Now that it's finally time to put coats, sweaters, and boots away, follow these 5 simple steps to help protect your clothing for next season, use your storage space efficiently, and even get some Spring cleaning done in the process.
Step 1: Sort into piles and purge
Storing winter clothing is a great opportunity for some spring cleaning. Start by pulling out all of your winter clothes and sorting everything into piles by type—sweaters, scarves, ski clothing, and so on. Be sure to make an additional pile for anything you can get rid of, using the KonMari method, from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, to decide what should stay and what needs to go, purging any surplus items that have neither purpose nor emotional resonance. You can sell what you no longer need on Poshmark, or, if your items are not in good enough condition to earn a buck, consider donating to a thrift shop or Salvation Army. This step should end up being a huge relief.
While you're at it, consider what you might need to buy next season. It's always a great idea to shop for winter clothing off season, so you can find the best deals.
Step 2: Give everything a good clean
Wash anything you can before packing away your clothing. According to The Clothing Doctor's 99 Secrets to Cleaning and Clothing Care, giving your clothing a good wash is often the best defense against pests, who love to munch on sweat, food residue, and body oils that might be lingering on your clothing.
Sweaters, anything wool or cashmere, and puffy coats should all be dry cleaned so that they don't deteriorate during the off months. Dry cleaning is expensive, but when it comes to storing bulky winter clothes, it's entirely worth it. Without a proper clean, your clothing could be ruined by the time you are ready to use it again; you'll end up saving more money if you dry clean, since you know you won't have to buy replacement items.
Step 3: What to store where
Once everything is properly cleaned, you should store your clothing in a cool, dark place, like underneath your bed or in a closet or storage space. Depending on what you're storing, you might want to consider a variety of different containers and methods of storage:
Use large plastic containers (like these IRIS weathertight containers) for bulky sweaters, puffer coats, and boots. Plastic containers store well under the bed, and as long as they have a sealed cover, you shouldn't have to worry about dust or pests (though we'll get to those later). Pack the heaviest items on the bottom, and lighter items on top so your clothes keep their shape.
Get garment bags for anything that you keep hanging, especially leather jackets and any tailored clothing, like pant suits or dresses. Dry cleaning bags can trap moisture and cause mildew, so it's important that you get breathable garment bags (try Home Zone garment bags) that will keep your clothing in good condition. Use wooden or padded hangers, rather than wire hangers, so you're not left with stubborn indents on your clothing.
Vacuum pack all other clothing, like socks, scarves, long-sleeve shirts, and ski clothing. There are pros and cons to using vacuum bags that you should consider; while they save lots of space, they can also wrinkle clothing. Cotton shirts, gloves/mittens, and socks work best with vacuum packing. Space Saver vacuum pack bags are a safe bet, should you choose to use these.
Step 4: Maximize your space
Take stock of all your available space. Be sure not to disregard high, deep shelves, which might be inconvenient for everyday items but perfect for long-term storage. If you need to make room in your closet, consider hanging shelves (StorageWorks has some nice options) where you can store vacuum sealed clothing, scarves, or even folded sweaters. Shoe racks and even boot hangers work well for winter boots, though be sure to stuff your shoes with newspaper to help keep their shape while in storage.
Step 5: Guard against pests
It's important to guard against pests, but contrary to popular wisdom, it's best to stay away from mothballs. Not only will mothballs make your clothing smell like it belongs at your grandmother's house, but they're also not all that effective. As an alternative, try cedar blocks, lavender sachets, or lemon rinds, all of which will keep pests away and keep your clothing smelling fresh for next season.
Storing winter clothes will open up space and help preserve your clothing for the next season. But don't get too storage-happy; it's always best to be prepared with a few long-sleeved shirts or cardigans on hand during the spring and summer months, if nothing else than to brave your office air conditioning.