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Smart Tips for Storing Your Winter Clothes

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Out with the wool, in with the tees... this is the time of year when we officially put away the winter clothes and celebrate the next six months of balmy California summer.

To make sure your cold-weather gear will stay in ship shape until you pull them out again a couple of seasons from now, follow these simple steps to keep them bug-free and odor-free:

Clean your clothes thoroughly prior to storing them. It sounds like common sense, but oftentimes we think if we just wear something once, it's not really that dirty. Quite the contrary — lingering oils from deodorant, perfume, etc. can discolor fabric over time, and any overlooked food stains will have a chance to set in. Pests like moth larvae, carpet beetles, and silverfish are especially attracted to stains and they love to feed on the natural fibers in your clothes, so be sure you launder everything well, whether by hand or at the dry cleaners.

Find proper storage areas for all your items. Avoid cardboard boxes, which can attract pests. If you don't have any empty shelves to spare, store your clothing in zippered plastic totes, plastic bins, fabric bins, or vacuum storage bags. If your plastic bins don't have any ventilation, it might be a good idea to stick some desiccant packets alongside your clothes to absorb any excess moisture through the summer. You can also store clothes in unused luggage. Be sure to slip a cedar block or lavender sachet in with your clothes to deter pests (but stay away from moth balls, which have insecticides as the 100% active ingredient and are harmful to breathe in). Keep your bins and bags in a dark, dry, and relatively cool part of the home, such as a closet, the space under your bed, or the area under your stairwell. Temperatures around 70°F or less are ideal. Avoid storing clothes in a hot, musty attic or a damp, humid basement.

Put away your clothes properly. Treat your clothes as if you were giving them away as gifts. Coats should be fully zipped or buttoned-up and hung on wide, sturdy hangers (no wire!). Down jackets and vests should be hung and left uncompressed. Sweaters should be neatly folded (in thirds, then in half) and stacked with the heaviest knits on the bottom. Use tissue paper between sweaters with embellishments to keep the fibers from snagging. Boots should stuffed with shoe trees or tissue paper and the bottoms scrubbed clean with a wire brush. For leather boots you won't be wearing anytime soon, buff them up with shoe polish or leather conditioner before you put them away. Gloves should be matched, beanies stacked, and scarves rolled up and placed together in the same container.

Store like items together, but keep a "resort" kit handy and accessible. To make unpacking easier come wintertime, store all your sweaters together, all your accessories together, etc. But just in case a freak storm passes through in May, or you decide to take a summer trip to the southern hemisphere (when it's their winter), keep a small bag stocked with a few essentials: a warm pair of gloves, a cozy hat and scarf, a couple of sweaters and thermals, and some thick wool socks. This way, you won't have to go rummaging through piles of storage bins looking for your favorite knit.

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