Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 52: Sorting and Storing Kids' Clothes

The Task:  To radically reduce the amount of kids clothes we have stored in the basement.

The Why:  Our 6th baby (a girl!) is due in December, less than a week after my oldest child will turn 6.  That means that we are approximately one week short of having six kids in six years.  When you are perpetually pregnant, you acquire a lot of baby clothes. 

It isn't uncommon for friends who are done having kids to give us big black garbage bags filled with clothes. We've also received clothing as baby gifts and I've been known to browse my local thrift store for great deals, especially when that pregnancy nesting urge causes me to swoon at the sight of anything itsy-bitsy.

 My solution, up until now, has been to immediately donate any items I know for sure that I won't use and to store the rest in totes, sorted by size.  This "solution" has resulted in us collecting hoards of children's clothing.  It's like a Baby GAP outlet in our basement.

This is embarrassing...

Eeek!  Insane, right?  Yesterday I had to haul all of this up from the basement (in my pregnant, tired, grumpy state) tote by tote and sort through it all.  I swear that the best way to become a minimalist real quick is to haul all of your crap a long enough distance from where it was hiding that you just don't want to haul it all back!

The How:  My favourite decluttering technique that I've embraced on this journey of less is to set limits for our stuff.  It allows us to keep only what we've decided we can reasonably use and store, and it discourages shopping because we have a limit on how much space our stuff can fill up.

So I set a limit of four bins of clothing for our kids to grow in to: one for the baby girl on the way, one for our twin girls, one for my little boy, and one for my two oldest girls (who are close enough in age and size that things get handed down without needing to be stored anywhere in between.)

I'm giving away all of the clothing items that I never particularly liked or that we have too many of.  Very worn and ratty things are becoming rags.

Also, I'm giving away all of the boy stuff my son has grown out of.


I asked a good friend yesterday if she would like some of the baby boy clothes for her son and she responded by asking me the very thing I had been asking myself.  You're getting rid of the baby boy clothes? But what if....?

What if we have another baby after this one?  And what if it's a boy?

The math of the matter suggests that if we have another baby after this one (undecided) and it's a boy (turns out the whole "it must be a boy, since you have so many girls" thing is not actually scientifically sound), my son will be nearly 5 years old by then. That is a long time to be hoarding adorable little boy clothes, just in case.

It should be a crime to keep spiffy little outfits like this hoarded in the basement when some other little man could be wooing hearts in it. No?

The Verdict:  I know I told you all a while back that I'm not very sentimental, but I'll confess; packing up the little boy clothes choked me up a little bit. I'll get over it.

I have 5 big blue recycling bags full of clothes to take to the thrift store, plus a box of girl stuff for a friend having her first baby girl this winter and a box of the best of the boy stuff for my friend's little man.

And I'm left with my 4 totes of clothing plus 3 smaller totes of winter gear such as snow suits and boots.

And my favourite part: because I got rid of so much stuff, I'm able to store everything I'm keeping in matching totes.  Yes, that's the kind of thing that makes me giddy!

The Lessons We're Learning:  Honestly, decluttering is a hassle.  I don't want to do all this work and then keep collecting and consuming stuff and have to do it all again in another 5 years.  We don't want to spend our lives moving our stuff around, and having yard sales, and finding versatile organizational solutions so that we can cram as much as possible into our storage areas.

We need to be more careful about what we bring into the home, pickier about how many hand-me-downs we accept (although we are certainly grateful for them!), and quicker to redistribute things we don't need. 

Oh, and free stuff is never entirely free.  It costs time, energy, space, and sometimes even a trip to the mall for a cute little cardigan to go with it.

We are doing one small thing (almost) every day for a year to create a simpler, quieter, more intentional life. Take a moment to read all About Us, check out The Rules of our year long project and sign up for our RSS feed or "like" us on facebook so that you can follow our journey to radical simplicity!


  1. Oh my, you should see my garage wall - at least 40 totes in there! As my infant girl grows, I pull out the next tote, determined to cut the load in half. So far, so good. I do not have the time or energy to go through them all, but I am going through them as she grows. And as for the boy clothes...I so do want another little boy...

  2. I had two boys born 6 years apart and found that because they were born in different seasons and were completely different body styles (one always wore "Slim" sizes and the other almost needed "Husky") that all of the spiffy little outfits I saved from the first would never, ever be worn by the second. And they had just sat in my attic for SIX YEARS!!! I felt horrible. That's when I decided to get rid of all my baby clothes (Except for a few sentimental pieces and one small box of generic baby stuff. And when our most recent baby came along I found that the generosity I had shared with others came back to us in the form of more baby clothes than this sweet little girl could ever wear! Not to mention a crib, a swing and everything else we could possibly need for her.

  3. Well done on sorting and donating the kids clothes! I just did the same thing with my son's clothes this weekend. Although I am still left with 4 totes of clothing for under 2 years old and we are undecided if we are having a second child. I was able to fill 1 garbage bag of clothes to donate and they went to local a clothing swap that was organized by a Mama where we can go pick out free clothing for our children. I forgot to take pictures but I did blog about it http://momatthehelm.blogspot.ca/2012/09/de-cluttering-struggle.html

  4. I will be doing this exact thing, as I'm expecting a girl in January. I expect she'll wear plenty of hand-me-downs from my son who will be almost 3, but as he grew out of things, I just piled and bagged them up - I saved everything, even shoes- in the loft, not much organizing at the time. Once winter hits and we're spending more time in the house and on maternity leave, I fully plan to get in there and go through, sort, and get rid of what needs to be passed on. I'm actually excited about this project!

  5. Like you, I would keep boxes labeled according to size and gender until they reached that age where it didn't matter because they were old enough to develop different body types so handmedowns wouldn't fit anyway. But I only had the one daughter and kept thinking maybe another daughter would come along soon. Finally, when she was ten I thought I was done having babies and got rid of everything except the most sentimental. I remember thinking, It's senseless to hold onto all this when someone else can use it - God will provide what I need when I need it. And then we had our last baby - a girl :-) God has a great sense of humour and He was faithful to provide all our needs.

  6. There is a mom blog group with a ton of kids and I can't find the link to direct you to them, BUT one of they were writing about saving clothes and such like a while back and one said if she know fairly surely that her children will not wear something for 3 years, she get rid of it. Bear in mind this mama has nearly a dozen children and that can be a lot of clothing needs. I have been so freed! My youngest is 3 and nothing is going in the attic. I surely hope for more children but they won't be wearing stuff from my attic.

  7. Total blog stalker here; I've gone back and read all your posts here...and painfully made my way through your other blog (older post by older post...where are your archives?!), but this resonated with me! I gave away all my baby clothes to an unwed mother who had nothing. My only son (at the time) was nearly 7, and I decided that was just too long to hang onto things. Wouldn't you know it, we got pregnant...and had a boy! BUT he has plenty of clothes and we haven't had to actually spend much on him at all! God always provides!

  8. I just did this this spring!

    I used 'Space Bags'. Those things are amazing and free up so much more room! I found our totes of baby clothes was taking up too much space.

    It's funny because after you use a space bag, you start looking around the room for other things to shrink. Lol! And nope, they don't come out wrinkly!

  9. I just did this! I noticed that my littlest had so many hand-me downs that while I was cleaning out her drawer, I found clothes under other clothes that had never been worn. In having so many clothes, she was actually wearing less because I always picked whatever was on top. I've now saved just a few sentimental outfits and donated the rest. I know enough moms at church having babies, odds are someone will have some clothes for me if I have any more!

  10. This post really resonated with me as my oldest and youngest (both girls) are almost 22 YEARS apart! Can you IMAGINE keeping baby things that long?! We had three girls and then two boys and then caboose baby girl when I was 44. Family and friends came through with a couple of baby showers and we got exactly what we needed. I think I've spent less than $100 over the years on Caboose Baby's clothing.........and she's now ten :).

  11. Ugh, if you think you had a lot of totes for your six kids, you shouldn't see all the totes full of hand-me-downs I've accepted for my ONE girl! Well, and boy, due in January. This is inspiring to be a little more judicious with what I save for "whenever I have another girl."

  12. I've been waiting for this post... or maybe dreading it :) haha

    We are just at the beginning of growing our (hopefully large) family. I have a 28 month old girl, an 8 month old boy, and (like you) a plethora of totes and space bags filled with outgrown clothes AND future clothes (hand-me-downs from my nieces & nephew). It's a mess.

    I know I can/should donate at least the items I don't care for.
    But it's hard for me to justify donating anything else. We plan to have 3+ more kids. Could end up with twins of the same gender (hey, you did!), and even though it costs space, we have plenty and I'd rather have clothes than have to re-buy. Maybe if we have multiple of the same gender in a row I'll clean out one gender since they'll be so far apart (like you mentioned) but the rest I think is best to keep.

    I just need to actually organize it differently... I started with having 3m, 6m, 9m, etc. But as things are washed and shrink I think It would be easier to have 06, 6-12, 12-2T, 2T, etc.. I may end up with 2 bins each but babies go through clothes too fast to sort them out every 3 months!

    Thanks for the post, Kelly!


    Our Front Porch View: The Story of a Young Family's Pursuit to Fulfill A Simpler Life

  13. I just recently went through all of the clothes my little ones had outgrown. It was the first time since they have been around that I got rid of any of their clothes - that means nearly five years of accumulated clothes - boy clothes and girl clothes. When I finally did get rid of all of the stuff I didn't absolutely love (which was a good amount of it) it was so freeing! Plus I gained a lot of space in my basement!

  14. If this is helpful, here is what I did recently. Last April, we had our fourth child and third girl...she is now 4 1/2m old. We are done having children as it seems that with me, the older I get, the worse the pregnancies are. Not to mention that 3 of our 4 were born premature. Our quiver is full :)

    So...this makes the boy clothes easy as he is my oldest :) They all go bye bye when he outgrows them. I kept just a couple (count on one hand) of outfits to pass on to him when he has children...my favorites.

    The girls: the older two are back to back sizes and sometimes share clothes. (even tho they are 2 years apart!) Our laundry was just getting out of hand!! We finally came to the conclusion that less clothes=less laundry. So I began purging about 6 months ago. I pulled out all of my girl baby clothes (it was quite a bit) and sorted all of the various sizes on a large table. We decided for the newborn stage (late spring and summer) to go with only 7 sleepers and 7 onesies...and 4 dresses for church. Yeah. That cut waaaay back! It was great!! I did the same thing with the next ages and included 3 pairs of pants (for the onesies), and 3-4 one piece outfits. I bagged each age into 1-2 walmart size bags, tied them and labeled the size on the side of the bag in permanent marker. I dropped the bags down into a tote. I paired down 1 years worth of baby clothes to 1 tote with room to spare! I've done the same with my son and older girls. They each have 7 outfits and 4 church outfits. This way, we have clothes that will get a lot of use..and the rest will go to someone else and get a lot of use. My next goal is to put each days outfit into a gallon ziplock and label the day/name of child on the bag. Each day my older three can pull the right bag from their drawer and get dressed. This has really cut down on all the mounds of dirty and clean laundry lying around my house!! It's wonderful :)

    1. I also recently packed up a "memory" box for each child with 2 outfits that reminded me of them. That is all the clothes I plan to keep for each child. :)

  15. Kelly, if you are thinking about not having more children after your little girl is born, it will be easier for you not to store kid clothes for the "just in case." As your little boy outgrows his clothes, you can just give them away. As your youngest girl outgrows her clothes, pass those on to someone else as well. And, as others have noted, kid clothes get passed around between church friends and neighborhood friends so much that you'll be blessed if you do have another baby.

    Our kids are aged nearly 19 (daughter), 3 and 2 (sons). We had absolutely NO baby gear at all when we had our older boy. But we were blessed beyond measure with baby showers and gifts for him. Seriously, I could have gone a whole month without washing any of his clothes, and he still would have had plenty to wear! And those clothes were all given to me, I spend practically nothing to clothe my boys! So if you give away all your kid clothes and then have another baby, be prepared for blessings to flow your way! Buying more kid clothes is seldom a concern if you have friends that you've blessed beforehand. (It all goes back to the Golden Rule Jesus taught us!)

    1. Sorry, wanted to share something funny: I cleaned out my closet a few days ago and ended up with two large black trash bags for the garbage collector. My neighbor across the street saw all the extra trash at the curb and actually called us, concerned that we were moving away!

  16. Could I suggest that rather than your local thrift story that maybe you look at donating them to a pregnancy care center or your local child protective services office? I work with abused and neglected children and I know that sometimes foster parents or case managers could use clothes for the children. Just a thought. Sandy Bowman

  17. Must be the nesting instinct! My 5th little boy is due in 3 weeks (yikes!) and I had no less than 15 tubs of his brothers clothes stored. I know, it's hard to admit, but true. I finally went through them, gave some to my sister for her foster kids, gave a bunch to our local goodwill, and sold some on a nifty facebook page we have here. Which we then took the money and took all of our boys to the huge zoo about 45 minutes from home. This was a big deal to them, as it costs us about $65 for admission! But now I have 5 tubs- 1 for each boy. And a day of memories that our boys are still talking about. I got rid of stuff that was "my favorite" when whichever boy wore it. But I have to admit that all of my boys are such different shapes and have different likes, so a lot of my hand me downs weren't even being worn! It has freed up a lot of space so that our storage room is now....a baby room! Yay!

  18. WAY to go!! That's great!

    I am not keeping anything for the next kid right now. I just don't have the storage room. My 2 oldest are close in size and age and I am keeping some jeans that can be hard to come by. Then 3 years later I have another girl; not saving the older girls' stuff for her. Then I have a boy (5) not saving his stuff for the 2 year old and not saving the 2yob's stuff for the new born. Inbetween the 5yob and the 2 yob is a 4 yog. I'm not saving clothes from the 7yog for her either. I shop second hand and people are ALWAYS bringing me clothing.

  19. I agree, decluttering is not something you want to do forever every 5 years. I am trying too to not let too many new things into my home that do not have a place or purpose. I don't have kids but I can imagine how much harder this process is with 6 kids- I find it challenging enough to keep my house fairly empty.
    I'm really loving your blog and following along your decluttering process:)

  20. This post is so inspiring! I've started decluttering with you, one spot/section a day. It's been two weeks and my house feels lighter already. Some days I get rid of just a few things and other days a ton of stuff and think, how did I have all that stashed in there!

  21. I have done something similar and found it very freeing. We know we want more kids so what I did was limit us to keeping one bin of clothes in each size. Anything beyond that gets given away or donated to charity. I just stack the bins (they are the long, under the bed kind) in their closets with labels facing out showing the size. There is a stack in the girls room and a stack in the boys room. I love knowing when we've hit our "limit" because it means I don't have to feel bad about getting rid of something!

  22. We have a similar situation! My two girls have enough clothing for at least four! People bless us with clothes and we try to give themajority to whomever w know needs them, but their closet still looks like that!

  23. I guess I have been doing that for years, so much so that it's baby clothes control for me, I have only one child, the question of having a second is still hanging in the air, we want one, but we aren't there yet. We have lived in tiny appartments all along, so the questionning often starts before we buy something, we have very basic baby gear item, they were costly, so we are keeping these for potential baby number 2. Clothes, well for the first 6 months of my daughter's life we used the same 4-5 sleep sluits and 6 onesies, because I bought everything in size 3-6 months figuring there was no point spending money on something she would outgrow in 3 month, the first few months the lothes were baggy, and I had anyway family and friends buying us a few 0-3 months outfits, that she outgrew by the time she turned 2 months. By 6 months she had a few trousers and long sleeved t-shirts, the basic lightweight type as Indian winter aren't harsh in the South. She has always been lean and long, so the cotton pants got worn until they stopped fitting at the waist and pretty much looked like capri or shorts, so by then they were so ratty and worn out I simply donated them to my maid. I kept a few of the still nice looking stuff, so far she is 3 years old and I think all of the stuff we kept from birth till now fit in one of your tote. I never buy too many clothes at once for her, first because she is picky, then because she has her favourites, so we buy casual, basic tees and shorts, she wears them outside until they become a bit old looking and then double as nightwear, for the t-shirts at least :-) When she outgrow them they look well worn and used and my maid takes them for the kids living in her slum, she has teenagers so for her it's useless but she knows many who need clothes for their toddlers. I also never keep shoes, so she takes these too. That does keep my tiny storage space clear :-)

  24. I am also expecting a girl in December (woo hoo!). Anyway, I had to comment because I giggled out loud (that rarely happens to me) as I read 'I swear the best way to become a minimalist real quick is to haul all of your crap a long enough distance from where it was hiding'. I agree wholeheartedly! This is exactly what I felt when we relocated last month. Being 5 months pregnant and having to pack all our stuff up for the move quickly saw me getting rid of more than half our belongings. And I haven't missed a single item we decluttered.

  25. So this may be a personal question, but I love your blog(s) and I've been curious about this for a while (this is one of my interests). What are your children's names? Feel free to contact me personally (if you are avoiding sharing this publicly). I've just always been fascinated by names, especially the names of siblings in a family. :D

  26. good post---I'm in the process of doing the same sort of thing. I have a tote for my oldest (a girl), a tote for my 2 boys (close in size), one for my 2 year old girl, one for my twin 1 year old girls. Anything they outgrow gets passed on or donated, same for the boys. I gave away most of my baby boy clothes last spring. It was very sad, but I need the space!

  27. :) Congratulations on your little girl! :) (I think it's the first time you post that the baby is a girl.)
    SO true what you said about "organizing solutions", and "free things".
    Urelated, but wanted to let you know that I've used your "Dress your table" idea several times now, and it always makes me SO happy. Just a simple flower in a glass of water, even in the middle of chaos, makes me happy.
    I love having these little moments when my eyes catch the flower and I think, YES, I did it!
    One idea that I actually made come true.

  28. Can I just say it ONCE more ?! I get you , totally dig your point here and I love what you're doing! Hope the pregnancy going well and you're looking forward to your daughters birth in December - you will be so organised!
    I wish you'd post on imperfect or here a time management thingy or how you keep house while pregnant. I'm in 1st trimester sick as a dog, sooo tired and what I thought was an organised-ish house is falling around me as Im not feeling well. My kids are 6 and 3 we have chores for them but just even asking them to do it is hard when I know I can hardly stomach it myself. It amazes me that you have 6 in 6 yrs!! You accomplish so much! You are one of the special ones I'm sure - drive,vision and wisdom for everyday!!! Pass it on PULEAZE!!!

  29. I'm due with twin girls in a couple weeks. They're the ONLY kids we're having (trust me, if you went through the pregnancy I've had, you'd swear off more kids too haha!). I already told the OB that if I have a c-section, he can just go ahead and remove all my baby-making parts along with the girls. He rolled his eyes at me.

    My family passes clothing from one sibling or cousin to the next. Our parents did it with us when we were babies until we weren't able to fit in each other's clothing any longer (i.e.-puberty). We're the 2nd pregnancy in our entire pregnancy, and my 3rd cousin passed down (read: made me BUY!) her hand-me-downs from her daughter. Between hand-me-downs from her, friends, and clearance racks I've attacked, it cost me about $300, but I can easily clothe 2 girls until they're 2 years old. We just found out there's another cousin that's pregnant, and if she's having a girl, we'll be passing down our daughters' clothing to them as they grow out of it. I'm lucky that I only have to buy sizes once and then move on... I don't ever have to hold onto clothing "just in case". It'll still be sad to let go all of the adorable outfits, I'm sure!


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