Thursday, April 5, 2018

Storing Winter

Spring is attempting to appear where I live. It has been a rough winter; many areas broke records for cold and snow and I've heard several reports that it was one of the worst in the last 30 years. I can believe those reports, because most of the “kids” of that age had never seen snow like we got this year. I'll be glad when it's gone so I can finally put away the cold-weather gear that has been part of my daily life since the end of October.

The folks who live in the southern half of the country won't have some of the problems that we northerners face, and needing a large supply of warm clothing is one of those problems. I'm one of those accursed people with a high metabolic rate and almost no body fat, so I have a lot of clothes that I need to wear just to work outside:
  • From some time in October to roughly the same point of March, I wear thermal underwear (long johns) every day; they vary from lightweight (35-40°F) to heavy duty (below 10°F), and I have several pairs of each weight. 
  • I have at least a dozen pairs of each of three levels of socks to suit the daily winter temperatures. 
  • I have formal, informal, and work coats suitable for whatever conditions the local winter may present. 
  • Stocking caps, gloves, scarves, and miscellaneous extreme cold-weather gear have accumulated over the years (I have four warm, functional Santa hats, now). 
  • Coveralls and overalls, from un-insulated to Arctic weight and boots to match are expensive, so I generally only have one set of each weight. 
All of that stuff has to go somewhere for the seven months of each year that I won't be needing it, so here's how I store my winter wardrobe.

  • Never store anything dirty! Always clean your clothes before putting them away. I've tossed dirty boots in a closet and hung up coats without cleaning them in the past, and it didn't work out very well.
    • The presence of even slight amounts of corrosive chemicals will destroy them given time and humidity, and the presence of food, or even food odors, will attract rodents and insects.
    • Wash what you can, send the delicates to the dry cleaner, brush off the boots and apply a fresh coat of waterproofing if needed. Leather should get a coat of neat's-foot oil or other softening treatment to keep it from getting stiff while in storage.
  • Check your gear and make repairs and replacements as you get things ready for storage. 
    • I wear out socks pretty quickly, so I make sure I check my stock as I'm storing them. Worn-out natural fibers (mainly cotton and wool, but a few silk) go into the rag bag for use as cleaning supplies; polyester and other man-made fibers go into the craft bag for use as stuffing for toys.
    • Inexpensive coats tend to have low-quality zippers that fail, so I always check and lubricate (using a wax candle) the closures on my coats. Zippers are a PITA to replace, so a bad zipper is usually a death penalty for a coat. Patch the holes and use a comb to clean out the Velcro.

  • Unless you're putting gear away for just a month or two, you're going to need a good container. If your warm season is that short, just hanging the warm clothes in a closet will suffice.
  • Folding cloth organizers may look nice, but offer no protection from dust, pests, or damage. I can see these being used to organize clothing that is in the daily rotation, but not for storage.
  • Cardboard boxes aren't much better. I know they're cheap or free, but cardboard is a poor choice for storing clothing since it does nothing to stop pests or moisture and may actually provide a breeding ground for insects. They also tend to collapse unless filled to capacity if any weight is put on them.
  • Plastic bins with tight lids are a good choice. The weather-proof versions with latching lids will keep out dust, insects, and water, but won't stop a determined or bored rodent. I use 20 gallon plastic bins from a big-box store, they're fairly cheap and last for several years.
  • Neither cardboard boxes nor plastic bins don't handle being stacked on top of each other very well. 
  • The old-fashioned cedar chest was used for long-term storage of wool and linen goods. The cedar wood contains an oil that seeps out for decades, producing an odor that we find pleasant but repels insects that would feed on the stored items. If properly made, a good cedar chest will keep out most dust and moisture.
  • For top of the line storage, look for metal or fiberglass storage containers. They'll stop most rodents (nothing is truly rat-proof; they'll chew through concrete given enough time) and insects, are generally water-proof, and are dust-tight. They're also better for raw stacking, but their weight makes them hard to sort through.

  • The modern version of Schroedinger's Cat is the cookie tin that can contain either cookies or sewing supplies but you don't know which until you open it. Having multiple plastic bins stacked in a corner of the basement is a similar issue, especially if you bought them on sale and they are all the same color. My wife likes to shop after holidays to get the differing colors when they go on sale, so this is less of a problem for me.
  • Keep your containers segregated by user. My wife and I wear different sizes, and she doesn't work outside as much as I do, so I keep her winter gear in a separate set of bins. This makes it easier for me to dig out my stuff without having to dig through hers. When I had kids around, it made it easier to donate the clothes they'd outgrown over the summer.
  • Label your containers. This may sound simplistic, but after shifting a couple of dozen boxes around to get to the one on the bottom, unlabeled boxes will get confused.
  • Use a sturdy rack. It will take up more space, but will allow you access to individual containers without disturbing the others. Wood planks and cement blocks make good storage racks; they're modular and can be adapted to differing sizes of containers. If you live in earthquake-prone areas, use a quality construction adhesive between the blocks and wood to tie them together. Metal store shelving is available if you look around, but it can be expensive.

Take care of your gear and it will take care of you when you need it.

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