Updated on 10/5/16 from an article originally published on 10/1/13.
The days are shorter. The nights are cooler. There’s no mistaking the signs — fall is here.
As you begin autumnal planning and packing, we have advice on what to store, how to store it and ways to keep your storage spaces organized.
Deciding What to Put in Winter Storage
Get excited about the fact that you are about to create some much-needed space in and around your home since you can now put away your summer gear! Here are some common household items that become less valuable in the colder months that you should consider storing for the winter:
- The lawn mower
- The grill
- Gardening tools
- Patio furniture
- Summer sporting equipment
As you take inventory of the items you’d like to store, first decide what’s worth keeping and what’s seen its last summer in the sun. If an item is broken, torn, cracked, or hopelessly rusted, throw it away. If it’s just dirty, faded, or a little rusty, decide whether you want to invest the time to clean it, paint it, or reupholster it. Donate it if the answer is no, and add it to your list to store if the answer is yes.
How to Prepare Outdoor Items for Winter Storage
Imagine it’s Memorial Day weekend and time to pull these items out of storage for the year. In what condition will you hope to find your belonging? You’ll definitely want to know that your items haven’t deteriorated, or worse — undergone some sort of damage. But better yet, imagine your items are clean and virtually ready for use.
The easiest ways to avoid degradation and damage is to thoroughly clean the item, and store it correctly. Here are preparation tips specific to the items you may be considering storing.
You may not be looking forward to shoveling all of that snow, but at least you can say goodbye to mowing the lawn for a while! If you’re lucky and have a snowblower, make room for it by getting your mower into storage. Here’s how to store it properly to ensure it’s ready to go this Spring.
Troy-Bilt recommends first removing the spark plug, and then draining the fuel tank when prepping your mower for winter. Gas that’s left in the tank for too long breaks down. This means it won’t make good fuel next Spring, and that it could potentially do damage to your machine. Another way to avoid this is to add fuel stabilizer to the tank.
Finally, give your mower a good cleaning. Get grass out from underneath (which will also help keep your storage area clean), and top off the oil before storing it in a moisture-free location.
Unless you live in the southern states (or are a diehard Green Bay Packers fan), your days enjoying al fresco grilling and chilling are numbered. And if you live somewhere that gets legitimately cold in the winter — snow, ice, the whole nine yards — there’s no excuse for allowing your gas grill to face the elements.
The folks at The Family Handyman offer these maintenance tips to prep your grill for winter storage:
- Clean thoroughly to remove grease and food scraps. If you’re having trouble getting all the grease, blast your grill on high heat for about 15 minutes. Let it cool, and then scrape it with a soft bristle brush or a crumpled wad of aluminum foil.
- Shut off the gas at the tank, and unfasten the burner. Take the gas tubes off the lines, and lift out the entire burner unit. Referencing the owner’s manual for help doing this properly.
- Coat clean burners and metal parts with cooking oil to repel moisture and prevent rust.
- Wrap the burner unit in a plastic bag to discourage spiders and insects from taking up residence in the tubes.
- If you’re leaving the grill outdoors, keep the tank connected but shut off and cover everything with a protective cover.
- If you’re bringing your grill inside or moving it to a self-storage unit, leave the propane tank outside in an upright position away from potential heat sources. Self-storage facilities do not accept propane tanks on the premises.
Shovels, trowels, hoses, rakes, flower pots, tillers, watering cans — do you really want these items cluttering up your basement or garage all winter? If you’re not going to garden for a few months, put these tools into winter storage, too.
A thorough cleaning is in order for these tools, and — as noted by The Rust Store — applying a protective coating to surfaces, sanding wooden handles, and sharpening metal edges are all helpful ways to keep your gear in top shape for next year.
When packing away your gardening tools at home, don’t forget to take advantage of your walls as a storage soultion. Use hooks for hoses and long-handled tools. You can also get crafty — use a pallet. Place a pallet against any wall to create a makeshift rack. And if you’re sending your gardening tools to self-storage, a pallet can be equally helpful for organizing your space.
Bikes are another huge space saver if you have a place to relocate them for the off season. We recommend that you keep the tires inflated, but keep weight off of them, by hanging the bike or resting it upside down on its seat. This will deter damage to the tire rims from the weight of the bike pressing on slowly deflating tires.
Lubricating the cables and storing your bike in a dry, temperature-controlled space are your best bets against rust. For this reason, if storing a bike in self-storage, be sure the unit is climate controlled.
The real key to winterizing patio furniture is a good cleaning. Properly cleaning and storing pillows, chairs and furniture will avoid mold and mildew problems.
For aluminum, vinyl, and plastic, simply use hot water, soap, and a sponge. Easy enough.
For wicker and wood, never use soap — just use water and a little oil soap. After drying, finish with furniture-grade paste wax.
If your metal furniture is beginning to rust, prevent further damage by getting rid of as much of the rust as you can. Scrub with a wire brush, and then apply a coat of paste wax. You can also use a silicone sealant spray on metal pieces.
For canvas, grab some upholstery cleaner and get scrubbing.
Once everything is clean, dry and prepped, it’s time to decide where to put it. If you have no other option, you can leave everything outdoors, but do consider investing in fitted covers and water-tight storage lockers for cushions. Tie the covers onto the furniture to keep it in place when winter winds blow.
Do you have an area of your basement or garage where softball bats, baseball gloves, soccer balls, basketballs, jump ropes, athletic spikes, swim fins, and various other accoutrements have been unceremoniously dumped? Now’s the time of year to go through those items and decide what really needs to be cluttering up your home, and what can be stowed away.
You may need summer sports equipment over the cold months — a football for a tailgate party, for instance. But items like baseball or softball bats, gloves and spikes, tennis rackets, basketballs, badminton sets and pool gear will likely go untouched. Storage units are always an option, but, unlike patio furniture, some of your sports gear may be able to fit efficiently into your home.
If you’re limited on storage space, set up high shelves for storage bins or use a pegboard that accommodates several sizes of hooks. Or you can make the most of the area behind the closet door. Over-the-door racks create designated places for items, keeping them out of the way, and at the same time, easily located. That way, your sports equipment is safely stored and your garage floor is clear of clutter.
Since all sporting equipment is different in material, it’s a good idea to check in with the brand on specific storage recommendations. For example, JustBats.com reminds you to keep your lumber in an environment 60 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. The experts at Rawlings say to get the laces tightened and the leather treated on your lucky mitt. Place a ball in the pocket before consigning it in winter storage. WorldSoccerShop.com implores you to clean your spikes thoroughly before treating them with a leather agent and storing them in a breathable, moisture-free bag for winter storage.
As for keeping your storage unit organized while it temporarily houses your active gear, a rack made from PVC piping or even a 14-gallon garbage bin can handle all of your soccer balls, basketballs, and so on.
Additional Storage Tips
Save yourself some real time by loading your summer stuff onto a utility trailer. You can tow and roll the trailer right into your storage unit, and tow it right back out when the seasons change.
Even if you move your outdoor gear inside or into a self-storage unit, covers will keep things dust-free and protect them from dents, dings and tears. Finally, stow your stuff in proper order, starting with heavy pieces on the bottom and stacking lighter things on top, with furniture blankets in between for extra protection.
More Resources for Fall Storage and Organization:
Enjoy the fall, everyone! Let us know how you store your summer items in the comments section below or by tweeting us at @lifestorage.
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