Sorting and putting away my kids’ outgrown clothes is probably my least-favorite organizing task. It’s more complicated than one might think. A size 2T on the label doesn’t necessarily mean that it fits a two year old or that it’s even similar to a 2T in a different brand.
You try clothes on a wriggling toddler with a short attention span and add a rush of sentimental feelings, and it’s a one-two knockout punch.
I have two kids, and I feel like I’m smarter this second time around.
My daughter was the firstborn, and we were given lots of clothes for her. I saved most of them because it seemed like they hadn’t been worn enough. Baby clothes become outgrown so fast, and maybe we will have another girl, or else there will be other babies to give them to.
I can type those words quickly, but really there’s a long pause while I sit here and wonder if there will be another baby.
And that’s part of why this takes me so long.
Anyway, it wasn’t until my son was born that I noticed how much less space the boys’ clothes section is given in the square footage of a Gymboree or Baby Gap compared to the girls’ section. Marketing efforts begin early, apparently. I realized how much of the shopping is more for the parents and grandparents. Having variety in clothes seems like an idea more suited for grown ups. Kids’ don’t need that much variety; they already get an entirely new and different wardrobe every six months!
I decided to buy fewer clothes for both of my kids, realizing that they normally want to wear their favorites and there would be less to store later, and it worked.
I plan to have about a week’s worth of clothes for each kid in the current size and season. (Somehow my daughter ends up with more.) If it’s a few weeks before birthdays or Christmas, I wait until after to buy more clothes since they receive some as gifts. When my son went through a baby phase at three months when he was spitting up all the time, I bought extra outfits for him to get us through the multiple outfit changes each day.
A week’s worth of clothes is typically enough for a little kid, though, and when a little boy has worn the same seven shirts for six months, by the time the season changes you’ve gotten a lot of mileage from them.
It’s also easier to put clean laundry away when the clothes that don’t fit are out of the way. I can always tell when it’s time to sort through the clothes because putting away the laundry becomes more difficult. My daughter’s clothes go into a dresser. My son’s clothes go in the closet in a hanging organizer.
But I think he has some clothes in the laundry right now because as I’m looking at this picture, I’m pretty sure he has more clothes than this. All of this was a long way of saying Suggestion #1: Buy fewer clothes for your kids so you’ll have less to organize and store later.
Suggestion #2 is to limit the storage space with boxes. Since baby clothes are small, you can fit a lot into a box (and you know I’m going to shove as many 3-6 month clothes into those storage containers as I can. Those are the cutest.) Having the clothes limited and divided by size is easier than having it all in one larger box because it doesn’t take much to become all disorganized. Bulky coats are stored separately. The storage boxes are stacked and stored in the closet.
Be sure the clothes are clean before you store them, and keep the boxes in a clean, dry area, especially if you are repurposing cardboard boxes.
Suggestion #3: Be particular about what you buy, accept, and keep. My husband and I have shopping guidelines about what types of clothes we buy for the kids, and the best rule is that the clothes have to look like kids’ clothes, not miniature versions of grown-up clothes.
I also pay attention to color and try to pick the colors that look best on them. My daughter, for instance, looks best in bright colors, and light pastels are too faint. When all of her clothes are in a bright color palette, she can mix and match everything. I look for these colors when someone offers us hand-me-down clothes because I can be pretty sure we won’t use the clothes in a color they don’t favor.
Keep only the clothes that are still in great condition. Nothing with permanent stains. If it doesn’t look good when it goes into the storage box, it will only look worse when you take it out later. Don’t keep more than will fit in the box, just the best stuff and your favorites.
You don’t have to keep any clothes just because they were given to you for free. Only keep the stuff that will make you smile when you open the box again, and the rest or any excess can be given away.
Because this is not an easy job for me, I just focused on the clothes for one kid. The other child will get her turn later, before school starts.