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Platforms help prevent damage to your items while they're stored.

If you’re as much of a fan for spending time outdoors on your patio or backyard as I am, then you can always enjoy a solid seven months with your table with umbrella, portable fire pit, lawn chairs, or more. But when winter rolls around, do you know the best time and method of storing your relaxing summer equipment successfully for winter? Seasonal storage is easy, and helpful, when you do it properly.

This past summer, I invested in a variety of affordable and warm-weather appropriate patio furniture, including: a portable fire oven set (with four comfortably padded chairs), a 7-foot, heavy duty and portable umbrella, and a refurnished backyard deck area. I got great deals, enjoyed time with my family and friends, read a few great books, and built a healthy tan. Then within a week, the temperature dropped 15 degrees and I was forced to make the responsible (and unwanted) decision to pack away my patio furniture.

First thing to do is figure out where you’re going to store your outdoor equipment over the

Moving items with another person tends to be easier and safer.

winter. You will need enough space to keep all of your belongings; if you have a shed, be sure to move currently stored objects around to fit your summer equipment in there. You’ll need space because you’re going to need as much extra room for the awkward items that you can’t stack (a.k.a. portable umbrellas). This is also a good time to sweep out your shed and take any bug prevention steps.

Before you do any moving of your equipment, make sure that nothing is damaged. If pieces are any broken, rusted, or impaired, either take them in to get fixed up or use appropriate chemical and tape treatments. Even though we wish it were possible, things won’t magically fix themselves while in storage. It’s better to take care of things now than in the spring when you want to start using them!

According to Ward and Kammy Thurman’s 19 Ways to Prepare for Winter, it’s important to check the summer equipment that uses

chemicals or electricity before winter storage. If you have invested in a portable fire grill over the summer, make sure you clean the grill and remove any potentially dangerous materials attached to it (e.g. propane tank, electric wires/extension cords, charcoal residue, etc.). Because if you just push your grill indoors to store for 3+ straight months, then your equipment is more likely to rust, be infested with critters, or suffer other damage which may result in the need to purchase another set of equipment.

Clean off cushions before putting them into a storage bin and make sure they are completely dry to avoid mold and mildew.

If you have plastic chairs as summer patio furniture, it’s important to store them in an area that is a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit or more (according to How to Store Plastic Resin Lawn Chairs Over Winter, by C. Jeanne Heida). Plastic or resin (hydrocarbon material) can be susceptible to breakage from cold weather. I’ve seen it happen—chairs crack when they get too cold and now your set is down a chair.

Be sure to prepare early and as if you have 10 times as much as you actually have. Of course, I know the common tendencies of procrastination. Sure, you may not mean to wait till the last minute and it can be difficult not to do it. But I promise you that starting the winter preparation/storage process early will help your bank account and save you plenty of stress when the snow or freezing weather hits. Good luck!