Photo by Peter Ardito
Clean winter items going into storage
Pull out your winter clothes plus all your cold-weather outerwear—coats, gloves, scarves, snow boots—and assess what you and your kids will really still want to wear next year. (“Fast fashion” chains make it way too easy to binge on cute coats and space-hogging sweaters!) Everything you don’t want, you can donate or sell.
Machine or hand wash all the keepers before putting them away. Machine wash knit hats and gloves in cold water and hang to dry. Wash sweaters in cold water on the gentle cycle, then lay them flat to dry.
Machine wash puffer coats in cold water with a special detergent formulated for down, like Nikwax Down Wash Direct (nikwax.com, $11). If you put them in the dryer, use the fluff cycle and toss in a few clean tennis balls to keep feathers from clumping.
- RELATED: Tips for Organizing Your Coat Closet
Make a run to the dry cleaner for anything that can’t be washed at home. Also—this is important—remember to pick up your items in a timely fashion. When you get them home, remove all plastic wrapping from clothes and place on your own hangers before putting away.
Clean dirt off boots, and put newspaper rolls in the shafts to keep them from crumpling in storage.
Place all clean jackets in the back (or less trafficked side) of the closet, and tie a ribbon around the closet rod to clearly delineate between spring-autumn and winter coats. If you have space in another closet—say, in a guest room or office—hang them there. If you don’t have space for hanging, store them in a dry cellar or attic. (See “To Bag or to Box?” below.)
Fold winter pants along the crease and at the knee before putting away for the season. Make sure corduroys are also folded flat, so they don’t get perma crinkles.
Place fall and winter handbags in a storage bin. Anything with beading or sequins should be wrapped in tissue paper first.
See the stacks
Pulling everything out makes you realize how infrequently you wear some stuff, and how many duplicates you have. (How many hoodies does your son need?)
To Bag or to Box?
If you live in a smaller place or don’t have an attic or basement, use vacuum storage bags, like Ziploc Space Bags (from $20). You can stuff a lot in, suck all the air out and then slide them under the bed or place them in a large drawer or on a high shelf in a closet.
Use clear plastic bins to store off-season coats, clothes and shoes in a dry basement, garage or attic. (Be sure everything is completely dry before closing.) Label each bin by writing the owner’s name on an index card with a permanent marker and sliding in the card so it’s visible.
Photo by Peter Ardito
The 3 Bag Rule
Purging isn’t just for spring cleaning. Keep three large paper bags in your garage, basement or laundry room—a spot where they’ll be easily accessible yet inobtrusive. Label one to donate, one for girl hand-me-downs and one for boy hand-me-downs. Once a bag is full, bring it to Goodwill, pass it along to a friend or neighbor with younger kids, or drop it off at a local family shelter. With this set-up, unworn clothes always have a place to go. As you’re sorting through your things, notice any patterns to what you’re giving away. Are there multiple sundresses off the clearance rack? Like-new peasant skirts you bought on vacation? T-shirts with puns that no longer seem that funny? (Are you kitten me right meow?!) Try making those items off-limits for future shopping—you’ll end up saving not only precious closet space but also a fair amount of money.
Deal with Sporting Gear
At the end of skiing, hockey, skating and sledding season, gather up the gear in one go and put it away (so you don’t spend the entire summer moving ski poles in the bin to get at the Wiffle bat). Sort by sport: Every single item related to skiing—skis, boots, helmets, hand warmers—should be cleaned (if you can) and placed in the same area of the attic, basement or garage. The things you can’t wash—like ski boots and ice skates—you can at least zhuzh with Febreze before putting away.
The Two-Year Cutoff
If you haven’t worn it since 2017, you should get rid of it. (Not counting things like your wedding dress.)
Castoffs for Cash!
If you have teenagers who are motivated by money, let them resell some of the stuff you’re offloading (like that Tory Burch bag your daughter’s life depended on getting two years ago!). They can haul their best hand-me-downs to local resale boutiques or send them off to the site ThredUp. Your kids can pocket the commission or credit on anything that sells. If your daughter is enterprising, she could set up a Poshmark “closet.” Remember, though, that this is her baby all the way through—from the fun of styling pictures to the tedium of printing labels and mailing the stuff out.
Get new matching hangers
Slim hangers take up very little space, and you can buy them in a few colors to help you sort clothes by season.
A Realistic Size Range
Your closet is a set size. Your body? Not so much. You don’t want to take up precious space in the former with things that no longer fit on the latter. Everything in your closet should fit and make you feel good (even if this means you’re left with three shirts, a skirt and a pair of jeans). If it no longer fits and you never felt especially good in it, au revoir, and off to the Goodwill. If you’ve gone up or down a size or two and want to keep some of the clothes that no longer fit, place them in a clear plastic storage bin, mark the bin with either the size or, given how sizing can be all over the map, the weight you’d need to be to wear them again, and send the bin to the basement, attic or garage. (Be realistic about what you keep, though: Those jeans you’ve held on to since before your third pregnancy—the bootcut low-rise with the 2-inch zipper—will likely never be back in style.) If you change sizes, all you need to do is pull out that bin and you’ll be ready to rock.