Switching out seasonal clothing

If you live in an area of the world that experiences four seasons, this is the time of year when you’re switching out your cold weather clothes for your warm weather ones (or the other way around if you live in the southern hemisphere). Before you pack away your winter coat and hat, take a few minutes and make sure you’re keeping clutter out of storage and also protecting your clothes so you won’t be unpacking clutter in the fall.

Ask these questions of the clothing:

  • Did I wear it in the past six months? Any item of clothing you didn’t wear in the past six months should be a strong candidate for the donation pile. Exceptions to this might be a black wool suit you wear to funerals, but you were very lucky not to lose someone close to you in this winter. However, if an item of clothing is trendy and you didn’t once put it on your body, it should probably be donated to charity.
  • Is it clean? Do not pack anything away that has been worn and not cleaned. Pests love to snack on dead skin cells, so clean everything you plan to pack away for the summer.
  • Is it damaged? If an article of clothing is damaged, it needs to be fixed before putting it into storage. Give yourself a week to do the repairs yourself. If you don’t make the repairs in a week, send the clothes out to a tailor to be professionally repaired or get rid of the item of clothing because you may not care enough about it to even have it fixed.
  • Will it still be in style in six or eight months? If you already know the trend has passed, and you care about trends, it’s time to get rid of the piece of clothing.
  • Does it pass the red velvet rope test?

Only donate to charity clothes that are in good condition. Any piece of clothing that has seen better days can be marked as rags. Many charities that accept clothing also collect rags, so you can make both donations at the same time. Just be sure to call ahead to confirm that the charity is currently accepting both types of donations.

When storing clothing:

  • Pack the clothes loosely into an air-tight, thick plastic container. Pests will eat through cardboard and fabric containers in seconds. Plastic containers keep out the smaller pests (like moths) and slow down larger ones (like mice).
  • Pack pest deterrents in with your clothes. Freshly sanded cedar chips or blocks, lavender sachets, and other anti-pest products will help to keep pests out of your stored clothes.
  • Store clothes in pest-free areas, as best as you can. In other words, if you know you have mice in your garage, it’s probably best not to store your clothes in the garage.
  • Clean, clean, clean. Again, remember that pests love dirty clothes. Everything you store for the season should be clean before packing it away for the summer.

23 Comments for “Switching out seasonal clothing”

  1. posted by Sinea on

    This is such great advice. I am usually 2 weeks behind the season change…sometimes more. Then I have to dig through the under-the-bed storage containers to look for the right thing. I am taking this to heart and putting it into action! Thanks, Erin!


  2. posted by Jen on

    This is all great advice. I am a big believer in not storing stuff I know I’ll never use again – I’d rather give it away now than pack it away only to give it away later. My larger problem is with changing out my son’s clothing for the seasons. It’s more during times like these – the in-between seasons, when he sometimes has to wear long sleeves and sometimes short sleeves. I typically have one drawer set aside for out-of-season clothing, since I typically don’t have that much stuff that will fit him if it’s out of season (so all of it can fit in one drawer). But these days now that he’s growing more slowly and his clothes can last through more than one year (he’s 5), the drawer is overflowing and it’s tough to manage when he has to go in there to get out the short-sleeved shirts, etc. I’ve just got to find a better system, but it still has to involve changing out clothes for different seasons because there’s not enough space for everything.

  3. posted by Keri on

    Great post! I like this point: “Did I wear it in the past six months? Any item of clothing you didn’t wear in the past six months should be a strong candidate for the donation pile.” I have trouble thinking this way. A lot of times I really like something but just never wear it.

    Another tip is to take your unwanted but good-condition clothing to a consignment store and maybe make some money. They’re pretty picky, but if you have good stuff, why not give it a try?

  4. posted by k. on

    “Did I wear it in the past six months?”

    An exception to that is if you’re pregnant and have been living in maternity clothing for the last 6 months and you have no idea what your post-baby body is going to look like yet! I am however, looking very forward to purging my closet of all things maternity in a few more months!

  5. posted by Naomi on

    Erin, can you recommend any specific containers? I’ve been looking at stores like Target, but it’s unclear to me whether the containers they carry are actually airtight.

    (p.s. There are no Container Stores in my area.)

  6. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Naomi — I use Rubbermaid Products that have a latch. They don’t make the exact model I have any longer, but this is their current equivalent:


  7. posted by Naomi on

    Thanks, Erin. That’s very helpful.

  8. posted by Jasmine on

    Great advice, as usual. I’ll keep this in mind (and invest in some cedar chips) when I pack away my winter clothes.

    California this year has had rather unpredictable weather: For the last few months, we’ll get a few days of rain and cold followed by a few days of sunshine and 80-degree weather, followed again by rain and cold. The weather keeps going back and forth between the two, and I don’t know how to plan for it.

    My closet is overfilled right now because I have all my seasonal clothes and shoes. I’ve had my umbrella in my backpack since before winter started, because I just don’t know if it’ll rain or not.

    Do you have any tips on how to unclutter my closet when I’m frequently alternating between summer and winter (well, California winter) clothes?

  9. posted by Sue on

    I do two switches. Lately, our springs and falls have been unpredictable – alternating between warm and cold.

    In spring, I do an initial switch to get out some of my sandals and lighter weight clothing, and put away the truly winter items like boots and sweaters. Then, once it has truly warmed up, I make the final switch to get out the rest of the warm weather clothing and put away all of the winter clothing. My coats stay in the same closet but they go to the cleaners now.

    In fall, I do the reverse. A few heavier weight items come out first, followed in a few weeks or a month with the full switch.

  10. posted by Shakti on

    For kids clothes, I leave the ones they are most likely to outgrow before next year in the drawer, For example, the long sleeve shirts that my son is most likely to be able to wear next fall and winter are packed away, the ones that are barely fitting are left in his drawer for cooler spring days. Then when full summer (or winter) comes, what’s left in the drawer gets handed down promptly. We are lucky to know a family with kids of the same gender in the same order, but a year or two behind!

    For myself and the problem of always being slightly behind the season change (plus nature not being really orderly herownself), I am swapping out all my large storage bins for smaller zipper bags that only hold one sort of thing–so the cardigan one holds wools in the summer and the lightest cottons in the winter (heavier cottons go year round), the work sweater one has short/sleeveless shells in winter and turtlenecks in summer, etc. It makes it easier to find what you need on that sudden warm (or chilly) morning and to swap things in and out one by one, or a few at a time, which I find easier.

  11. posted by Shakti on

    To answer Jasmine’s question here: Do you have any tips on how to unclutter my closet when I’m frequently alternating between summer and winter (well, California winter) clothes?

    As a New Englander who transplanted to California (and now back), I found that I was one of the few people in CA who had a seasonal closet concept. I think I was psychologically attached to it, but it wasn’t really necessary. The natives seemed to think me slightly off.

    Perhaps either you, like me, are a transplant clinging to a concept that doesn’t apply where you are? Perhaps most of your clothes are year round and there’s only a tiny fraction of the warmest and coolest that need to be swapped? Perhaps you have seasonal sporting/athletic clothing that needs swapping (summer running vs winter skiing)?

  12. posted by Karen on

    Learn from my mistake and go with the lavender or cedar, not chemical mothballs. I find a few mothballs pretty inoffensive in a closet, even. However, after storing some clothes in plastic bins for six months with the manufacturer’s recommended dose of mothballs, I’m having a devil of a time getting the odor out. Two washings, a day in the sun, and another washing are *almost* enough to get things wearable again.

  13. posted by Karen on

    Whoops, over-edited there… I have no idea why there’s an “even” at the end of the sentence about finding mothballs inoffensive in a closet.

  14. posted by Stacey on

    One suggestion that I would make is that you probably have WAAAAAYYYYYY too many clothes if you can’t fit all your seasons in your closet/dresser. Some exceptions I can understand might be: 1) children’s hand-me-downs 2) maternity wear you might need again 3) really specific seasonal clothes like bulky ski-wear or 4) if you live in a studio with like 2ft of closet space. Otherwise, you should whittle down your wardrobe.

  15. posted by Jen on

    I have a sturdy cedar-lined trunk in my bedroom in which I keep out-of-season clothing, a spare duvet cover and blanket (my linen closet is tiny), and other items that need safe storage. It is large and holds a lot! It even holds a small fire proof safe. It is also functional for throwing clothes on top that can be worn again. I have had it for over 30 years and it is one of the most practical things I own!

  16. posted by Jill on

    First – I agree, in principle, that one should not store what one is not going to wear again. HOWEVER, charities are just as seasonal as we are – they don’t want your winter duds when they’re gearing up for summer. If you have the room, save them for donating when the appropriate season rolls around.

    Second – if using plastic containers, how do you keep everything from smelling plastic-y after 4-6 months in storage? I’ve tried cedar, can’t stand lavendar, and am not sure what I should try next. My current solution is doing massive amounts of laundry during the changeovers. 🙂

  17. posted by the other Tammy on

    I am fighting a battle with clothes moths that attacked my best wool coat that was hanging in a spare closet…eeeewwww! Now we are dealing with the moth ball smell (which now comes in a cake like a urinal cake and hangs on your closet rod) and throwing away clothes because I’m too skeezed out to wear them, even if I got the moth damage repaired…

    the lesson learned is…get stuff washed (or in the case of my poor coat) dry cleaned before storing it away!

  18. posted by the other Tammy on

    I want some space bags. Ohio winters = big sweaters and comfortors that take up too much room!
    Does anyone use them? Do they keep the pesties out?

  19. posted by laura m. on

    Karen, I agree, best to use lavender or cedar in plastic containers. At the end of summer or when cooler weather sets in, I go thru spring/summer clothes, and anything I know that won’t get worn next spring/summer season gets donated to a group home (several in my area). One web site on decluttering I read suggested this, so at the end of colder weather, I’ll do the same with that season that won’t be worn next fall/winter. Spring is here, so I purged spring summer already.

  20. posted by Shakti on


    I agree that comforters are the WORST for off-season storage. I tried space bags years ago and didn’t love them. Maybe I overloaded them or something, but I seemed to have a lot of bursting open and tearing. It seems like in order to stop those problems, you put so little in them that what was the point. I think I’ve some ads implying they’ve improved them recently, but they were ads….

  21. posted by Sinea on

    Erin, I sent the link to this article to myself so that I could read it again and that’s why I am commenting a second time…I went to your Red Velvet Rope test post and love it. I watch TV with the same litmus test…if I wouldn’t let people who talk or behave like that in my house, why do I let them in on my TV?

  22. posted by Melba on

    I find the easiest way to know for sure if I’ve worn an item once during an entire season is to turn the hangers backward on the bar when I do the seasonal switch. When it gets time to do it again, anything that is still hanging backward automatically gets donated.

  23. posted by Claire on

    Space bags are awesome for storing off season clothes. They have improved in the past few years, also.

    Here’s a question: what about storing off-season shoes? I don’t even have alot of shoes but I don’t want my off-season shoes cluttering up my closet when I can’t even wear them. I have been putting them back in shoe boxes & storing in the attic, but didn’t know if there were any other suggestions. I store other items in the top of my closet, so they won’t fit there. Also, when is the best time to clean/polish shoes? Right before storage or right after?

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