Especially if you actually care about them.
If you’re lucky enough to have a roomy attic, garage, or basement, they can offer tons of storage space. But because of weather, critters, and location, these areas of your home aren’t ideal storage for everything. Even if you’re the most organized and cautious homeowner, you should never store these items in your attic, garage, or basement if you want them to stay in quality shape. The main reason you shouldn’t be storing items in these spots is the potential for water damage. Not only are attics, garages, and basements easy targets for flooding and accidents like fallen trees during storms, but climate plays a big role in this aspect as well. If you live in the South, you understand the true meaning of the word “humidity.” Most areas of the South experience muggy conditions the majority of the year, which can cause water damage. But it’s not just water damage that can occur, though. Heat can also cause significant damage and even ruin some items. It also goes without saying that animals can get into your attic, garage, or basement. Whether a birds or moths in the attic, a raccoon in the garage, or mice in the basement, critters aren’t concerned with taking care of your belongings.
As a general rule of thumb, nothing in your attic, garage, or basement should be left out in the open. Anything that’s safe to store in these rooms should still be put away in a plastic container with a lid to keep environmental elements out. Cardboard boxes will deteriorate due to heat and water, and animals and bugs will snack on them in the meantime. A few more universal storage rules: Don’t stow away anything that’s very important to you. Put anything you store on shelves a few feet off the ground in case of flooding in the basement or garage. Garages are prone to break-ins, so you don’t want any valuables in there anyway, and because of environmental factors that can deteriorate special items, you don’t want cherished belongings going in the basement or attic either. Here are some items you should never ever store in the attic, garage, or basement.
Photos, Documents, Reading Materials, and Artwork
Old photos, documents, books, newspapers, magazines, artwork and paintings are all off limits for the attic, garage, or basement. These items are negatively affected by heat, humidity, bugs, and even light. Heat can cause paint to crack and expand or contract on paintings. Light, humidity, and heat can cause serious discoloration and even mildew on photos, documents, and reading materials of any kind. You know those little silverfish you see poking around your drains and other dark, wet areas of the house? They, as well as moths, will chew up these items. Remember, nothing of true value should be stored in these spaces, so any old photographs, official documents like passports, sentimental artwork, newspaper clippings, or educational degrees shouldn’t end up in the attic, garage, or basement.
Things Made of Fabric, Including Leather
Meaningful fabrics like old wedding dresses, vintage quilts, and baby clothes should never be stored in these rooms, as water damage, heat, and moths will ruin them. Stuffed animals and mattresses fall in this category as well. Leather furniture or clothing will crack and discolor due to environmental reasons, and rugs of any fabric will deteriorate and fall victim to moths, bugs, and birds looking for a dark, cool space. Anything that’s made of fabric, whether furniture, clothing, décor, or novelty items, should be professionally cleaned and stored according to professional standards. It’s best to store these items in the house in plastic containers if you want to avoid mold, mildew, discoloration, and moth holes.
Nowhere to put Mama’s antique mahogany side tables, but love them so much you can’t let go? Don’t store them in the attic, garage, or basement. Humidity and heat can cause the wood to mildew, mold, expand, and crack. Yikes.
You wouldn’t leave your iPhone in a place that gets too hot or humid, so why would you leave older, less advanced technology? If you’re saving that television with the VCR slot to watch old home videos, heat and moisture might ruin that chance for you. Store any outdated electronics indoors or donate or recycle them.
Anything Flammable or Hazardous
We don’t always consider all the possible outcomes when storing something out of site and out of mind, so it could be easy to accidentally store flammable items near heat sources in the garage, attic, or basement. Paint, cleaning products, gas, propane, and garden chemicals shouldn’t be stored out in the open in these areas, and especially shouldn’t be stored anywhere near the hot water heater or furnace. Even if you’re storing extra paint away from a gas-related source, temperature changes can alter the color of your paint, and water damage can rust the can. If you knick a wall and need touch-ups, you want the paint you saved to match the wall, so do yourself a favor and store paint indoors in a cool place away from any gas-related sources (including those in the kitchen and laundry room). Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener has his own cautionary tale about finding old, extremely dangerous garden chemicals in his mother’s basement. If you have hazardous or toxic materials around like Grumpy’s Mama, locate a local organization that disposes of them safely, rather than trying to do it yourself.
Food (For You and Your Pets)
This one is only relevant for the basement or garage, but it deserves to be said. Storing any kind of food, including your pets’, in these areas is basically asking pests to come over for a dinner party. Even canned food isn’t safe in the garage or basement. Temperature changes and humidity can spoil canned food more easily than you might think. Stay safe, healthy, and pest-free and store it all inside.