Smart Systems for Off-Season Storage
Unsure how to maximize that wedge of wasted space under the stairs? Turn it into storage for summer-party supplies with a deep modular unit that exploits every last inch. Build in stability by filling from the ground up, placing the heaviest items, like platters, beverage dispensers, and bottles of wine (laid horizontally), on the bottom. Put high-frequency goods at eye level, and use pretty baskets to corral small doodads, like coasters and stirrers. Genius repurposing tip: Flat document boxes can archive place mats and cocktail napkins.
To buy: Trilogy staircase shelf (four feet wide), $240, smartfurniture.com.
Also good for: Potting supplies (under the basement stairs), kitchen extras (food processor, cookbooks, trays), mudroom staples.
For more organizing help, see these basement and attic storage tips.
Breezy warm-weather delicates will benefit from a structured sanctuary. Start with a sturdy wheeled rack, then add rounded wooden hangers, which won’t warp the shoulders of garments. Plastic is OK, too. But for long-term storage, skip the no-slip flocked variety, especially in dark shades; the color can transfer to clothes over time. Clean items before hanging, even if they seem to be spot-free: Moths are attracted to sweat and food residue, and some stains, like white wine, show up only over time, well after the damage was done. Never store clothing in dry-cleaning bags, which trap chemicals and may cause yellowing. Instead, slip a breathable linen cover over the whole rack.
Consider it a summer home for your cardigan collection: A deep, soft-sided bin slides into all kinds of overlooked nooks (say, beneath the bottom shelf of a linen closet) and is ideal for clothing that you would fold anyway, like sweaters and casual pants. One bin in each bedroom will clear the kids’ drawers for the season. If you have more vertical space than horizontal, try reinforcing the sides by slipping in sheets of corrugated cardboard and standing them on end. For extra-streamlined retrieval, load each category in a shopping bag so you can lift out one stack without destabilizing the others.
To buy: Rolling storage bag in large, $50, improvementscatalog.com.
Also good for: Swimsuits, beach towels, totes, rain boots.
Superpower Plastic Bags
Step right up, ladies and gents, to see the incredible shrinking duvet! Perhaps the most satisfying use of a Hoover yet is compressing excess bedding into a vacuum-sealed bag. Run everything through the washer first. (Use liquid detergent; the powdered kind can leave a film.) Dry on low, tossing in a few tennis balls covered in clean socks to fluff. Then seal as directed and stack on a shelf away from heat. For all those uncrushables (we’re looking at you, pool toys), use giant zip-top plastic bags. Inventory gear and divide by category: goggles, snorkel masks, fins; Frisbees and beach balls; outdoor cushions. Clean plastic items with a solution of ½ cup bleach and 1 gallon of water. (Use soapy water if you’re not into bleach.) Dry fully in the sun before storing.
To buy: Ziploc Space Bag Under Bed Storage, $20, bedbathandbeyond.com. XXL Ziploc Big Bag, $9 for three, amazon.com.
Also good for: Sleeping bags and down jackets (in vacuum bags), ski accessories and that rock salt you got on sale (in giant zip-top plastic bags). Lapis shams, $80 each; Sag Harbor Indigo flat sheet, $180 for queen; Lapis quilt, $395 for queen: johnrobshaw.com. Festival tablecloth in navy, $140, sferra.com.
Stow caps, cloches, and straw toppers in a (crushproof) storage ottoman. Nest structured hats in the center, stuffing the innermost one with tissue paper or floppy cloth sun hats, which don’t mind being squished. Add summery flats around theedges. (Tuck them into cloth shoe bags first if the bin lacks pockets.)
To buy: Tanisha shoe ottoman, $295, safaviehhome.com. Women’s luxury flannel shoe bags (not shown), $16 each, thebutlerscloset.com.
Also good for: Winter hats, scarves, mittens and gloves (placed in plastic bags to keep pairs together).
Bin With a View
Ventilated under-bed bins are just right for shoes—leather needs to breathe or it can dry out. Choose containers with windows so you can locate pairs in a flash. Before storing, swipe soles with disinfecting wipes and allow to air-dry. If you’re motivated to do more, clean flip-flops in the dishwasher (for real!) and canvas sneakers in the washing machine. Wipe down leather with a damp cloth. Then stuff shoes with acid-free white tissue paper (newspaper can leave marks) to maintain shape, and sheathe fancy footwear in shoe bags. Position shoes toe to heel for efficiency. Stack extra bins elsewhere if even a king-size bed can’t conceal your spare pairs.
To buy: Large Canvas Vision Clothing Box, $21, organizeit.com.
Also good for: Off-season purses, stuffed with acid-free white tissue paper to preserve their shape and tucked into cloth tote bags or pillowcases; backpacks when school is out.
Put down that window unit! Placing air conditioners, space heaters, and humidifiers on dollies, which serve as both transport and support, turns a labor of lug into a smooth operation. Plus, if they’re bound for the garage or the basement, that bit of elevation can prevent damage from dampness and minor flooding. Clean appliance exteriors with all-purpose wipes, and dry thoroughly. Replace filters so you start the next season fresh. (You can wash reusable filters in equal parts white vinegar and warm water.) Then tuck each unit in a vinyl bag to protect against dust, and set it on a dolly. If you can, store the machine in the closet of its assigned room; reinstallation will be a breeze.
Best reserved for items that spend most of the time outdoors anyway, a portable storage tent corrals and conceals the bulkier accoutrements of alfresco living (beach chairs, umbrellas, grilling gear). Set it up near the garage to make loading and unloading easy, or station it strategically to fill a void: voilà, an instant potting shed in the garden or a poolside cabana for floats, noodles, and rafts. Leave it up all season.
To buy: Pop-up large storage shed, $300, improvementscatalog.com.
Also good for: Garish (or gargantuan) plastic kids’ toys; winter staples, like sleds and snowblowers; garage-sale fodder awaiting the big day; dorm-room gear between semesters.
If unearthing the kids’ trick-or-treat plastic pumpkins or that trusty Cinco de Mayo sombrero always triggers an avalanche of other celebratory supplies, your festive spirit may suffer. To the rescue: ceiling-mounted garage racks that keep bins of bulky, lightweight holiday items out of the way until you need them. Label the bins’ undersides for identification. (Or opt for see-through plastic versions.) Pay special attention to delicates (roll up Indian corn in bubble wrap; stuff Easter baskets with newspaper). Anything that doesn’t fit in your bins, like oversize yard decor (a.k.a. Frosty the Snowman), can be tucked into large duffel bags, which can also be slipped onto these high-hanging space-savers. Don’t forget to mount a step stool on a nearby hook so you can reach the rack without straining.
To buy: HyLoft ceiling storage unit, $55, homedepot.com. Rubbermaid Roughneck 18-gallon storage box, $13, rubbermaid.com.
Also good for: Footballs, tennis rackets, and basketballs (in bins); surfboards, body-boards, skis, and luggage (directly on racks).