Top 5 Steps to Store Your Winter Clothes

April 3, 2015

It’s spring…finally! In New England, however, this means that the temperature can vary dramatically from 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit within a matter of days (and sometimes even hours!). That said, the last thing you feel like doing as the days get brighter and warmer is continuing to wear your winter clothes.

As you think about transitioning your wardrobe, the question arises as to what to do with your winter attire. Unless you have a really big closet, it is important to move off-season clothing out of your working closet and keep only those items you will wear in the upcoming months handy. Otherwise you end up with a giant mess and it becomes very hard to make decisions about what to wear.

How do you manage this transition? Here are 5 steps to make it easy both now and in the fall when you go hunting for something to wear!

1. Weed Out the Unnecessary, Little Worn and Disliked Clothing

Before you pack even the first bag or box, take a look at each piece of clothing and ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I worn this at least two times over the past season?
  • Did wearing this make me feel good—in other words, do you love it?
  • Do I look forward to wearing it again next year?
  • Is it in good repair or, if not, can it be restored?

If the answer is no or anywhere near no, consider sending the items to the closest charity bin or donation pick up now. Why spend valuable time packing them away and then unpacking them next season?

Before you donate an item, it is important to understand why it needs to move on. If it is a case of being worn out, that’s one thing (and great, because it means you got good wear out of it). If it’s because you don’t feel good wearing it, then it is important to figure out why so you don’t repeat the mistake.

  • Was it uncomfortable, itchy or the wrong size?
  • Could you not complete the outfit?
  • Did it not fit into your lifestyle anymore?
  • Is the color unflattering?

Those are just a few of the possibilities to get you started.

If it was a case of having worn them out and you still like it, add it to your shopping list for next season. Who knows you might even find something similar on the winter sale racks that seem to go on forever!

2. Clean Everything Before Storing

The reasoning behind cleaning your clothes before packing them away is three-fold:

  1. If you let stains sit for an entire season (especially a warm-hot season) you will never get them out.
  2. If you have moths, they LOVE little bits of dirt, sweat, food that is left on clothes and packing away clothes that have not been cleaned is one way to ensure the moths will have plenty to munch on. (Here’s an article on how to repair a whole in a knit sweater.)
  1. You’ll want to wear them as soon as you take them out of storage. Imagine how nice it will feel to know they are ready to wear!

3. Choose the Best Storage Options

You have several options for storing your clothes based on how much storage space you have in your house and the type of clothing you are storing. Here are some general ideas:

  • Extra Closet: If you have an extra closet (as I am lucky enough to have), leave things on hangers and move everything that is out of season to that closet. Oh, and don’t even consider storing your clothes on wire hangers unless you want those dreadful bumps in the shoulders and worse when you take them out next fall.
  • Storage Bins: Store hardy clothes like jeans, long sleeve t-shirts and manmade fabrics in the plastic storage bins you can find anywhere—ideally with the heaviest things at the bottom. They protect your clothes from dust and dirt and are easy to stack neatly away.
  • Canvas Bags: For delicate items you want to protect, first wrap them in unbuffered acid-free paper. This helps to protect them from deterioration and yellowing. It will also keep items from snagging on neighboring items that have embellishments or zippers. Then store them in 100% canvas bags so the air can circulate.
  • Vacuum-sealed Bags: There are pros and cons to using these. They definitely save space if space is at a premium in your home and because they are clear you can easily see what is them. I have heard that they tend to be a bit persnickety. They can tear easily and sometimes they don’t hold their vacuum sealing. They also don’t allow the clothing to breathe because everything is so squished together, which might not be a problem in the short term. I wouldn’t use them long term, especially for delicate clothing, but they can be helpful if storage space is an issue.
  • Dry Cleaning Storage: Ideally, you want to store all your bins and bags in a cool, dry place. If, like me, you only have an upper floor or attic that gets hotter than blue blazes in the middle of the summer, then there is one other option—at least for part of your clothing. Those things that need to (or can) be dry cleaned can be stored at the dry cleaner, generally for the cost of the dry cleaning at the end of the season. I did this for many years when I lived in a small, older home that had almost no closets. It was a life (and clothes) saver!
  • Storing Winter Boots: All of this pertains to your winter boots as well. Clean and repair them before you store them (you don’t want to be scrambling to do this when you need to wear them again in the fall). Invest in boot forms for your taller boots (or stuff them with tissue paper) to help them maintain their shape. If they are bent over and creased for months it can damage them as you will see when you unpack them in the fall. Store the boots in a plastic bin with the heaviest boots on the bottom preferably with an old t-shirt, pillow case between each pair or in their special bag if you have one to protect them.

Very important: Never store clothes in plastic dry cleaner bags. I know it is tempting to keep them on because it feels like it protects the fabric, but in actually, it acts like a hot house and only makes any existing stains worse and the plastic both traps moisture and dries out the fabric (yes, both at the same time) helping speed up yellowing, especially in the case of anything white. Recycle them instead. Many grocery and large retail stores accept them. For more help click here. And, most dry cleaners will be happy to take back the wire hangers they use.

4. Alternative to Moth Balls

I am not sure that anyone uses moth balls anymore. If you are tempted (especially if you have a moth problem), reconsider. Moth balls are extremely toxic and they smell horrible—and I’m not sure the smell ever goes away! Here is an alternative. While I’m not usually a fan of dryer sheets, if you tuck one into your storage bin, it repels insects. If you don’t like the commercial chemical dryer sheets look for natural ones or, if you are feeling industrious, there is plenty of information online on how to make your own!

5. Store Your Favorites at the Top of the Heap

Let’s say you take all this storage advice to heart and then as you breathe a sigh of relief that it is done the temperatures plummet and you have nothing handy to wear. Or, perhaps you decide to take a trip this summer to the southern hemisphere where they are heading into fall and winter. Plan ahead. As you are putting things away, consider placing items together into readymade outfits or your go-to items on top so you can grab and go.

Yes, all of this does take some time and effort, but the benefits are worth it:

  • An organized closet where you can find everything easily without having to filter through endless out-of-season garments.
  • Clothes that are well cared for so they last longer.
  • An incentive to keep a smaller wardrobe. Where’s the fun in moving things to and from your closet if you don’t delight in wearing them in season. That’s a lot of wasted time and energy, for sure!

As we move away from the cold, winter months and look forward to warm days, take these steps now to ensure your fall and winter clothes are kept in good shape. Imagine how happy you will feel in the fall when you unpack everything and it is ready to wear.

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  • Josseline Jones

    Each season it’s a great dilemma for me to choose what kind of storage to use. Mostly I’ve used vacuum bags, but the clothes are creasy and don’t smell as good as when I put them inside few months earlier. This year I decidet to store my clothes in an old suitcase and put some lavender sachets between them. Is that ok, or I should by plastic containers instead? Thanks for the great tips! Greets!

    Josseline Jones

    • A suitcase could definitely work as well. I’ll be interested to hear how you like doing it that way and how your clothes look/smell at the end of the season. A great way to repurpose old suitcases! Thanks so much for sharing.

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