Three secrets to self-storage preservation.

By Real Simple
Updated October 07, 2013
Wardrobe rack and dog in white room with blue accents
Credit: Jonny Valiant

Should I Use Mothballs?

It’s best not to. Mothballs contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which can irritate skin and eyes and cause severe illness in children if swallowed. Instead, use cedar chips or dried lavender. Or try Purple Ranch Pest Away Sachets ($5,, which contain a blend of lavender, cedar, and citronella, all natural bug repellents.

What About the Cedar Chest That My Mom Gave Me?

By all means, use it! Just know this: Wood is acidic and can stain garments over time. So line the chest with unbleached, undyed muslin (available at fabric stores); wash before using. Or place garments in old white cotton pillowcases or canvas bags before storing. If your chest has lost its scent, revive the interior by gently sanding with coarse sandpaper until the wood turns red and its moth-repelling aroma returns.

Basement vs. Attic: What Goes Where?

Use the basement for moisture-tolerant sports gear, plastic toys, gardening equipment, and wrought-iron furniture. The attic can get very hot and very cold, but clothing, luggage, and folding chairs and tables can generally handle the extremes. Just don’t put airtight plastic containers (which can overheat) up there. Breathable canvas is best.