Storing your own summer seasonal clothing requires nothing more than storing it in mildew and moth-resistant containers and shoving it under a bed or tucking it into a humidity-controlled basement.
Meanwhile, storing baby and big kids clothes alike is akin to discovering an infestation of unwanted guests: no matter how much you pare down and try to figure out what you can store and what you can repurpose into undershirts and leggings, those clothes just keep coming back to take over your life.
There are also plenty of sobering statistics that show just how much time and money we’re throwing away by not being organized. According to research compiled by the NY Daily News, Americans lose an average of $5,591 over a lifetime. Meanwhile, The Daily Mail reports that we spend 153 days of our lifetimes looking for things.
Fortunately, you can reduce the time, money, and frustration of searching for everything by getting organized and making room in your closets for your outdoor fall essentials. Start by getting a handle on your summer seasonal clothing by using the right supplies and choosing the right environment for storage. Here’s how to get started and save your sanity while getting organized.
Wash and Fold
Your adventure in storing excess summer clothing starts with a thorough washing and proper folding for organized storage. A good wash can also tell you if those popsicle stains are there to stay forever, or if that item can be reused or handed down to your next kid.
Instead of folding up skirts, dresses, and shorts with overstuffed drawers in mind, work on tightly folding and tucking away your extra clothes to maximize storage space. That means creating compact squares when possible, or even rolling up hard-to-fold items like frilly baby dresses.
Toss or Upcycle Damaged Pieces
Clean clothes with permanent stains and tears that can’t easily and quickly be mended should be tossed to save room for more important clothing. Don’t assume you can just sew and patch the clothes and reuse. It’s unlikely you’ll get around to it, and there are probably better uses of your time than struggling to fix the hem of a dress a toddler will just destroy in five minutes anyway. That also means forgoing adding patches to holes unless it was an expensive or specialty item like a swimsuit cover up filled with coveted Disney princesses that took you months to find.
However, it is possible to embrace your inner reality-star-turned-lifestyle-guru Lauren Conrad by upcycling damaged clothing and making it new again. For example, cut up a favorite shirt that’s no longer usable and repurpose it into a hair bow. Moms who are especially crafty can turn it into a small coin purse for kids, complete with a zipper and wristlet.
Hand Down to Friends
Move onward with your organizational journey by giving away clothing to friends and family who are sick of looking at their own kids’ clothing. Invite your mom friends over for a swap meet to pick through each other’s leftovers. Use a cute canvas storage bag to throw together your finds for easy transport.
Bonus points if you include wine and set the mood for the spirit of goodwill and giving. But beware, you may decide those hideous orange and fuchsia rain boots you cringed at during playdates suddenly make so much sense. Make a commitment to donate anything left over and keep a box nearby to immediately toss in any unwanted clothing. The sooner you get it out of your house, the sooner you can focus on staying organized.
Give Away to Charity
Take inventory of which quality clothing is still in good shape but isn’t needed in your own family any longer. Pack up those sweet little summer dresses that your daughter watched 4th of July fireworks in, and bag them up to give to a charity like The Kidney Foundation or Goodwill.
Same goes for those never-worn shoes because you son decided he was Batman and henceforth would only wear superhero-worthy clothing. Someone else can put those forgotten shoes to good use, and you can even save yourself some money come tax time.
Your donations may also be tax-deductible. Goodwill provides an online donation receipt tracker to make things even easier for its donors. Log in and print your receipts for tax time and ask your CPA what’s tax deductible. The write-off could put more money in your pocket for your next clothing shopping spree.
Organize and Label
With your clothing properly washed and pared down to only the items you want to reuse next summer, it’s time to get everything stored away. Divide your clothing into multiple categories, like dresses or pants, and divide into piles. Bonus points if you also want to organize them by color so you know exactly where everything is if you need an emergency outfit for a warm-weather vacation.
Use clear plastic bins to store your clothes and add labels on each side so the information is always available. Clear bins also make it easy to see what’s inside and makes your items more accessible.
And while you don’t necessarily need top-of-the-line storage boxes, you do need waterproof and air-tight options. Otherwise, your clothing will absorb any moisture in the air and cause it to smell or attract unwanted bugs and other pests. Check Lowes, Target, or a local big box retailer for containers that can stand up to humid basements and the wear-and-tear of a toddler gone wild.
Save Space with Giant Ziplock Bags
Not everyone has the space for oversized storage bins and containers that rival the likes of the Container Store. And if you live in a city like New York, we know you’re just looking for a place to put down that sippy cup, never mind putting anything away in a storage bin.
Instead, you can use ridiculously-oversized Ziplock storage bags that are big enough to tuck away dozens of items. These bags are convenient, relatively inexpensive, and highly durable. Like the container method, label your bag and divide items into the appropriate categories. Your bags are now ready to slide into a spare drawer or to be stacked in an empty cabinet or on top of a hard-to-reach closet shelf.
Want to be a super-organizer? Combine the clear container and Ziplock bag methods together. Once your bags are organized, add them to your bins to keep things neatly tucked away and organized.
Repurpose Old Suitcases
There are other ways to store summer seasonal clothing safely beyond buying clear containers and going crazy with giant Ziplock bags. Pull out those old suitcases you rarely use and store your clothing there.
Make sure the suitcases are free from toddler crumbs and any leftovers from your last trip before neatly folding and tucking away your seasonal wares. It’s also smart to be sure that your suitcases withstand the test of heat and mildew. Suitcases that were purchased in the last few years will probably work fine, but you can research them online at the manufacturer to verify. Meanwhile, those adorable vintage suitcases are probably already housing moths and the scent of a tomb.
The suitcase method works best by combining them with Ziplock bags so you can easily remove your stored items when traveling – you know, for when you get whisked away to a tropical island and your kids are at the grandparent’s house. Even if this is just in your dreams, your suitcases will still be ready to go when you are.
Store in a Safe Environment
What’s the point of having a basement if you can’t store everything from old baby toys to clothing there? Unfortunately, basements are a breeding ground for humidity, mold, and pests. Invest in a dehumidifier to cut the moisture in the air and keep your summer clothing from smelling musty.
Keep bug traps away from stored clothing, and make sure to use air-tight containers that are resistant to mold and mildew. Remember that your attic may not be too hot for your clothes, but the heat could damage the containers or bags you’re storing everything in. Prying open melting bins next summer won’t do you much good, and will just result in a messy clean up, potential damage to your attic floors, and will require a trip to the mall for a whole new wardrobe. This could be a pro or a con depending on your tolerance for shopping with kids.
Safe storage for your summer seasonal clothing doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming. Do it wrong, and you may end up with a house full of bugs dining on box glue and clothes smelling like a forgotten wet swimsuit in the back of your closet. Do it right, and you may end up enjoying the process and getting some control over the chaos that comes with living with small children.
What are your best tips for storing summer seasonal clothing safely? Or on the flip side, do you have any organizing disaster stories to share with us? Let us know by leaving a comment below: