How to organize kids clothing

29 March 2021

What is a household or parenting task other people hate, but you actually really enjoy?

For me, it’s organizing my children’s wardrobes. No, I don’t mean shopping for them or picking out outfits (though I do enjoy those things, too!) – I mean the nitty-gritty of making sure they have the right amount of clothes that fit and are seasonally appropriate, at the right time, in the right place (and managing the steady size drip of too big –> just right –> too small). Throw in hand-me-downs and donation piles and rips and stains and what to keep for posterity and kid clothing management can get overwhelming quickly (especially when you have multiple ages and genders to wrangle!), but I’ve found a simple system that has made this process a breeze and, yes, actually enjoyable. Since many of us are in the process of switching over our kids’ wardrobes from fall/winter to spring/summer, I thought we could chat about it today!

Here’s what my process looks like:

— We are lucky to get 80% or more of our kids’ clothing from my older sister, who has a girl a few years older than June and a boy a few years older than Shep. (Thank you, Jesus!) Whenever she delivers a fresh load, I go through it immediately and return to her anything that’s not our style or that we don’t need. Clothes that are too big go in a designated spot. This could be a bin in the closet or a box in the attic – for us, it’s the drawers in June’s dresser (one for each kid). Gifts that are too big or for a future season go here, too.

— Clothes that fit and are in season are stored in John’s and my bedside tables – more about that here.

— Whenever a piece of clothing is too small, too worn out, falls out of favor, or no longer fits the season, it goes in a big bin under June’s bed. It doesn’t matter where it came from, who it belongs to, or what will happen to it next – it just gets tossed in the bin. This eliminates SO MUCH decision making on a daily/weekly basis!

— Once in the spring and once in the fall, I pull out the under-bed bin, dump everything on the floor, and sort through it. (I usually time it to coincide with my favorite consignment sale!) I make several piles:

1. Favorite items that will be saved for our future kids or nieces/nephews. This pile is generous – we have plenty of room for storage and I promised my younger sister I would hang on to all the good stuff until she’s ready! This is not just a few pieces for posterity. These get stored in big labeled bins in the attic, sorted by size and gender.
2. Items to return to my older sister. This is generally pieces we didn’t end up wearing much – she consigns whatever I send back her way!
3. Items in good shape we no longer want or need. These get set aside to tag for the consignment sale.
4. Items that will fit next season (for example, June wore many of the same dresses this winter that she did last winter). These go back in the dresser in June’s room.
5. Items to donate or give away. This pile is usually small, since I try to consign most things, but sometimes includes items that are out of style or too annoying to tag (socks, etc.).
6. Items to toss. Things with holes or stains.

And that’s it! Clothes for the new season get moved from upstairs to downstairs, the piles are dispatched, and we’re good to go for the next few months! It’s super simple, but that under-the-bed bin is a true game-changer and makes upkeep so simple.

Now, of course, I’d love to hear: what is a household or parenting task other people hate, but you actually really enjoy? If you have any questions about kids’ clothing management, I’m happy to answer those, too :)

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March 29, 2021 9:13 am

I use a similar system (and also weirdly enjoy the process!) but had been using bins on the top shelf of closets. We’ve reached the point where the future seasons bins are overflowing and it’s a mess (that is also hard for me to reach) so switching to underbed storage seems both obvious and genius. Place a Target pickup order now – thanks for the tip!

March 29, 2021 2:53 pm

I am planning to tackle my daughter’s closet on Wednesday so this post is so timely! I even have a unused bin under my bed that will be perfect. Thanks for sharing your process!

March 29, 2021 3:56 pm

With just one kiddo at the moment, I take the clothes that are in good shape but no longer fit and put them in Ziplock Space Bags and vacuum seal them. We don’t have much storage space in our house so I find the best place to store stuff is under our beds. A lot of the time I’ll keep out short sleeve shirts and dresses that fit all year and put a long sleeve shirt underneath them in the colder months. It’s a nice way to make clothes last into another season.

March 29, 2021 9:56 pm

This is very helpful! And boy what a task this is!

Now that June can dress herself, why not have her get dressed upstairs before coming down to breakfast? That’s what we do with my son and it saves all the up and down of the morning. Also we keep socks in a basket by the door.

March 30, 2021 11:55 am

Much of our system is the same swapping the under bed storage for a closet bin as others have mentioned. But I’m amazed by children who keep clothes in their dressers or in the under bed bin!! My daughter empties practically every dresser drawer nightly (and often changes several times!) in her playtime before bed. With an upcoming move I’m definitely considering finding a location to keep her clothes where she can access them independently during the day, but not cause a bedroom explosion nightly! For this reason among others (not many hand me downs) we don’t have a lot of clothes because we’re literally always picking them up.

March 30, 2021 1:32 pm

Thanks for this! I’d love to know your approach to dealing with stained kids clothes. I often find myself treating and rewashing things to see if I can get a stain out, but then it will drag on for weeks, and I need to be more proactive about calling it and relegating things to play clothes only status.

March 31, 2021 6:29 pm

I have a similar “all in one” bin method, but fewer piles to sort things in- we unfortunately we were the some of the first to have kids so we don’t receive hand-me-downs, and since we want one more child, I save all the good stuff! I enjoy this culling process too… I think because I love kids clothes so much?

What I reallllly want to know is- how do you handle toys??? I am constantly sneaking stuff into donation bins but my son is going to wise up sooner or later.