Homeowners put a lot of emphasis on large garages and spacious basements and attics when deciding where to live — and rightly so. Having enough storage space at home is a great advantage and helps you enjoy a neat, tidy, clutter-free home, while also holding on to your possessions.

However, when storing things in auxiliary spaces of your home, you must be careful, as the environment could damage your belongings. Attics do get very hot in the summer and cold in the winter, while basements oftentimes have humidity issues. Garages, besides the heat/cold problems, are also prone to collecting dust, another factor that can damage certain items. Here are the things you should avoid keeping in these spaces:

1. Important papers, documents, pictures or books

Things made of paper are particularly vulnerable to all sorts of environmental factors, from mice and insects to heat, humidity or dust. Important documents, such as birth certificates, property papers, insurance policies, passports and so on should be kept inside your home — preferably in a sturdy, metallic box.

Rather than dumping your family pictures in a shoebox in the attic, where they may become discolored, dusty and stuck together, select the most important pictures and arrange them in photo albums or frames and display them around your home.

If you have books and photos you really want to keep, but don’t have space for them inside your home, arrange them carefully in lidded boxes and put them in self storage. Consider looking into a climate-controlled unit, which provides just the right temperature and humidity for preserving delicate items in the long term. It definitely pays off if you’re planning to store expensive books or collectibles, such as comic books.

2. Upholstered furniture, mattresses or rugs

These items need a dry environment and moderate temperatures, or mildews, molds or moths will soon render them useless. Dust is another big issue when it comes to upholstered furniture because it slowly seeps into the padding — it will soon be impossible to properly clean it.

You have several options. Again, one is self storage, if you’re positive that you’ll be using the pieces of furniture or home décor in the future. However, if you’re keeping them “just in case,” it’s best to simply sell or donate them.

3. Pet food

Buying pet food in bulk is financially and logistically advantageous — but make sure you have space for said food in your pantry. Storing it in your garage or your basement is an invitation for various critters to come inside and enjoy the free buffet. So, if you’re not necessarily planning to support several families of mice or raccoons, keep your pet food in the pantry, in closed receptacles.

Humidity from the basement can also damage pet food, making it moldy, which can cause all sorts of issues. Your pets could get sick from it or simply refuse to eat it.

4. Paint and other supplies for home improvement projects

Leftover paint, varnish, adhesives and other materials used for DIY projects go bad if you keep them in areas where they are exposed to heat, frost or humidity. Check the labels of each product for recommended storage temperatures, and for how long you can store them before they go bad.

If you don’t have space to store them properly, or if you don’t think you’ll be needing them soon for another home improvement project, it’s better to sell or donate them. If you end up with a lot of leftover products, you should contact the store where you got them, as oftentimes these stores have return policies for items that were not opened.

5. Old appliances and electronics

Chances are, if you got a new TV, microwave or laptop, you won’t be using the old ones ever again. So, what’s the point in carrying them up to the attic or putting them in your basement? If those old electronics or appliances are still working, you could sell them online or donate them to people in need. Otherwise, you should take them to a recycling center. Storing them improperly renders them useless, and you’ll have to get rid of them all sooner or later.

6. Flammable substances

Flammable substances such as paint thinners, wood varnishes, different types of oil, etc., should never be stored in spaces that can get very hot in the summer because they constitute a fire hazard. Even oily rags can spontaneously combust if exposed to intense heat. Make sure you don’t have such items in your attic or your garage.

Firewood should also be kept at a distance from your house because it can easily turn a small, easily extinguished house fire into a huge blaze. Also, firewood is the perfect environment for mice, insects and other pests. To avoid such problems, store firewood in a detached shed, at least 20 or 30 feet from your home.

Last, but not least, think of your garage or attic as places to keep things that matter safe and neat. Anything that’s not useful or loved and is kept only because it is too inconvenient to throw away does not belong in your home. Organization and courage are all it takes to keep your home and storage spaces clutter-free!


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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