Welcome to Your Home Outdoors, our summertime series on tips and tricks that'll help you live your best life outside―no matter the size of your space! So pull up a chair, grab a glass of something icy-cold, and join us.
Brace yourselves for sad news, folks: Summer is coming to an end. We wish we could freeze time in these late summer days, add hours to the lazy weekends in the park or by the pool, eat ripe peaches and tomatoes forever. But, alas, time marches on and waits for no one, and like sand through an hourglass, so are the remaining days of the season.
While you’re probably trying to soak up the last rays of sun before the seriousness of autumn descends, there is one project you should consider tackling: packing up your summer gear. Kiddie pools and and outdoor lounge chairs, plastic dinnerware and citronella candles, hanging lanterns and large umbrellas—everything must go (inside). Though it’s not a small task, putting everything in its right place (aka, the garage) before the season ends is the kind of activity that your future self will thank you for. In the winter, there will be less clutter; next summer, everything will be ready to go as quickly as you can say Memorial Day weekend.
“If you take the time to clean, dry, and store your stuff properly, you won’t regret it,” says home organizer Faith Roberson of Organize with Faith. Proper storage, she says helps you avoid “corrosion, mold, and vermin deterioration. Beyond that, you want to extend the life span of your pieces by cleaning them annually and then storing them—if done correctly, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor much longer than if you skipped the storage process.”
Life-hacker, professional organizer, and author Andrew Mellen agrees. “Ultimately, you’ve traded your time and money for your things,” he says. “If you value your time and your money, be as strategic about caring for your things as possible. Cherish the things that you’ve purchased. Take good care of them so that they last a long time.”
With next year in mind, here are the best ways to clean, pack, and store all your summer stuff.
A change in season is a good time to take inventory of the things you own—and perhaps get rid of some of it. As you think about what needs to be packed up for the winter, consider both the objects that you love and want to keep and those that have run their course in your life. Embarking on a mini storage journey is “a fine time to purge if there are things that are that you want to recycle or hand down to somebody else,” says Mellen. “It’s a good time to let them go as opposed to storing them for another year, a good time to release them back into the universe.” Consider which items you used the most this summer and which you rarely used or which were deteriorating or which caused you some annoyance. “Set yourself free from the burden of too many objects,” he says. Amen.
“Everything should be cleaned before it gets put away,” says Mellen. Speaking of seasonal clothing, he says, “You don’t want sweat and body oils sitting on garments for six months. Even if you only wore it once and it’s now out of season, spend the money or the time laundering it. I would encourage everything to go away clean.”
The same goes for outdoor furniture—but in terms of dust and rust, rather than sweat. “To avoid stains and mold, I would spend a day cleaning and another day air drying my pieces,” says Roberson. “Give special attention to stainless steel and remember that if bearings get wet they may rust and interfere with wheel mobility, so oil them well because lube will act as a barrier. Before putting stainless steel cleaner on pieces,” she adds, “make sure that it really is stainless steel or it will corrode.” Faith recommends giving everything a good dusting to get rid of loose debris and hosing down anything that’s wood, metal, or plastic. Her cleaner of choice? “I wouldn’t use anything abrasive,” she says. “A soft sponge-with mild soap is usually safe.”
Not all packing solutions work for all items; everything has its own way it likes to be wrapped before being stored away for the season. “The rule is protect it,” says Mellen. “How you protect it is up to you. So don’t be tied to the idea that there’s only one way to solve the problem; come up with the best solution for you that is a sustainable solution, so that once you’ve hacked it, it’s repeatable.”
For specific guidance, Roberson has the following suggestions:
- Use plastic wrap to protect textiles, rugs, pillows, cushions, and outdoor umbrellas
- Use clear storage containers to store outdoor accessories (like candles and lanterns), backyard games, and swim gear
- Kiddie pools can be deflated and stored in containers or hung using an S-hook/rope in the garage
- Use a tarp to cover your grill and tables, and stack patio chairs so that they are heavier and don’t get blown away in heavy-weather months
“Storing items indoors in a garage or shed is ideal,” says Roberson, “preferably outfitted with adjustable shelving to utilize height and keep containers organized during the winter months.”
“In my world, we’ve got the organizational triangle,” says Mellen. “One home for everything. Like with like. Something in, something out.” He recommends dedicating a space in your home to seasonal items so that they have a permanent place to live when they’re not in use. “Set a particular shelf where all those candles and lanterns and cups and glasses and things can go,” he says.
If you don’t have a space at the ready, don’t fret. “Contrary to belief,” says Roberson, “you don’t have to spend a fortune on storage for outdoor furniture. Using stackable plastic containers for organization, movers’ plastic wrap to keep moisture and dust out, and a tarp for larger appliances and furniture works just fine.”
What do you do to get ready for fall? Let us know in the comments!