The big project for the day was the semi-annual changing out of the children's wardrobes: putting away the spring/summer clothes and pulling out the fall/winter ones. Usually I do this job all by myself, reasoning that I need to see what they have and don't have, what I need to buy, etc. This fall has been a little stressful, and I just felt overwhelmed by the task, so I recruited help. Kora and Aubrey basically did their own; I just went in and looked at what the final result was to take stock, plus make sure that things still fit. Kelly helped me fold up and pack away summer clothing for the others. Otherwise, I could never have done this in a day.
Over the years, several women have asked me how I manage all the clothes, so I thought I'd write about it in case anyone else was interested.
Over the years I have bought 10 gallon plastic bins like you see in the picture. This may sound like a big expense, but I usually only buy 1-2 a season, as I have been doing this since Kora was very small. They are also sturdier than cardboard boxes (like copier paper boxes) and are more bug resistant if you store things in a garage or attic. This size fits perfectly on the shelves above the closets, where the kids don't store anything anyway.
Each box stores one size when they are small. So I have the 3-6 month clothes all in one box. When they get about 24 month to 2T size, I put one size in two boxes, one labeled SPRING/SUMMER and one labeled FALL/WINTER. my husband got me a nifty little Brother label maker a few years ago, but before that I used masking tape and a sharpie marker. Just so the size and season are clearly marked, it doesn't matter if it looks like something from Mission Organization.
Here are a few tips I've used in keeping tabs of the clothes:
- Don't go strictly by the label. As all moms know, not all sizes are equal. Today I put away an outfit of Lauryn's into the 3T summer box that is labeled a 6. But it is clearly not a 6. Don't be afraid to put clothes in the box with other clothes that are the same size, no matter what the tag says. You'll thank yourself when the next little person comes along needing those clothes.
- My baby clothes are labeled "Girl Size 3-6 months" or whatever. This was done back in the day when I thought it might be necessary to make the distinction. :-) If you do have a gender mix, be sure to mark them. The point of the labels is to be able to know exactly what is in the box at a single glance. My original idea was to have different colored boxes for boys and girls, but I quickly discovered that manufactures like to change the colors of what they sell, so that idea wouldn't have worked even had I needed boy boxes.
- I also have one box that is labeled "Baby - Gender Neutral." As I have never known the sex of our babies before their birth, I have many blankets, burp rags, onesies, sleepers, etc that could go either way. This is also a great place to store things that aren't size specific for babies.
- I also have bins for shoes. Not all shoes can be passed down to younger siblings, but the ones that can have their own plastic bins, however these are 14 gallon sized. These are labeled differently than clothing. Right now I have 4 such bins: "Shoes for Aubrey" (ones Kora has outgrown), "Shoes for Brynna and Hailey" (shoes Aubrey has outgrown), "Shoes for Lauryn" (shoes Hailey has outgrown), and "Other Shoes" (shoes Lauryn has outgrown). If someone outgrows a pair of shoes, I go "shopping" in the appropriate shoe bucket to see if I have tennis shoes in that size, or whatever, before I go to the store.
- A word about jeans, t-shirts, socks and undies. Once they get above a certain size, jeans will no longer fit in the bucket along with the other clothes that size. However, since I have four girls in rather a stair step pattern, most jeans pass from one set of dresser drawers to another. But on the occasion I have some that aren't currently fitting anyone, I put them in a bucket labeled "jeans" or in a bucket that is currently empty because all the clothes are hung up. T-shirts are almost never packed away, as they will go from one child to the next without ever seeing a bucket. With the exception of training panties, underwear does not get passed on from one child to another. Usually by the time one of my kids outgrows a size, the underwear is needing to be replaced anyway. Ditto with socks, except for baby sizes.
- While I am putting away clothes and getting out new ones, I take note of what I need to buy. I used to just keep a list, but that confused me and I always forgot something. So I made a chart. Of course, right? But it helps me keep track of what each child needs or doesn't need. For instance, Brynna needs more Sunday dresses. So in that square, I'll right how many she needs and what size, so I know exactly what to get at the store. (Click on the chart below for a bigger view.)
Remember, there are two main reasons for having any sort of organization for the kids' clothes. One is that it is an obviously frugal thing to hand down clothes. Having them organized in some way will keep you from over buying. If you have relatives who buy clothes for you, it can allow you to direct their purchases to what you really need. Secondly, it also just simplifies your life, especially when the seasons change.
Do you have any great tips for keeping up with all the clothes for your family? Add a comment and let me know - I'm always looking for ways to improve the system!