How to Transition Your Closet by Season

A professional organizer shares a helpful step-by-step guide for storing seasonal clothing.

For most, there’s no reason to stuff all four seasons of clothing into a closet, especially if you’re short on space. As a professional organizer and a former tiny-apartment dweller, I developed a system for transitioning a closet from spring and summer to winter and fall (and back again) that's foolproof. I tweaked the process over the years, but the basics are fairly easy. Whether you want to learn how to store winter clothes or how to do a biannual closet swap, follow this guide to simple seasonal storage.

organized closet with shelving and labeled bins and baskets
Brie Williams

Prep Your Clothes Properly

The first step is to assess what articles of clothing should be tended to before going into storage. Depill your sweaters with a shaver or stone, have the button sewn back onto your coat, or get a cracked heel cap replaced on a pair of boots. If the temperatures are dropping and you’re ready to stow away warm weather things, learn how to unshrink your favorite t-shirt, fix a pair of flip flops, or find the bathing suit strap that went missing earlier in the summer.

You might come across more things that need care in the next step but try to pinpoint them early so you have time to take things to the dry cleaner, seamstress, or cobbler if need be.

The second thing you want to do is to decide on a storage space. Since things will only be stored for about six months, areas like the attic or basement should be okay as long as they don’t get extremely hot or humid. Otherwise, consider taking over an underused guest room closet, the space under the stairs, below the bed, or, if you have one already, a storage unit. Ideally, choose somewhere that is out of the way but still accessible.

The last prep step is to gather supplies. Like determining a storage spot, you really only have to purchase supplies once as you can reuse them each time you do your swap. This is what I recommend to get started:

For clothing and accessories:

  • Medium sized totes with lids (or long, narrow totes for under the bed)
  • Vacuum-seal bags
  • Labels

For shoes:

  • Individual shoe bags (or long, narrow organizers with compartments)
  • Labels

The quantity of each will vary depending on the volume of your things and you might experience some trial and error at first. Adjust where needed and you’ll get the hang of it over time.

Sort and Declutter Seasonal Items

When you’re ready, I suggest blocking off a weekend afternoon to get the job done. If you’re putting away winter clothing, pull out anything you won’t wear during the spring and summer months. Include items like wool or cashmere sweaters, dark colored blouses and dresses, and don’t forget about beanies, scarves, and gloves. In the shoe department, include any booties or suede heels that you can’t imagine wearing when it’s pushing 90 degrees. Begin sorting into piles by category and don’t forget to declutter along the way. If you come across things that no longer fit or are not your style anymore, have a donation bag nearby so you can drop them in.

During your second swap of the year, put aside things such as coverups, shorts, and sundresses. While you might want to wear white year round, chances are you won’t be wearing anything made of linen when it’s below freezing. Sandals, open-toe shoes, or espadrilles can also be stored to create more space for shoes in your closet.

Store Off-Season Clothing

Once you have the piles of clothes you want to keep, fold or roll them into vacuum-seal bags to minimize the amount of space they take up. Do your best to contain individual categories to a bag but combine them if you don’t have enough to fill one. After vacuuming the air out of the bags, start layering them into the totes. Depending on the sizes you use, you should be able to get two to three bags per tote. If you’re using an under-bed organizer, you’ll probably be able to fit one large bag or two medium-sized bags side-by-side.

For shoes, I prefer to use inexpensive drawstring shoe bags and then fill a tote with them. For tall boots, I’ll stuff them and then lay them across the top, ensuring there’s enough room so they don’t get crushed. I have a few wide brim hats for each season so I’ll stack them and place them at the top of a clothing bin that has extra space in it. If you’d rather use an organizer with predetermined compartments for your shoes, make sure you know how many you want to store ahead of time to ensure you have enough space.

Once you have all of the clothes and shoes stored, label the outside of the totes so you know what’s in each one.

Swap Clothing Every Six Months

When the weather is warming up or cooling off and it’s time to transition again, take comfort in the fact that most of the prep is already done. Simply mend anything for the following season and retrieve your totes. I would highly suggest washing all of the clothing that comes out of the vacuum bags before putting them back in your closet. While the laundry is going, pull out and sort your clothes to be stored away. Repeat the decluttering and organizing process using the same supplies you already have, adding more or less if necessary. You can replace the labels or, as I like to do, turn the totes around and add new labels on the other side for the following seasons.

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