The start of fall means that it's time to clean up the house, swap out clothes in your closets and break out the seasonal tools in the garage.
ShopSmart, the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports, came up with organizing tricks to keep everything tidy year-round.
"The change of seasons is the perfect time for people to break the cycle of their bad organizing habits," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "If you keep your belongings organized the entire year, you'll cut down on the amount of time reorganizing each time a new season rolls around."
>Store it in the fall
*Garden tools and pots. Hose off dirty gardening gear and stack pots in tiers. For pots with fragile surfaces, layer newspaper between vessels to protect from scratches and chips. Outdoor garden storage benches and cabinets are also great for storing tools and pots over the winter.
*Summer clothes. To free up precious closet real estate, measure the number of feet of hanging space your clothes take up and get a garment rack wide enough to accommodate it all. Stow in a dry basement or attic. And be sure to clean clothes before putting them away -- even if they look spot-free. Stains that seem invisible can oxidize over time and be hard to get out if left untreated.
*Beach towels, picnic blankets, outdoor linens and tableware. Clear the linen closet of summer beach towels and outdoor tablecloths and place mats; stash in giant plastic tubs. Cradle outdoor dishes and cups on top. ShopSmart recommends parking the bin in a basement or attic.
>Store it in the winter
*Garden rakes. Hang long-handled rakes and garden tools from a pegboard. Affix the board to any garage or shed wall, leaving about an inch of space between the wall and the board to accommodate hooks.
*Seasonal decorations. Stow jack-o'-lanterns and cornucopias in opaque bins: Clear bins let in light, which can damage memorabilia.
*Bikes. There are many types of bike racks; some mount into studs on the wall, others mount from a track system. Choose one that works for your space. Hang it on a wall in the garage.
>Store it in the spring
*Boots. Stuff boots with boot forms to help them keep their shape. You can also use balled-up gym socks in a pinch. Lay each pair of boots flat in a plastic bin.
*Sleds and ice skates. Most sleds have holes for a steering rope; thread heavy rope through the holes, then hang sleds in the garage. Stash disc-type sleds in a large clear contractor bag. Tie a knot at the top and hang from a hook, flat against the wall of your garage.
*Bulky coats and bedding. Wash or dry-clean throws, quilts and duvets, then store in Space Bags in a linen closet. Short on closet space? ShopSmart suggests a rolling garment rack with a zippered front closure to keep out moisture and moths.
>Store it in the summer
*Backpacks and lunch boxes. Clean backpacks and wash lunch boxes, then air them out in the sun before putting away in storage tote labeled "Back to School."
*Artwork and school papers. "Condense and preserve" is your mantra for children's school papers and projects. Weed out items your child is no longer attached to. Preserve especially important projects by asking your child to pick out five pieces to save. Put them in a portfolio labeled with your child's name and school year. Store it at the back of a closet or in the attic.
*Wool rugs. Roll up cleaned and vacuumed rugs to keep them free of deep creases or bends, then wrap them in large plastic bags. Store them up high on a garage shelf or in your attic.
By the editors of Consumer Reports at www.consumerreports.org.