Sorting and Storing Kids’ Clothes (Zone Defense)

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This year we’re on Zone Defense, moving room by room, tackling clutter and disorder. This month we’re closing in on the laundry room, linen closet, and clothing storage.

Zone Defense graphic.

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Two weeks ago I gave you your linen closet/laundry room assignment. Last week I shared my results in tackling those two related zones. At least they’re related at your house.

Today we’re talking about another area of textile storage: kids clothing.

Save Those Hand-Me-Downs

Chances are if you’ve got more than one child you have some type of clothing storage. With four boys born in quick succession, you can bet that I held onto their outgrown clothes to pass from one to another. Some of those articles of clothing have even survived long enough for their sisters to wear! Saving hand-me-downs has saved us a boatload of money.

In the kids’ younger years, it seemed that we had dozens of boxes of clothes to sort each time the seasons changed or a kid moved up a size. Especially with a baby in the house, you’ll find several groups of sizes: newborn, six months, nine months to a year, etc. The increments are small and outgrown quickly, so it’s in your best interest to have a sorting method.

Now that my kids are bigger, it seems that the immensity of our hand-me-down collection has lessened. But, we still need a good sorting method, nonetheless.

Tips for Sorting and Storing Children’s Clothing

1. Limit what your kids have access to.

While I wouldn’t call us minimalists, I think hubs and I realize that we have an abundance of stuff and we try to curb it whenever we can. And we try to do that with the kids’ clothing.ย We aren’t flashy dressers and we live in a moderate climate, so this helps in limiting ours and the kids’ wardrobes.

We want to make it easy for our kids to put away their clothing, so we limit how many articles of clothing they have access to on a regular basis. This amounts to about:

  • 4 pairs of shorts
  • 4 pairs of pants
  • 5-7 tshirts
  • 4 long sleeved shirts
  • 2 sweatshirts
  • an abundance of socks and underwear
  • For the girls, 3 to 4 dresses are in the mix
If there are extra items, we store those in a box in the closet. It’s easily accessible, but not in the way. Since I do laundry everyday, there’s rarely a shortage. But, if you have a different system for clothes care, you may need to change the amounts.
Limiting the kids’ wardrobes limits the amount of laundry that could accumulate so at least Mount Washmore isn’t as huge as it could be! I don’t know about your house, but I often find clean clothes strewn about the floor or stuffed in the dirty hamper. I’d like to limit their ammunition for this type of activity.

2. Don’t store things you (or your kids) don’t like.

When money is tight, it’s tempting to save everything. However, to hoard clothing items because you “might” need them clutters up your house and prevents you from sharing with folks who really do need them.

If it’s stained, torn or a decade out of style, don’t save it. The stains deepen, the tears aren’t going to fix themselves, and your kids will bless you for not dressing them in tasteless clothing.

Instead trust God to provide for the needs as they arise.

3. Store clothing that is in good condition.

That said, feel free to save clothing that is in fair to “like new” condition. Utilizing hand-me-downs is a great way to save money and conserve resources.

4. Use dust-free, bug-free packaging.

Storing clothing implies that you hope to use it again. Be sure to package it in a way to help it hold up over time. I like to use plastic totes with lids to keep out dust and bugs. You can add bay leaves (cheap when bought in bulk) to further deter bugs.

Be sure to label the boxes so that it’s easier to find what you need at a later date. I have blue boxes for boys, and label according to size, and beige boxes for the girls. Store the boxes in a cool, dry place, out of the way of your household traffic, like a closet.

What about maternity clothing?

These same tips hold true for storing maternity clothes if you hope to have another pregnancy. Remember, though, that pregnancy is the time when we are tempted to feel the blahs about our looks. If you can help it, don’t hold onto the clothes that make you feel frumpy. It’s not going to boost your spirits as your body changes.

Consider loaning your maternity clothing to friends in the interim. Hopefully, your friends are good about laundry and stains. If they’re not, don’t sweat it. It’s still a great way to bless someone else and free up space in your closet.

Do you have a trick for sorting and storing kids’ clothing?

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  1. I liked these tips quite a bit and have been already following them with my 2 boys. One difference that has helped me along is that I have the air tight storage bags. I keep one in each of my children’s rooms so that as I’m having them put something on or as I’m putting on the clothing and found it to be too small I’m able to fold it up and place it in the bag. Once the bag is full, or there are no more clothing items in that size, I go thru the clothing and decide which items are no longer wearing well (stains, style etc. especially with cartoon themed clothing…. they more than likely will show how out of style once the next one comes) then I toss the bags into a rubbermaid container labeled. (the bags are sucked of the air inside too) I don’t have space inside the house so this method not only helps keep the majority of the unused clothes out of the house but safe as the rubbermaid bins or sterilite cheaper rubber bins are stored in our less than perfect shed space…. unregulated climate/humidity.

  2. we’ve only got one child and unsure about the future, but we’re saving our “favorites”, in case we can use them again. I am trying very hard to let lots of things go by sending them out into the world for friends to use…..

    The big problem i had was the “in-between” sizes! the first 2 years are crazy, between season changes and how fast they grow! I started to put an empty, reusable bag in the corner of her closet, and whenever i come across an item that no longer fits, or needs to go into a tub for storage, I put it in the bag. That way, I only have to lug the tubs out (which are in the garage) when the bag is full. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I am expecting the second of the pair of Irish Twins at the end of September. I will have 2 under 2 for a year. Baby clothes are so small and easily mixed up between sizes, even before we have started doing mixed wash loads. I keep accidentally putting the 0-3 month clothes that were on their last wash before storage in with the 6-9 month clothes. Any suggestions for keeping them easily identifiable for sorting besides checking every (often faded and crumpled) tag after every wash?

  4. I use plastic totes too.I try to store clothes for each child only a couple sizes bigger.My children ages are 20,10,6&4 and they are boy girl boy girl.If I try to store too much it starts taking over the closets.

  5. I’m really enjoying being able to wear all the maternity sun-dresses that it was the wrong season for with my last pregnancy.

    I definitely jettisoned all the stuff I was never going to wear after my first kid was born. And I’m happy to see some old favorites again. I’ll miss them when #2 is born!

  6. I have four kids, boy then girl then boy then girl . . . so I’ve had to organize clothes and store them for a handful of years between each kid and gender (2.5 years between each kid).

    One tip I would offer is that because the new clothes were worn and washed so many times, when you need the next size of clothes for the younger sib, you can often pull out a size up from what they actually wear because the clothes have shrunk. I have forgotten this in the past – and missed utilizing whole sizes of clothes. Just a tip from a mom who saves and reused most everything!

  7. I kind of have the opposite approach to laundry :o) I buy most of my kids’ clothes at the Goodwill, so they have a lot of clothes. They each have a laundry basket in their room for their dirty clothes. When the basket is full, or whenever they feel like getting their clothes washed, they bring the basket out to the laundry room. I wash and dry them, and then give the basket of clothes back to them to fold and put away. They usually just have me do their laundry every 10-14 days, which means that each child has a whole load in my front loader. It works great because I’m not doing laundry every day, each load is only for 1 child, so no sorting, and they learn the responsibility of making sure they have clean clothes :o) My kids are 9, 8.5, 8, 6, and bean due 9/20/12.

  8. Oh how I wish we had so few clothes for my daughters! Between hand-me-downs, the grandparents buying clothes every holiday, and us buying a few too many items during sales, my kids have WAY too many clothes. (I’ve threatened to take the younger one’s clothes away more than once when she stuffs them all in the drawer, rather than folding them!) To give you an idea, my girls each have 17 dresses (and no, we aren’t against pants – they have plenty of those, too!). Thanks for including your counts – we’ll definitely work our way toward LESS as the girls get older!

    I agree with not holding onto items that YOU don’t like. If I didn’t want to see the first kid wearing it, I’m definitely not going to be happy to see it come back in a couple of years! I feel wasteful letting those items go, but I’m happier for doing it!

  9. Another GREAT thing to to do to save money on clothing purchases for our kiddos AND to make money BACK on our kiddos clothes purchases is to purchase and consign those new and gently worn clothes, toys, etc at a local Just Between Friends Sale Event. They are about twice a year. It’s a ton of fun and an awesome way to be a good steward of what God has given us. After the sale, you have opportunity to donate unsold items to local non profit organizations. I’ve done it several times….I’ve been a mom shopper, consignor, volunteer, and now have the awesome privilege of being an event coordinator for the brand new sale coming to Bremerton, WA this fall. Go and find one close to you

  10. I don’t have any special tricks but I have gotten better at putting aside extra clothing to send to school or keep in the car. With my boys being almost 3 and almost 6 I still keep a change of clothes for each of them in our vehicle. The school set threw me off guard the first year or two and I had to purchase extra items. Now I put aside things we’ve gotten as hand me downs that may not be exactly to our tastes or maybe a little too worn. Since my older one outgrows pants in length I just use the last size for the emergency stash. If he spills something at school or we get caught in the rain at the zoo it’s not a big deal if his pants are a few inches too short.

    I also use this method in terms of the extra clothes I have stashed with our Emergency Supplies in the basement.

  11. I do save clothes, but I especially enjoyed your tip about not saving things you or your kids don’t like. With nine years between my two boys, I find that often styles have changed so much that my younger one looks “odd” in his big brother’s hand me downs. So now I only save suits (they are too expensive to waste) and dress shirts from my older son. Also, what I thought was good enough to save when the older one grew out of it is not actually that nice when I pull it out of the totes for the younger one.
    My daughters are closer in age, but they vary greatly in their tolerance to fabrics (the younger one is like me and would prefer levis and t-shirts always,) so they usually hand down well, but I have to give in on some dislikes anyway. It isn’t worth it for us to fight about clothes just to save a few dollars on new t-shirts.

  12. Great ideas for storing!! My roadblock has always been getting the “too small” clothing to the bin in which it belongs. ๐Ÿ™‚ I would end up with piles everywhere of clothes waiting to be put away in our ‘hard to get to’ storage room-Our closets are big enough for only one bin each. (two children per room) I have found that putting an EMPTY tub in the small closet works really well. When I’m putting away the clean clothing, the outgrown stuff goes straight into the storage bin and when it’s full, it’s usually time to get the next size out anyway.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas… I definately needed the “don’t keep what they don’t like” part! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Thanks for the tips! We just did our spring cleaning and I went through all the drawers – and all the bins of clothes. A pile went to friends with younger kids than mine and a pile went to Goodwill. It felt so good to have closet space again!

  14. Great Tips! My system is about the same as yours. I wish I had thought to use different color tubs for boys/girls clothing. I’ve also used the clear plastic totes and label the sides with something like, Girls Size 5-6x. At times, for certain sizes I’ve had a summer and winter container. I think 4T is one of those sizes that the kids seemed to settle in a bit longer, and I always had a lot of clothing in that size for boys and girls.

    One good thing about knowing you have had your last baby, is you don’t have to keep saving and storing every thing your kids outgrow! Now, I give away the clothes that the youngest boy and girl have outgrown, and just have to maintain my system for the things they will be growing into!

    Another tip that was helpful for me is the dot system. I put one dot on all the tags of my oldest boy’s clothes; two dots on the second son’s clothes, etc. — all the way down the line. So, when I put outgrown clothes into the totes to save, I liked to have my sharpie in hand and go ahead and add a dot for the next child. It was a great system!

    Also, I just pulled out some dresses that my 15 year old daughter wore for my 7 year old daughter. Would you believe that my little girl is even wearing a few things from her sister that is 24??? It pays to carefully save those things, especially the more expensive dresses and things. Plus, it gets harder and harder to buy cute, modest clothing for girls (esp. size 7-14), so I’m very glad I saved those dresses all these years!!

    Sorry for the book! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. To save on storage space I definitely only keep the clothes my kids actually wore and fit them well. I love the idea of passing on my used kids clothes to other moms and I don’t want to burden them with too many clothes, either. For the items that didn’t make the cut, I’ll either sell them at the local consignment shop or donate them.

  16. I have to agree with saving all the clothes! My oldest is 3.5 yrs older then my next child, but I ended up with 3 girls and 1 boy. My youngest, and probably last, baby girl is still wearing her sisters things – and when she puts holes in them NOW I think “WOW! These clothes went through 3 kiddos and weekly washings! How great is that!” I’ve saved so much by saving everything.

    When my son was born, a lady I knew was having a yard sale for her sons clothes. He was a size 4t at the time, and she was selling everything from 6 mos to 3t. Tons and tons of clothes that were all in great condition (some of them barely even looking warn) even though my son was only 2 mos old – I bought everything I liked from her, for one flat rate. I had to find places to store them, but it has saved me so much. About 3 years of wardrobe, stashed away in blue tubs, but so worth it to have these adorable outfits and just be able to pull them out when he was that size ๐Ÿ™‚

    Everything else you suggested is what I do (except different tube colors -that might have been helpful!) Label, store and keep big sister’s clothes! They’ll fit someday!