Find a safe place for everything and put everything in its place

As you get ready for the July 4 celebration, you will likely find yourself digging out the patio furniture and the barbecue, not to mention the fishing rods, planters and fertilizer that often come out this time of year. And you may still have a need to put away the ski equipment, heavy sweaters and maybe even a box of ornaments.

So, how do things look in your attic, garage and closets?

If you’re of the organized ilk with lots of storage, the many transitions of life are like a choreographed dance. Winter things go away into their appointed places and spring and summer items are easily located and smoothly retrieved.

But, if you’re like most Americans, you probably have more “stuff” than storage and what space you do have is crammed with stuff you didn’t remember you even had. It’s time to get organized!


To accomplish a re-organization means creating “a place for everything then putting everything in its place.”

Figuring out a place for everything is the hard part, but worth the effort. You’ve no doubt heard the adage “When in doubt, throw it out” or “recycle, recycle, recycle.” That’s a good place to start.

When you’re organized you not only have greater peace of mind, you end up saving time and money.

While we won’t advise on which matching baskets to buy, when it comes to storage, there are some practical things you may need to know for the safety of your belongings, your house and you.


First, figure out the best uses of the storage areas you have.

Keep in mind that you want to have easy access to items you use frequently or anticipate the need for in the immediate seasonal future and to store them accordingly.

Save the more remote areas, such as lofts or supported attics for long-term storage or seasonal items in rotation.


Most attics and some basements are considered unconditioned spaces, which refers to the lack of heat and airflow as well as a good chance that there’s harmful moisture.

Unfortunately, these are good conditions for bad smells, molds and mildews – and maybe your water-skis, but poor choices for storage of cloth or paper items that can be damaged.

By contrast, a basement with a big ole’ furnace and heat ducts is going to provide drier, airier general conditions and be quite suitable for storage of most anything that is properly shelved, but not stacked.

A moist, dank basement isn’t even good for the house and should be properly sealed and insulated.

Many a disappointed saver has found what the ravages of a hot summer or cold, moist winter can do to certain family heirlooms – like pictures, videos and furniture – in an unconditioned attic or a flood-prone basement.


It’s not just your heirlooms we’re worried about – it’s you and your house!

Did you realize that most attic spaces were not constructed to hold up box after box of old textbooks or National Geographics?

Most folks don’t realize that they could be creating a severe structural scenario of “the straw that broke the camel’s back” variety as they shove just one more box full of last year’s periodicals under the protection of the attic’s roof. Then boom, the ceiling caves in and someone gets hurt!!

Unless a ceiling’s joists are properly sized and supported, a few boxes of Christmas ornaments and an artificial tree are about the limit of what should be stored there, unless the weighty items are placed very close over a supporting wall below.

And, the more modern houses – those using manufactured roof trusses – are even less forgiving of an overweight condition.

Unless specifically engineered to accept storage-type weight, modern truss framing is only intended to support the roofing and a designed wind or snow load overhead as well as the sheet-rocked ceiling below. That’s it! So don’t be tempted to fill them up!

Also if you pack your attic full, you could compress your insulation to the point it no longer functions, damage the house wiring or fan vents, let alone block the low roof vents and stifle the all-important under-roof air flow.

That air circulation not only makes your roof last longer and your house smell fresher, but also gives your whole house a chance to “breathe,” fresh air while removing moisture and pollution from the attic space.


Along the same lines, think safety when planning storage in a closet or on the garage walls. The shelving system used should be sturdy and fastened securely into the wall studs – not just into the drywall.

Shelves that bow are too thin for the weight and should be swapped for thicker ones or re-organized with the heavy stuff directly over the shelf support.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.