How to Store the Clothes Your Kid Has Outgrown

Reader M wrote in with a request for a story about how to store the clothes your kid has outgrown… Here’s her question:

Your “Organizing Thursday” post inspired me. Would you consider doing a post about storing baby/ kid items that your kid has outgrown?

Interesting question, M! I think I’ve written about this before, but can’t find the post on point — for my $.02, we like a clear plastic “sweater bag” system (affiliate link). (Update: shoot, just found it — but my older post was more on how I keep track of which kids clothes I’ve bought for which sizes, which is a system I still use and am thankful for when I have, say, a slight inkling that maaaaybe I have more 3T lighter weight pants somewhere but can’t find them physically, then check my files and realize NO, I don’t, and off to the stores I go.) When J, my eldest, was first starting to outgrow stuff, I would dutifully wash and pack away all of his too-small baby clothes, not entirely knowing if I was saving them for sentimentality, baby #2, or, say, some massive future donation.  The baby stuff mostly fit in one sweater bag for the first 6 months, I think; we didn’t start having to expand to multiple sweater bags per size range until we hit the 3T sizes, if memory serves.  I wasn’t terribly fancy with labeling the bags — I’d usually just scribble “2T” on a PostIt on the top or side of the bag. We kept them stacked in the space between J’s dresser and the wall for the longest time; now we also keep them stacked on a corner shelf.

These days there are two more steps to my storage process: for J’s too-small stuff it tends to go in a basket in my closet before I start sorting it. He may have 2 or 3 sizes out at once — or I may find stuff from last season that I forgot to put away. When I’m ready (i.e., when the basket is spilling out and threatening to overwhelm my closet) I sort the kids clothes by size into sweater bags. (If the sweater bags are overflowing, I try to break them up into 5T winter and 5T summer, but I’ve found I end up rifling through any bag labeled 5T when the time comes.)

As for the second step, that’s dealing with H’s too-small stuff, and that goes in a second area. (By which I mean I throw it in the same corner every time. Yep, Martha Stewart and Marie Kondo would be very proud. (Kidding.)) By separating it out, that at least gets it out of the laundry rotation and, again, when it’s threatening to overwhelm the area, I tend to sit down and look at the stuff.  We think we’re done having kids (we joke that I’m 98% sure and my husband is 125% sure), and, to be honest, most of the stuff we’ve bought is looking pretty nasty by the time two boys have worn them — so in the past the unwearable stuff has just been thrown away, although in the future I’m going to look for  a textile recycling program in our area. Most of our kids’ clothes come from Carters/Old Navy/Gap/Lands’ End — but I can definitely see the argument for buying really nice children’s clothes if you expect to have many kids because, the theory is, more expensive children’s clothes last longer.) Of what’s left, some stuff will be sent to my cousin’s baby; some will be donated. A very small portion of it I’ve sent to ThredUp for resale. And a very, very small portion of the stuff my husband and I choose to keep for sentimental reasons.  Thus far, our “sentimental clothes” collection fits entirely in one sweater bag, and I’m going to try really hard to keep it to that… but we’ll see when the time comes.

Three more random notes:

  • I don’t worry too much about folding or organizing anything within the bin because the first thing I do when I pull out a “new” size of hand-me-downs is to throw it in the laundry. That said, it is vitally important that everything you pack away be freshly laundered — some of earliest stuff I packed away had a super yucky odor to it that makes me hope I wasn’t too careful about it in that crazy first year of being a mom. (In theory you can put moth balls or even just dryer sheets, but you never know — Future Child may be super sensitive to fragrance.)
  • If I have a few “seasonal” cutesy things that he can only wear a few times (for example, a Halloween-specific shirt), I will usually pack that with the smaller size. So, if H is wearing size 3T, he might wear a 4T Halloween shirt this year and again next year when he’s actually in 4T. (Probably not when he’s a 5T, but that’s me.) I do the same with pullover sweaters or sweatshirts, and sometimes with swimming things and other accessory-type things (robes, hats, etc). Where possible, I also try to buy the shirts one size too big, so in a perfect world a single Halloween shirt will get worn four Halloween seasons.
  • I mentioned this above but it’s probably worth a bullet point and a separate discussion — what do you do with unwearable old clothes, either for kids or yourself? Do you donate them to places like Goodwill expecting them to pass along the truly unwearable stuff to be made into rags — or do you take it upon yourself to find a textile recycling program? (Does anyone know if it’s SOP for a charity receiving clothing donations to automatically pass along, say, bras to a women’s shelter, rags to a textile recycling program, and so forth? I.e., one-stop shopping for the would-be donator, if that makes sense?)

How about you, readers — how do you store clothes your kids’ have outgrown? Do you save it for Possible Future Child (whether yours or, say, your sister’s child)? Do you strive to donate or sell? How much clothing are you allowing yourself to keep for sentimental reasons? (Has anyone found anything cute/functional to do with old baby clothing, like making a quilt* out of them or whatnot?) (*affiliate link)how to store kids clothes they've outgrown

Picture via Stencil.

What are the best tips for how to store the clothes your kid has outgrown? Whether you've got a baby, toddler, or a Big Kid, holding onto future hand-me-downs or just keeping clothes for sentimental reasons, what are your best tips for storing too-small kids' clothes?



  1. EB0220 says:

    Here’s my “system” if you can call it that. I have 2 daughters, 5 and 3. #1 was born in Feb, #2 was born in July so there’s a slight size/season mismatch.

    Step 1 – At the end of the season, I move all of #1’s seasonal clothes. Folded clothes (shorts/shirts/PJs) go from her main drawers to these middle drawers that aren’t used regularly. Hanging clothes (dresses) go from the hanging rack that she can reach to the tall rack that she can’t reach.

    Step 2 – Take all of the clothes that previously occupied the “not-in-use” areas in #1’s room and put them in a bin. Try to label the bin (e.g. 5T/winter) by at least putting a piece of paper with the info on top of all of the clothes. This ends up being 2 sizes/seasons ago. So I am about to put size 5T/6x winter into a bin.

    Step 3 – Go through old bins to see what if anything can be used by #2. Of the things that are too small for #2, I will donate most. I set aside a few cute/special things for my 2 nieces (2 and just born!). This makes me feel better when I donate everything else.

    Step 4 – Repeat similar process in #2’s room. Current season’s clothes get set aside somewhere – not in the main area but still accessible. We live in the southeast so this is crucial! Our seasons are not reliable.

    Step 5 – Suitable hand-me-downs are moved into the main closet space in #2’s room.

    Step 6 – Buy new clothes for #1 because now she has nothing! Note the gaps in #2’s hand-me-downs.

    Note: My 5 year old is now at the point where some of the things she wore last fall still fit at the beginning of this fall. They usually don’t make it all season but I look through just in case. This is the kind of project I usually do right after the cleaning ladies come because I don’t have much house tidying to do.

  2. Ummm, my “system” is that I throw too-small clothes and shoes on the bottom of their closet. When that pile gets big, I sort it into “donate” or “pitch” and then either donate (to Goodwill) or throw in the trash. My big goal is to get some bins to make this look a tiny bit neater.

    Too-big clothes are stored on the top shelf of the closet. When they don’t have enough clothes, I pull THAT pile down and pull any seasonally-appropriate ones in the correct size. If I see any that I missed and are now too small, I throw them in the too-small pile on the floor.

    The only sentimental clothes we have are the outfits they came home from the hospital in. Those are hanging in the laundry room because I have no idea what to do with them, but I feel like I should keep them for some reason.

    • ElisaR says:

      mine is the same except I should add:

      Too-big clothes are stored on the top shelf where I often forget about them until they become too-small clothes and wind up as never-worn clothes.

    • Oh I should add. For a while, I tried to save some clothes for hand-me-downs for family and friends. Then I realized 1) I rarely used the hand-me-downs I received, because either I had enough of that size, or because I put them on the top shelf and forgot about them until too late and 2) my family and friends are better off financially than the people who shop at Goodwill and probably have their own piles of never-worn clothes. Might as well give to the people in my community who ~need~ to shop at Goodwill.

  3. I keep a big Rubbermaid container in both kids’ closets. As they outgrow/wear out stuff, it gets dumped into the bin.

    Then, before the beginning of the major seasons (so usually February and August), I go through the bin, plus anything still left in the closets/drawers. I separate into piles: 1) hand-me-downs for nieces/nephews/friends; 2) consignment; 3) donate. Then I pretty much force myself to deal with the resulting piles within a week of going through everything.

    Anything out-of-season goes into the basement, to be evaluated at the next seasonal purge/organization.

    I tried many complicated systems before settling on this. Also, because my kids are five years apart and different genders, I had a bit of a hoarding problem for a few years that I’m just recovering from. Seriously, it looked like I was ready to have 11 more children. The key is to get that stuff OUT OF THE HOUSE as soon as possible. I am admittedly not very sentimental about clothing and don’t hang onto much. I’d rather have it used.

  4. I was just in an H&M and they had a bin for recycling old clothes; you get 15% off your next purchase for your donation. I’m a fan of their kids clothes so win/win as far as I can tell.

  5. Kat – re recycling textiles, just bring them to the farmer’s market:

  6. This was my question, and basically what I am seeing is that, in reality, we all forget that we own things then give it away once we find it.

  7. coffee queen says:

    I have a rubber maid containers and label them with the sizes. Once my youngest grows out of it, I sell, what I cant sell I donate (if it doesn’t sell within 1 week it gets donated) . Unwearables get cut into rags or strips to make dog toys.

  8. Before you even get started read this….. it will save you some tears when you pull out those IMMACULATE clothes you put away a year ago. My first was BF and I knew it wasn’t formula – but even BM protein does it!!! Alas, they can be saved….. oxiclean worked for me :)

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