Sunday, November 8, 2009

Messy Monday: Drowning in Kids’ Clothes

Wherever I look, there is at least one—usually more—piece of clothing lying somewhere in my house. It’s either waiting to be washed, waiting to be folded, waiting to be put away, waiting to be stored away, waiting to be given away—clothes everywhere, lying in wait. You can put them in drawers, hang them in closets, stuff them in hampers, and somehow they still end up in places they shouldn’t be. Couple the vagrant clothing phenomenon with the fact that my kids simply have way too many clothes and it’s no wonder why I’m constantly drowning in a sea of 0-5T.
So how do we get a handle on the clothes that continually clutter our minds and lives?

Reduce inventory.
How many clothes does a kid need anyway? Assuming you do laundry more than once a month, you probably can get by with:
1-2 dress pants (per child)
1-2 dress shirts
1-2 pairs of jeans
3-4 everyday shirts
and 3-4 pairs of play pants
(plus maybe some sweats and a sweater or two).

I have, and I save, much more than that, though. Why? Probably because I have three very active boys, and I feel like some of the clothes will wear out before they get handed down, so I should save more than I currently need to have “more options” each time around. But the problem only keeps growing as we receive more hand-me-downs and new clothing gifts.

Reducing inventory also involves being willing to part with sentimental memories. “How can I get rid of this sleeper when it reminds me of bringing my baby home from the hospital?” I have pictures of my boys wearing their special clothes; why do I need to save the actual piece of clothing? (I would still save their coming home outfits, just in a special place).

Give away or throw away and don’t think about it again

If you stall out too long on reducing inventory, you’ll be tempted to hang on to everything because sometimes that is easier than figuring out who to give it to and getting it to that person. That said, don’t think about it too much. It may be faster to just box up all the extra clothes and call it a “giveaway” box that you can take with you to church, or have friends look through when they visit. It takes me too long to bag up 6-9 month clothes for this friend, and 12-18 month clothes for that friend, and 2T for my other friend, and 3T/4T for so-and-so, etc. I end up having all these bags sitting around designated for different people, and it just doesn’t help the situation. So into one big box they should go (If you need anything, email me.)

About throwing clothes away, I find it incredibly difficult to trash any piece of clothing that isn’t loudly screaming “I’m done!” But recently, I took some clothes to the thrift store. Their dumpster overflowed with heaps and heaps of unwanted clothing, and they refused to take any more clothing donations. You could send them overseas if you knew an organization that could get them to children in need; but a Veteran told me many times, the governments of those countries keep the clothes and sell the fabric to the impoverished people. So what’s a mom to do? Buy sparingly, use wisely, and pass it on when you’re done, or throw it away if it’s done. If you still can’t bear to toss something, you could also repurpose a shirt as a cleaning rag.

Simplify storage

With my third baby, I’m realizing clothing size doesn’t really matter all that much. I used to meticulously store outgrown clothes in boxes 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months, 12-18 months, etc. And then I’d find a 3-6 month sleeper lying around somewhere after the 3-6 month box was already sealed shut. Oh my! The more babies you have, the more you figure out it’s just a number on a tag. Unless he’s very small, a six month old can wear 12 month clothing. Sure some things may look a little big, but your life will be more simple if you store things in one Rubbermaid labeled “Under one year” and another “1-2 Years.”

Keep up with what you’ve got.
Once you own less, it’s easier to manage. Fewer pieces to wash, dry, fold, iron, put away, store away, give away…This saves you time in the long run. Then you just have to keep up on a weekly basis. You may find this laundry idea helpful. Also, I've been timing myself. Folding a load takes about five minutes, and putting it away doesn't take much more than ten--although sometimes the size of a basket can trick you into thinking it's going to take forever, and you don't have forever right now, so there it sits...forever. :)

Well, I need to send some clothes packing. But what if my two year old wants the Pooh and Tigger shirt a year from now that I gave away today? Maybe I should keep it just in case? Now you're catching a glimpse of my dilemma :) In all seriousness, what they don't know won't hurt them. And you'll feel so much better having clothing clutter under control.

(My husband's really going to hold me to this post....) :)

Visit Frugal Fridays for more helpful ideas!


  1. I can SO relate to this. I even used to have labels for even the seasons, i.e 3-6 month girl -spring. Now my boxes simply read boy or girl. HA HA

    All of my too-little girls' stuff as well as things I just know we won't get around to wearing goes to a friend at church. I keep a box in the closet and when it is full, it goes to Carey. She just got 6! of them and I always tell her to do whatever she wants with them.

    My sister gets all the boy stuff and those boxes wait in my garage until my parents are ready to play delivery people.

    Except for the dress clothing, I figure I need (or want, I suppose) about double what you listed. Especially jeans. I do laundry by child and it is usually once per week. With linens, rags, etc. this is about a load per day, occasionally 2. This works best for me because I know that the entire laundry basket belongs in one area.

    Be patient, Cheryl, soon the boys will be able to help much more. The older 3 girls sort, fold and put away. Sometimes they even start washer and move to dryer! Yippee!!

    I went to a foster care/adoption testimony time at College Heights tonight and I think there may be foster parents that could really use clothing. Often times the kids come with only the clothes on their back. Maybe contact DFS for more information.

  2. Amen Sister! Our children have an outfit for each school day, a few church outfits and a few play outfits. They have a pair of tennis shoes, 1-2 pairs of dress shoes (girls) and a pair of summer shoes. If they want any other clothes or shoes, they either buy them with their allowance or request a shopping trip for their birthdays. I keep hand me downs from friends packed away until we need them and take inventory when it's time for the seasonal switch out.

  3. I've got a 5 1/2 week old baby girl and i haven't bought any clothes for her yet. However we have been given a ton of stuff for her - both new and old!
    The new stuff I'm trying to keep labels on until we're sure she's going to wear it, cos then i can exchange the things we don't need, or else sell them on (e-bay or car boot sale). But I have been thinking about how best to store all the rest of it so that it gets used and we can find the right stuff at the right stage!