How to Organize Kids’ Clothes

How to Organize Kids' Clothes | CorporetteMomsHow to Organize Kids' Clothes | CorporetteMomsHow do you organize kids’ clothes? I’ve found it’s a bit of a challenge to buy, organize, and maintain a seasonally-appropriate wardrobe through my child’s growth spurts — particularly since I like to take advantage of sales, and often buy clothes that are too big (I like to call them “future clothes”). So how do you keep them all organized so you remember what you have? I’ve never seen anything on this topic, so I thought I’d share my technique.

As I mentioned: I like to shop the sales. So whenever I’ve seen nice/cute/basic things for 3-year-old Jack in future sizes, I buy them.  Physically organizing the clothes wasn’t that hard — I have a big bin where I throw future clothes and about every six months I sit down and sort it into bags for each size and general season (winter 3T, spring/summer 4T, winter 4T, spring/summer 5T, etc.). Then, when he starts to outgrow whatever size he’s in, I grab the bag, cut off all the tags and stickers, and throw them in the wash, along with all of his old clothes.  His old clothes get stored in a vinyl chest (along with a post-it or other label telling me what size clothes it contains), and his new clothes get sorted into the drawers. Easy peasy. But I found that I had two big problems that required a bit of mental organization. First, I needed a way to keep track of what I had bought so he had an entire wardrobe. For example, I’d realize that I had a zillion 2T t-shirts, but very few pants.  Or, we’d have a super chilly day in May and he didn’t have anything long-sleeved or warm that fit his current size, and I’d have to rush out and buy something full price. (And I HATE paying full price.) The second problem comes from my thrift — if I saw a crazy sale on an item for Jack, I would buy it no matter what size it was. We have sweatshirts that are size 7! (He’s 3T right now.) So the second problem that required organization was being able to remember what I bought, quickly and easily.  

I should also mention that I almost exclusively shop online for him.  So here’s what I started doing: I right-click over the image to save it (the .jpg or .png file) from the product page to my desktop, and then later organize it into folders by size.  (Another great place to save images: the email they send you summarizing your order!  Those are super tiny images, but for my purposes it’s fine.  If the image isn’t clickable I end up pushing the “Print Screen” button on my keyboard (for me it’s above the Home/End/PageUp/PageDown buttons on the keyboard), opening Paint on my PC, and pasting it in there, and saving the image file.  So, for example, here is what his “clothes folder” looks like in general:

organizing kids clothes (2)

And here’s what his 4T folder looks like:

saving on kids clothes

Then I can glance at the pictures, flip through them like a slideshow, or even sort by type, because that’s the first piece of information in the name of the picture.  The naming of the picture is very important also.  I like to capture info such as:

  • type of clothing — longsleeve shirt, lightweight pants, jacket, PJs, etc — so like is sorted with like
  • brand — brands sometimes fit differently, so I like to record that info…
  • size — helpful if you end up buying several pieces and several sizes at once and then have no memory later on when you’re sorting.  I often just dump them into the general “JAG clothes” folder and then sort them into the size folders later
  • any pertinent info about the piece that you’ll wonder about later and can’t tell from the picture alone.  Are the PJs fleece or jersey?  What temperature is the coat recommended for?
  • and, if you’re insane like me, you can also capture price info.  I like to remember what the price was originally, as well as what I paid, for a few reasons.  First, I like to revisit the glory of a sale.  ($12 down from $69! Score!)  Second, I like to gauge the quality of the piece based on the price.  (Well, what do you expect for a $5 pair of shorts?  — or — This coat should last WAY longer than this, it was originally $150!)  Finally, if we end up losing something, remembering how little we paid for it helps put things in perspective.  (Hey, it was only a $5 hat, and he wore it solid for 2 months, so, there you go.)

Here’s how that looks with two pieces, bought months apart:

keeping track of kids clothes(I JUST bought that Squall bib in 4T and 5T, by the way — Lands’ End still has it in limited sizes and colors. He’s used previous bibs about twice each, so $12 is a price I’m happy to pay, and I don’t particularly care if the bibs match the coats at all.)  This obviously isn’t terribly scientific — someone with an MLS would laugh at me, I’m sure! — but I find that it’s much easier for me to flip through a folder on my desktop rather than find the opportunity for uninterrupted quiet time in my son’s room (where we store the clothes once they come) and go through them to see how much we have, what we need, and so forth.  (I think I tried to go through the clothes once while Jack was home and they wound up in a huge mess strewn about the room. Joy.)

Another big bonus that I’m finding now that we have a second son: I’ll be able to remember what we have in the sizes that my toddler has outgrown.   I keep meaning to sit down and keep track of what was lost (goodbye, dear hats) and what was dirtied beyond repair, so I’ll know what hand-me-downs are still good for Harry.

I only started the folders around size 2T, so I have a lot of catchup to do — I’ve gone in and physically taken pictures of some things, laid out on a bed or whatnot to add to the Clothes Folder, but I find that process much more onerous.  (It’s easiest to do when I’m swapping out his old clothes for his new clothes in his drawers.)

Readers, what is your system for organizing kids’ clothes?  How do you remember what you’ve got or need for your kiddos?  Is this a task you outsource to your nanny or partner?

Comments

  1. anon eagle says:

    Wow Kat! This is a great system!

    I have 2 young girls. I store each size in 1 clear plastic storage container (3 pack at Costco). I type the sizes (NB, 0-3, 3 mo, etc.) in giant font in an MS Word doc and tape the paper to the inside of the plastic container. Then I stack the containers in the girls’ closets. Each girl has about 3-5 “nice” outfits and the rest are play cothes for daycare. The nice outfits hang above the stacked plastic containers. The girls do not have dressers, I just take the lid off the plastic container and root around for an outfit. Since their current wardrobe is only 1 container, it is always easy to find their clothes and they don’t seem to wrinkle at all. This system is awesome for me because I don’t have to fold. When it is time for the youngest to go up a size, I pull out her older sister’s container and I drop all the contents into the washer and dryer to freshen them up. When the dryer is done I scoop up the clothes, put them in the bucket, and set the bucket in the closet. Each girl has one 1 coat and about 3 pairs of shoes. I put up a command hook low to the ground in the hall closet door so the oldest girl (18 months) can put away her coat by herself if I open the door for her. It’s cute and I think it helps her to take pride in her possessions. I know my system will have to change as they grow older and stay longer in a size but this works very well for me now.

    • Meg Murry says:

      If you want to stay with the container system, once they outgrow 1 container each you can just put 2 or 3 containers on a shelf and call it a day. Right now, my system is similar, but not in an organized way, just a lazy one. All the boys clothes get washed together. The laundry basket goes into the spare room (where their dressers are). Sometimes I manage to get the clothes folded and into their dressers, but more often than not we just root around the baskets every morning to dress them – in a so-so week I manage to sort them into 2 baskets, 1 for big kid and 1 for little, on rare good weeks the clothes actually make it into the dresser. There are 3 boxes in the closet – one for “too big for big kid” one for “too big for little, too small for big” and one for “too small for little kid” – if they put the clothes on and they don’t fit – into the boxes they go.

      Kat, your system is way way way more organized than I could ever be. But then again, I tend to buy most of my kids clothes secondhand (or did until my oldest reached about size 5-6, when the supply of used clothes dropped off dramatically because boys tend to destroy them at that age). If your parents still live in the Cleveland area, FYI there is a huge network of resales run by the local PTOs – its like 75 garage sales simulatiously in one high school gym. Its awesome, and super super cheap – like clothes under 24 months for 50 cents, 2T-5T for 1-2 dollars each. Might be worth checking to see if there are any in the area when you visit her. I have learned that now that my kids are older I can stock up on basics like adjustable waist jeans in ever size- they will always need them.
      And thanks for the reminder – I sold off a bunch of clothes between the 2 kids thinking I was done, and now I need to find a 3T winter coat for next year – I should check the clearances now.

      • Meg, my system is remarkably similar to yours. Both boys’ clothes gets washed together. On an overachieving week, we’ll sort through the clothes and divide for each kid. Then we’ll put them clothes in the dressers in each boy’s room (t-shirts, shorts, pants). Each kid probably has 3-4 “nice” shirts that we hang in the closet and sweatshirts/hoodies/jackets hang in the closet, as well. All other clothes are day care play outfits.

        On underachieving weeks, we just have the laundry basket at the foot of the stairs (or the clothes in a pile on the dining room table if we didn’t even make it to the laundry basket). Once the clothes get to be too small for the little one, we put them in clear plastic containers that are labeled for each size and in the attic. Because the younger one is only one size smaller than the older brother, we just immediately pass down the older brother’s clothes.

        I have no system for new/too big clothes. They all go into a drawer and every few months, I’ll go through it and pull out what fits. But I don’t really buy all that far in advance because I can’t guage what the seaons will be if/when my boys hit that size. In Texas, we can only wear long-sleeve shirts and jackets for a few months out of the year…

  2. MamaDee says:

    The best tip I figured out was — you know when you buy disposable diapers and they come in a cardboard box? Use that same box for packing up outgrown clothes that are the same size as those diapers. So, put your 0-3 month clothes in the diaper box for 6-14 pounds. Just label it “WINTER” (if it’s for my kid). Of course, this entails saving the boxes until you need them, remembering where they are, labeling them and taping them up and stacking them. But it really helps me when my friends have kids and I go to give them some outgrown clothes.

    • This is an amazing idea and I wish I had started it from the newborn days!

    • I do this too! Kat’s system is totally impressive, but I would never maintain it. I’ve stopped buying “next year” clothes for this reason (they get stuck somewhere and I can never find them), and also because I find I can’t anticipate my kids’ taste as they get older and, sadly, more opinionated.

      Also, hand me downs stopped after my oldest turned three and started ruining every single item of clothing you can imagine.

  3. greenie says:

    Great recomendations… I just use a bin system by size. But now I’m running into trouble with my youngest moving up sizes. She’s the 3rd in these clothes (oldest daughter to niece then back to us) so there are items I thought would be there and are not anymore, then there are items I purchase that are already in there from my niece. So a nice inventory would be helpful! The other thing that would help is seeing the primary colors in that size… I like when everything can mix and match… if I had a folder full of pictures of 4t I would know what colors to stick with and what colors to avoid.

  4. hoola hoopa says:

    Wow, that’s quite the system. I do about half of my shopping at work and half at home, so I don’t know that I could maintain that without feeling burdened. My kids also wear a lot of consignment and hand-me-down clothing that wouldn’t fit well, either. I’ve done something similar in ppt for my ‘buying seasons’, though, and now you’re getting me to think that a cloud spreadsheet may work well. Hmm…

    I usually only clothing shop for the kids twice a year, so I take informal inventory of what we have available for the season/size and then fill gaps as needed. We’re lucky that our weather generally lags most of the US, so I can usually buy current season clothing on sale. The only items I buy in advance from true close out sales are season-less basics for the older kids who generally wear a given size for an entire year or at least three seasons.

    I also use the large plastic tote system. I have one for every size up to 1-2 sizes larger than my biggest child’s current size, plus one for seasonal items (snowsuits, swim suits), one for holiday dresses, and one for shoes in good enough shape to be used again (sizes are clumped into plastic bags). Within the box for a given size, I’ve loosely separated fall/winter from spring/summer clothing.

    Separating the seasonal items from the sized clothing works for me because I like being able to dig through in advance of a storm or vacation and pull out anything roughly the right size and go from there. When they were in the sized bins, I’d remember that we had an item but have to go through three bins to find it – or completely forget about an item because it wasn’t tagged the particular size and then buy essentially a duplicate. Works for holiday dresses, too, for the same reason.

  5. Great tips, both in the post and comments.

    I’ll be the voice of dissent here and echo what someone said in a comment on a previous post this week. If you are still considering what direction you want to go with for CorporetteMoms, my vote is to focus on topics for professional working moms that aren’t covered elsewhere on the web. I can go to a million places to get ideas on home organization or baby clothes (again, these tips are good, but still). I don’t really have anywhere online to talk about pumping at work, washable office-appropriate clothes, finding backup childcare, career planning with kids, etc. The rest of the internet has the “moms” thing down; nobody else is doing “corporette” and I’d like to see that side of things more. My two cents.

    • I agree. I can read about gear anywhere. What I hope to find here are suggestions for flourishing as a working mom.

    • MamaDee says:

      Agreed, but to be fair, this system is definitely for overachieving chicks!

    • workingmomz says:

      I also agree. I think that if you’re overachieving at work, you don’t have time to maintain such an involved system.

  6. Wow, some of these approaches are much more organized than I am.

    I go through clothes on a monthly basis to put away anything that my LO has grown out of. I hang up all of her new clothes in size order in her closet, so then I go through and pull out what might fit her soon.

    I also sort clothes by type – a special drawer for pajamas, one to Ts and socks, another for clothes for daycare. Her nicest clothes are in her closet. It helps bc Dad knows where to grab the right clothes, but also gives me a sense of what she has enough of and what she needs.

    I haven’t figured out the whole buy ahead thing yet – but I but almost all of her play clothes and pajamas second-hand (the ladies of the Resale Royalty show have an AWESOME kids store). It allows me to but things as she need them.

  7. This is a good idea for an adult’s wardrobe, too – thanks for the idea and methodology, Kat!

    • Meg Murry says:

      Ooh, I hadn’t thought about doing this for my own wardrobe. I might need to think about that – maybe I can curb some of my online shopping if I can look at a “look at everything you already have in your closet” folder of photos.

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