How to store your seasonal clothes, according to expert organisers

Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya on Unsplash

It’s that time of year again when one season turns into the next. Once a new season arrives, you probably wonder how to store all your seasonal clothes and make room for what you need to get through the next three months.

Before you put anything away, you may want tips on how to store clothes long-term. When the season changes, you don’t want to find your wool coats coated in dust or your shorts wrinkled up.

We turned to professionals — organization experts who know way more than just a thing or two about getting your affairs in order — for their methods of storing clothes.

Three experts gave us tips on everything from what is the best way to store clothes to what containers you should store your clothes in and what items you should keep hanging in your closet. They even gave us some tips to store clothes without a closet or dresser.

Here’s what the experts had to say about storing your seasonal clothes, especially in a small space.

What to keep hanging around on hangers

You might ask, "How do you store extra clothes?" The truth is you'll want to keep a few pieces around even when the weather changes.

You might ask, “How do you store extra clothes?” The truth is you’ll want to keep a few pieces around even when the weather changes. AnnaStills via Getty Images

You might be tempted to throw all your seasonal clothes into a storage container. Not so fast: There are things you’ll want to keep hanging around.

Rachel Rosenthal, the founder of professional organizing firm Rachel and Company, has a pretty easy trick to decide what you should hang and what you should fold.

“Ideally, you should fold anything that would stretch while being hung and hang anything that would be wrinkled by being folded,” Rosenthal said.

That thin sweater or slinky top that might sag on a hanger? Fold those away. Keep the dress you wore to a summer beach wedding on a hanger even in the winter.

If you have enough room in your closet, put a breathable hanging bag over delicates, Rosenthal recommended.

We found other garment bags, such as one with a clear window so you can see what’s actually in there; a pack of moth-proof bags at Amazon; and a portable wardrobe (if you’ve got the space).

Stuck in a small space? You could fold some of your more fragile items for more room in your closet. But you’ll want to be especially careful about what items to store together.

Wrap delicates in acid-free tissue paper, and separate easily snagged fabrics from anything that’s embellished or embroidered, Rosenthal said. Acid-free tissue paper can keep clothes from becoming discolored.

You might want to keep certain warm-weather clothes on hand even in the winter, like bike shorts and a swimsuit or two. The same goes for keeping light long-sleeve shirts, sweaters and sweatshirts out in summer months for chilly nights, Rosenthal said.

Shira Gill, a professional organizer based in California, said you can stash away winter coats during warmer months in the back of your closet in a garment bag to prevent dust and discoloration, or get a separate garment rack for them. This means they’ll be within easy reach come fall and winter.

There are garment racks for smaller spaces at Wayfair, West Elm and Urban Outfitters. If you’re in need of more hangers, don’t worry: We found a 50-pack of velvet hangers at Bed Bath & Beyond, nonslip wooden hangers at Wayfair and super cheap plastic hangers at Home Depot.

What you should look for in a storage container

If you're in a small space, the good news is that you don't need a closet or a dresser to store clothes. 

If you’re in a small space, the good news is that you don’t need a closet or a dresser to store clothes. PeopleImages via Getty Images

Before you get a couple of storage containers and search for space-saver bags, you’ll want to be especially careful about where you’re putting away your clothes.

Gill said that you’ll want to keep your summer wear in a cool, dry place that isn’t humid or prone to mold.

You might want to go for storage made from natural linen or cotton since plastic bins and space-saving bags “can increase the risk of mildew, insects and discoloration,” Gill said.

For storage that isn’t made of plastic, we found this clothing storage organizer at Wayfair and under-bed garment bags at Bed Bath & Beyond. Rosenthal recommended the striped storage boxes that you can put at top of your closet.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up on plastic storage containers entirely. You’ll just want to look for ways to keep your clothes fresh in storage bins that give your clothes enough space to breathe.

Don’t get completely airtight containers, since some air circulation can help clothes avoid mold and mildew, said Annie Draddy, co-founder of Henry & Higby, a professional organizing company in New York City.

Instead, look for weathertight bins and opt for opaque ones if they’re going to be exposed to light or clear ones if they’re not so you can easily see what’s stored inside, Draddy said.

We found weathertight storage at Wayfair, IKEA (with wheels), The Container Store and Home Depot.

Storing clothes in vacuum bags might save space, but both Draddy and Rosenthal said that they can leave lots of wrinkles on your clothes, so you’re probably better off not investing in them. You don’t want to stress out your steamer.

Make sure your clothes are clean before storing them

These are pro tips for keeping clothes fresh in storage bins.

These are pro tips for keeping clothes fresh in storage bins. Goodboy Picture Company via Getty Images

All three of the experts we talked to — Draddy, Gill and Rosenthal — recommended that you make sure your clothes are clean before you put them away for months. But you don’t have to do anything extra special when washing clothes to put them in storage.

“You should only store clean clothing, so make sure you wash or dry clean everything before you put it away,” Draddy said. “If not, stains will get worse, and moths may be attracted to your clothing and ruin some items.”

Rosenthal recommended sticking to a basic laundry detergent when washing before storage because “pests can be attracted to fabric softener, bleach and starch.”

If you’re looking for greener laundry care, you can get eco-friendly detergents at Grove Collaborative and The Laundress. You could also choose the popular Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Lavender Laundry Detergent or the fan-favorite and plant-based Tide detergent. (You can also check out our guide to how to do laundry at home by hand).

Rosenthal advised getting your clothes in “tip-top shape” before putting them away, which includes de-pilling sweaters and polishing shoes so they “store at their best and [are] them ready for wear when you unpack.”

The fabric shaver is a personal favorite that’s saved a lot of sweaters; you can find this top-rated shoe polish for your boots on Amazon for less than $5.

How to fold and place your clothes in a storage container

When it comes to folding, the less fuss, the better. 

When it comes to folding, the less fuss, the better. Candle Photo via Getty Images

Whether you’re a believer of the KonMari method of folding or copy how your favorite store folds their clothing, the best way to fold your clothes before storing them is probably easier than you think.

Draddy said her go-to folding trick is actually not to fold things too much in order to minimize wrinkles and not cram too much in a container. Just fold things the usual way and don’t overthink it (or overstuff the space where you store your stuff).

Remember to button up the buttons and zip up the zippers so your clothes keep their shape and don’t snag on anything else, Rosenthal said.

As for how to stack things up in a storage container? That’s pretty simple, too.

Rosenthal recommended working your way from the heaviest items at the bottom — think your chunky cable knit sweaters, heavy denims — to the lightest of your things — such as a tissue-thin tank tops and swimwear. She suggested categorizing what you’re storing so that you know where something is when you need it.

As to the most important question for shoe lovers: How should you store away all your sandals and slip-ons?

“You can prep your [shoes] for storage by giving the soles a quick rinse with soap and water before storing them in clear bins or cloth pouches,” Gill said.

If you’ve been trying to find boot and shoes storage, we found an under-the-bed organizer at Bed Bath & Beyond and Overstock and shoe storage shelves and organizer that can hold 12 pairs of shoes at Wayfair.

If you’re cleaning out your closet, you might want to get rid of some things, too. Before you list them on Poshmark or get a cleanout kit on threadUP, you’re going to want to make sure something’s worth keeping.

“Ask yourself, have I worn this item this past season? Why not? Would I buy this piece again if I was shopping today? If you don’t have a solid answer to any of those questions, there is a strong indication that you might want to let go of that piece,” Rosenthal said.

In that decluttering, you might decide that impulse buy or splurge wasn’t really worth it.

“Take time to thoughtfully invest in fewer, better pieces so you can get more wear out of the items you own and spend less time managing your stuff,” Gill said.

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