Doing the seasonal/size clothing shift is a big deal in our house. With three kids and two adults, that seems like a ton of clothing to manage. But, I have learned to be more organized to make it go more smoothly.
First, you should know that we get 98% of our clothing as hand-me-downs, thrift store or garage sale purchases and freebies from a twice-yearly local Clothing Giveaway. Occasionally, a grandmother or aunt will purchase or make something for the kids, but rarely do I buy *NEW* clothing for the kids or myself. We don’t even have a clothing line-item in the budget. If we need new socks, underwear or shoes, or a specific item of clothing for an event, it comes out of the miscellaneous line item. Your situation may be different than mine.
Second, my children are incredibly skinny. Finding clothing that fits has become a real challenge sometimes. I am eternally grateful to the inventor of adjustable waist technology. Even slim pants and skirts are often too big around the middle for my kids. That makes it easier when I am deciding what to keep for my kids. Most of the time, if it does not have an adjustable or elastic waist, we do not keep it. There are always exceptions. You, too, will have to take into account the needs, desires, and peculiarities of yourself and your children. If your child will never wear something that has dinosaurs (for example) printed on it, but you get a hand-me-down dinosaur shirt that is in almost new condition and is just the right size for them, don’t keep it. It won’t get worn and will just take up space in your house. I find that most of the time, my children (and myself) wear a few favorite things the majority of the time. Others get pushed to the back of the drawer and rarely get used.
Third, I have storage space in my house. I have an unfinished basement that will only ever be good for storage. In it, I have put up shelves to accommodate the tubs of clothing I save. Some people have access to attic or garage space. Others have no space at all. That will have to play into your decision on clothing storage.
All that being said, let’s jump into how I sort and store clothing for both myself and my children…
For the adults, I have just two tubs. I have two tubs for seasonal clothing for myself, plus one tub of maternity clothes. When it is time to switch seasons, I take out the spring/summer things and put in the winter/fall things, making sure everything has been washed before it is stored. I even store my winter coat in these tubs. (By the way, when the tubs are full of winter clothing, they are often more full than when the tubs contain summer clothing. Winter clothing is just bulkier.) Things that I did not wear all season go into the donation box. The same situation applies to my husband’s clothing. Clothing that is appropriate for all seasons, like jeans, is left in the dresser or closet. My maternity tub is a single tub of miscellaneous season clothing used to supplement my regular seasonal clothing, as necessary.
For the kids, I do things a little differently. I limit their tubs to one tub per size of clothing (covering both seasons). Unfortunately, I have a two-year-old who is wearing size 18 months on the bottom and size 2T on the top. So, I have two tubs accessible for him. As he outgrows his 18 month size things, they go back into the 18 month tub and I retrieve size 2T things from the next tub. If the tub gets too full, I dump it out and sort it, keeping only the things that are in great condition. And, I only keep a few things of each type and season.
Here is the list of what I keep in each kid’s tub:
- Jeans- 5 pairs (plus one hole-y pair for doing messy jobs)
- Nice pants- 2-3 pairs
- Shorts- 5 pairs
- T-shirts- 10 shirts (plus one hole-y or stained shirt for messy jobs)
- BOYS Sunday shirts- 2-3 polos and 2 cotton, button-front shirts (2 long sleeve for winter, 2 short sleeve for summer)
- GIRLS Sunday dresses and skirts- 2-3 long skirts and 2-3 dresses (at least one for each season)
- Nice sweaters- 2-3
- Sweatshirts/hoodies 2-3
- One heavy winter coat (We live in a colder climate.)
- One lightweight jacket
- 3-4 pairs of summer pajamas
- 3-4 pairs of winter pajamas
As the children get older and bigger, their clothing seems to take up more space. I try to stick to this list as much as possible and use Space Bags when necessary.
When it comes to shoes, I keep a small tub or basket of shoes for each child in the closet. I try to have at least one and sometimes two sizes up in each tub. I keep one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals, a pair of nicer “Sunday” shoes, a pair of winter boots, and sometimes a pair of flip-flops and a set of rain boots for each size. This works well for the boys, but is beginning to fail for my (not-so-little) girl (now 10) who is showing an affinity for shoes. She loves to have two or three sets of sandals, red dress shoes, pink dress shoes, brown dress shoes, black dress shoes, white dress shoes, two sets of sneakers, etc. (Keep in mind that most of these come to us free as either hand-me-downs, or freebies from the Clothing Giveaway. I am not purchasing these.) I have worked to limit her, but have decided that as long as she keeps them under control (and I don’t have to do it) she can have them all. If I have my way, hers would be limited as those of her younger siblings. If I were purchasing shoes, my kids would be limited to one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals, one pair of dress shoes and one pair of winter boots.
When it is time to change from one season to another, we go through the tubs together. Anything that is too small or not something they think they would wear goes into a box to donate to the Clothing Giveaway. Anything that is too big gets left in the tub to be accessed as needed. It is kind of like going shopping together. The kids enjoy the new things, even if they are leftovers from last season.
Tubs of too small clothing are dealt with differently. Things that are too small for my oldest (a girl) are donated to the Clothing Giveaway or in cases of extra special things, given to one of her girl cousins (who is quite a bit younger). With my oldest boy, his things are saved for his younger brother. With my youngest child, I am currently saving his things since we are hoping for another child in the future. If it turns out we get to have another child, and it is a girl, I will donate all of our little boy’s clothing to the Clothing Giveaway or to his younger male cousins.
How do I deal with the mounds of collected and donated clothing? I sort them into size and then check the kids’ tubs for next season or size. If there is a need for that particular item and I think the kids will wear it, it goes into the tub. If it is too small, wrong for them, not going to fit no matter what, etc., it goes into a bag for donation.
LONG TERM STORAGE
I have learned that stuff happens to clothing stored long-term. Stains show up, elastic deteriorates and things develop holes that were never previously there. A friend of mine, mother of nine, tells me that she only stores clothes for the next season. “There will always be cheap clothing available. It should be out there being used, instead of falling apart and becoming un-useable in my basement.” When something is outgrown at their house, it is donated to a local thrift store or given as hand-me-downs to someone else. Each child in their home has their own tub of next season clothing (in their closet or under their bed). Everything else is purchased at thrift stores or other sources, as needed. They have a small amount set aside in their budget each month for clothing, but it is a surprisingly small amount. They are a single income family and it works well for them.
There was a time in my life when I would have been considered a hoarder of clothing. I kept everything that my first child outgrew (hoping to have more children someday). I collected clothing for all seasons at least two sizes up. I had multiple tubs for one size and one season. When I had multiple children, it got to be too overwhelming. It was taking up too much time and too much space to have ALL those things to take care of. So, I started limiting what I saved, giving away much of what I had and learning to trust God that what I needed would be available. (Matthew 6:25-34) I now have more space in the basement. The kids have more space in their dressers and closets. And, I have more time. It was and is totally worth it.
COMPLETE OPPOSITE MINDSET (A story for laughs)
I had a friend in high school who did not believe in storing clothing. She went out once a month and got what she needed. She rarely wore the same outfit more than one month at a time. Her clothing budget was bigger than her food budget. I was aghast. In her mind, she needed to look good and stay in fashion. It was more important to her than eating. She donated all her “old” clothing to thrift stores and felt she was doing her part to clothe the world. I think of her often as I wear my same, boring, comfortable favorites that are YEARS OLD and wonder if her perspective has changed over the years.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
What you do to store (or not store) clothing is going to depend on your schedule, storage space, finances and the availability of clothing in the appropriate season and size. It can be a daunting task. For some people, time is money. Storing clothing takes too much time and therefore shopping for clothing once a season is SO much easier. For others, it will be different.
There are many other resources out there discussing how to store clothing for you and your family. One of my most recent favorites is Raising Olives, a blog by a homeschooling Mom of 11 children. Here is her take on clothing storage, management and laundry.
Hope these ideas help you as you work on Spring Cleaning and Organization. Life gets crazy, but we can manage it by taking a few baby steps at a time.