Ask Unclutterer: Storing hockey equipment in a condo

Reader Jen submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

My boyfriend and I live in a small-ish condo in Toronto. I’m working very hard on decluttering our home, but one thing I have no idea what to do with is his hockey equipment. Half of our spare room is full of hockey gear, and I’m not sure where to put it. We have no available closet or storage space. Have you seen any creative ideas on how to store hockey gear in small apartments?

Every once in a while, a question comes into my inbox that stumps me completely. I know nothing about hockey or what equipment it requires beyond a stick and a puck and skates. My initial thoughts are that going vertical, and using wall space would be very helpful … but I’m only guessing.

This is one of those times I want to let the readers with experience give advice for how to store hockey gear in an organized fashion. Please, fill the comments with your helpful insights. I’m extremely interested in reading your advice, too.

Thank you, Jen, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. I’m hopeful our readers will be able to help.

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27 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Storing hockey equipment in a condo”

  1. posted by Liz H. on

    When I was a kid my brother and sister played hockey and we faced a similar problem.

    The solution? My dad built a stick-figure mannequin out of 2x4s. It had a stable base, a vertical spine, and arms (I can’t remember about legs) that stuck out parallel to the floor. My siblings could dress the mannequin with their hockey supplies, getting them off of the floor or out of the bag. I think maybe there was a robe hook for the pants.

    It would take some handyman skills, but it was a great solution!

  2. posted by Liz H. on

    Some quick googling came up with this as a similar, ready-made solution: http://www.ebay.com/itm/sports-equipment-storage-hockey-drying-rack-tree-/280796142671

  3. posted by Mark on

    It’s two different questions. I think what you’re really asking is how to store a bag full of hockey gear. If you just want to store the equipment, you could get it under the bed in a couple big, flat rubbermaids and maybe raising the bed a bit. But that means you’re taking all the stuff out of the bag after every practice and putting it back in the bag before every practice, and you have to have enough room around the bed to actually pull the containers out to get to the stuff. All not very practical.

    So how to store a BAG of hockey gear? That’s a big duffel that needs to be kept close to the door or car. Not unlike golf clubs. No sense lugging it all the way through the apartment knocking things off shelves and such.

    Put it in the coat closet by the door, on the floor. Give it it’s own space and call it that and respect it. Then, for the two weeks out of the year when it’s not hockey season in Canada you could stash it under the bed if it really bothered you.

    The trunk of the car is another excellent option. If the gear is getting used more than once per week, and it’s any distance from the apartment to the car, leaving it in the trunk would work fine.

    Your mileage may vary…

  4. posted by Liz on

    Oi! My husband is a goalie, so he has a LOT of equipment, but we are lucky enough to have a separate (though small!) storage locker for our small condo unit, so we can put the equipment in there. Hopefully your guy is a player and not a goalie, so he will not have quite as much volume of stuff.

    My first worry for you is the SMELL! Hockey gear stinks. A lot. Get those charcoal deodorizer things (not an air freshener, but an actual deodorizer!).

    I would look at a closet unit of some kind, with hooks and shelves placed strategically to store the equipment spread out so it can air dry. Perhaps a PAX wardrobe from IKEA would work well, then you can close the doors and hide it all away, for the most part. Maybe get some vents or grilles for the top or sides, so you can maximize air flow.

    I know you can get equipment racks, but I know I wouldn’t want to be staring at a rack full of hockey gear all winter long.

    I also got my hubby a large laundry bag to put his hockey clothes in. He puts the bag and all his gross stinky clothes directly in the laundry, so it’s easy for him to do, and everything stays together.

    Good luck!

  5. posted by Liz on

    Oh, and follow up to Mark’s point… My husband has spent a few winters with the equipment living in the back of his car. If this is an option, it does work ok, though I’m sure it doesn’t help with gas mileage. :D

  6. posted by kelly on

    We had the same problem when my boyfriend moved into my one bedroom apartment with me years ago!

    In addition to the *space* it takes up, *and* the fact that you want to ventilate the equipment (that rack is cool!) it also… smells. Wheee.

    In our case, we had a large front hall closet, which we cleared out and made that into the hockey storage closet. Then we installed an air purifier in there and that cleared the odor right up and kept everything dry. We moved the coats to a smaller bedroom closet — I know you said you didn’t have available storage, but perhaps you could do some space-swapping?

    In our next house, we had more room, so we installed adjustable wire shelves from floor to ceiling along one wall in the basement, which allowed for ventilation of the equipment. We also had some hooks hanging up for larger items (goalie pads, for instance) and a rack for sticks.

    The nice thing about using a closet for the stuff is that it was contained and the air purifier was left to do its work in there. I would rather have my coats out on a visible rack and the hockey equipment in a closet (given the choice). Good luck!

  7. posted by Katherine Makuchowski on

    My husband and I coach and our kids both play. We have a trash can with a little kitty litter in the bottom for sticks (every player should have at least 2). To use the vertical space you can use something like Rubbermaids Fast Track. A lot of the special tool hooks work well for the different pieces. The longer hooks work well for the skates. Try and get the equipement in the sun once a month to tackle the smell. UV light is the best deoderizer!

  8. posted by carolyne on

    We moved from a 3200 sq ft house to a 1079 sq ft condo with two teens who both played hockey. The locker in the basement was full. Also, you don’t want the equipment so far away and hard to get at when you play one game and have one practice each week per person. The under the bed solution is also impractical as the hockey bag would need to be unpacked and repacked every time. Too much work means it would not happen.

    We rearranged everything in our small laundry room to put in heavy duty shelving and the hockey bags went one on each shelf. The smell (which can be considerable) is manageable if you wash everything washable immediately after the game.

    Another alternative, albeit less pleasant, is to have him keep it all in the trunk of his car and just bring up the washables.

    We also considered keeping it on the balcony, but got complaints about putting on cold equipment.

    Those storage/display/drying racks take up a huge amount of room which is fine in a house with a basement, but in a condo it is not feasible.

    I really like the closet with an air purifier idea. Wish we had thought of that one.

  9. posted by Beth on

    There’s a lot of sporting equipment in my house (not hockey, but two guys who play a sport with similar equipment demands, plus a bunch of archery equipment) and I completely agree with the stick mannequin – we have several, including a 2×4 one that is hinged at the arms and base to fold up for travel. One lives in the teen’s room (he doesn’t mind the smell as much, evidently!) and the other lives in the guest bedroom, and both move out to the patio for stretches during the summer because, yes, “UV is the best deodorizer”!

    Some of the equipment is of course unsightly, but wherever possible, I work it into the decor instead of making it disappear into a corner or closet. The bows are all hung on attractive hooks in the hallway, and sticks in a pretty umbrella can in the living room. Our enthusiasm for our hobbies is what makes our home and life interesting, so we might as well embrace it, you know?

  10. posted by Mark on

    I was making my suggestions based on the size of the gear bag being comparable to the size of my golf bag. I’m not a hockey player. It never occurred to me that there is a lot more stink being generated in hockey pads than on golf clubs!

    Two separate bags, one for washables one for gear. Make sure the washables bag fits inside the gear bag along with the gear and is, itself, washable. Store as with any of the methods above.

    Now if I could just get my wife to play golf…

  11. posted by Amanda on

    As others have said, the smell is staggering. And it sounds like you have more gear than he needs to play every week, if it’s taking up half of a spare room. I would suggest a two-pronged approach.

    My boyfriend’s hockey gear, which he uses to play 3x a week in the winter, lives in our front closet along with his other bulky sports equipment. We have a peg rack that the winter coats live on partly so that this closet can be dedicated to sports stuff. He has a few anti-smell devices in the bag but honestly? If it’s in HIS closet and the door is kept shut – I don’t worry about it. It’s his equipment, if he’s ok with it stinking and I can’t smell it so it goes.

    However, it sounds like your boyfriend also has lots of “extra” gear. I know we have doubles of just about everything for…some reason that I’m sure makes sense to him. For that gear, the stuff that he’s not using every day, I bet you could use the under bed system as described above, OR get something large like a tack or tool trunk that can be stored out of the way, under a table, or have a sheet or something thrown over it and serve as extra seating or a flat area. Stanley makes a very large tool trunk that I keep my horse equipment organized in.

  12. posted by Monica on

    I second the Pax wardrobe suggestion. Measure everything to make sure it fits and use all the baking soda and febreeze do-dads to soak up the smell.

  13. posted by hybrik on

    My friend use a large wooden chest to store her gear (a bit like this one : http://www.hylandgranby.com/marine_antiques_paintings_details.asp?itemID=F00511). The chest also act as a coffee table in the living room of her small apartment. She just throw a bunch of bag deodorizer in there, along with all the used dryer sheet from her laundry. Unless you open the trunk, you don’t smell anything. The sticks goes in the front door closet, neatly tucked in the corner and all washable are directly put in the washer.

  14. posted by Beth G. on

    When I was in college I used to keep my hockey gear in the bathtub. I could cover it with the shower curtain so visitors did not see it. I would move the bag into the hall when I had to shower. I also made it easy when I wanted to wash everything it was already in the tub.

  15. posted by Jamie on

    I definitely empathise with this poster as my hockey-playing husband and I spent 5 years in a 700 sq ft condo (also in Toronto).

    Our solution was immediately after his games, everything would go out on the balcony to air out. In the summer, the bag mostly stayed on the balcony; but in the winter we needed another solution.

    If it was pouring rain or snowing, the bag would air out in the bathroom with the vent fan on (and a good dose of Febreze!).

    Then we would store it tucked away behind a loveseat in the den, with an air purifier plugged in nearby.

    Not very elegant, but at least it was out of the way and not stinking up the place.

  16. posted by cng on

    Not quite the same, but when I was in the army I had a LOT of equipment that took up too much storage space for my liking when it wasn’t in use. My solution was to get a big, sturdy – but attractive – trunk, which I used as a coffee table in the living room. It was the perfect solution, at least for me.

  17. posted by minneapolisite on

    When my husband gets home from a hockey game/practice, the first thing he does is spray his gear with isopropyl alcohol and lay it out to dry. Once it’s dry, I shovel it into the bath tub (our shower is a separate space). We run the vent fan for at least 12 hours after hockey to keep the sweat stench at bay. (I am very proud that my husband is has the least stinky gear on his team.)

    In our new house (moving in this Nov!), we’ve installed a high-powered vent fan in the mudroom closet.

    Anyway, if you have ANY room in the bathroom (an unused tub or shower space? an empty wall where you could put several heavy-duty robe hooks?), I’d highly recommend that. I’d strongly advise AGAINST packing it in plastic tubs under the bed, or leaving it in the hockey bag to fester.

  18. posted by dtj on

    Having two lacrosse players in the family, we have had similar needs. The big thing is ventilation. We’re in a biggish house, so a clothes line went up in the basement and fans added to dry the stuff. Thankfully it was out of the way.

    The second solution is a gear bag, I think from Under Armour, that has vents on one side and an attachable fan unit that draws air through the bag.

  19. posted by marie on

    Maybe you can get storage solutions from Ikea?

  20. posted by Mike on

    I second Marie’s suggestion. I use a stack of these:

    http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S19876454/

    Compact and they let the equipment ventilate nicely. You can get a curtain thing from ikea that attaches to the frame and hangs down in front of the bins to contain the smell. I also weave a few dryer sheets through the wire and spray my gear with febreeze sport after games. The smell is only detectable if I stick my head behind the curtain thing.

  21. posted by Margaret on

    I’ve got two kids on hockey (about to be three next month). If you can, you should air out the gear so it can dry. The Grit bags seem to be very popular right now. They stay vertical, there is built in shelving to keep your equipment all in its own place, and you can open it up and let it air out. Thinking about getting them this year, but they are pricey ($150 at Canadian Tire for the adult size bag).

    When I was hauling in two bags plus a toddler and a baby in a carseat, I pretty much just left the gear in the back of my van. It wasn’t great, because wet stuff didn’t dry, but I dealt with the cold by holding the stuff that went closest to their bodies under the hot air dryer before they put it on.

    Just a hockey tip — most gear can go through the wash. Nothing with leather, obviously, but the shin and elbow pads, hockey pants and chest protector are washable. I’ve washed them in the tub with the shower head, but now I have a front load washer so I wash them in there. WHAT a difference with the smell! The nice thing about the front load washer is that I can pile it on top to dry as well.

    I’ve also heard of someone washing their gear in a car wash by hanging it from the hooks for car mats.

  22. posted by KJM on

    A woman at a rink close to me offers a service where she cleans the equipment after each game and has it ready for you just before the next game. It’s a business for cleaning, but it also solves the storage issue. Check to see if there’s anything like this at your rink.

  23. posted by Gina on

    Can’t speak to the storage, but an old costume designer’s trick for keeping costumes from stinking between shows when wash can’t be done is to spray with vodka. The cheap stuff is fine, and it kills bacteria without adding another layer of smell (I am sensitive to febreeze and air fresheners).

  24. posted by Andrea on

    We also have no storage space, and three sports playing kids. For our goalie, the Grit bag has been a lifesaver. It has vent holes and is like a mini wheeling closet. When he comes home we open it up, spray everything with Febreeze, and let it dry. It also has a washables bag. For storage, I have a large folding screen set up in the corner or the living room. The hockey bag fits behind it, along with our old hockey racks, which now store football gear. Baseball bags hang from heavy duty hooks on the wall. I have a chair/reading area set up in front of the screen, and no one is the wiser.

  25. posted by Dusty on

    Though it takes up slightly less room, I store my lacrosse equipment in my bag and then put garbage bags over the bag once in a while right after spraying it down with febreze. I let it sit like that for a few days.

  26. posted by Lucy on

    Both my partner and I play roller derby (not hockey but there’s gear and stink involved that I understand is pretty similar) and we live in a small 1 bedroom apartment. The best thing we’ve found is a heavy duty drying rack and/or closet rod in a room with a door that closes. Gear needs to dry out after every practice and keeping it in the trunk of your car, while convenient, slows this down and leaves it open to thieves. We leave our skates in our opened bags which fit under the rack, we velcro our pads to the rack so they’re hanging and get good ventilation and then our helmets can lay on the top which is like a shelf. This can also hold our practice jerseys that need to air out (but can’t reasonably be washed after every practice), and bags of spare wheels, parts and tools. It’s about a 3′x1′ foot print and 3 to 4 feet tall. In our tiny abode we keep it the laundry room between the washing machine and water heater which is super convenient for when we do wash everything.

  27. posted by Sheena on

    I’ve played hockey for years and the simplest solution I’ve found is drying the gear on the balcony. Once it’s dry you can repack the bag and leave it out there. An hour or two before the game bring in the equipment that’s the worst to put on cold (like skates) and let that warm up. Or bring in the whole bag and open it up, and spread the gear out a bit. It won’t stink until its warm, and at that point you can just put it bag in the bag ready to go.

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