketchup and found that the key issue was how to make the sides useful and easily accessible. For example, the entire floor width was approximately 29 feet, but only 18 feet had a usable floor, meaning that I was ignoring roughly 40% of the total floor space. This 40% was the most important to use for storage since it is out of the center aisle. If I just incorporate this area, I calculated that I would gain roughly 25 ft^2 of surface area, multipled by the linear feet available which is 80 feet — meaning we would have 75 cubic yards, exactly half of a semi truck’s transportation volume — that is a lot of space, if I could only harness it inline with our principles.

With two hours, I did some SketchUp, looked around online at some ideas, my results are below. Now, back to taxes. Can I be greedy, and hope wiser friends can give me some feedback on this plan?

All feedback is welcome, but here are the things I want to do, but can’t:

  • Full inventory of everything up there, location tag everything and put on our intranet
  • Custom drawers and storage containers
  • Analysis on how supported my shelving needs to be (I have a degree in structures, I would love to use it someday.)
  • Optimization of where things are placed

Particular things I don’t know:
* Where to get storage containers as cost efficient as possible
* Attic ventilation constraints (building science considerations)
* Whether it makes sense to use the 10 inches in the joists. I don’t think so, because of the height of any box will prevent using that area.
* Any systems that are inexpensive, but will save me lots of time
* If installing lighting back there makes sense

* “rubbermaid”:
* “wheeled idea”:
* “what i really want to do”:
* “good idea”:

h3. Conclusion

and eventually:

I couldn’t resist the cheap and easy method to buy ready-made shelves and just put them up there. For roughly $200, I got everything off the floor. It was an excellent suggestion. Thanks Matt Markel for the shelving idea. Spirit, thank you for the organization idea. I’ve fully incorporated your ideas.

At some point in life, I have to choose simplicity over fun. That point arrives when four kids arrive.

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