So, when I wrote that post about decluttering, I was serious as a heart attack people! And I decided to go big or go home. It was time to face the elephant in the room. And I’m not exaggerating when I say elephant. I really might as well have had an elephant in my room. I had been putting this off for months… ok years, because it is soooo tedious and tortorous to deal with that I just could not force it to the top of my priority list, try as I might. If you are the mom of multiple children, especially if you have one of each gender, and if you are not sure you are done having kids (yeah- I know, I have 5 already, but my husband and I are just crazy enough to not be sure we are done)– then you know the elephant of which I speak. CHILDRENS CLOTHING STORAGE! I bet if they forced terrorists to sort, organize, and store children’s clothes from size newborn to junior 14- they would get them to talk everytime. There are few things I like to do less if I’m honest. Maybe clean up puke, but that’s about it.
They don’t tell you when you carry that newborn out of the hospital that you might as well go rent a storage unit for clothes right now if you are planning to have another one because otherwise, childrens clothes will take up half your apartment or house. Things had gotten entirely out of control around here, and the more out of control it got, the less I wanted to deal with it. But deal with it I must. So, I did. And having somehow survived that nightmare, I now would like to issue warnings and offer helpful tips to newer mothers who have no idea what they are up against yet, in the hopes that you might not be unnecessarily burdened by your children’s clothing as I have been. Let’s get this party started.
First off, just to help you understand the magnitude of the beast you may be up against, let me give you some visuals of what my week looked like. The goal here is to scare you into submission to the warnings and tips I am about to share.
Here is just a sampling of what my room looked like when I pulled out all the clothes.
This is what I gave to friends who needed clothes.
This is what I donated to the local thrift store.
And this is what I had to throw away because it had stains or tears.
AAAAAAHHHH!!! Are you as horrified as I am right now? I know these pics make me look like a hoarder, but I promise I’m really not! We moved 12 times in our first seven years of marriage and that taught me early on not to keep junk. But wonderful friends and family kept offering me clothes, and with adding a boy into the mix, plus knowing the clothes I started with for my first daughter 11 years ago were a little ragged, I kept accepting without taking the time to inventory what I actually needed, and this is the devastating result of my procrastination. We don’t have tons of storage room. I have no idea where it was all hiding really. But, oh my gravy does it feel SOOOO good to have it gone! So…
Tip #1- Do not accept every hand-me-down offer that comes your way. I am a huge fan of hand-me-downs. I would say over 90 percent of my children’s clothes are hand-me-downs. And I am so grateful to the generous friends and family who gave them to me. The pictures above have nothing to do with their generosity and everything to do with my laziness in keeping inventory.
So, keep a running inventory of what you have and what you need so you know when to say no to hand-me-downs, or, if you buy all new clothes, so you’ll know when to avoid cute kid’s clothing stores all together to keep yourself from purchasing those irresistably adorable, but completely unecessary outfits. Future tips I will offer will help you do this.
Tip #2- Do not store clothes for one age in multiple containers. I was too cheap to buy plastic bins in the beginning and stored all the clothes in empty diaper boxes. Here is why this is a problem– not everything thing will fit in one diaper box, so you end up with 4 boxes or more for one size and these boxes can get seperated during your seasonal clothes transferring process. Then, by the time the next kid comes along, you can’t find all the boxes, so you accept more hand-me-downs or go buy more clothes in that size, thus increasing the amount of clothes you are storing.
Store all the clothes for each age in one clear plastic bin. This way it is all in one place and you can easily inventory what you need or don’t need. Because it is clear, you can easily see what is inside if you are looking for one item of clothing without having to take everything out to find it. Limiting yourself to that one bin forces you to let go of what I PROMISE are extra clothes that you do not need to be storing. If you have too many clothes, your kids drawers will be crowded and overflowing, and they will still end up only wearing the most easily accessible clothes. Or, to further punish you for keeping too many clothes, your children will pull half the clothes from their over-crowded dressers in order to find an outfit and leave them on the floor… until you ask them to clean up, which will inevitably land those clean clothes in the dirty laundry basket, thus increasing the loads of unecessary laundry you do each week. Read this post for my solution to this problem.
Tip #3- Do not sort clothes based on what you like best. Sort them based on what you need. If you live in an area that has 4 seasons- congrats! You’ve at least doubled the amount of clothing you will be storing. This is just another good reason why we should all move to Hawaii. But I digress.
When you sort your clothes, make a pile for pants, shorts, long-sleeve light-weight shirts, long-sleeve sweaters, short-sleave shirts, pajamas, swimwear, and dress clothes. Now choose the number of each you think you need to get you through at least a week without constantly doing laundry. You may have 20 sweaters you LOVE, but you only have room for 4, and you may have a few pairs of pants you don’t love, but that you will decide to keep because you don’t have enough without them. A bonus tip here is to make sure you keep a few extra pairs of pants because guaranteed each child will put holes in the knees of a few pairs of pants and you will need back-ups.
Tip #4– Do not write directly on the bins! When I had my clothes in boxes, I sharpied them up with the size stored within. But as clothes got transferred in and out, the size would keep changing until the box was covered with different labels, and I never knew which one was currently accurate. Put a peice of tape on at least two sides of the bin and label it there. If you find that you are in need of a certain item of clothing when you go through your clothes, put an additional label on that bin telling you what you still need. Then when someone offers you hand-me-downs, you will know exactly what you do and do not need and can quickly go through them and then send the rest on to someone else.
Tip #5- Make sure you leave enough room in a bin for what your kids are currently wearing so that when it comes time to put both the winter and summer clothes away for good, there will be room for them. Sometimes it is harder to keep the clothes they are wearing now under control.
Tip #6- Avoid gradually moving into the next size or season if you can. It makes it harder to keep track of things and makes the process more messy. When it is time to switch, even if they maybe could wear that shirt a little longer, just be done with that size or that season and move all the clothes in and out at once. It will save you time and heartache in the end.
Tip #7- Shoes can get out of hand very quickly. Your kids don’t need a million pairs of shoes. As hard as it is to be practical about this, just make sure they have tennis shoes, sandals, boots, and a couple pairs of dress shoes and call it good.When you store them, store only 1-2 sizes per container. Otherwise, you are digging through a huge bin of shoes forever trying to find the size you need.
Tip #8-Make sure you store the clothes in a place that is easily accessible to you. We have an attic bedroom with storage along the eaves of the roof. This is where I have been storing all my children’s clothing and I wish I had a picture of the ridiculous positions I would find myself in (often while pregnant) as I crawled through this awkward space looking for the right box. I literally got battle wounds from doing this a few times.
However, try not to store them in a place that is easily accessible to your children, (aka their room) because kids can’t resist a brand new bin of clothes! Every time we get a bag of hand-me-downs, even if they are for my 5-year-old, my 11-year-old daughter will go through the entire bag looking for something that could work for her- usually a dress she can wear as a shirt– silly girl. Anyway, nothing is worse than having it all organized, only to find the clothes strewn about your kid’s room after their latest game of dress-up. Choose wisely where you store these clothes.
Tip #9- And now a word about thrift store etiquette. Places that take clothing donations generally don’t have the means to wash the clothes that are donated, and if you bring them clothes that are stained or damaged they now have to pay the cost of hauling all your garbage to the dump. So, during your sorting process, be kind to those good-hearted, second-hand store owners (especially the ones run by organizations that donate goods to the needy) and make sure you are only donating items that are clean, unstained, and undamaged that they can actually do something with. If you are donating them to a store who pays you a little for them, you’ll just get them back anyway if you don’t do this, so save everyone the time and hassle of sorting through your clothes.
Tip #10- Don’t let things pile up. Deal with it now. If someone gives you hand-me-downs, sort and store them right away, and get rid of what you can’t fit in your one bin. If you are done having kids, hand the clothes off to someone else as soon as your kids out grow out of them. The trickiest part of following this rule is if you have multiple kids growing out of clothes all at once. I would often put several different sizes in one box and set it aside to deal with later. This is another reason not to gradually change into the next size. It is better to leave a few items in their drawers that are too small until you feel like they are ready to move up a size and switch it all at once, than to take out a couple of items here and there as they grow out of them and then have them all get mixed-up and misplaced. This will be the most difficult tip to follow, but if you start getting lazy about it, just refer back to my pictures above and you might just get motivated again.
If you can swing it, these are awesome and will cut down on the storage space you need dramatically!
Good luck in your never-ending battle to keep the clothes from ruling your life and taking over your house! May you learn from my mistakes and be wiser than I have been. If I can save just one mom from the horror I have faced this past week, it will have all been worth it. 😉