If you’re using self-storage or containerised storage for any reason, whether to free up space in your property or because you’re downsizing and need time to work out what you’re going to keep and what you’ll discard, then it’s worth making sure you know how to use that storage optimally. And while there’s no shortage of how-to guides for storing white goods, furniture and paintings, sometimes clothes get overlooked. Perhaps it’s assumed we can just stuff them all in bin bags and hope for the best. But if you want your clothes to withstand the storage experience and come back to you in exactly the same condition, it’s worth taking a few things into account. And given the way we dress seasonally in the UK on account of the fluctuations of our climate, these steps are useful even if you’re not using a storage facility, but simply want to put your spring/summer clothes into hibernation in the autumn and winter and vice versa.
You might think you have nothing to lose and that it’s all a lot of needless bother, but some of the pitfalls of poorly stored clothing include mould, misshaped garments, lost items, unnoticed moth attacks, fading and damage. Getting your apparel ready for storage also mean you have the perfect opportunity for a thorough clothes-decluttering session, which could lower your storage bill. Ideally, you should go about this as unsentimentally as possible, putting anything you haven’t worn for a year into a giving away/charity shop pile or, if it’s too worn to pass on, straight into the bin.
Before any clothes go into storage, they should be cleaned and dried. First, this will mean that they’ll only need to be ironed when it’s time to collect them, but more importantly, they’ll also survive storage far better; if an item is stored with a deodorant or sweat mark on the collar or the armpit, that mark can be far harder to shift if it’s allowed to sit for months on end. What was once easily removable through washing ends up a permanent stain. A simply wash and dry will get rid of odour and bacteria, either of which could lead to discolouring during storage. And bear in mind that dry should mean bone-dry; the last thing you want is to invite mould or mildew, both of which can render almost anything permanently unwearable.
Shoes shouldn’t be overlooked in the cleaning process, either. They’ll thrive in storage with just a little forethought, including polishing where applicable. If you’re not using purpose-built shape-holding devices to ensure your shoes maintain their shape, then the next best thing is to fill them with tissue paper for the same outcome.
While a reputable storage company should provide you with perfectly dry storage space, you can throw in some silica packets here and there, just to make doubly sure of it. It’s also a good idea to get any necessary repairs done before rather than after storage. Some forms of damage can worsen if neglected, so take a close look to see if you need any work done on zips, buttons, hems and so on. There are other steps you can take to prevent damage during storage; for example, make sure none of your garments has any accessories attached, whether belts or brooches. Failure to take this step can result in tears or permanent indentations.
Choose Your Containers
Since you’re obviously not going to just dump your clothes into a storage container, you’ll need to think about what you’ll put them in. Vacuum storage bags are an attractive, space-saving option, but should only be considered for short-term storage. The kind of compression that’s brought to bear on clothes when they’re in a vac pack can cause damage to the natural fibres of your apparel, particularly if we’re talking silk or cashmere. Similarly, leather doesn’t like being kept like this for too long. Plant-based natural fibres such as cotton and linen can endure it for a bit longer – and should happily resume their old shape with a bit of ironing.
Consider eschewing vacuum storage altogether and going for simple plastic, stackable storage boxes, many of which come with airtight lids so there’s no danger of damp creeping in.
Logic dictates that you put the more bulky, heavy items at the bottom of each box and then place the lighter ones on top. You want to prevent your clothes being put under unnecessary pressure. If you went backpacking in your teens and twenties, then you’ll already know that by rolling rather than folding clothes you’ll make the most efficient use of available space. At the same time, don’t go so far that your boxes are stuffed and crammed. If you do that, all the steps you took to avoid your clothes being crushed gets undone and you could end up with a box full of stretched or misshapen items.
Clothing Master List
The retrieval stage will be so much easier if you create an inventory. You can’t expect yourself to remember which box, for example, contains that suit you need for an important event. You could end up having to burrow through each box. Instead, take a bit more time now to save yourself time later.
If you’re not using a storage facility but simply want to get your out-of-season clothes out of the way for six months, give some thought to where you’ll put the boxes. You want to give them an environment that’s clean, dry, not subject to sunlight and not in danger of visits form moths or other pests. Temperature-wise, the space should not be subject to heat over 22C and should also be protected from excessive humidity. If you’re using a long-term storage facility, it’s worth considering periodic check-ins and limiting the storage period to a year; clothes left for longer than that can start to experience problems, including fading and damage.