How To Store Your Winter Clothing In The Off-Season

04/10/2015 07:00 am ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

Ok, phew, winter's over. Now that all those winter garments have been cleaned and laundered, it's time to figure out where to put them until next year.

It's only logical to throw items into boxes, right? Wrong! It's important to take the extra step and properly fold, hang and store your clothing so they can last many seasons.

In an effort to help with your spring cleaning, we talked to some experts about storing off-season items. Take care of your stuff with the below tips for small spaces, precious materials and preventing mold and bugs. Here's to years of a fresh and organized winter wardrobe.

Make a display out of your boots.
Most experts recommend keeping boots in their original box for storage -- including Ginny Snook Scott, Organizing Expert for California Closets. To avoid further shoe damage in storage, Scott suggests "building a boot drawer in which the boots can stand up, and it really is a pretty way to showcase them." See an example below.

cali cloest boot display

Scott also says that hooks are great alternatives and space savers, too. Purchase hooks that connect your shoes together by the inside tongue of the boots, and then hang them on a pole. Scott suggests hanging four or five in a row to conserve space.

Boots tend to lose shape as well, but there's an easy fix for that. Maxwell Ryan, CEO and founder of Apartment Therapy, suggests investing in shoe shapers or DIY your own with "a foam pool noodle, empty water bottles, rolled up magazines or a home-sewn bean-filled version out of fabric." Don't overstuff! They can stretch.

Clear containers are great vessels for holding tons of clothes.
Tide Ambassador and lifestyle blogger Carley Knobloch uses transparent containers for organizing. "I like clear bins -- I photograph everything that's in them and create a digital file of all the photos, so I can flip through it at a glance and know exactly what's where for next season."

California Closet's Scott agrees, saying that containers or boxes are better than dresser drawers. Drawers, she believes, should "only be for the things that you're wearing on a regular basis, like underwear, swimsuits and workout clothes."

Saving space is also important, so air-vacuumed plastic bags can definitely come in handy. But, beware, as Apartment Therapy's Ryan notes, "using vacuum bags can really maximize your storage space, but they don't allow your clothes to breathe at all, so limit their use to casual clothes like sweatshirts, pajamas and socks."

To hang or to fold, that is the question.
This is admittedly one of the biggest struggles. Neglecting either option can result in wrinkles and weakened fabric quality. First, think of the fabric. Scott says that natural fiber fabric tends to get drawn out on a hanger, so fabrics such as cashmere or wool are typically better off folded. Duane Schumann, Restoration Manager of Treasured Garment Restoration, adds acrylic fibers and poly fibers to that list and says it's best to fold these items with "acid free tissue in between the folded areas."

folding clothes

Jeans and shirts, like casual button downs, can also be folded into more of a roll shape, so they can stack horizontally instead of vertically, which leaves room for more clothes, says Ryan.

Always pay close attention to the type of hanger used. For materials like silk or cotton, "think about using more of a padded hanger so that those shoulders don’t get drawn out into a real thin line by using wire hangers," Scott says. She recommends bringing specialty hangers to the dry cleaners.

Try keeping hanging items in dry spaces, but let them breathe. Instead of plastic garment bags, which Schumann says can "emit gas under higher heat conditions in the summer and stain due to the oils emitted," use muslin or cotton bags which let clothing get a breath of fresh air.

Avoid mothballs and try lavender or cedar.
If clothing isn't put away properly, bugs and mold are more likely to attack. Although mothballs seem like the number one way to combat pests, they are actually bad for storage.

Mothballs not only smell terribly, but the materials used to make some of them have come under scrutiny in the past. As alternatives, the experts recommend components like cedar (in any form), lavender sachets and even lemon peel rinds, which keep items dry and nice smelling.

Be careful around cedar, though, as it can be too drying. "The problem with cedar is that it dehydrates anything that's around," Scott says, and when natural materials like real fur and leather come into the picture, "it pulls the oils out." When these oils are removed, those fabrics become brittle and shed or crack.

Have any storing tips and tricks up your sleeve? Let us know in a comment below.

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