Old furniture, toys, and off-season clothing are relegated to the least used areas of the home: the basement or the attic. Most anything that has no appropriate assignment in the main part of the house, or anything that we no longer need to keep close at hand is likely to end up in either one of these out-of-the way areas. Most of us have attic and/or basement space to spare, so what better place for the odds and ends of our lives?
Basement and attic space must be used carefully. Heat, humidity, and radical temperature changes make these areas unsuitable for many items. The attic is a fine place for storing things that aren't temperature sensitive, like pottery, house wares, and some holiday decorations.
Before you send anything to the attic for storage, make sure that it is clean. Fabrics need to breathe, so hang clothing and linens from a garment rack or a rod hung from the rafters. Drape a clean white sheet over the clothing to keep it dust-free. You can store folded clothing in an acid-free cardboard box, or one lined with a clean cotton sheet.
Do not store clothing or textiles in plastic bags as even the slightest moisture trapped in the bag will cause the contents to mildew. You can purchase garment bags intended for long-term clothing storage. You can also buy cardboard clothing wardrobes from a moving company.
Don't store valuable or heirloom clothing in an unfinished attic or basement. Wedding dresses and veils, christening gowns, and similar items should be professionally cleaned and professionally packed for storage, then kept in a climate controlled area like the bedroom closet.
Moisture is the chief concern for storing things in the basement. Mildew is a particular problem in areas with long, hot, humid summers. A basement without ventilation, heating, and cooling should only be used to store items that are unaffected by moisture. Hang hand tools from a pegboard to decrease the likelihood of rust.
The following items are on the 'no' list for attic or basement storage.
Fur and leather is sensitive to heat, changes in temperature, and moisture levels. Fur and leather are susceptible to damage from pests, too.
Wood furniture will suffer from humidity and changes in temperature. Wood expands and contracts, resulting in cracks and splits in both solid and veneered pieces.
Books are the victims of mildew and dust. Rodents enjoy snacking on the pages, too, and will gnaw a series of divots along the edges of the pages. Leather bound books are especially sensitive to moisture.
Stuffed toys are a favorite of squirrels, chipmunks, and mice that frequently find shelter in the attic. Humidity and moisture in the basement can cause damage, too, and leave stuffed toys suitable only for the trash in a very short period of time.
Photographs and negatives are a definite 'no' when it comes to attic and basement storage. Moisture in the basement is anathema to both prints and negatives causing irreparable damage. Slides and negatives are easily damaged by attic heat.
Formal gowns, wedding dresses, tuxedos, and Halloween costumes won't last long up against basement moisture, or attic dust and heat. Keep in mind that off-season clothing, blankets, or linens can live in the attic for a single season.
If storage is a problem in your home, investigate ways to make better use of suitable available space. Toss out clutter, donate items to charity, or have a yard sale to free up valuable storage space for important items.