If you live in a climate with distinct seasons, bulky winter jackets likely hang in your closet untouched during the hotter months, while swimsuits, summer dresses, and tank tops crowd your drawers in the winter. Even if you reside somewhere more temperate, seasonal items for vacations — like ski jackets or beach cover-ups — go unworn, taking up precious wardrobe space for most of the year. Unless you have a roomy walk-in closet the size of a second bedroom, storing clothes by season is a highly effective (and essential) way to maintain an organized and functional space (not to mention, it makes choosing your daily outfit a breeze!). So what’s the best way to store clothes by season? Here are 11 seasonal clothing storage ideas that’ll help you start organizing your closet today.
1. Marie Kondo your clothes.
First things first: You'll find that every major seasonal shift is the perfect time to review your wardrobe and purge what you no longer wear or want. We all know we have more than a few clothing items that never see the light of day, but would you guess that the majority of your wardrobe probably goes unused? A 2018 study revealed that the average American had only worn 18 percent of their clothes over the previous year. Just imagine how much space you could free up by getting rid of that unworn 82 percent!
A good rule of thumb (when you’re starting a clothing purge) is to take anything you haven’t worn for a year and pass it on to another life. Donate what’s in good condition to charity, or (if your own clothing budget is tight) you can sell items online for cash or in local thrift stores for cash or credit. You can even take stained or torn items to be recycled (and qualify for discounts) at stores like H&M, Eileen Fisher, Levi’s, and Columbia.
While it’s always best to donate or sell unwanted clothing items, some things are in such poor shape — stubborn stains, moth holes, crumbling elastic — that nobody else would want them. These can be cut up and used as cleaning rags, donated to an animal shelter, or (as a final resort) thrown out in the garbage.
Once you’ve done your due diligence by thoroughly sorting out the things you’re ready to part with, you’ll be better prepared to organize what’s left and store your off-season clothes.
Clothing Purge Hack: If you’re finding it especially difficult to decide what to part with, hang up all your “maybes” behind a distinct hanger in the back of your closet. Any time you wear a piece from that section, hang it back up in front of the hanger. After three months, whatever remains in the “maybe” section can be sold or donated.
2. Organize your wardrobe by season.
Now that you’ve slimmed down your wardrobe, it’s a lot easier to sort your clothes by season. Think about what types of clothing you own and what you need them for, then group them together based on both season and activity. Pair all winter recreational clothes together, like ski jackets, heavy-duty down coats, mittens, and hats. For summer groupings, pair your sun hats, swimsuits, shorts, and sundresses together. While sorting, empty out pockets and check for items that need to be washed, dry-cleaned, or repaired.
3. Do laundry before storing clothes.
Before storing clothes in boxes, make sure they’re all properly cleaned, so you avoid the spread of odors between items. Try to remove any stains before storing them, since the longer a stain is left untreated, the harder it is to get out. If you have clothing with stains that are just too stubborn, consider adding those pieces to the recycling pile.
4. Mend any damaged clothing.
The last thing you want is to pull out a warm, wool cardigan on a chilly day only to find a button missing. After organizing, you should have a pile of items that need repair — buttons, zippers, patches, etc. If you’re handy with a needle, you can take care of the task yourself. If not, you can take these items to a local seamstress or tailor to fix them before they’re stored.
5. Choose containers based on contents and location.
For seasonal clothing storage, determining the best containers depends on what you’re storing and where. Here are some of the most popular options for seasonal clothing storage.
Plastic bins are a practical choice for storing clothes because they’re easy to handle, stack well, and are good at keeping moisture and bugs out (for more on that, see our next step). While clear bins are great because it’s easy to see what’s inside, if they are exposed to sunlight, it’s best to use dark-colored bins to avoid fading.
Since cardboard boxes can attract insects and offer no protection against moisture, these should only be used for storing clothes inside your home or indoor storage unit. Avoid using cardboard if you're storing clothes in a garage, unfinished basement, or attic. Any clothing made from delicate or wool fabric should not be stored in cardboard boxes.
Fabric and Canvas Bins
In addition to plastic bins, fabric or canvas bins are another alternative favored by organization specialists because the material is breathable. Though more expensive, they make a good option for clothing made from delicate fabrics such as silk or cashmere. They also create an attractive choice for closet storage, primarily if you use stylish fabric boxes with clear windows, so you can easily see what’s tucked away inside.
Tip to Avoid Dust: There are as many storage container options as there are stitches in your holiday sweater. When choosing a container for months-long seasonal clothing storage, avoid ones that have open tops, as these will invite dust — adding yet another step to your seasonal to-do list. If you have items that you prefer to hang (we’re looking at you, fancy dress), be sure to use a garment bag for the same reason.
6. Pack logically and label your containers.
Pack clothes together by season and activity and label the containers. That way, you can easily pull out what you need when chillier weather hits or you’re heading out on a trip to the mountains — or even a mid-winter escape to the Caribbean. For off-season clothes storage for the whole family, try consolidating everyone’s clothes into the same bins, since you’ll most likely need them all simultaneously. Place each person’s clothes in a smaller labeled bag, then store them in the same bin together.
7. Hang things up the right way.
As we mentioned earlier, some things are best left on the hanger. Don’t take this as your cue to simply rotate them to the back of your closet. You need to do a couple of things to make sure these pieces will be in tip-top shape when you pull them out in three months.
Use breathable garment bags.
It’s tempting to simply leave your good suit in the plastic bag the dry cleaners gave you, but this isn’t the best way to store clothes because those bags aren’t meant for long-term storage. The dry-cleaning process (contrary to its name) actually uses liquid solvents. If the solvents haven’t fully dried, the plastic bag will trap that moisture and could lead to discoloration of your garment. Instead, use a garment bag made of fabric or another breathable material.
Avoid wire hangers.
Wire hangers are typically some of the cheaper options, and for good reason — the thin wire can stretch and distort fabric over time (especially knits). Hangers made of wood or with additional padding will better support your clothing and help prevent damage to the material.
8. Keep bugs and moisture out.
Moisture and insects are the top enemies when you’re storing clothes. Avoid mold and mildew by ensuring all items are 100% dry before packing up. To be safe, toss in some moisture absorbers, which you can find online or at a local store. Keeping the bugs out starts with a thorough cleaning and inspection to ensure that your clothes are free of insect-attracting food residue. For wool or cashmere items, it’s essential to take extra measures using a moth-repellent. Instead of toxic, smelly mothballs, use cedar or lavender sachets. You can find plenty of options at retailers like Amazon.
Tip for Storing Knits: It may be tempting to just hang your knit sweaters and cardigans in the back of your closet during the warm months of the year, but this can lead to the material becoming stretched and misshapen over time. Instead, neatly fold these pieces and store them flat in the container of your choice.
9. Save space with vacuum-sealed bags.
If you’re limited on space or want to consolidate bulky clothes, use vacuum-sealable storage bags for off-season clothes storage. You can find them at your local storage and organization store or on Amazon. Simply fold up your clothing items, place them in the bag, close the zipper, and then use the small pump attachment to suction out all the air. The result is a much more compact bag that you can easily slide under your bed, stack with others in a large bin, or store on an upper shelf. It’s incredibly convenient for bulky down jackets that can take up a lot of space.
10. Find the right storage spot.
The best conditions for seasonal clothing storage are cool, dark, and dry. Depending on your climate, the attic or garage may not be the best option because of extreme heat. If you’re using a basement, make sure it’s not prone to flooding or excessive moisture. Since you’ll need to access these clothes when each season rolls around, they need to be in a spot that’s easy to get to. And whatever storage space you use, whether it’s in your attic or an indoor storage unit, don’t place your clothes behind piles of other stuff, where they’ll be hard to find when you need them. Here are a few convenient places to store your off-season clothes:
Finally, don’t forget to label everything! You don’t need a fancy labeling machine — just some masking tape with a permanent marker will do. (Tip: Label your containers on the short and long side, so you can tell what they contain no matter how they’re stacked.)
11. Master the seasonal swap.
When spring or fall rolls around and your off-season clothing suddenly becomes seasonally appropriate, it’s time to do the swap. Prepare your current wardrobe for storage (purge, organize, clean, and repair) so as you unpack this incoming season’s clothing, you can immediately pack and store last season’s wardrobe at the same time. If you’re using a PODS storage container, it’s a simple matter of having the container delivered to your home, pulling out the stored items, and replacing them with the things you won’t need for the coming season. Don’t forget to freshen any lavender or cedar sachets and replace any moisture absorbers that were in storage.
Seasonal Clothing Storage FAQs
Q: What’s the best way to store clothes long-term?
A: If you need to store clothing for longer than a season, consider renting a PODS storage container. PODS can deliver it right to your driveway, where you can load it at your own pace (a great option for the initial “purge”). When you’re ready, PODS will pick it up and take it to a secure PODS Storage Center until you’re ready for it. This is especially useful if you have other seasonal storage needs (winter or summer sports gear, gardening or de-icing tools, equipment, supplies, etc.). Moving these things out of your house and into a PODS Storage Center frees up extra space in your home and garage for things you’ll actually be using during the current season.
Q: Is it better to store clothes in plastic or cardboard?
A: If you have the choice between plastic storage containers and cardboard boxes, opt for the plastic. They're easily stackable, protect clothing from bugs and moisture, and come in various styles and sizes. They do take up a lot of space, though. If you’re working with limited storage, then vacuum-sealed bags might be your better option. Even better, store vacuum-sealed bags in plastic tubs to keep things together and make even better use of the space inside the tubs.
Q: How do you store clothes so they don’t smell long-term?
A: You can do several things to avoid your clothes developing unwanted odors in storage.
- Clean and thoroughly dry your clothing and the storage container before packing things away.
- Pack a moisture absorber with your clothing and make sure your storage container is properly sealed to keep moisture out.
- Pack cedar or lavender sachets (or even dryer sheets) with your clothing to impart a pleasant smell during storage.
- Store containers in a cool, dark, and dry space.
Storing your off-season clothes will make navigating your everyday closet and drawers easier. After sorting through your wardrobe, organizing it into containers, and storing everything correctly, you can easily pull out what you need when each season arrives.
Heather Magness is a member of the PODS Blog creative team. When she’s not formatting images and blog layouts, you can find her writing a song, watching a movie, or enjoying the great outdoors.
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