How to Safely Store Your Seasonal Clothes
After a long summer of shorts and sandals, who wouldn’t be excited to pull out the scarves, jackets, sweaters and boots? As the weather changes, your wardrobe will as well, and there’s no point in keeping your closet cluttered with an entire year’s worth of clothes. While storing them may seem straightforward enough — make sure they’re clean and dry before you stash them in a box — you’ll need to do a little extra work to avoid unpleasant surprises (some with wings and legs) when it comes time to pull them out. Here, we’ll share our best tips on clothes storage ideas for small spaces so you can clear the way for this coming season’s adventures.
1. Get Rid of Clothes You Don’t Wear
The first step in organizing your wardrobe is to clean your closet of clothes that don’t “spark joy,” in the words of Marie Kondo. In other words, how often do you wear certain pieces of clothing? Which items are staples of your weekly outfit rotation, and which are taking up hangers and space? According to an international study of 18,000 families and individuals around the world, Americans don’t even wear 88 percent of their wardrobe. As you take all of your clothes out of your bureaus, closet and other storage nooks, sort everything into a “save” pile, “donate” pile and, if the piece is for some reason severely damaged or can’t be given away, a “toss” pile. Depop, eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are all places you can sell any higher-end items, but consider donating to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill as well.
After you purge your closet once, maintain your clothing collection by doing a quick review once or twice a year. (It’s easiest if you just do it in the spring or fall when you’re most likely to be shuffling around your wardrobe anyway — add it to our Cleaning Checklist, which you can download and print.)
Pro tip: Instead of throwing away damaged clothes, reduce your waste by turning them into kitchen rags instead.
2. Clean Your Clothes
This is common sense for most, but before you stow away your clothes, be sure that they’re clean. Sure, you may have only worn a coat once or twice all winter, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of natural dust, body oils and fragrances that attract bugs. Plus, two of the biggest clothing nibblers — moths and carpet beetles — are drawn to natural fibers like wool and cotton. They’ll even chew their way through organic stains on synthetic fibers, so an old food stain isn’t going to fly under their radar.
The longer stains sit in your clothes, the harder they’ll be to get out. Before you put your clothes away, carefully inspect them for any stains. You can treat them with options at your local drugstore, or make a proven DIY solution of one part Blue Dawn dish soap to two parts hydrogen peroxide and spot treat your clothes for 10 minutes before tossing into the wash. After they come out of the dryer, be sure to fold them up and tuck them away immediately. If you air-dry your clothes, wait for them to dry completely and give them a lookover to make sure nothing’s hiding in their folds.
Dry cleaning? Opt for no starch or stiffeners, since starch, which is veggie-based, is an invitation for insects. Plus, starch can lead to yellowing over time and make it easier for your linens or shirts to crease and tear along the edges.
3. Choose the Right Storage Box
Cardboard boxes and zippered plastic bags may seem handy and an easy way to pack up all your clothes, but they’re not the best option to protect your garments. According to Good Housekeeping, you should store your clothes in “plastic rather than wood, paper or cardboard boxes.” Plastic is waterproof and impenetrable to pests. Plus, plastic bins are affordable and easy to stack — making them perfect to slide under the bed or push to the corner of your closet. Be mindful of the fact that some materials, like wool and other natural fibers, need to breathe. Either make sure that your plastic bins aren’t airtight, or get special linen or cotton zip boxes for delicate materials.
Shop the storage items:
- 28-quart underbed plastic storage bin from Target ($6 at the time of writing): best for synthetic fibers
- Underbed storage bag made with cotton canvas from Lands’ End ($27.96 at the time of writing): best for wool and natural fibers that need to breathe
Pro tip: Avoid taking up extra space in your house by cleaning out an old suitcase and using it to double as a home for your off-season wardrobe.
4. Add a Line of Defense to Repel Pests
Plastic is a reliable way to keep the critters out, but lining your storage bins with natural insect repellents can keep anything from moths to beetles at bay. Common ways to drive out bugs and keep your clothes smelling fresh are cedar wood and dried herbs such as lavender, mint, thyme or cloves. In less than ten minutes, you can whip up your own homemade herbal sachet using this recipe and guide from Apartment Therapy (modified and written out below) — all you’ll need are sachet bags, herbs, a scoop and a bowl. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to a cotton ball and place them in the corners of your box.
Herbal Sachet Bag Recipe
What you’ll need:
- 2 ounces of one or two of the following dried (not fresh!) herbs: rosemary, lavender, thyme, ginseng, mint
- Cotton balls
- Essential oils (your choice)
- Sachet bags
How to make a bag:
- Mix your dried herbs in a bowl.
- Using a tablespoon, fill a single sachet bag until it’s three-quarters of the way full.
- Add a few drops of essential oil to a cotton ball and place on top of the dried herbs in the bag.
- Seal the bag and store with your clothes (either in a container or in your closet).
Note: We recommend you steer clear of mothballs, especially if you have pets or children. They’re toxic and do just as good of a job as some of the natural alternatives we mentioned above.
5. Give Extra Addition to Special Items
Not all items are best suited to a box or bin. Bulky items like duvets and bedding (as long as they’re not made of wool or fiber) can quickly clog up your storage space. Consider investing in some vacuum-sealed bags to shrink down their size and create an airtight seal that protects them from mold and other unwanted pests. Delicate items like wedding gowns can be stored in acid-free boxes and stuffed with acid-free tissue to help them retain their shape and prevent breakage. And always remember that clothing you know you won’t ever wear again shouldn’t stay in your closet or storage bin and take up space — we recommend you donate to a local thrift store or pass it down to a friend or family member.
Shop specialty storage items:
- Six-pack of Spacesaver premium vacuum-sealed bags from Amazon ($39.99 at the time of writing)
- Large archival garment storage box from the Container Store ($34.99 at the time of writing)
- 20 white acid-free tissue sheets from the Container Store ($9.99 at the time of writing)
6. Keep Clothes at a Cool, Stable Temperature
Storing your clothes out of the sun is a great first step, but keeping them in temperature-controlled areas is the best long-term way to ensure they stay in great condition. Cool temperatures (in dark areas) is best, including any underbed storage. If you’re putting your clothes in your basement, make sure the air isn’t too damp, and avoid accidentally placing them near the furnace. Garages — which often have poor insulation and experience big temperature fluctuations — aren’t the best spot, and neither are attics, which can get hot and dusty.
7. Clothes Storage Ideas for Small Spaces
When space is tight, clearing out your closet may not make much of an impact on your space. If you’re struggling to find room even for your storage bins, consider keeping out-of-season items in your own personal storage unit. At SmartStop, we offer clean, climate-controlled storage solutions that come in a range of sizes for your personal needs. Come check out a unit close to you so you can make space in your home for the things that matter most to you.