UHeart Organizing: DIY Attic Storage Labels

Last year we made amazing progress on a few of our storage areas and I was jazzed about how things were going.  And then it started getting cold, Christmas came and went and I fell off of the storage room train.  {Cold means no work on the garage which piggybacks off of a few of our storage room projects} Sigh...  Tell me I am not the only one this happens to?

Good thing my good friend and contributor, Ashley of 7th House on the Left, is here today to kick me back into organizing gear.  She is sharing her updated attic storage process, and it really is smartly simple!  To say iheart it is an understatement. 

I’m not sure if it’s the weather changing or what, but I’m on a massively huge Spring cleaning kick right now.  Not only am I on a mission to get every single square inch of this house spick and span (or “back to new” as my grandma calls it), I’m also on the verge of purging the things we don’t need/want anymore and scaling things down to the necessities.  Clothes, books, decorative accessories, office supplies, cleaning supplies… everything is being reassessed and then either organized or thrown away/donated.

On the long list of things to go through are the miscellaneous items we’re storing in our attic.  We have to use a pull-down ladder to get into our attic, so since it isn’t easily accessible, I often forget it’s even there.  Aside from the rare occasion when we decide to store something up there to get it out of the way (like seasonal décor or things we’re on the fence about giving to Goodwill), the attic is mostly unused.  Since we’re not up there much, as time has passed, the space has become slightly neglected and not as organized and convenient as it could be.

For starters, we went through everything and purged the things we’ve collected over the past few years.  Greg and I both went through our keepsake boxes from college (our baby/childhood keepsakes are still at our parents’ houses) and got rid of things we didn’t remember (because what’s the point of holding onto things that have no meaning anymore, right?).  We also went through our seasonal decorations and donated what didn’t jive with our decorating style anymore to the Goodwill.  The photo above isn’t our actual attic, but that’s the storage system we hope to implement once everything is sorted and organized.  Images from here.

When we first moved into our house a few years ago and began to store things in our attic, I labeled each container with my handy dandy label maker.  As my friends will tell you, I’m kind of obsessed with this thing.  They’re surprised Bentley (our kid dog) doesn’t have a label on his collar.  Over the past few years, I’ve realized that even though having a label on each container is helpful, when it comes down to it, it isn’t really a convenient system.  I mean, it’s labeled, yeah.  But when a label says, “Christmas Decorations” in a sea of eight other boxes that are labeled “Christmas Decorations”, you really have no idea what’s inside without opening it up and pulling everything out.  It’s annoying - which is why a new system had to be put in place.

I rolled a few ideas around my head and finally came up with an idea using an old favorite of mine: these single-sided, self-seal laminating sheets.  These things are amazing.  I originally fell in love with them when I was a teenager.  I would cut out photos from magazines, make collages on the front of spiral notebooks, then wrap the cover in one of these sheets.  Even though I sometimes still have the hankering to decorate a notebook now and then, over the years I’ve found other handy uses for these sheets - especially when it comes to organizing.  You can find them pretty much anywhere office supplies are sold.  (In the past I’ve purchased them from Target, Walgreens, Walmart and Staples.)  Aside from the laminating sheets, for this labeling project, I also needed paper (card stock is best), scissors, wet erase markers and a printer.

I started off by designing a label that included the contents’ category (Fall Decorations, Christmas Decorations, Keepsakes, etc), a bunch of blank lines to fill in the specific contents and a blank for a “last packaged” date.  To design the label, I used Adobe Illustrator, but you can also easily use Word or Pages.  I printed the labels on 8.5x11” card stock and then trimmed the edges to a size suitable for our storage containers (which ended up being around 8x5) using a paper cutter for extra-straight edges.

Once I printed out and trimmed down all of the sheets, I slowly placed each piece of card stock, printed side down, onto the middle of the sticky side of the lamenting sheet.  I made sure there was plenty of excess around the edges of the card stock to allow the label to stick to the storage container and cut off any unneeded excess using a pair of scissors.  Once that was done, I had a large label ready for a storage container.

To make sure the label adheres really well, make sure the storage container is very clean and dust-free (rubbing alcohol works great for this).  Once you have the label in place, run your fingernail around the edges of the card stock a few times to release in air bubbles and make sure it’s on there really well.

Once all of the labels were on their respective containers, it was time for the nitty-gritty details.  I went through each container and wrote down all of the contents on the label using a wet erase marker.  Using a wet erase marker instead of a regular dry erase marker means the labels won’t smudge while you’re moving the boxes around, but you can erase items with a little bit of water.

As I mentioned earlier, I also included a blank for a “packaged date”.  By making note of this, I will know how long ago I last went through that particular storage container and purged anything we didn’t want / need any longer.  That way, if I’m up in the attic to retrieve something else and notice a box that hasn’t been gone through in a few years, I can quickly scan the list of contents and see if there’s anything I now want to get rid of.  It’s a super easy system of being able to keep up with your stuff and regularly getting rid of the unneeded/unwanted items.  I guess you can kind of think of it as a reverse expiration date of sorts.

We’re currently in the midst of implementing this new system in the attic, but I already feel so much better about our attic storage, and it doesn’t make me cringe to think about attempting to find something up there when the time comes.

We’re still a week or two from being completely “done” with the whole Spring cleaning haul, but when that day comes, you’re going to be looking at one happy camper. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an embarrassing collection of dog clothes to go through.  Let the purging continue!You

"I'm Ashley from 7th House on the Left - a blog where my husband, Greg, and I talk about renovating, decorating and living in our first house here in Hanover, Virginia. I’ve been an interior design enthusiast and a long-time fan of all things organizing. Yep, I was the kid with the perfectly arranged Disney stuffed animals, alphabetized coloring books and the categorized and color-coded sticker book. When I'm not busy writing or doing projects around the house, I love classic TV shows (particularly I Love Lucy) and curling up with Greg, Bentley (our 9-pound Pomeranian), a blanket and a good black and white classic movie – I’m a complete sucker for Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant films. I'm thrilled and honored to be a part of the IHeart Organizing team and excited to get to work!"

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